Barely one week after NBC announced the creation of “Hispanics at NBCU,” a company-wide initiative to boost advertising dollars targeting Hispanics, NBC Universal announced Monday the departure of long-time Telemundo President Don Browne, who will retire on June 3, exactly eight years to the day he joined the Spanish-language broadcaster. Browne, who turns 68 on May 16th, will embark on what he calls a long overdue trip to Greece with his wife of 30 years, Maria. On the day NBC announced his departure and one month before Browne says his final good-bye at the company’s upfront presentation on May 17th, the executive spoke to Portada about his 8-year Telemundo tenure; his post-Telemundo plans and who he thinks is the person best qualified to succeed him. An edited excerpt follows.
So, you are retiring. That came as a bit of a shock…
Well, it’s interesting, because if people knew a bit more about me, they shouldn’t be shocked…. Let me give you the romantic background of this [decision.]
Romantic?[My wife] Maria and I are celebrating 30 years of marriage on May 9 and we were talking about what we were going to do. And of course, we’ve never really done anything, because our anniversary falls during May sweeps. And so, a year ago, we began talking and I said: Look, I’m going to be 68 in May; we are going to be 30 years married also in May; our son is graduating from Law School, and I will be 8 years at Telemundo on June 3rd… This might be a good time to step down.
Upon acquiring NBC, Comcast has been announcing some high-level executive changes… Was leaving Telemundo entirely your decision?
This is all me. Leaving [Telemundo] was 100 percent my decision. I reached out directly to [NBCUniversal CEO] Steve Burke. I am picking the time; I am picking the date and I’m picking the circumstances.
I think I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do. Six years ago, we did not have studios; we did not have original content; we did not have an international business; we did not have a digital business and mun2 was barely a reality. Today, we have become the second largest distributor of Spanish-language content in the world. Our content is running on Televisa in Mexico. We produce 1,000 hours of scripted programming; 3,000 hours of original content; we are respected.
I believe that under the right investment and circumstances, we can compete with anybody in the world. So I think there could not be a better time for me to retire. The company is in the best shape it’s ever been. I have given my blood, sweat and tears to turn Telemundo into a respected media company. I am declaring: “Mission accomplished.”
After these years at Telemundo, what would you say you are most proud of?
Unquestionably, I am mostly proud about my team; of all those people that I brought in here six years ago with the dream of becoming an international company that would produce its own content. I am also proud that today at Telemundo 80 percent of the executive leadership is Hispanic; and 40 percent are women. We have built an amazing team and Comcast is very excited about where we are and where we are heading.
What are you going to do after June 3rd?
I am going to go and take my wife to Greece to finally celebrate our wedding anniversary. I am taking her there for as long as she wants to. I know this sounds corny but frankly, most of the credit of my success goes to Maria. This is not rocket science. At this time of life, I just want to be with her. We are not spending as much time together. And time is precious…
If you were to pick your perfect successor, the perfect person to run Telemundo… who would you go for?
Maria, my wife, of course! She would be an amazing CEO of Telemundo.
Well, she doesn’t really qualify. Besides, you are taking her to Greece. How about [Telemundo COO] Jacqueline Hernández?
I think Jackie has a lot of the ingredients needed in the job. She would have to be considered very seriously.
Are you retiring for good? Is there anything you’d like to do?
I am going to follow my passion. I want to continue mentoring and coaching others. I also want to continue to push and advocate for diversity, perhaps as a teacher, or as a mentor… I’m following my passion.
I just realized you will be retiring around the time ‘La Reina del Sur,’ Telemundo’s most successful telenovela ever, will come to an end…
Yes. We’re both going to go into the sunset together… I will be on a paddleboard and La Reina will be on The Witness Protection Program.