Debra L. Lee
|Debra L. Lee|
Debra Lee at Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit
|Born||August 8, 1955
Fort Jackson, South Carolina, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard Law School
|Employer||Ad Council of the United States
Black Entertainment Television
Washington Gas Light Company
Genuity® a Monsanto company
|Awards||Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame|
Debra L. Lee, Esq. (born 1955, in Fort Jackson, South Carolina) is an American businesswoman. Currently, she is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET, the parent company for Black Entertainment Television. She is the mother of two. Lee has sat on the board of directors for a number of companies/organizations, including the National Cable & Telecommunications Association the Ad Council, and the National Cable Television Association. Debra Lee is named one of the "100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment" by The Hollywood Reporter due to her many achievements in her 25-plus year career at BET.
Lee graduated from Brown University in 1976 with a bachelor's degree in political science with an emphasis in Asian politics. She went on to earn a Master's degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a law degree at Harvard Law School, where she was a member of the Board of Student Advisers, in 1980. Debra L. Lee attended James B. Dudley High School located in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Legal and early BET career
From August 1981 through September 1981, Lee served as a law clerk to the late Honorable Barrington Parker of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Lee joined BET as Vice President of BET's legal affairs department and general counsel in 1986 after over five years as an attorney with Washington, D.C. based Steptoe & Johnson, a corporate law firm. She has also served as BET's corporate secretary and president and publisher of BET's publishing division, which publishes Emerge BET Weekend and Heart & Soul magazines.
As CEO of BET Holdings
In March 1996, Lee became President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of BET Holdings, Inc., replacing departing network founder, Robert L. Johnson. In 2005, she became President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The company had nearly $100 million in revenue last year.
As Chief Executive Office of Black Entertainment Television
Under Lee, Black Entertainment Television has begun to move in a different format direction for the network. She increased the production budget by 50% and looked into incorporating original programming by getting 16 new shows for the new 2007 season. Lee has also redesigned BET's mission statement by supporting families, encourgaging their dreams, and presenting fresh talent by creating new shows for its network. She created a new entertainment network, CENTRIC, in September 2009 that features new artists, reality shows, and movies.