For most of the past 16 months, Comcast chief Brian Roberts has been painted in the public eye as a modern-day robber baron on a mission to monopolize the Internet. On Monday night at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Roberts was feted as a compassionate and visionary leader at a gala dinner that raised $4.2 million for New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery.
“He is definitely not a ‘suit,’ ” “Today” anchor Matt Lauer said in presenting the award to Roberts. “He’s warm, caring and considerate of others.”
The event packed three levels of the Waldorf’s Grand Ballroom with a who’s who of Gotham’s medical community and a smattering of showbizzers, including Lorne Michaels and NBCUniversal’s Steve Burke, Ron Meyer, Ted Harbert, Pat Fili-Krushel and MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell.
“Saturday Night Live’s” Cecily Strong served as emcee — a brave move considering that Roberts is the big boss of NBCUniversal’s parent company (she admitted that she’d only just met Roberts that night).
“If you think I’m going to go easy on them — you are correct,” Strong joked. However, she couldn’t resist one line about Roberts being a cable guy: “He should be up here any time between 6 p.m. and midnight to make a speech, so if you could please just stay at your tables.”
Roberts noted that his personal connection to HSS began when his wife, Aileen, needed shoulder surgery some years ago and HSS’s Dr. David Altchek was recommended to him as being the best in the biz. Roberts also directed NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke to Altchek a few years ago after Burke took a tumble while running and required complex surgery. “He was doing a triathlon a few years later,” Roberts said.
While Comcast has long been a pillar of Philadelphia, Roberts said the HSS event underscored that New York City is also a vital center for the company founded “with humble beginnings” by his father, Ralph Roberts, a half-century ago.
“New York is the heart and soul of NBCUniversal,” Roberts said.
Also honored with a lifetime achievement award the HSS’s 32nd annual dinner gala was Dr. David L. Helfet, HSS’s director of orthopedic trauma service.