I was heartbroken to hear this morning that Mark passed away. We all started together. It was just so few of us betting that NBC could launch a business news network. I remember us all sitting on boxes in Fort Lee (2200 Fletcher Avenue).
I negotiated Mark's first deal and we had a long talk about the fact that he had gone to law school and never loved the law and that broadcasting was his passion ... and it must have been, because when we hired Mark, he worked for very little money, but he was always happy.
He loved it. He loved it as a startup, and as CNBC became the preeminent voice in America for business news, he loved it even more. Mark took a lot of pride in the fact that he helped make CNBC the number one business news network and a hugely successful business for NBC.
It wasn't fun negotiating a deal with Mark. He had the growl of a lion, but he had a great heart ... and most of the time he talked about how much he loved being on the air, interviewing business leaders, and, most importantly, speaking the truth. Nobody I have ever worked with in broadcasting was more of a truth teller than Mark, and that is why I always put the volume up when he was on the air.
He said what many of us were thinking, but were afraid to say. Mark was the epitome of truth to power... and the interesting thing was that Mark was an incredibly talented interviewer and a very challenging interview, but if you could get by Mark, you really felt you had accomplished something ... so, the great business leaders lined up over the years to sit down with Mark so they would be able to say that they did it, got through it, and survived.
I remember in the early days our big challenge at CNBC was that we had to make business news not a commodity.
A lot of what was on in news and business news was anchors and teleprompters.
Mark was not a teleprompter guy ... he was never on script, he was always authentic, and he always said what he felt. Mark was brilliant and so often what he said was exactly what the viewers felt, and we all applauded him for that. More importantly, his authentic voice helped lead CNBC down a new path of unscripted programming with real characters and real points of view.
The great thing about Mark was also the great challenge with Mark, which was that there was no way anyone could control him... not Jack Welch, not Bob Wright, not the President of CNBC... nobody could control Mark. He had his own authentic voice and he always spoke his mind.
There were times in the early days when we tried to critique Mark, but he never listened to us ... and that was a good thing, because we were wrong. It was his strong voice that gave strength to CNBC and to business news in the US.
Having spent over 17 years with Mark on a personal level, I will miss him a great deal. He was a great colleague and well liked by everyone. Mark was not a small talker, so he always cut to the chase and told you what he thought, and he would expect you to do the same... it was fun to be around him and his great wit. Mark was a great guy, and I will miss him very much.
David M. Zaslav is the President and CEO of Discovery Communications. Prior to Discovery, Zaslav was president of Cable and Domestic TV and New Media Distribution at NBC Universal. Zaslav joined NBC in 1989 and was instrumental in developing and launching CNBC that same year. He played a key role in creating MSNBC in 1996.