NEW YORK (Reuters) - It is hard to know which business is trickier: Hollywood, with its cinematic hits and misses, or the National Football League, where Super Bowl success is so elusive.
There is one person one could ask: Steve Tisch, the producer of iconic films like “Forrest Gump” as well as co-owner of the New York Giants. He has won an Oscar and two Super Bowl rings - and, in fact, is the only person on the planet to have won both.
For the latest in Reuters’ Life Lessons series, Tisch spoke about what he has learned from a unique lifetime spent among giants of the football and entertainment worlds.
Q: How did you get involved in the movie business so early?
A: Before I even graduated college, I had worked as an assistant to director Otto Preminger. Then I moved to Hollywood and worked for Peter Guber, who had started as head of production for Columbia Pictures. Five years working under him was equivalent to getting a master’s degree, a PhD and a Nobel Prize.
Q: Once you had some success, how did you get the right team in place to handle your portfolio?
A: When it comes to my personal investments, the Tisch family office is run by very talented financial advisers whom I have trusted for a long time. Is every at-bat a home run? No, but there are more doubles and triples than there are strikeouts.
I would say I’m pretty conservative in my investing, because I am sensitive to making sure that our children’s future is financially safe and secure.
Q: How do the businesses of Hollywood and the NFL compare?
A: There are a lot of similarities, actually. In the entertainment business you have to put a product on the screen that people want to see, and the same can be said about the product on the football field. A great football game and a great movie have a lot of common, in that there are characters you root for or against, there is tremendous action, there are personal stories, there are nail-biting scenes, and surprise endings - not always happy ones.
Q: Have you had some bad investments over the years too?
A: I have definitely had some turkeys, although no one ever sets out to make a bad movie. I can look back and laugh at some of the decisions I made, or how seriously I took myself. After all, I don’t get the final vote - the audience does, and it is humbling.
With movies, you can have a $150 million “Star Wars” movie, or you could have a $20 million indie that captures interest, and you don’t really know which will be the better investment. I love that about the business - that is what keeps me telling stories after 45 years.
Q: How do you figure out where to make the most charitable impact?
A: They have to resonate with me personally. My family and I got involved with the brain cancer program at Duke University, because that is where my father was treated for his tumor in 2004.
I also have a commitment to Israel, which comes from deep in my heart. I identify with the Israeli people and their struggle, and want to make their lives mean something special, so my support of programs at Tel Aviv University come from a place of passion and purpose.
Q: What lessons do you try to pass on to your five kids?
A: I learned that it is best to be a parent first, not a best friend. I want the lessons they learn to be experiential, when they observe me and how I conduct my life.
I remember watching my own father and uncle. I was kind of like Eloise, growing up in the hotel business, and my father always had the same respect for the housekeeper that he did for the guest staying in the penthouse. That was very meaningful for me. I think I have a lot of his DNA in me, and I relate to people the same way he did.
Editing by Beth Pinsker and Lisa Shumaker