David Zaslav is the CEO of Discovery Communications, one of the world's largest cable conglomerates. He is also the highest paid CEO in the United States. Prior to becoming a high profile CEO, Zaslav worked in entertainment law as an attorney at a prestigious New York law firm. Enthusiastic about the entertainment law, Zaslav was happy to have the opportunity to work with cable TV companies that were still in their infancy at the time. Zaslav's negotiating expertise and vision for the future of cable television helped forge his career in the broadcasting industry. The rest, as they say, is history.
David M. Zaslav was born on January 15, 1960 in Rockland County, New York. He is the middle son with two brothers. Zaslav is Jewish and describes his family life as normal. When he was a child, he loved sports and loved to play tennis.
After graduating from high school, David Zaslav went to Cornell University to play tennis. After his first year of study, he moved to Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York. His older brother graduated from Binghamton and went to medical school. Zasav enjoyed the combination of educational opportunities and a fun college experience that he got at Binghamton. He realized that he was not going to become a professional tennis player. Instead, he received a Bachelor of Science degree.
Zaslav decided to study law at Boston University. Despite being a diligent law student, Zaslav had a good time during his 3 years in Boston. During the seventh inning, he and his graduates sometimes snuck into Red Sox games at Fenway Park. During his tenure at law school, Zaslav worked as a summer associate with 2 law firms in Los Angeles, California. There he was enthusiastic about the entertainment law practiced by companies. He also enjoyed the entertainment law course that he took at Boston University. Later, Zaslav taught a bachelor's degree in the cable television business as an associate professor at Fordham University.
After graduating in law, Zaslav accepted a position at the renowned New York law firm LeBouf, Lamb, Lieby & MacRae in 1985. Shortly after joining the firm, he began working with the new partner, who was the General Counsel. from Warner Brothers. This attorney also worked with the Discovery Channel and MTV, which were struggling with the new cable networks at the time.
Zaslav had a little hiatus when his company sent him to the Discovery Channel as a lawyer. Judith McHale was the attorney who worked with Discovery's John Hendricks to raise funds to grow the cable channel. McHale took a six-month maternity leave, which gave Zaslav the opportunity to work closely with Hendricks for six months. During this time, they traveled across the country, doing business and raising money to increase the station's presence. John Hendricks came up with the idea to create a cable station based on education, not just entertainment. Zaslav was excited about the idea.
After working with Discovery and MTV at the law firm for several years, Zaslav read an article about Bob Wright, an NBC executive. Wright envisioned that the broadcast network would shift to cable television as cable grew rapidly with business, news, and entertainment channels. Zaslav wrote a letter to Wright about his own visions for the future of cable television and his work with Discovery and MTV. Wright responded, and in 1989, NBC Universal hired Zaslav to help build NBC's cable business as an attorney for NBC's cable division and as director of development for the company's cable business.
Zaslav helped Wright develop CNBC and MSNBC to bring NBC into the cable space. At the time, they were competing with Headline News and CNN. They developed the Consumer News and Business News channel, which focused on business news by day and consumer news by night. The primetime stealing and bargaining program was a success. Zaslav helped NBC's cable division expand and grow. He negotiated deals with Comcast, Time Warner, and Direct TV. He created partnerships like video on demand with Comcast.
David has a long career in the entrepreneurial industry that spanned nearly three decades. He has built a huge fortune from the proceeds of his work as President and CEO of Discovery Inc. Zaslav is an American businessman with a net worth of $200 million. David was originally geared towards a legal career.
Zaslav sits on the boards of Sirius XM., Lionsgate, NCTA, The Cable Center, Center for Communication, Grupo Televisa, Partnership for New York City, Syracuse University and the USC Shoah Foundation. He is also a board member of the Paley Center for Media and Mt. Sinai Medical Center. He is the chairman of the Auschwitz: Past Is Present Committee, which promotes awareness of the Holocaust. In 2012, he received the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award from the UJA-Federation of New York, which honors people with vision, energy and sustained performance in the entertainment, media and communications industries.