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Kay Koplovitz, Paul Polman, and Andrew Young Honored by Chief Executive Leadership Institute

During the Chief Executive Leadership Institute’s CEO Summit in New York City on December 12 and 13, the institute will honor Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks/Syfy Network and managing partner at Springboard Growth Capital; Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever PLC; and civil rights hero, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young.

Kay Koplovitz
Kay Koplovitz

The Maverick in Leadership Award was presented to Koplovitz by David J. Stern, chairman emeritus, National Basketball Association; Alan J. Patricof, founder and managing director, Greycroft Partners; and Laura R. Walker, president and CEO, New York Public Radio. The Legend in Leadership Award was presented to Polman by Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president, and CEO, Ethan Allen, and Myron E. Ullman III, chairman, Starbucks Corporation. The Lifetime of Leadership Award was presented to Young by Ken Frazier, chairman, president, and CEO of Merck & Co., and John Negroponte, U.S. deputy secretary of state (2007 to 2009) and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2001 to 2004).  

Of Koplovitz, Summit organizer Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, said, “With a will to succeed early in life, Koplovitz was an award-winning speed skater as a child despite chronic lung disease. Always eager to be on the frontier of learning, while backpacking through Europe in her college years, she wandered into a lecture in London on geosynchronous orbiting satellites given by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. This helped inspire her later creation of USA Networks and Syfy after launching the Madison Square Garden Sports Network. USA Network was the first advertiser-supported basic cable network reaching 140 million households worldwide. Koplovitz was the first woman to head a television network.

Paul Polman
Paul Polman

“After USA Networks was sold in 1998, she wanted to share her business building skills and was appointed by President Clinton to chair the bipartisan National Women’s Business Council. With a keen interest in helping other women launch businesses, she co-founded Springboard Enterprises a coveted network of innovators, investors, and influencers dedicated to working with high-growth women-led companies to attract venture capital. Springboard Enterprises has assisted 730 women-led companies raising $8.6 billion, generating billions of dollars of revenues, and creating tens of thousands of new jobs. Zipcar, iRobot, Minute Clinic, and Applied Genetic Technologies Corp are just four of the many successful new enterprises Springboard helped bring to life. Koplovitz currently serves on the Boards of Ion Media Networks and Veniam. She previously chaired Liz Claiborne (later Kate Spade) and served on the boards of Oracle, Nabisco, Instinet, General RE, Sun New Media, Time Inc., and CA Technologies.”

Of Polman, Sonnenfeld said, “Paul Polman once contemplated a career as a priest, but he found his pulpit as CEO of one of the world’s greatest packaged goods companies. In 2009, following a soaring career at Proctor & Gamble and Nestlé, Polman became CEO of Unilever, which he joined attracted by the values of its founder Lord Lever, and Lever’s concern for Victorian-era health and hygiene. Over his decade at the helm, the $60 billion Unilever delivered 290 percent total shareholder returns and 12 brands well over $1 billion. Polman earned the Rainforest Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award (2014), the Oslo Business for Peace Award (2015), the UN Environment Programme’s Champion of the Earth Award (2015), and the Singapore Government Public Service Star (2016). In 2016, he received France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, in recognition of his efforts in catalyzing business commitment to sustainability. Earlier this year, Polman was named an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in recognition of his contribution to building a more sustainable world.

Andrew Young
Andrew Young

“In fact, having won roughly thirty distinguished awards for corporate citizenship and environmental sustainability, Polman modeled more not just than inspiring aspirations but actual responsible accomplishments. For example, with 58 percent of its business in emerging markets, employing 161,000 people, Unilever is rated the employer of choice in 44 nations, with 47 percent of its management positions filled by women. They set the high-water mark with zero non-hazardous waste in landfills and other widely saluted achievements in with his Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. A truly visionary business leader, he has fought off takeover efforts to focus on long-term investing, delivering some of the strongest performances in the sector without leaving behind his societal values.”

Of Young, Sonnenfeld said, “Philosopher Baruch Spinoza suggested 350 years ago that ‘citizenship is earned, not borne.’ Andrew Young has shown the path for early citizenship many times over. Ordained as a United Church of Christ minister by the Hartford Theological Seminary, he served as a pastor, teacher, and civil rights activist in Georgia, Alabama, and New York City. He joined Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and became its executive director, planning demonstration logistics and mediating with police forces throughout the South. He helped provide key principles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 even before being elected to multiple terms in the U.S. Congress representing metropolitan Atlanta and its northern suburbs as the first black congressman from the deep South since Reconstruction. Forging alliances with Republicans, he succeeded in many initiatives, ranging from mass transit to poverty relief and foreign policy. Young served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations before becoming a two-term mayor of Atlanta, helping to bring the Olympic Games there.

“During Young’s search for purpose as a young man, his father advised him how to deal with racism: ‘When you get angry, the blood leaves your head and it goes to your fists and your feet and you’re bound to do something stupid… You might be able to outrun a few people, but you won’t feel good about running. The best thing you can do is face evil and face insecurity and face the problems and use your head to try to figure them out.’”

The Maverick in Leadership Award recognizes current CEOs who are disruptors, bringing creativity with honorable character into their industries in new ways with global significance, such as Stuart A. Weitzman, founder, Stuart Weitzman; Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group; John J. Legere, president and CEO, T-Mobile USA; and Alan Patricof, founder and managing partner, Greycroft Partners. 

The Legend in Leadership Award was created 25 years ago to honor current and former CEOs who offer inspiring legacies of contributing creativity, character, and commercial impact across cultures, industries, sectors, and nations. Past recipients include: Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast; Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin; Ron Shaich of Panera; Zhang Ruimin of Haier Group; Brian Moynihan of Bank of America; Kenneth Frazier of Merck; Jim McNerney of Boeing; Ian Cook of Colgate-Palmolive; Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs; Klaus Kleinfeld of Alcoa; Gao Xiqing of China Investment Corporation; D. Scott Davis of UPS; Fu Chengyu of Sinopec; Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo; Jeff Immelt of GE; Jeff Bewkes of Time Warner; Frank Blake of Home Depot; Dave Cote of Honeywell; Ellen Kullman of DuPont; Alan Mulally of Ford; Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical Company; Duncan Niederauer of the NYSE; Ken Chenault of American Express; David Stern of the NBA; Ratan Tata of the Tata Group; Mike Ullman of JCPenney; Infosys founder Nandan Nilekani; Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase; Robert Iger of Walt Disney; Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone; Roger Enrico of PepsiCo; John Pepper of Procter & Gamble; Don Keough of Coca-Cola Co.; McKinsey founder Marvin Bower; Jim Kelly of UPS; Vanguard founder Jack Bogle; Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon; Richard Teerlink of Harley-Davidson; Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson; financier Wilbur Ross; and Lou Gerstner of IBM.

The Lifetime of Leadership award celebrates those transformational leaders whose character and sustained contribution span sectors, decades, and generations with wise ambassadorial service, mentoring contributing powerfully to improve business performance, economic growth, creativity, community vitality, human understanding, national strength, and global relations. Past recipients include: Farooq Kathwari, CEO, Ethan Allen; David Stern, commissioner emeritus, National Basketball Association; Maurice R. Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.; John Whitehead, co-chairman (1976 to 1985), Goldman Sachs; and Al Gordon, honorary chairman, Kidder, Peabody & Co.

The summit theme is The NEW New World Order: Is it Safe to Make Plans Now? Distinguished global corporate leaders from across industries will engage in lively, candid discussions at this invitation-only leaders’ conference hosted by the Yale School of Management.

Summit participants include: Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever; Craig Menear, chairman and CEO, The Home Depot; Lloyd Blankfein, chairman, Goldman Sachs; Tim Sloan, CEO, Wells Fargo; Steve Schwarzman, CEO, Blackstone; Mike Burke, chairman and CEO, AECOM; Ash Carter, 25th U.S. Secretary of Defense; Suzanne Greco, former CEO, Subway; Alan Colberg, CEO, Assurant; Joseph Papa; , Chairman and CEO, Bausch; Hank Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co., Inc; Joanne Lipman, author of That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together; Matt Levatich, CEO, Harley-Davidson; Kay Koplovitz, founder, USA Networks; Lynn Tilton, CEO, Patriarch Partners; Farooq Kathwari, CEO, Ethan Allen; Kevin Lobo, CEO, Stryker; Catherine Mann, former chief economist, OECD; Stuart Miller, CEO, Lennar; Penny Pennington, CEO, Edward Jones; Debra Cafaro, CEO, Ventas; Doug Yearly, CEO, Toll Brothers; and Ambassador Andrew Young.

Conference partners include Deloitte, Gladstone Place Partners, IBM, IEX, Korn Ferry, McKool Smith, PepsiCo, UPS, and CNBC.

The Yale School of Management’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute was founded in 1989 to provide original research on top leadership and lively, current educational forums through peer-driven learning for accomplished leaders across a range of sectors. For more information, visit