FORTUNE Unfiltered with Aaron Task

FORTUNE Unfiltered with Aaron Task

United States

From FORTUNE and Time Inc., home of iconic franchises like FORTUNE 500, comes an original weekly podcast series titled Fortune Unfiltered. Hosted by award-winning Digital Editor of FORTUNE, Aaron Task, FORTUNE Unfiltered features in-depth conversations with the brightest leaders in business today. Audiences will discover the personal journeys and the raw ambition behind the executives who are driven to greatness. These are the stories of how and why these important figures in business went from visionary to leader. FORTUNE Unfiltered: The Journey To Success: Untold and Unguarded.


Tommy Motolla, Former Chairman of Sony Music Entertainment  

This week Aaron speaks with Former Chairman of Sony Music, Tommy Motolla. Tommy talks about the music industry, his history with Michael Jackson and his upcoming show A Bronx Tale.

Danny Meyer, CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group  

Danny Meyer was a disruptor before it was cool, and remains one today. From the opening of Union Square Cafe in 1985 through Shake Shack’s IPO in 2014 and beyond, Meyer’s restaurants have shaken up the industry’s norms. New York’s fine dining establishment didn’t really focus on customer service and restaurants generally didn’t offer their staff benefits before Meyer arrived on the scene. Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group continued to push boundaries of American dining by eliminating tipping from the Michelin-starred The Modern in late 2015, with plans to extend it to all 13 of its restaurants over time. And starting in 2017, the firm will offer paid parental leave to its full-time restaurant workers, extending a benefits package rarely seen in the industry that has long-included health insurance, life insurance and a matching 401(k) plan. Meyer’s personal background makes him an unlikely revolutionary but it’s clear he’s become one of the most important American restaurateurs of the past 30 years because of a relentless focus on the dining experience for everyone in the restaurant, from customers to employees to suppliers and everyone in between.

Dave Brandon, CEO of Toys R Us and Chairman of Domino's Pizza  

Dave Brandon is the CEO of Toys "R" Us and Chairman of the Board of Domino's Pizza, which make him a supercool grandpa — and one of the most successful businessmen in the consumer space. Brandon was CEO when Domino’s went public in 2004, the largest IPO in restaurant history, and was brought in to run Toys “R” Us by Bain Capital presumably to do the same for the toy store chain. If that happens—and speculation is 2017 may be the year—Brandon would be a rare CEO to oversee three IPOs, having also taken Valassis Communications public in the early 1990. But Brandon has suffered his share of setbacks too. In between Domino’s IPO and running Toys “R” Us, he was the Athletic Director at his alma mater, the University of Michigan from 2010 to 2014. Brandon’s tenure was marred by controversy and even student protest. So does Brandon have any regrets? Listen to this episode of Fortune Unfiltered to find out.

Maverick Carter, CEO SpringHill Entertainment & UNINTERRUPTED  

Maverick Carter is best known as LeBron James’ childhood friend and agent, and claims “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious,” to borrowing a phrase from Albert Einstein. But to overlook him as “just” James’ trusted confidante underestimates Carter’s abilities as a businessman, sports marketer and media executive. Carter is CEO SpringHill Entertainment, which signed a content deal with Warner Brothers in 2015, and CEO and co-founder (with James) of Uninterrupted, a platform for first-person athlete stories hosted on Bleacher Report. In this episode of Fortune Unfiltered, Carter relieves some of his career highlights, including negotiation James’ rumored $1 billion-plus lifetime deal with Nike, and his role helping put Beats Music on the map in the years prior to its acquisition by Apple in 2014. We also discuss going from “The Decision” special — which was widely criticized— to seeing LeBron bring a championship to Cleveland for the first time since 1964, what he learned from his grandmother, who ran a gambling parlor, working (briefly) with Johnny Manziel, what he considers “the worst thing” in business, and what’s next for him and James. “I feel like we’re just getting started...just getting started,” he says. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Russell Simmons, The Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications  

Russell Simmons isn't shy about expressing his opinion, and doesn't mince words, whether it's about Hollywood's lack of diversity, global warming, veganism, or the election. "The first thing I said is 'I'd rather Kim Kardashian be president,'" Simmons says of Donald Trump, a man he's known and had a friendship with for some 30 years before the 2016 campaign. One of the most extraordinary businessmen in modern American history, Simmons achieved enormous success in a variety of endeavors. As co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, Simmons helped bring hip-hop music into the mainstream. He later created fashion lines like Phat Farm and produced HBO's Def Comedy Jam, which helped launch the careers of megastars like Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Martin Lawrence and many more. Today, Simmons is chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, which includes over 10 businesses and three non-profits. He's also the author of several best-selling books, including Success Through Stillness and The Happy Vegan. "The integration of culture is an explosion," he says. "It's so much fun. That's what America is about. That's where the success comes in."

Deborah Lee James, 23rd Secretary of the Air Force  

U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James is responsible for a $139 billion budget and the welfare of nearly 660,000 active-duty, guard, reserve and civilian Airmen and their families. Sec. James says this awesome responsibility is the "honor and privilege" of her career, which includes 30-plus years in senior homeland and national security roles in both the public and private sector. Addressing Donald Trump's comments, Sec. James says "I can tell you the United States military is not any sort of disaster. It is the best military on the planet." In addition to her personal story, Sec. James discusses current events — including the operation to liberate Mosul from ISIL, the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, Russia's provocations in the Baltics, and tensions in the South China Sea. "This is the most complex period we have ever faced during the three decades I’ve been on the scene," Sec. James says in this episode of Fortune Unfiltered, recorded at Fortune's Most Powerful Women summit on Oct. 19.

Anthony Scaramucci, Founder of SkyBridge Capital  

Anthony Scaramucci is a very busy man. He’s the founder of SkyBridge Capital, an investment firm with $12.1 billion in assets, host of the SALT hedge fund conference in Las Vegas, co-host of Wall Street Week on Fox Business, an active philanthropist and the author of Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole: How Entrepreneurs Turn Failure into Success. And if that weren’t enough, he's also on Donald Trump's economic policy council and finance committee. In this episode of Fortune Unfiltered, Scaramucci explains how he overcame his initial skepticism about Trump's campaign—like many Republicans he initially didn't take Trump's candidacy seriously—and why he believes the GOP candidate's economic policies are best for America. Scaramucci embodies the American dream - he grew up in a traditional Italian working-class family and recalls watching his father, a construction worker, got to work every day at 4:30 a.m. "Let me ask people who are saying I'm a relentless self-promoter: How was I going to get here folks?"

John Chambers, Executive Chairman of Cisco Systems  

John Chambers was CEO of Cisco Systems from 1995 to 2005. Cisco’s stock surged over 1400% during Chambers' tenure vs. a mere 350% gain for the S&P 500. But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Chambers, who recalls the “life-threatening experiences” the company faced after the dot com bubble burst in 2000 and again after the 2008 financial crisis. Now Cisco's executive chairman, Chambers explains why he’s so proud of how the company navigated those challenges and recalls the advice he got from GE’s Jack Welch during those struggles. Chambers also talks about his personal battle with dyslexia and how he turned the condition into a strength. But he admits "my hands still sweat" thinking about being called on in class to have to read out loud. Note: When this episode was recorded on September 15. Chambers said he was “waiting for the debates” before deciding whether or not to support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Chambers, who served as national campaign co-chair for John McCain's 2008 presidential bid and endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, could not be reached for additional comment.

Bethenny Frankel, Television Personality and entrepreneur  

Bethenny Frankel wasn’t the first reality TV star but she has used the platform to grow her business and brand better than anyone this side of Donald Trump. In addition to starring on The Real Housewives of New York City and Bethenny Ever After, Frankel has hosted a talk show, written four best-selling books, and founded the Skinnygirl line of cocktails, which she sold to Fortune Brands in 2011. A savvy entrepreneur, Frankel kept the rights to the Skinnygirl name and is expanding it into a number of other product lines, including snacks, appliances, condiments, apparel, and sweeteners. Check out the interview to hear how Frankel stays motivated after hitting it big and deals with the balancing act of being a parent, businesswoman and celebrity. Fans love Frankel for her no-holds-barred style and she definitely delivers in our most ‘unfiltered’ episode yet.

Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA Sports  

Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson took a circuitous route to his current job running the world’s leading global interactive entertainment software company. Raised in Geelong, Australia—a blue collar town southwest of Melbourne—Wilson bounced around professionally before landing at EA in 2000. He started on a small surfing game, then ultimately worked his way up through the company. A few years into his tenure he moved to Vancouver to join the EA Sports FIFA development team. “We were I think 19 different nationalities, speaking 20 different languages,” Wilson recalls. “We were like the UN of game development….but we all shared this one love. We shared this love for football. At the time, FIFA was the number two soccer game on the market behind Pro Evolution Soccer and was really struggling. Under Wilson’s leadership, the game broke out and ultimately became what it is today — the largest sports game franchise in the world and one of the biggest annual events in the $80 billion gaming industry. “My life is a series of unbelievable people who looked at me and said ‘yeah, we’ll take a bet on you’,” Wilson recalls, before describing the traits he looks for in young people he’s willing to make a bet on.

Julie Sweet, Group Chief Executive of Accenture  

Julie Sweet took an unusual road to become CEO of Accenture North America, a position which landed her at #39 on Fortune's 2016 list of the World's Most Powerful Women. In 1987, 19-year old Sweet went to China, going to a foreign culture to learn a strange language in an era when learning Japanese was far more fashionable. Risk-taking and doing things a little differently has become the theme of Sweet's professional career, taking her from partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP—one of the first females to earn that title—to her current position at Accenture NA, which has $31 billion in revenue and nearly 50,000 employees. Sweet helped Accenture land on Fortune's list of the 100 Best Places to Work by allowing employees returning from parental leave to work locally, providing 40 hours of subsidized back-up care, and prioritizing a diverse and inclusive work environment. Just this year, Accenture was the first big consulting firm to publish race and gender stats, another example of Sweet doing things a little bit differently as we discuss in the latest episode of Fortune Unfiltered.

Susan Lyne,  Founder and President of BBG Ventures  

Susan Lyne has had one of the most extraordinary careers of anyone in corporate America in the past 30 years. Currently the founder and President of BBG Ventures (more on that below), Lyne served as CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia during the time Martha Stewart was in jail. Before that, she held various positions at the Disney and ABC, including President of ABC Entertainment. Lyne gave the greenlight to shows like Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and The Bachelor, but was fired from ABC before any of those huge hits made it to air. In this episode of Fortune Unfiltered, Lyne discusses her public dismissal from Disney, losing her husband to cancer, the key to starting over in her career (many times) and her current endeavor, an early-stage investment fund for women-led startups. Funded by AOL, BBG Ventures sprung out of the #BuiltByGirls movement, which - by the way - Lyne helped launch as CEO of AOL’s Brand Group.

Rebecca and Uri Minkoff, Co-Founders of Rebecca Minkoff  

Rebecca Minkoff has used New York Fashion Week as a showcase for innovation, and I’m not talking about her fashions. Last year at this event, Minkoff became the first designer to broadcast her runway show in virtual reality. Last spring, the fashion house introduced a “buy now, wear now” format -- showing spring collections in the spring and fall ones in the fall, a seemingly logical decision that was actually a bit of a revolution in the fashion industry. "The minute Instagram...became important, the consumer was getting frustrated and angry because she sees something but is confused she has to wait this long" before it's available to purchase, Rebecca Minkoff explains. "Or a fast fashion retailer knocks me off couple days after show. Both ends of spectrum—between frustrated consumers and the fact its copied right away, that cycle was definitely not going to be fixed by doing it the old way" of runway fashions not being widely available at retail until several months later. Ahead of Fashion Week, I spoke with Rebecca, and cofounder and brother Uri Minkoff about disrupting the industry, embracing technology, the challenges and opportunities of running a family-owned business, and how the tragedy of 9/11 helped give Rebecca her first big break.

Jeff Lawson, Founder, CEO and Chairman of Twilio  

Jeff Lawson is the CEO and co-founder of Twilio, which makes cloud communications tools for software developers. The company went public in June and has more than tripled from its IPO price, driving the value of Lawson’s stake to nearly $500 million. But having massive paper wealth doesn’t seem to have changed Lawson, who gained perspective from haing founded three companies prior to Twilio, including one that filed to go public in the late 1990s. Then the whole market fell apart and it went bankrupt shortly thereafter. “My takeaway [from that] was to focus on things that are real, of value and have faith if you focus on the true fundamentals of business - happy customers, revenue, good employees - good things will happen.” Lawson also talks about the lessons he learned about leadership and serving customers at where he was one of the original product managers for Amazon Web Services.

Richard Parsons, a former Chariman of Citigroup and former CEO of AOL Time Warner  

A former Chairman of Citigroup and former CEO of AOL Time Warner, Dick Parsons has tackled some of the toughest jobs of any American corporate executive in the past 25 years. In this episode of Fortune Unfiltered, Parsons explains why he’s always the person who gets called after disaster strikes. “I’m attracted to that – it keeps your attention,” Parsons says of leading in a crisis. “ It concentrates the mind as Pat Moynihan used to say. If you’ve got serious issues you need to be alert [and] alive in the moment. I’m not the world’s best steady-state manager...not a particularly good one because my mind wanders.” In addition to the AOL and Citigroup jobs, Parsons took over as interim CEO of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers in May 2014 amid the Donald Sterling scandal. But all those professional tribulations pale in comparison to the battle Parsons is fighting today. About two years ago he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer for which there are a variety of treatments but currently no cure. Parsons talks frankly about his battle with cancer, his management philosophy and his reflections on being one of the first African-Americans to run a Fortune 500 company.

Carol Roth, Television Personality, Best Selling Author and Entrepreneur  

Carol Roth is a great example of someone who has bet on herself -- and won big. Once a rising star at Montgomery Securities in San Francisco, Roth got off the traditional Wall Street track and started using what she learned in investment banking to help small businesses get off the ground, and become big ones. In addition to being an early investor in startups like Jawbone, Roth is now an on-air contributor at CNBC, a judge on Mark Burnett's America’s Greatest Makers and author of the New York Times bestselling book The Entrepreneur Equation, which lays out the strategies that led her to be named one of America's Top 100 small business strategists every year since 2011. Despite all that (and more) Roth says one of her "proudest accomplishments" is being one of the mere 2094 people who the NFL is following on Twitter. Check out this week's episode of Fortune Unfiltered as Roth discusses her early investment banking career, her small business consulting work, her hatred of the term "woman entrepreneur," and that whole NFL Twitter thing.

Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy  

Blake Irving, CEO of the web hosting company GoDaddy is a self-professed “product guy.” He spent his 15-year career at Microsoft in a range of engineering and product management roles, then ran the product team at Yahoo before taking the top post at GoDaddy. But that’s only part of the picture. Irving is also a band geek, cyclist, and skater. He began taking drumming lessons at age 7 after his family moved to California, playing into his 20s before realizing music was a tough way to make a steady living. After Microsoft, Irving took his family on a one-year trip around the world. During a stop in Hong Kong, he accompanied his kids to a skatepark, where word quickly got out that the guy who launched MSN Messenger was in attendance. At the time, the IM service held a 90% share of messaging outside the United States, according to Irving.

Steve Case, Co Founder of AOL  

AOL co-founder Steve Case lives by the African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Before there was Facebook or Twitter or Google, there was America Online, the company which once served the functional equivalent of all three combined. During AOL's heyday in the 1990's, the company had over 300 partnerships, including with Apple and Sprint. Those partnerships helped Case's company become the first Internet company to go public and become the best-performing stock of the 1990's dot com boom. The boom ended in 2000, shortly after AOL's stunning $164 billion acquisition of Time Warner. In this episode of Fortune Unfiltered, Case talks openly about went wrong with AOL-Time Warner and why being far removed from Silicon Valley’s startup culture was a key part of the Virginia-based company’s growth into one of the top consumer tech brands in the world.

Beth Comstock - Vice Chair of Business Innovations at General Electric  

What Jack Welch taught Beth Comstock. GE's Vice Chair describes how she overcame being an introvert and learned how to 'pick up the hammer'

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