Few people in the children’s television industry have had the same kind of impact as Margaret Loesch. After 25 years in the business, beginning as a film clerk with ABC to her current role as chairman and CEO of Fox Kids Networks Worldwide, Margaret Loesch has influenced an entire generation of business and creative people. In the following tribute, many of these people explain in their own words what Margaret L’esch has meant to them.
Haim Saban, Chairman & CEO Saban Entertainment:
The industry called it ‘impossible’ when she was empowered to compete with the ‘big boys’ and take the fledgling Fox Broadcasting Company into the kids business with an upstart operation called the Fox Children’s Network in 1990.
She called it ‘the opportunity of a lifetime.’
Industry ‘experts’ looked at a new off-beat, outrageous concept for a kids television series and summarily rejected it for eight years, claiming that this fantastic ‘live-action cartoon’ would never appeal to the children of America.
She viewed the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and knew instinctively that Fox Kids viewers would be crazy about this unique show.
When news got out that she had committed to the Power Rangers, the ‘experts’ thought that she was crazy.
In just six short years, Margaret L’esch has defied the naysayers, silenced the critics and created the model to which all others aspire.
Under her leadership, the Fox Children’s Network has become the pre-eminent provider of diverse, dynamic programming for children in the United States. So successful has she been in attracting young viewers to the set, the franchise is going global, with the launch of Fox Kids in the U.K. and Latin America by year’s end, and more on the way.
Before it was mandated by federal legislation, Margaret demonstrated her own commitment to educational television for children by offering more than three hours of curriculum-based programming on the Fox Children’s Network.
Her vision is inspirational to the strong team she has assembled. Her foresight in anticipating the next hot property, from X-Men to Goosebumps, is remarkable.
For joining forces with Saban Entertainment to entertain the world’s children into the new millennium . . . we thank her.
Peter Orton, Managing Director- Hit Entertainment:
Margaret Loesch is everyone’s idea of what a sister should be like. Her wonderful serenity, objectivity, charm and passion have made her into one of the most dynamic children’s television executives worldwide.
I first met Margaret when she was a slip of a thing (I wouldn’t dare to ask her age) and president of Marvel, and I had come to talk to her about the international rights of Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.
I came away from our first meeting thinking that this person was extremely smart, and over the ensuing five years, I watched her career soar.
I was recently in a full-day meeting with Margaret as she reviewed the copyright in a large comic book catalogue. She was able to brilliantly transcend the cultural barriers, and use her candor and many skills to analyze the potential in animating these properties, making the participants savor the prospect of a second meeting.
She is now about to jump on the global bus of the Fox Kids Network, and will relish the challenge. We will all hope to copy some of her new and brilliant programming and promotional ideas.
Margaret Loesch is simply the best.
Andy Heyward, Chairman DIC Entertainment:
I have known Margaret Loesch for almost 20 years, and I consider her one of my closest friends. She is indeed an extraordinary individual, and I want to share for the first time some of her great achievements, which, in her modesty, she has never before told publicly.
While everyone knows that Margaret has had an illustrious career working at NBC, Hanna-Barbera, Marvel and eventually Fox, where her vision, intelligence and hard work have created the most successful children’s programming service today, few people realize the secret side of Margaret where the seeds for all this great achievement began.
When I first met Margaret Loesch, she was working as a go-go dancer for 90 cents an hour at the Blue Note Club in Tijuana, Mexico. One of the customers tried to get fresh, and she immediately dispatched a left hook, knocking the gent out cold. A brawl ensued and I myself would have been in mortal danger were it not for Margaret’s quick reflexes and kind attentions to me.
I realized right away that this was no ordinary woman, and made it a point to introduce myself and learn more about her. I was working as an apprentice cartoon writer at Hanna-Barbera at the time. We quickly became friends, and I learned that she was, in fact, a fugitive from justice.
Margaret had been wrongly accused of passing government codes to East German intelligence agents and was wanted by the FBI. She was considered a threat to national security, and a price had been put on her head. She had gone underground and fled the country.
Born into a military family, Margaret had contacts in the intelligence community and soon learned that she had been framed by a diabolically cunning operative named ‘Nabas.’ Though nobody had ever seen Nabas, he was known as the mastermind of an international crime set.
Nabas had, in fact, stolen the legendary ‘salsa codes’ and until those codes were retrieved and her innocence vindicated, Margaret knew she was a marked woman. (The ‘salsa codes’ were secret codes for the production of chemical weapons so powerful that one drop, put inside a city’s water supply, would leave a population of three million inflicted with chronic diarrhea from which they would eventually die. The term ‘salsa codes’ referred to the fact that the smell of the chemical weapons bore a strong resemblance to taco sauce.) Margaret made it her mission in life to find Nabas and the missing government codes.
For the next 12 years, Margaret Loesch led one of the most interesting secret lives anyone has ever known. She tracked the infamous Nabas across all seven continents, she herself a hunted woman, with the FBI, CIA and Interpol always barely one step behind. The trail of Nabas posed countless dangers along the way. Margaret was constantly forced to assume disguises and false identities lest she attract the authorities. Margaret’s greatest skill was that she was a mistress of disguise, and though nobody in the ensuing years ever knew her identity, we stayed in regular contact. Her letters to me provided the basis for storylines that I integrated into each cartoon I wrote and subsequently produced.
Truth be told, I am obliged to admit that all of the inspiration for the cartoons DIC produced, as well as much of the production strategy, came from Margaret Loesch.
Many of our production studios in the Far East were set up by Margaret, acting on our behalf when she was living in the Cambodian jungles, secretly fighting the Khmer Rouge. In between her various guerrilla activities and living on red ants and dried bark, she had the time to scout out several ink and paint houses for us, and help them get set up.
Several years later, she hatched the idea for a Latin American children’s program service, and wrote a 300-page business plan. However, few people know that she did this in 1984 in Nicaragua, where she divided her time between the Sandinista movement and giving macarena lessons to the local rebels. During this period, she developed a deadly form of hand-to-hand combat practised by using only the third toe on the left foot. Nevertheless, it is so deadly that a skilled master is able to destabilize a small regiment of soldiers single-handedly.
All this while being pursued by the CIA, herself still in pursuit of the infamous Nabas.
When his trail took her to Russia, she was apprehended by the KGB and sent to a work camp in the Arctic Circle. Under the code name ‘Miss Piggy,’ she documented the human rights abuses there in ‘Rimba’s Archipelago.’
Escaped and on the road, her quest to clear her name led her to Switzerland, where she worked as a professional yodeler; to villages outside of Kabul, where she joined the Afghan rebel movement (because she thought the rugs were too expensive); and eventually to join her old friend Dionne Warwick on her comeback tour in eastern Bulgaria. It was there with Dionne that she decided to consult the Psychic Friends Network on how to close in on Nabas and clear her name once and for all.
Channeling psychic energy from Dionne, Margaret came back to America again, under a disguised identity, and worked with Tawny Little as a demonstrator on an infomercial selling The Ab Roller-Plus/Ginsu Dicer . . . a unique device that combined a fold-away ab roller with a set of Ginsu knives that turns into a slicer and dicer for the kitchen. (Margaret acknowledged that this device was the inspiration for Transformers, and eventually Power Ranger toys.) In between a short-lived interlude with Prince Charles (which she vehemently denies) and a longer one with an unnamed British pop star, which she refuses to speak about, she met Curtis Stimpson, the man of her dreams. (Any connection between Margaret meeting Curtis Stimpson and the arrival shortly thereafter of The Simpsons on Fox is purely coincidental.)
It was about this time that the ‘salsa codes’ were ‘discovered’ as mysteriously as they had disappeared, and returned to the secret vaults at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Margaret Loesch came aboveground at that time, with her name cleared, and soon became president of Fox Children’s Network. Few people realized that in all those previous years she was the guiding inspiration for my career and the programs we later produced. The courage, stamina and integrity Margaret exhibited all those years has been an inspiration to me every day.
She is a great American and a great leader. I will always be grateful to her.
Note: While the evil and infamous Nabas still remains at large, we know his days are numbered.
Michael Hirsh, Chairman, Nelvana:
I first met Margaret Loesch at the 1985 International Animated Film Festival in Annecy. We walked together from the dining room at Pere Bise on Talloires overlooking the lake to the nearby bar to have drinks. For Nelvana, this was an exciting time of expansion into the U.S. market with two Lucasfilm animated specials, The Ewoks and The Droids, for ABC. For Margaret, it was a time of management change for the company she then headed, Marvel Productions.
During our time together, I had the opportunity to get to know her. She was extremely open, and set the tone for a friendship that has continued ever since. And although this was a social situation for us, I became impressed with her calm, confident manner, qualities that would serve her throughout her career.
When she assumed the reigns of the Fox Children’s Network, I recalled our time together at Annecy. Here, I felt, was a position suited to Margaret’s unique creative and business talents. Through this new position, she would demonstrate to an entire industry what I had already known: that no matter the odds, Margaret L’esch would calmly, strategically guide the fledgling network toward dominance in the kids arena.
Today, as a result of her patience and brilliance, the Fox Children’s Network is the number one over-the-air children’s network. It’s amazing what you can learn about someone over drinks. Margaret, here’s to you.
C.J. Kettler, President, Sunbow Entertainment:
Margaret is a visionary. She is also a risk taker. When presented with the newly developed-for-television underground comic The Tick, the most frequent response from executives around town was, ‘But, he’s got no eyes!’ Margaret, however, responded with a resounding, ‘I get it!’
It’s no surprise that Margaret would order a subtle, satirical send-up of the very genre-action-adventure her’es-that made her channel number one. The Tick is a ‘superhero’ who flosses his teeth, appeals to adults as well as kids and defies the formulaic templates of Saturday morning scripting.
There is justice in the fact that part of the success attained by FCN was achieved with two of the series Margaret once shopped as a producer at Marvel. Her steadfast view on what will appeal to kids was just as on-target when she pitched Spider-Man and X-Men to the networks in the ’80s as it was when she bought those series herself, as a broadcaster, in the ’90s. That wonderful, full circle tells a lot about Margaret’s instincts, her ‘Midas touch’ when it comes to programming for kids.
Margaret has always been a supportive mentor and friend. She is a woman of her word, a rare bird in our sometimes fickle industry. Her willful spirit and integrity shine through her work. She’s a worthy role model for us all.
Greg Meidel, Chairman, MCA Television group:
I remember sitting across the table from Margaret at our Fox staff meetings and listening to her go on week after week about some weird live-action, martial-arts project she wanted to do for the kids network.
She was so enthusiastic talking about this show and about these heroic figures romping around in tights that I would just stare at her and wonder what the hell she was smoking.
But Margaret is a fighter. She’s passionate. She’s tenacious. And her enthusiasm is infectious. She eventually convinced Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch and the rest of us of the project’s merit.
Good thing. The project for which she fought so tirelessly was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Ratings for the series quickly went through the roof. It became the biggest children’s series in the history of television, spawned an unparalleled merchandising blitz and turned the Fox Kids Network into a powerhouse that today is unrivaled in the business.
Margaret, I will never doubt your program instincts again.
Avi Arad, CEO Marvel Studios:
Margaret is a dear friend. I consider her a pioneer and an innovator in children’s TV. It takes quite a lady to create the hottest boys lineup in history. It takes a visionary (obviously a Marvel fan) to push the envelope and introduce into the number one kids network the edgy and daring X-Men series.
For me, working with Margaret was a turning point. She pushed all of us to perform at a higher standard. She taught me a lot about toys, diplomacy and even a little about animation.
I enjoy working with her. And under our new agreement, I’ll have the pleasure of her guidance for many years to come, hopefully long enough for her to learn to imitate my accent.
Phil Roman, President and CEO, Film Roman:
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Margaret both as an executive and a friend. Her vision and integrity in children’s programming are matched only by her charm and wit.
Ralph Sanchez, Vice President, Film Roman:
There is no better ally to the creative community than an executive like Margaret L’esch.
Toper Taylor, Senior Vice President, Nelvana:
I looked up the word ‘pioneer’ in the dictionary and found the following: ‘pioneer. A person who g’es before, preparing the way for others; Margaret Loesch.’ I wasn’t surprised to see her name there, because it’s true. Here’s just a couple of examples why.
For years, Saturday morning television was a graveyard of ‘presold’ properties. From An American Tail to Beetlejuice, the job description for a creative executive in the kids business was to hunt down the biggest-name properties to pitch, not necessarily the best creative concepts.
When Margaret introduced me to Savage Steve Holland and his project Eek! The Cat, I knew Margaret was onto something. There was a brilliantly creative, comedic force in Savage, and for the first time in Nelvana’s history, a network executive/mentor in Margaret, who locked us in a room together and said, ‘Don’t come out until you have something ingenious.’
The freedom Margaret gave Savage and Nelvana to produce Eek! has not only helped make the series a five-year hit, but one of the most enjoyable shows on which Nelvana has ever had the privilege of working.
The first year of production on Eek! wasn’t without its hardships though. The year was 1992 and the month was May. Nelvana was in the thr’es of production. The worldwide boom in animation production was causing chaos in delivery schedules. ABC had just instituted a policy of stiff financial penalties if an episode missed an air date.
When I called Margaret to tell her, with a quivering voice, we might miss some air dates on Eek!, Margaret paused then said, ‘Don’t worry. I want the show to be perfect when it g’es on our schedule. Don’t rush it. Take the time you need.’
I pulled the phone away from my ear and looked at the receiver, shook the phone, checked out my hearing, spoke into the phone and said, ‘Come again?’
‘Toper, Fox is about quality children’s programming. How can you achieve the quality we’re looking for if you rush the production? Kids know the difference. This network respects kids.’
That attitude set a new standard for Saturday morning television. It’s an attitude that permeates kids programming today. Thank you, Margaret L’esch.
Joe Barbera, Co-Chairman & Co-Founder, Hanna-Barbera Cartoons:
There aren’t many executives like Margaret. On the outside, she is a quiet, intelligent, well-spoken person, but get her to the negotiating table, and her finely honed skills are tougher than any table-pounding executive’s fist.
Margaret has a knack for picking winners and that’s why she’s where she is today. During her five years at Hanna-Barbera (1979-84), she rose from vice president of children’s programming to executive vice president of programming and gave us the best five years in our history. With Margaret on board, Hanna-Barbera sold 12 shows to the networks in one year, which is virtually unheard of. Keep in mind that back then there were only three networks-NBC, CBS and ABC-but every open slot was filled by a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Thanks to Margaret, we were playing opposite ourselves across the board!
The annual sales revenues from the various cartoon series supervised by Margaret ranged from $36 million to $40 million, and a large chunk of that came from a show she helped develop and nurture called The Smurfs.
I remember when Fred Silverman, her former boss at NBC, called one day and said, ‘There are these little things you can buy at the toy store or even the car wash. They’re called Smurfs, and they’d make a great cartoon.’ Margaret sent one of our research people down to the car wash, and he came back with these little blue characters on key chains. Margaret came to my office, dumped them in front of me and that’s how it started.
With Margaret supervising the development and the first two years of production on The Smurfs, the show became a smash hit. Such a hit, in fact, that it propelled NBC from third to first place in the Saturday morning ratings.
You see, the thing about Margaret is she can sort through material that’s offered to her, pick out the right one, and then launch it into a hit. That’s because she’s had experience on all sides of the playing field-as a buyer, a seller and a creator.
Though Margaret manages with a strong and firm hand, she encourages those around her to be creative. One time, she put together what I now call a ‘Margaret Loesch Carnival.’ She decided it would be a good idea to have a writers’ meeting outside the studios, and made arrangements for us to ‘get away from it all.’ Margaret booked us into an inn up in Ojai where we worked hard during the day, and danced up a storm in the evenings. It was a refreshing break for everyone and a great way to foster creativity. Nobody ever thought of stuff like that except Margaret. She really knows how to bring out the best in people.
Margaret has always been attracted to the unknown, to a new challenge, which was to my advantage when we lured her away from NBC. Though this same quality was later to my detriment when Marvel Productions took her away from us, I always knew that wouldn’t be the end of the line for her. With Margaret, there are no limits. I used to say to others, ‘Don’t be surprised if she winds up President of the United States some day!’ Well, she is a president today, isn’t she?
Congratulations on all your success, Margaret. Your former boss misses you terribly, but he couldn’t be more proud!
Fred Seibert, President, Hanna-Barbera cartoons:
I’ve always regretted that I did not get to work with Margaret L’esch when she was at Hanna-Barbera, having joined the company after she had moved on. But I do know her career well enough to say she is, without a doubt, one of the few visionaries in the field of children’s television programming.
Her record speaks for itself: Margaret is the single most important reason for the success of the Fox Children’s Network, and it’s a success that has benefited the entire children’s television industry. I would not normally put credit for such an accomplishment on any one person, but in this case, it’s easy to lay that credit squarely on Margaret’s doorstep.
I don’t need to recite the record. It’s well known: top ratings, breakthrough shows, and more important, proving that children’s programming blocks on broadcast television can work not only on Saturday mornings, but seven days a week.
I’d rather focus on Margaret’s point of view than on those details. What I notice most is her belief that creativity must remain the single most important factor in a kids show.
It’s simple, really, and can best be summed up in one word: diversity. If you look back before the Fox era, it was a pretty generic time for cartoons. Most of them looked similar and their characters acted alike. When Margaret nurtured FCN into existence, all that began to change. The network altered the marketplace, and that in turn has been a good thing for both the network and producers of children’s programming.
The reason Margaret is not a typical network programming executive is due to the fact that she had an industry life before joining the network. I think her time on the production side of the business at Hanna-Barbera, Marvel and Fox has given her a good perspective on what it takes to make great TV shows. Combine that with an understanding, nurtured at NBC, that the children’s programming market is constantly changing and what you get is an extremely innovative view on how to program a children’s television network.
Best of all, Margaret realizes the importance of nurturing talent and, therefore, different kinds of programming. The realization that talent and profit are not mutually exclusive, and that diversity is what young viewers need and deserve is what makes Margaret such a pioneer. She programs Fox with a keen understanding that a variety of different types of shows is not only acceptable, but necessary in the kids business.
In other words, she programs for kids. Many people don’t really do that, because they don’t know enough about children. Margaret has made it her business to understand the audience and then program for them, rather than operate on a set of preconceived notions that were developed in the industry’s infancy.
A mother herself, Margaret has a quite logical and vested interest in seeing high-quality programming made available to children, and she recognizes that kids need a mix of programming just like adults do.
If you ever get the chance to converse with Margaret about the industry, you will probably be inspired by her outlook, especially if you are a producer of kids product, like me. What she tells you she is looking for is simply good work. She’s not seeking the formulaic; she just wants good shows.
As a producer, that’s the most you can ask from a network executive because you know if the executive is that excited about an original, quality program, he or she is likely to buy it. And children in turn, who view such programs, are entertained and stimulated. It’s a winning formula all around, and the evidence can be seen in the history of the Fox schedule.
Combine all these factors and you get a bold programming approach and a bold programmer. She even experiments, something more common on cable networks than broadcast channels, and those risks often pay off. Margaret is hardly one to play it safe.
As head of FCN, Margaret has become an extremely influential individual in our industry. But her legacy and influence on children’s programming go back even before her years at Fox, and I suspect will continue for a number of years to come.
Stan Lee, Chairman, Marvel Comics & Marvel Films:
I’m sorry. It’s impossible for me to write an objective, unbiased testimonial to Margaret L’esch.
You see, I’m prejudiced.
I’ve known Margaret since the ’70s when she was an executive at NBC. We worked together in the ’80s while she was president of Marvel Productions, as well as now when our X-Men and Spider-Man are on the Fox Network, with additional shows in the planning stage.
Plus, my wife Joan and I consider Maggie and her husband Curt to be among our closest friends.
So, when I speak of Margaret Loesch, you’d better believe I know whereof I speak!
As you might have guessed, Maggie is one of my favorite people. She’s intelligent, articulate and creative. She’s fair-minded and compassionate. Most important of all, she has that one rare talent that is most essential when producing for an audience, young or old-the lady has impeccable taste.
Taste. You can’t see it or touch it, but you know when it’s there. It’s the fabulous talent that allows a programming executive to make the right choice, to select the title, the theme, the approach that will have the most appeal to her audience.
Margaret’s audience is children, and no one knows that audience better than she. She understands what young people like, how they think and what they’ll respond to. And, one of the things I admire most about her, perhaps one of the main reasons behind her astonishing success in the ratings, is the fact that she respects her audience’s intelligence and never allows any of her shows to talk down to their young viewers.
She also has the courage of her convictions. Here’s an example . . .
Some years ago, when Margaret was president of Marvel Productions, she was aware that X-Men was one of Marvel’s hottest-selling comic book titles. She was also aware that the success of the book was based as much on the sharp and vivid characterizations and personalities of our her’es and villains as on the action. She and I had many discussions about the fact that X-Men would be a natural for a Saturday morning animated series.
But nobody else agreed.
We pitched X-Men to every network, to everybody and anybody who’d listen, but no sale. Finally, Maggie put it aside and went on to win a number of Emmys for other shows that Marvel produced. But she never forgot X-Men.
And here’s the part about having the courage of her convictions . . .
Some time later, after Margaret had left Marvel to become president of the Fox Kids Network, she was looking for a solid adventure series that would not only grab the boy viewers, but a large number of girls as well. She remembered X-Men. She also remembered that every other network had turned it down; every programming maven had determined it wouldn’t work. Not too many people would go out on a limb in a situation like that. Margaret did. She knew what she wanted. She knew what her audience would want. And the ratings proved she was right. X-Men was, and still is, a smash hit.
Maggie trusted her own judgment-she had the courage of her convictions.
Let me close by saying I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to write these few words in praise of this charming and talented lady. Perhaps now you can see why it’s difficult for me to be objective when discussing Margaret Loesch. I’m more than her friend-I’m her fan.
Jean MacCurdy, President Warner Bros. Television Animation:
Margaret Loesch. The memories-and the present-flood my mind.
1975: Margaret had left her job at the ABC on-air advertising department to join the NBC children’s programming department as manager. I had started two weeks earlier as the secretary in that department. I had never worked for a woman before. In walked a striking young lass in her late twenties, straight blond hair hanging below her shoulders, ankle length skirt (we were still into the late ’60s hippie thing, you know). And from the moment she arrived, a strange bonding thing started to happen.
1976: I found myself at the El Torito in Toluca Lake, being bribed with margaritas and having Margaret tell me that she was being promoted to director of children’s at NBC and the best thing I could possibly do was take her vacated position as manager. It took two drinks; but she was right.
1976-79: We had a blast. We worried (we’re both real good at that), we wondered, we worked with such legends as Friz Freleng and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. We went to New York for meetings with the NBC brass to set our Saturday morning schedule and found ourselves in a suite at the Sherry Netherlands (and were too embarrassed to invite anyone up to visit).
Margaret bought a little house in Studio City and decided to put in a pool. Instead of attending industry lunches, we spent our time sunbathing and exchanging girl chat.
1979-83: Margaret went off to Hanna-Barbera to take charge of the busiest studio of its time; I went off to Warner Bros. to fall in love with Bugs Bunny and Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones and all that classic animation meant. But Margaret and I still hung out and talked and played and continued to worry (we’re both real good at that). We would find ourselves at various industry events together, and somehow I’d be able to convince her to sneak away and we’d steal a quiet dinner by ourselves.
1983: I don’t remember margaritas, but somehow I ended up at Hanna-Barbera, working once again with Margaret.
HB was the busiest studio in town and Margaret was queen of it all. I was hired to take care of the network commitments and see to the writing staff. Within a year, Margaret left to become president of Marvel Productions. I was lonely; but I didn’t realize how much until 1986, when I left HB to take a hiatus.
1987: Margaret, once again, was thriving. Marvel had usurped HB as the busiest studio in town with G.I. J’e and those little ponies and the many Emmy Award winning Muppet Babies.
She convinced me to return to the biz and thus I found myself, one more time, working with Margaret L’esch.
1989: Once again, we were in different seats: I back at Warner Bros., Margaret at Fox, where she was beginning to form what is now the Fox Children’s Network.
By 1991, we found ourselves back in business together, with Warner providing programming for that new network. It was great fun with Margaret allowing us the creative freedom to deliver such shows as The Adventures of Batman & Robin and Taz-Mania and Animaniacs.
1996: Although Warner Bros. now has its own network, and Fox is relying on other suppliers, Margaret and I continue to worry (we’re real good at that) and laugh and share both the good and bad times together. It is unusual in life itself to have a consistent friend for over 20 years; it’s even more unusual to have one in this business. I consider myself ever so fortunate, for while Margaret has been my mentor, my colleague and my competitor, first and foremost she has always been my friend.
Michael Wahl, President, Gunther Wahl:
Margaret L’esch is all about team building and leadership. She’s always had the uncanny ability to pull together a group of diverse individuals and within a very short period of time, have them behaving like a family. And like a family, there is the love, the trust and the bickering. Margaret is like a den mother, leading her scouts through the trials and tribulations of the immediate tasks, but always with the larger, more global goal in mind. ‘We’re going to be the best. We’re going to be the biggest. And we’re going to do it together. We all have our jobs to do. Do them, and we’ll succeed.’
Margaret creates an environment where you feel secure enough to disagree. In fact, it is her ability to foster positive internal disagreement as a way to reach consensus that separates her from most executives. In the many years that I worked with her-at Hanna-Barbera, at Marvel and as an independent producer supplying programming to her at FCN-she wanted to hear your honest, sincere feelings rather than a politically correct response. Discussion would flourish, but in the end, after you had presented your thoughts, she would either agree or disagree. Either way, a uniform consensus was built, and all involved had the single-mindedness to proceed.
Margaret attracts people because she takes the time to get to know them and to determine what each individual is good at. She then allows them to do just that . . . be good. She doesn’t tell people how to do things; she lets their unique talent find the way.
What impresses me most about Margaret is the manner in which she has responded to adversity in her life. We all face problems, heartache and tragedy. Margaret has had her share, but she never lets anyone know that it gets to her. She is always a pillar of strength. It is through her resolution that others persevere and ultimately succeed. She sets an example and it’s tough not to follow.
Margaret once described herself as a ‘doer’. She’s never been a spectator. Margaret is a participant with a capital ‘p,’ whether it’s the Peace Corps, skiing, exploring Antarctica, motherhood or the challenge of building a new children’s network. The sideline has never been a comfortable place for her. She’s never been just the manager, calling the shots from the bench. She’s a true player-coach. She leads by doing, by setting the goals and being the first to take off towards them.
Leadership is all about the desire to take calculated risks and to motivate others to follow along on a great adventure. Margaret has always sought and loved the challenge. And it wouldn’t be a challenging, great adventure without the risks. Margaret has proven that she can stare risks in the face, reduce them to a manageable size, and then prevail over them.
Margaret has the unique capacity to surround herself with, as Stan Lee would say, ‘true believers.’ Margaret Loesch, now we’re all true believers.
Much continued success.
Bert P. Gould, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Marvel Entertainment Group:
As I remember it, it was a dark and stormy night when I first met Margaret Loesch. She was about to leave Marvel Productions to become president of the new Fox Children’s Network. (Actually, it was a typically gorgeous Southern California afternoon, but I was about to meet the woman who would be my new boss, and, well, I was a little distracted.)
I had recently joined Fox myself, charged with the task of turning America’s youth into card-carrying members of the Fox Kids Club. I had just begun to spend (invest?) millions of Fox’s dollars when I was told I would now be on Margaret’s team. No one had ever tried anything like this before, and I wasn’t sure how Margaret would feel about starting her new venture already well into the red before even ordering the first series.
Fortunately for me-and over five million kids-Margaret believed in and supported the Fox Kids Club right from the start. She had been through the pitfalls of kids television and knew how daytime scheduling had been ignored at the networks. Margaret was keenly aware that aggressive and effective marketing was crucial to our success and, luckily, the Fox Kids Club was only the beginning.
I later learned that Jamie Kellner, then Fox Broadcasting’s president, told Margaret about this kid Gould he had hired, and it was up to her whether to keep me around. I’m happy to say that after washing her car and picking up some drycleaning for a couple of months, Margaret not only kept me around, but allowed us to raise the bar when it came to kids TV marketing. Every day was a new experience and a new opportunity, from the Kids Club Magazine to the Fox Kids Countdown, from the best promos on TV to the most exciting contests anywhere. And of course, some really great programming. It wasn’t always easy, but Margaret was always challenging us to push harder and to never give up.
Now that I’m at Marvel, I realize how much I learned from my days at Fox Kids. I consider Margaret a teacher, a colleague and, most of all, a friend.