Tom Freston

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Tom Freston
Tom Freston.jpg
Tom Freston at the 2011 Time 100 gala.
Born (1945-11-22) November 22, 1945 (age 72)
New York City, New York, United States
Alma mater Saint Michael's College (B.A.)
New York University (MBA)
Occupation Business Executive and Board Chairman of the ONE Campaign
Years active 1979-present
Known for Viacom and Founder MTV
Net worth US$ 0.69
Spouse(s) Margaret Ellen Badali (m. 1980; divorced)
Kathy Freston (m. 1998-2012; divorced)
Children Andrew (b. 1985) and Gilbert (b. 1990)

Thomas E. Freston (born November 22, 1945) is an American entertainment industry executive.

Early life and education[edit]

He grew up In Rowayton, CT. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Michael's College and an MBA from New York University.[1] Freston began his career advertising at Benton & Bowles (which later merged with D'Arcy). In 1972, after a year of traveling, he moved to South Asia to start a textile and clothing business, Hindu Kush, and worked and lived in New Delhi, India and Kabul, Afghanistan.[2]


Returning to the USA in 1979, he joined the Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company (WASEC), a pioneer in the new field of cable television programming. He was one of the founding members of the team that created MTV: Music Television.[3] As head of marketing, he worked on the "I Want My MTV" ad campaign that helped make the new network a cultural phenomenon. In 1987 he became the President and CEO of MTV Networks, a job he held for 17 years.[4] MTV Networks launched and operated networks including: Nickelodeon, Nick at Night, VH1, Comedy Central, TV Land, Spike, Country Music Channel, Logo, Noggin, and others.

As CEO of MTV Networks, Freston expanded the company's reach, built an animation studio, produced feature films, and developed large consumer product and digital businesses. Popular characters and shows included: Blue's Clues, Beavis and Butthead, SpongeBob SquarePants, Daria, The Daily Show, Jackass, South Park, Drawn Together, Crank Yankers, The Fairly Oddparents, Aeon Flux, Chappelle's Show, I Love the..., Behind the Music, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Colbert Report, Wonder Showzen, Ren & Stimpy, The Real World, Dora the Explorer, Rugrats, and Star Trek (from Generation to Nine).


In 2004, after Viacom President & COO Mel Karmazin stepped down, Freston was named Co-President & Co-COO of Viacom (along with Leslie Moonves).[5] Freston oversaw MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, Famous Music Publishing, and Simon & Schuster.[6]

In January 2006, Viacom split into two separate companies: Viacom led by Freston and CBS Corporation headed by Moonves.[7]

In September 2006, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone stunned the entertainment industry when he fired Freston from the position of CEO. One of the chief reasons for the move was that Freston hadn’t moved decisively enough to buy MySpace, which was then the most popular social networking site; instead Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation purchased the site for $580 million. Redstone believed that the failure to acquire MySpace contributed to the 20% drop in Viacom’s stock price in 2006 up to the date of Freston’s ouster. Freston's successor as CEO, Philippe Dauman, was quoted as saying “never, ever let another competitor beat us to the trophy”. Redstone told interviewer Charlie Rose that losing MySpace had been “humiliating,” adding, “MySpace was sitting there for the taking for $500 million.” Murdoch's company ended up selling Myspace, which had largely declined along with the rise of rival social networking website Facebook, in 2012; News Corp's sale price at the time was $35 million.[8]

Post Viacom[edit]

He currently is the principal in Firefly3 LLC, a consulting and investment company.[9] He is an advisor to Vice Media and the Moby Group, a Dubai based media company. He is also an advisor to the Raine Group, a boutique merchant bank.

Philanthropy and awards[edit]

Freston is now Board Chairman of the ONE Campaign,[10] an advocacy organization for extreme poverty issues, that was started by Bono.[11] He also serves on the boards of DreamWorks Animation, Moby Group, Vice Media and Imagine Entertainment.

He has received many industry awards and recognitions. Freston was noted by "Time" in 2006 as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world.[12] He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2010.[13]

Personal life[edit]

In 1980, Freston married Margaret Ellen Badali.[14] They had two children, Andrew (b.1985) and Gilbert (b. 1990).[15] They later divorced.

In 1998, Freston married Kathy Freston, a former model, self-help author, and health and wellness expert.[16][17] In 2014, they divorced.



  1. ^ "Tom Freston". Crunchbase. Retrieved July 31, 2015. 
  2. ^ David Carr (September 18, 2011). "In Kabul, It's Not MTV, It's a Mission". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Julia Boorstin (April 5, 2011). "Tom Freston's Bet on Vice and the Future of Media". CNBC. 
  4. ^ "Profile: Tom Freston Shaped Expansion of MTV Networks". The Wall Street Journal. June 1, 2004. 
  5. ^ "Viacom board opts to split company". CNN. June 14, 2005. 
  6. ^ Multi Channel News Staff (September 15, 2005). "Viacom Names HR Heads". Multichannel News. 
  7. ^ Fabrikant, Geraldine (15 June 2005). "viacom board agres to split of company". NYT. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "MySpace Debacle Vindication For Fired Viacom CEO Tom Freston". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2011-12-15. 
  9. ^ "MOVES-Raine Group to hire former Viacom CEO Tom Freston as adviser - NYT". Reuters. January 26, 2015. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Mike Schuster (May 10, 2010). "So Long, Corner Office: Viacom CEO Leaves MTV for Bono". Minyanville. 
  12. ^ "The 2006 TIME 100". Time. Retrieved August 7, 2015. 
  13. ^ Nellie Andreeva (December 6, 2010). "Cloris Leachman, Diahann Carroll, Peter Jennings And Tom Freston Inducted Into TV Academy's Hall of Fame". Deadline Hollywood. 
  14. ^ Turner Classic Movies: "Tom Freston" retrieved October 13, 2012
  15. ^ ABC News: "Supreme Court Ruling Hailed as Victory for Special Education" By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES October 12, 2007
  16. ^ NY Post: "High-flying Frestons split up" June 5, 2012
  17. ^ W magazine: "Guiding Light - Self-help entrepreneur Kathy Freston brings transcendence to the media-mogul set" By Emily Holt May 2008

External links[edit]