John Sykes (American businessman)

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John Sykes
John Sykes Headshot.jpg
Born (1955-05-14) May 14, 1955 (age 63)
Schenectady, NY, USA
Nationality USA
Occupation American businessman
Known for MTV and VH1

John Leo Sykes (born May 14, 1955) is an American entertainment executive[1] and a co-founder of MTV[2] and VH1 Cable Networks. In November 2011 he was named President, Entertainment Enterprises for iHeartMedia.[3] Sykes has also been President at VH1,[4] President - North America at Chrysalis Records,[5] Executive Vice President of Artist Acquisitions at EMI Music Publishing, Chairman and CEO at Infinity Broadcasting Corporation[6] (now CBS Radio) and President of New Network Development at MTV Networks (now Viacom Media Networks).


Early life[edit]

Sykes was raised in Schenectady, New York, and is the son of a retail executive and a college professor. After graduating from Linton High school he attended the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where he received a BS in Communications in 1977. Upon graduation, he was hired by CBS Records (now Sony Music Entertainment) as a promotion and artist relations manager.


John Sykes’ successful career in media began in October 1980 when he was hired by Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company (WASEC) as part of a development team creating the first-ever 24/7 cable music channel.[7]

In August 1981, WASEC’s cable music channel was launched under the name MTV: Music Television, led by Robert W. Pittman. Sykes’ first position was Director of Promotion and Artist Relations, in which he was responsible for creating MTV’s well-known, larger-than-life fantasy on-air promotions, including MTV’s "One Night Stand” with bands like The Rolling Stones and Journey, John Mellencamp’s “Pink House” giveaway and MTV's “Lost Weekend with Van Halen.” These promotions helped to create and shape the MTV brand image, drawing millions of entries. Sykes also worked with artists, managers and labels to bring content and partnerships to the video channel.

While at MTV, Sykes helped to create and co-produced the first-ever MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). He was eventually promoted to the position as Vice President of Programming and Productions overseeing all studio operations, on-air promotion and long-form content on the network.

In 1986 Sykes, Robert W. Pittman, Tom Freston, and a group of MTV executives, and with the help from private equity firm Forstmann Little & Company, attempted a leveraged buyout of MTV Networks (now Viacom Media Networks). Before the buyout could be completed, MTV was sold to Viacom.

Music industry years[edit]

In July 1986, Sykes left MTV and was hired by Michael Ovitz to become a music and film talent agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). While at the agency, he worked on new artist signings including John Mellencamp and Michael Jackson.

In August 1988, Sykes left CAA to become President of Champion Entertainment, a music management entertainment company based in New York City that represented top entertainment artists, including Mariah Carey, John Mellencamp, Hall & Oates, Carly Simon and Taylor Dayne.

In January 1990, he joined Chrysalis Records as President, North America where he oversaw artist and repertoire promotions, marketing and artist development. In January 1992 Chrysalis Records was sold to EMI Music. Sykes joined EMI Publishing as the Executive Vice President of Artist Acquisitions. While at EMI, he signed the band Counting Crows, whose debut album sold 7 million copies. He also signed rock band Stone Temple Pilots, whose debut album also sold 7 million copies in America. At EMI Sykes developed the first in-house artist strategic marketing department to work hand-in-hand with record companies to develop artists’ careers.


In April 1994 Sykes returned to MTV Networks/Viacom] as President of the VH1 Cable Television Network.[8] During his eight-year term as head of the network, he rebranded VH1 as a music and pop culture channel targeted to affluent 20+ demographics,[9] repositioned the channel as VH1: Music First and created long-form franchises such as VH1’s “Behind the Music,[10]” “VH1 Storytellers,” and “Pop-Up Video,[11]” as well as franchised event programs like the “VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards” and “VH1 Honors.” Sykes led the cable network to record audience ratings, revenues and profits for all eight years. While at VH1 Sykes created the “VH1 Save The Music Foundation,”[12] a non-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding music education programs in public schools across the country. “VH1 Save The Music” drew the support of President Bill Clinton, himself a student of music, and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, who visited schools in support of the initiative and hosted VH1’s 1999 “Concert of the Century” on the South Lawn at the White House.[13] To date, “VH1 Save The Music” has donated more than 45 million dollars’ worth of music instruments to schools across the nation.


In 2002 Sykes was named by Viacom as Chairman and CEO of Infinity Broadcasting Corporation[14] (now CBS Radio) where he oversaw the company’s 185 broadcast radio stations. In January 2005 Sykes returned to MTV Networks as President of Network Development where he focused on developing new multiplatform channels targeting 25- to 54-year-old lifestyle demographics.

Pilot Group[edit]

In March 2008 Sykes left Viacom to join his MTV co-founder Robert W. Pittman at Pilot Group, a private equity venture firm. While at Pilot he worked with Anchorage Advisors on the restructuring of MGM Studios from bankruptcy and with digital properties including and Shazam. In 2010, he joined the Shazam Board of Directors[15] and also began consulting for Clear Channel Media Holdings.


In December 2011 Sykes was named iHeartMedia's (formerly Clear Channel) President, Entertainment Enterprises,[16] where he is responsible for developing new business partnerships and platforms across a broad range of media including television, digital platforms and live events. In addition, he creates value and content partnerships for Clear Channel advertisers and key partners. Sykes also guides the company's relationship with Ryan Seacrest Productions on the creation and distribution of television programming as well as the development of other media and entertainment content.

Sykes co-produces iHeartMedia's annual iHeartRadio Music Festival, the record-setting, two-day national music concert event that is broadcast live on iHeartMedia radio stations across the country, aired on The CW Television Network and streamed live to millions on the web. In May 2013 he structured a three-year content output deal with The CW[17] giving the network exclusive television broadcast rights to four of iHeartMedia’s top music event franchises including the iHeartRadio Music Festival. Sykes also co-executive produces the iHeartRadio Country Festival, iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina on Telemundo, iHeartRadio Jingle Ball on the CW and the iHeartRadio Music Awards, which airs on Turner Broadcasting. The 2016 iHeartRadio Music Awards garnered more than 115 billion social media impressions.[18]


Sykes has been actively involved with fighting poverty through his work as a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation[19] in New York City, an organization that has raised over $1 billion to help the poor living in New York. He joined the board in 1995. In 1997, while President of VH1, he created the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, which has raised over $45 million to rebuild music education programs in public schools across America, and has been recognized with numerous honors including a Primetime Emmy Governor’s Award and two George Foster Peabody Awards.

He serves on the board of directors of Madison Square Garden, Shazam Mobile,[20] the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, VH1 Save The Music Foundation and Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is also on the advisory board of Product (RED), an organization founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

In October 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Center Sykes co-produced, along with Harvey Weinstein and Cablevision’s CEO Jim Dolan, “The Concert for New York City[21] (the historic 9/11 benefit) at Madison Square Garden. The concert raised over $50 million for the Robin Hood Relief Fund which provided funds and support for the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York City.

In December 2012 Sykes co-produced the special one-night-only concert event, “12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief,[22]” along with the same group that he co-produced “The Concert for New York City” (the 9/11 benefit). “12-12-12” raised over $60 million to provide assistance to the millions of people throughout the tri-state area who were affected by Hurricane Sandy through the Robin Hood Relief Fund. The concert featured performances from legendary artists including Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, The Rolling Stones,[23] Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys Chris Martin, Bon Jovi, Eddie Vedder, Roger Waters, Kanye West, The Who and Paul McCartney.[24]

Awards and honorary degrees[edit]

Sykes was presented with an Honorary Doctorate degree and gave the commencement address at the Berklee College of Music in 2000.[25] He received the City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award in 1996, the Cable Television Public Affairs Association’s President's Award in 2002, The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Primetime Emmy Governors Award for VH1 Save the Music in 2000, the National Music Council’s American Eagle Award in 1998, and the 1999 Bill of Rights Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. In addition, in 2014 Sykes was awarded the T.J. Martell Foundation Lifetime Music Industry Achievement Award which was presented to him by longtime friend President Bill Clinton.


  1. ^ Szalai, Georg (17 January 2012). "Clear Channel Hires Entertainment Veteran John Sykes to Push Beyond Radio". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  2. ^ Anson, Robert Sam (November 2000). "Birth of an MTV Nation". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  3. ^ Flint, Joe (17 January 2012). "Clear Channel taps industry veteran John Sykes for key position". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  4. ^ Elliott, Stuart (12 April 1995). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: Advertising; MTV's two cable channels move to increase viewership". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  5. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (30 June 1991). "Label Presidents Need Thick Skin, but This Is Ridiculous". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  6. ^ Leeds, Jeff (16 March 2002). "Viacom Appoints Sykes Chief of Infinity Radio". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  7. ^ Anson, Robert Sam (November 2000). "Birth of an MTV Nation". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  8. ^ Strauss, Neil (17 March 1996). "Reliving the 70's, in Touch With the 90's (VH1's New SplitPersonality)". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  9. ^ Gunther, Marc (1 May 2000). "Behind the Music at VH1". CNNMoney. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  10. ^ Goetzl, David (8 October 2001). "VH1: John Sykes". Advertising Age. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  11. ^ Goetzl, David (8 October 2001). "VH1: John Sykes". Advertising Age. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  12. ^ Morales, Tatiana. "Save The Music 2002". Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  13. ^ Clinton, William Jefferson. "Remarks at the VH1 Concert of the Century". Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  14. ^ Fabrikant, Geraldine (16 March 2002). "Viacom Shifts an Insider to Be Chief of Infinity Radio Unit". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  15. ^ "Shazam Appoints MTV Co-Founder John Sykes to Board". Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  16. ^ Szalai, Georg (17 January 2012). "Clear Channel Hires Entertainment Veteran John Sykes to Push Beyond Radio". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  17. ^ Hampp, Andrew (16 May 2013). "Clear Channel, The CW Network Team-Up For 4 TV Broadcasts, Including iHeartRadio, Jingle Ball". Billboard. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  20. ^ "Shazam Appoints MTV Co-Founder John Sykes to Board". Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  21. ^ Catton, Pia (10 December 2012). "12-12-12: Behind the Scenes". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  22. ^ Hampp, Andrew (7 December 2012). "Clear Channel's John Sykes on 12-12-12 Concert: 'You Never Know What's Gonna Happen'". Billboard. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  23. ^ McKinley Jr., James (7 December 2012). "Rolling Stones Added to Lineup for Benefit Concert". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  24. ^ "Paul McCartney to rock Nirvana at 12-12-12 Sandy benefit concert: How to watch and give". 12 December 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  25. ^ Pike, Brenda. "Herb Alpert, Patti Austin, and VH1's John Sykes Honored at Berklee's 2000 Graduation". Retrieved 31 May 2013.

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