Arick Wierson (Right) alongside Albert II, Prince of Monaco (Left) at the 2009 Monte-Carlo Television Festival.
November 23, 1971 |
Minneapolis, United States
|Residence||Brooklyn, New York|
*Former Media and Communications Adviser to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and & Former President NYC Media Group
Arick Wierson (born: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1971) is an American-born entrepreneur with business interests spanning television and film production, fashion & retail, and a variety of business endeavors in the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. Best known as the founder of NYC TV, which, according to some sources, revolutionized local television in the United States. Wierson has been labeled as "one of the most important people in New York media" by the television industry 'Bible' weekly magazine Broadcasting & Cable. In 2002, New York City Mayor and media mogul Michael Bloomberg named Wierson as the executive charged with building and managing the television and radio holdings owned by the City of New York, which later became collectively known as NYC Media Group. On April 28, 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Wierson was returning to the private sector to develop and produce feature film and television projects as an executive at Channel Production Films.
Wierson is the Executive Producer of the feature documentary film "Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace", which held its world premiere in Abu Dhabi at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival, formerly known as the Middle East International Film Festival. After an early cut screening of the film in 2009, it was selected by H.S.H. Albert II, Prince of Monaco to open the 49th Annual Monte-Carlo Film & Television Festival at an invitation-only private royal screening. It has since been shown in over 40 Film Festivals and in 2012 aired nationally in the United States on PBS.
Wierson led NYC TV to 160 Emmy nominations in his seven years at the helm of the network. He was nominated on 29 different occasions for the role of Executive Producer in the creation of various programs, and in 2007, he won five Emmy awards for his role as the Executive Producer of the nationally syndicated Secrets of New York.
Wierson, along with co-founder Seth Unger, launched NYC TV in 2005. The network has been recognized as an innovator and pioneer in both local and public broadcasting across the United States and internationally.
Wierson grew up in Excelsior, Minnesota and attended part of his high school years in the Middle East. He graduated from Minnetonka High School (1990), later graduating cum laude from Georgetown University (1994) with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Foreign Service. In 1997, Wierson, an International Rotary Scholar, received his Master´s Degree in Economics from the University of São Paulo at Campinas (UNICAMP)
Wierson's career began as an investment banker, working for the World Bank, ABN AMRO Bank, and JP Morgan. There has been ample speculation that Wierson was hired to lend his political and personal connections to the Dutch Banking giant ABN Amro to ensure a successful acquisition of the Brazilian retail giant Banco Real.
In the 1990s, Wierson worked under former Brazilian Finance Minister Rubens Ricúpero and, later, former Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro. In 2001, billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg made a personal appeal through his spouse, Fabiana Mesquita-Wierson, then the one ot he top executives in Bloomberg LP's operations in Latin America, to recruit her spouse to New York from Brazil to aid him in his 2001 mayoral campaign. During Bloomberg's initial 2001 election campaign, Wierson headed "Democrats for Bloomberg" initiatives and oversaw the campaign's field operations which combined traditional electioneering and voter profiling databases, which political analysts today say was the campaign that ushered in a new era technically sophisticated, statistical, voter profiling for political operation in the country. Wierson has maintained close political ties in his home state of Minnesota, reestablishing residency in the state in 2009. He is known to be close to maverick political strategist Bill Hillsman, who has asked Wierson to lecture in his courses at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University on several occasions. In June 2010, Brazilian Vice Presidential candidate and Federal Deputy Antônio Pedro de Siqueira Indio da Costa (Democratas (Brasil)) invited Wierson to advise him and Presidential candidate José Serra on media and political matters during the final months of the campaign before the October election. Wierson is said to have declined the invitation due to "ongoing engagements in Angola."
Broadcasting & Cable Magazine described Wierson as "one of the most important people in New York media". Under Wierson, NYC TV expanded from a local cable operation to a broad array of broadcast, cable, production, online video and syndication entities, organized under the name of NYC Media Group. At his time at NYC TV, Wierson led the network to 42 Emmy Awards and over 100 National Telly Cable Awards. In addition to Secrets of New York, Wierson played a role in the creation of many of the network's original series' productions including $9.99, Eat Out NY, New York 360*, and The Bridge. In 2008, Wierson led NYC TV's digital media group to its first-ever Webby nominations.
At NYC Media Group (since rebranded as NYC Media), Wierson was vocal critic of the traditional public broadcasting model. In 2005, Wierson disbanded the station’s long-held PBS status, enabling NYC TV's original shows to take over prime-time "It was smart not to be the 'fifth channel,' said Dalton Delan, executive vice president of WETA in Washington. You don't want to be the triple-A team. You want to find a new ballpark where you can be No. 1." 
In August 2006, Wierson, Unger and Bloomberg appeared in the NBC studios, joined WNBC General Manager Francis Comerford and former NBC Station Group President Jay Ireland in announcing a partnership between NYC TV and NBC flagship station WNBC The executives were flanked by two of NYC TV's on-air stars, Kelly Choi and Amy Palmer, who would be hosting some of the programming that would be part of the content deal, namely Eat Out NY and New York 360*.
On April 28, 2009, Mayor Bloomberg announced Wierson was stepping down as CEO of NYC Media Group. The Mayor lauded Wierson's service to him stating, "Over the past seven years, Arick Wierson and his team transformed NYC TV into one of the nation’s best television stations. After helping build the station virtually from scratch, Arick oversaw the merger of NYC TV with WNYE-TV and WNYE-FM, creating the largest local media group in New York that now reaches hundreds of thousands of people every day. NYC TV’s 160 New York Emmy nominations and 42 awards serve as a testament to Arick’s vision, tenacity, and leadership and to the excellence of the media group he was instrumental in creating. I have no doubt that Arick’s entrepreneurial and creative talents, which helped him achieve great things at NYC TV will serve him well as he rejoins the private sector..."
It was later revealed that Wierson had been planning an exit from NYC TV for well over a year. In a private email circulated among city officials, Wierson revealed that has had been planning to leave NYC TV since late 2008 to work on a number of projects in Brazil and Portuguese-speaking Africa, where Wierson had previously spent many years as an investment banker with ABN AMRO Bank. Additionally, the New York Times revealed that Wierson had been quietly producing a documentary film starring former U.S. President Jimmy Carter "Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace" which later opened in Monte-Carlo and Abu Dhabi.
WNYE Radio New York 91.5FM
In 2008, Wierson led an NYC Media Group overhaul of WNYE-FM 91.5FM, including new formats for morning and afternoon drive-time programming. On February 19, 2008, WNYE announced that it was re-branding itself as "Radio New York" and that the station was partnering for live coast-to-coast music feeds with Seattle-based alternative rock station KEXP. The announcement was seen as an overtly aggressive move by the New York City Indie music community, causing broadcaster WFUV to take public on-air swipes at Wierson for having encroached on their market. On March 5, 2009, Wierson, along with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced that WNYE, after being in Brooklyn since 1938, was moving its radio broadcast operations to Manhattan, and was unveiling a new digital transmitter, capable of transmitting multiple in-band HD radio streams.
The Politics of NYC Media Group
Although his success with NYC TV is well documented, Wierson, like his boss Michael Bloomberg, has been criticized for his was known for his aggressive management style, risk-taking, and disregard for formalities. His close personal ties to Bloomberg extends to his spouse, Fabiana Mesquita-Wierson, was one of the top executives at Bloomberg, LP; based in Brazil, she had been the executive responsible for expanding Bloomberg's operations throughout Latin America. In fact, it is rumored that Bloomberg named Wierson's daughter, Isabella, takes her first name because Bloomberg suggested to Wierson and his wife that they call her "Izzie" while Mesquita-Wierson was still pregnant.
The relationship between the Wiersons and Bloomberg was similar that of NYC TV co-founder Seth Unger, who's wife, Allison Jaffin, works at City Hall and the Bloomberg Family Foundation through a special waiver granted by the city's ethics board. Critics have voiced concerns that Wierson and Unger, both long-time members of Bloomberg's circle of trusted aides and loyalists, pushed the television channels and radio stations to further Mayor Bloomberg's political agenda with programs such as City Scoop - winner of a NY Emmy in 2009. The central contention has been that NYC TV was simply a very slick and well-oiled sales machine. In a 2006 article on the network, the NY Times' Winnie Hu wrote, "NYC TV is largely an invention of the Bloomberg administration, which has aggressively attempted to apply the latest technology and business practices from the private sector to all levels of city government. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who began Bloomberg Television as part of his media empire, knew better than most the value of a city television station, his aides said."
Controversies and Criticisms
Over the years Wierson was at the helm of New York City's media assets, he frequently, and sometimes very publicly, sparred with public officials who had a bone to pick with Mayor Bloomberg. One elected official who was a consistent thorn in Wierson's side was New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer. Brewer, who represents Manhattan's Upper West Side regularly criticized NYC TV for being “too flashy” with its focus on fashion, celebrity, and other topics she viewed as inconsistent with the mission of the network. Wierson has countered in Council testimony that “television is meant to be watched.”  Brewer often complained in public hearings that Wierson was a "pain in the neck" - as recently as the April 14, 2010 NYC Council Committee on Technology in Government hearing - nearly a full year after Wierson had left office.
In August 2009, the Village Voice, dedicated a cover story to the rise of NYC TV, focusing on the organization's president and co-founder, Arick Wierson. The author, Tom Robbins, a vocal critic of Mayor Bloomberg (who has taken to calling Bloomberg "Mayor Mugabe" in drawing comparisons between him and the Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe) wrote about Wierson's business interests outside of government. Robbins has since been let go of the Village Voice.
The Village Voice, under financial pressure, has taken an unabated anti-Bloomberg stance, hoping to appeal to New Yorkers upset with the Mayor's overturning of term-limits, and so it appears that the real target of the Robbin's 8 articles on NYC TV was Bloomberg. Robbins portrayed Wierson and the media assets he had been quietly amassing since Bloomberg took office, as part of a concerted effort to use a hazy mixture of campaign, personal, not-for-profit and public sector resources at the Mayor's disposal to manipulate his public image, positioning him for first a presidential run, then later a third-term as Mayor. Robbin's initial article described Wierson as a Bloomberg insider who was given carte-blanche to run the city agency as he saw fit, often eschewing traditional public-service protocols.
In a Fall 2009 Village Voice cover story, Robbins profiled Wierson and his close relationship with not only Bloomberg but other wealthy businessmen, royalty, and politicians, describing Wierson as "a tall man with a broad jaw, who wears his hair fashionably slicked back" and his wife, Fabiana Wierson, as "an attractive blond from Brazil." The author was critical of Wierson's close business ties to New York billionaire and real estate tycoon Leon Charney, as well as Wierson's relationship with Monaco's Prince Albert II. Robbins found the small fine that Wierson paid to the City's Conflicts Board to settle the issue as the "...latest episode of justice in the Bloomberg era."
Wierson is one of the Executive Producers in a film and television production company Channel Productions. The film arm of the company, Channel Production Films, produced the feature documentary film "Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace"  which will be one of the opening night films of the 2010 Middle East International Film Festival, since re-branded as the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Due to a special request from the Monte-Carlo Television Festival in Monaco, an early cut of the movie was shown in Monaco in 2009 to a private audience including Prince Albert. In June 2011, Fisher Klingenstein Films announced that it had acquired worldwide rights to "Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace" and laid out plans for a platform release in New York City on Sept. 16, 2011, followed by openings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston and Philadelphia. The film deals with the 1979 Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt and the unlikely circumstances and behind-the scenes jockeying that led to its coming to fruition. The film features former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary-General of the U.N. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Dr. Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State and CNN's Wolf Blitzer, among many other name-brand international statesmen and politicians.
Luanda Fashion Center
Wierson is married to Fabiana Mesquita-Wierson, a former executive at Bloomberg, LP. They have one daughter.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Arick Wierson|
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- BY MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON THE RESIGNATION OF NYC MEDIA GROUP PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER ARICK WIERSON, PR- 187-09, April 28, 2009
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- KEXP COMING TO 91.5 FM IN NY
- Air Raid: a new kid comes to town as Seattle’s indie-loving KEXP moves onto city-controlled airwaves
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