NEW PLATFORMS FOR ARTISTS
Sunday, June 3, 1:45 pm
Sean “Diddy” Combs is the master of entertainment reinvention, from evolving nicknames to an ever-broadening musical and entrepreneurial style. Over the years, he has used his position to create Bad Boy Records as well as successful lines of clothing, vodka, bottled water, and much more. At this packed session, fans gathered to hear him chat with his longtime friend, AT&T Communications CEO, John Donovan.
Naturally, we were all blown away by Combs’ business acumen and visions for a digital future. But, we were also moved to tears by his description of the school he recently opened in his old neighborhood, Harlem, and by his sincere pronouncement that we all need to bring each other along, and up, because we are all on the same side, even in this fractured world.
Here are some of the highlights of the session:
- A dazzling opening video of Combs’ enterprises, including Revolt TV, the channel he began as an outlet for minority creative endeavors.
- Combs’ reminiscence of the turning point in his life, at age 10, hearing “Rapper’s Delight.” “My life changed forever. Now [rap] is the most powerful cultural force in the world. On Spotify right now, 41 of the top 50 songs worldwide are hip-hop.”
- Declaring that “black is the new black,” he added, “We are in a black Renaissance, a black rebirth. The experiment was Black Panther.” The African-American-produced and themed film has already grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide. Later, he said, “And, Black Panther is just a scratch in the surface.”
- Speaking passionately, he emphasized that the rise in diverse creations and points of view “is good for all of us. It doesn’t matter what color you are; anybody can feel pain…I don’t like to see anybody oppressed.”
Most recently named one of the "One Hundred Greatest Business Minds" of the century by Forbes Magazine, putting him among the ranks of people like Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Oprah, and others, Sean “Diddy” Combs, aka Puff Daddy, is the definition of a mogul.
Starting his career as the director of A&R at Uptown Records, he was integral in launching the careers of Mary J. Blige and Jodeci, and later founded his own label, Bad Boy Records, which has fostered talent that includes Mariah Carey, Method Man, Boyz II Men, Lil’ Kim, and more. Combs’ solo music career began in 1997 with his first single, “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” which shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, quickly followed by a No. 1 debut album that has gone Platinum seven times. Over the course of his career, he has earned three Grammy Awards and ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year honor.
Combs also has become an established actor and executive producer in both film and television. He starred in the 2008 telefilm A Raisin in the Sun, for which he won an NAACP Award for Best Actor; he was an executive producer and featured personality on the 2002 unscripted music series Making the Band 2; and he executive-produced the Academy Award-winning documentary Undefeated and the Academy Award-nominated Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Most recently, Combs joined forces with FOX to premiere a new music competition series entitled The Four: Battle for Stardom, which became the season’s No. 1 most social new television show, prompting the network to renew the series for its second season. Combs continues to apply the same drive and entrepreneurial spirit to his philanthropic work and political activism, most recently opening the Capital Prep Charter School in Harlem, advocating his lifelong commitment to supporting education and empowering future leaders. That same year, he pledged $1 million to the School of Business at Howard University, establishing The Sean Combs Scholarship Fund to shape a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders.
Combs has supported organizations including the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), the Boys & Girls Club, and others that create opportunities for young people. He also has served on the board of the Hip Hop Action Network and rallied millions of young people to register to vote during the 2008 election, through his Vote or Die project. He raised more than $2 million for New York City public schools and children suffering from HIV and AIDS by competing in the New York City Marathon.
John Donovan, CEO—AT&T Communications, is responsible for the bulk of AT&T’s global telecommunications and video services businesses, including AT&T’s Business, Entertainment, and Technology & Operations groups. AT&T Communications is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AT&T Inc.
AT&T is a global leader in telecommunications with 100 million U.S. consumer connections and millions of businesses, from the smallest companies to nearly all of the Fortune 1000. It is the largest pay-TV provider in the U.S., with more than 25 million customers. It is also one of the largest wireless providers, with more than 135 million wireless subscribers and connections. The company provides high-speed internet connections to 60 million U.S. customer locations and ultra-fast fiber connections to more than 5.5 million customer locations in 55 markets. AT&T also provides global IP network services that connect nearly 3.5 million businesses on six continents and delivers connectivity for 34 million connected devices.
Previously, Donovan served as Chief Strategy Officer and Group President – AT&T Technology and Operations. In that role, he led strategic planning for the company overall. Additionally, he led the company’s networks and technologies team, which has driven AT&T’s global leadership in the technological transition to software-defined networking – with a focus on virtualized or cloud-based network controls – as well as the company’s leadership in the move to 5G networks. In that role, he also oversaw the company’s global information, software development, supply chain, network operations, and big data organizations, as well as AT&T’s Intellectual Property group, Labs and Foundries.
Prior to that, Donovan served as AT&T’s Chief Technology Officer, overseeing the company's global technology direction and innovation road map.
Since joining the company in 2008, Donovan has expanded AT&T’s innovation program and the company is now recognized as an industry leader in working with application developers and others to make AT&T’s network open to collaboration and innovation.
Donovan previously was executive vice president of product, sales, marketing and operations at VeriSign Inc., an internet infrastructure company. He also was chairman and CEO of inCode Telecom Group Inc., where he helped shape strategy for wireless carriers worldwide. He also was a partner with Deloitte Consulting, where he was the Americas telecom practice director.
Donovan serves on the Board of Directors for Palo Alto Networks. He has authored three books: The Value Enterprise, published in 1998; Value Creating Growth, published in 1999; and Building the Network of the Future: Getting Smarter, Faster, and More Flexible with a Software Centric Approach, published in 2017. Donovan received a B.S.E.E. from the University of Notre Dame and earned an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Minnesota.