With a vanguard 26-year run leading youth and pop media culture and just two days after being ousted as Viacom CEO by Chairman Sumner Redstone, Tom Freston reportedly received the best form of thanks rarely received anymore for departing CEOs: a standing ovation by an estimate of more than 1,000 Viacom and MTV Network employees after Freston had cleared out his office and departed through the lobby of the 1515 Broadway New York headquarters.
Since the dot com bust, stories are all-too-common about CEOs forced out by scandal, arrest or given golden parachutes for failure (and sometimes all three). When was the last time we heard about a fired CEO getting applause and receiving cheering thanks from his employees as he walks out the door?
For all the various groups of people a CEO serves (stakeholders, boards of directors, executives, employees, customers, the media, etc.) and for all the millions of exit dollars most earn, don't we all (secretly) hope for that kind of respect and appreciation when it's time to go, forcibly or not?
From the Jointblog's perspective, Freston's spontaneous standing ovation -- created with employees Blackberrying and IMing each other for an instant "move on" style flash mob moment and shown at left with MTVN CEO Judy McGrath -- is 100% deserved and a true testament to his leadership and accomplishments.
A digitally-created media (yet personal) celebraton event giving thanks to one of the leading media executives of the last quarter-century.
Tom, we applaud you, too. You are a modern media pioneer. You have many great adventures ahead (after all, you are #17 on Vanity Fair's New Establishment 2006 power rankings -- and rising): no doubt, positive, successful and humanitarian. One quote from a MTVN staffer (reported by Gawker.com) gets it completely right: "He went out as cool as he went in."
Mediaweek reports what happened just hours ago:
Viacom staffers Thursday afternoon bid a fond farewell to Tom Freston, greeting the departing CEO with a standing ovation as he stepped through the elevator doors and into the lobby of 1515 Broadway for the last time
According to MTV Networks sources, the assembly was practically spontaneous, organized by a handful of employees who began hammering away at their Blackberries and cell phones less than a half hour before Freston was scheduled to leave the building once he'd seen to the business of cleaning out his office.
In a matter of minutes, some 2,500 people had worked their way downstairs, cramming themselves into the lobby and onto the sidewalk in front of the company's Times Square headquarters.
When Freston emerged from the elevator at around 4 p.m., the throng burst into raucous applause, alternately hooting and whistling and chanting "Tom! Tom! Tom!"
Freston, who fostered a laid-back corporate culture at MTVN that functioned as a natural extension of his own iconoclastic personality, was said to be "absolutely stunned" by the impromptu reception.
While his former staffers continued to express their noisy regard for Freston, he left 1515 and the network he co-founded 25 years ago without making a speech.
"No one would have been able to hear him anyway," an MTVN source said. "It was like Game Seven of the World Series down there."
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Thursday, September 07, 2006,