September 2008 - Earl Greenburg (1947-2008)

It’s a lesson in futility. How can one summarize the life and career of Earl Greenburg?
The labels and descriptors one might choose are almost laughably inadequate.

“Business leader”? Greenburg enjoyed enough success to fulfill half a dozen careers. He began his career as an attorney in Philadelphia before moving to Los Angeles in 1977 to begin work at NBC. He became vice president of NBC Daytime and producer of “The Regis Philbin Show.” He was awarded two Emmys for his work.

His impact on the DRTV industry simply cannot be overstated. The former president of Home Shopping Network Entertainment, Greenburg was founder of Transactional Marketing Partners, CEO of Total Marketing Partners and a former chairman of the Electronic Retailing Association’s Board of Directors. He was the architect of deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Of equal significance, as interim ERA president and CEO Rick Petry notes, “Earl was a tireless advocate for the industry who brought glamour and panache to all he did on behalf of the organization and its members.” Most important were the personal relationships he fostered and the inestimable influence he had on so many within the direct response world.

“Family man”? As his son Ari told Palm Springs Life before his father’s passing, family was extremely important to Greenburg, and his concept of family was broad enough to encompass more than blood relatives. “With Earl, business and family are one and the same. There is an unbelievable crossover of people from the office and at his birthday parties…. He is a good father and role model and has always encouraged his kids-and his friends-to push themselves creatively to be successful.”

“Philanthropist”? Sure, you can list some of the foundations he created and the charities and humanitarian organizations he so generously supported, such as The Greenburg Family Foundation, the Rick Weiss Humanitarian Awards, the Desert AIDS Project, Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, Project New Hope and the Angel View Crippled Children’s Foundation, among many others. But this fails to capture the spirit of his giving. As Judith Light-a Rick Weiss award winner-said prior to Greenburg’s death, “The reason Earl is so important to me is the context of his life-he empowers everyone: his children, his friends and his charities. His life is about service.”

Perhaps the only words that can properly honor the man are the ones spoken by those in the industry closest to him-those whose careers and lives were forever and indelibly impacted by Earl Greenburg.

In Their Words
I will always remember when I befriended Earl. It was in his pool with the cascading waterfall at his Nichols Canyon home. He had plied his guests with strawberry margaritas and great food. It was there that we first engaged in a friendly, but also very businesslike conversation. Earl soon thereafter became a client and a great friend. Oh, the ways of Earl! When Earl, master of talk shows and reality shows (before they were called such), decided to plunge into the wonderful world of infomercials, I had to learn about them and learn I did. Thank you, Earl!

-Stephen Breimer, Bloom,
Hergott and Diemer, LLP

I have known Earl on a personal and professional basis for almost 20 years. I met him about the time my first child was born. And one of my son’s favorite books for me to read to him was called, “Earl’s Too Cool For Me.” I bought that book for Earl when I first met him, and I loved the premise of the story, which was that Earl, in fact, was not too cool for the child in the book. For those of us who knew Earl Greenburg well, we found out that he wasn’t “too cool” for everyman. Some people were intimidated by Earl or felt “put off” by him; in fact, he was very approachable, warm and considerate and would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.

I have seen Earl in business, sales, management and networking situations. He knew how to read and work his audience. He was a great example of using the tools at hand-and that were necessary-to get a deal, a job or a favor done. He was exemplary in his ability to work with all people involved and to make things happen.

Earl taught John and me a great deal about life and business and how to handle situations. Whether it was how to deal with a client, how to schmooze a contact, how to dress or interact, he knew the best way to “approach scenarios” and really do the job right. He will be sorely missed and can never be replaced.

-Dan Danielson, Mercury Media

Earl was such a powerful influence in most of my career-making decisions the past 14 years. Whenever I needed to work through any issue, Earl was there with advice and a solution that always made sense. Earl thought out of the box with insight, and with a thought process that was usually right on target. He really cared and would do whatever it took to help or fix any situation.

I remember about seven years ago, going to Earl for help with a difficult business dilemma, and not only did he listen and offer good strategic advice, but Earl went a step further by introducing me to another amazing person who became my business partner.

On a personal note, Earl was always unselfish with his time, whether it be contributing to my personal charity, or changing his plans to attend my daughter’s wedding and my son’s Bar-Mitzvah. It’s this which made him so special. Earl will always have a piece of my heart.

-Nancy Duitch, Vertical Branding

Earl was my mentor, trusted advisor and most importantly, my friend. I loved, admired and respected Earl for his leadership, wisdom, vision, intellect, sense of humor and passion for everything he did. Earl knew how to enjoy life to its fullest, yet his greatest joy came from giving and sharing his good fortune and good times with his friends and family. I was privileged to be a part of that circle.

No matter how busy Earl was or the demands on his time, he was always there for me, eager to provide guidance and advice, whether personal or professional (and whether solicited or not). I have many fond memories of working together with Earl on ERA events and initiatives, but my fondest memories of Earl are the times I spent with him together with my family. He embraced my family as openly as he embraced me nearly 15 years ago when he first introduced me to ERA, and I will never forget how special and important he always made my children feel.

On our last visit to the U.S. tennis championships in New York, an event he loved and looked forward to every year, he walked the entire stadium searching for the perfect gifts for my children. Giving is what defined Earl Greenburg, whether to the Rick Weiss Foundation, to the numerous charities he supported, or simply to those he loved-and what he gave was not just his time and money, but the gift of himself. Thank you, Earl for making this world a better place and for teaching us all how to be better people.

-Linda Goldstein,
Manatt Phelps & Phillips

The irony of being asked to say “a few words” about Earl is that there are so many words to be said. Earl managed to squeeze every last drop out of each moment, every experience-and relished the next one with the same unquenchable thirst to do it bigger and better. It’s perhaps as though he somehow knew his time was limited, so he packed more into his abbreviated life than those who might live a century. I think he inspired awe, fear, fascination, admiration-and to those closest to him-perspiration. Just keeping up was a sport in itself. A day with Earl was not for the faint of heart.

My favorite Earl story? It’s hard to choose, really. My life with Earl was always an adventure-of his choosing, I might add. And, it was fun. He once convinced me I must hike up miles of steps to truly experience the Great Wall during a China trip. “It’s the only way to appreciate the enormity of it,” he insisted. It also ensured he’d have the time to close me on a deal. He was right. It was the only way to appreciate the enormity of it-the deal, that is. The Wall wasn’t bad either.

Earl and I served together on the ERA Board of Directors for almost a decade, and both as chairman at various times. In the course of that work, we traveled the world together: Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and, of course, Bentonville, Ark. At times, I felt as though I was in an old Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road To…” movie. As I recall, Hope, with unbridled optimism, always charted the course to the next adventure. When I think about it, what a wonderful metaphor for Earl’s life. The destination is just a place; the real adventure comes in the journey that gets you there.

Earl, you are missed.

-Jack Kirby, Euro RSCG Edge

Not many people realize the importance of his role in the electronic retailing industry. When Earl believes in a cause, he puts 120 percent of his relentless efforts into making it a success. I believe ERA is what it is today because of his efforts and the influence he had on others. Even though I was never one of Earl’s clients, he was always my friend, through thick and thin, and expected nothing in return. He has given some very sound advice to me personally and professionally that had a profound effect on my life, my family and my business.

What an honor it’s been to witness the difference he made in the lives of so many people. He took a very tragic situation in his life with the passing of Rick Weiss and did great things in his name that help so many people. Not only did he help the families of those who live in Rick Weiss Apartments, but he rolled up his sleeves and got involved personally. He enlisted an army and made us aware of how important it is to “pay it forward.”

Nancy Lazkani, Icon Media Direct Inc.

My fondest memory of Earl is from the first annual Christmas party at the Rick Weiss Apartments complex. It was amazing that Earl gave others not only Christmas gifts, but the gift of sustainability and “home.” I’ve had so many laughs with Earl and so many fun times. No matter what my experience (I was blessed that Earl was always there for me with friendship and guidance), he should be remembered for the Greenburg Family Foundation/Rick Weiss Charity. The world was a better place because of Earl Greenburg, specifically because Earl was a tireless champion of bringing all together for a common cause-no matter what the genre.

-Fern Lee, Thor Associates

From the moment Earl stepped into our DRTV industry, he cast a magic spell on ERA that juiced up the fun, the camaraderie and the competitive spirit. He changed our business forever.

Stacey and I speak of Earl often, and miss our desert neighbor. He impacted our lives personally, socially and emotionally. It is impossible to replace his spirit, his joie de vivre and his good-natured sense of fun.

-Greg Renker, Guthy-Renker

Earl was a man who had a deep impact on everyone he met. In addition to being my best friend, the best man at my wedding and my business partner, he was also the best teacher I ever had. He taught me generosity, caring and how to live life to make a difference. I miss him every day.

Bret Saxon, Transactional Marketing Partners

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