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For Harper, trust equals stability

Consummate team player, vice chair says top brass inspires innovation

Bob Harper credits Fox’s success to old-fashioned teamwork.

As a 20-year Fox veteran, Harper has worked in nearly every aspect of the company’s film biz, starting in trailers, and heading up advertising and production departments before being promoted to his current post, vice chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment. According to the exec, Fox encourages its employees to wear many hats.

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon U. with a degree in theater and working at Kaleidoscope Pictures early in his career, he ended up at Fox.

“I didn’t expect to stay 20 years and do 10 completely different unrelated jobs,” he says.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work at a company that is big enough to house many opportunities. … Over the years I’ve transitioned from one exciting job to another exciting job.”

While that kind of career longevity is not particularly common in the film biz, Harper says it’s not unusual at Fox. “The top 15 or so senior executives in this company, most of us have been here for a long time. … And it’s a very friendly group.”

He credits the easy rapport of the senior management with the company’s recent success. “It’s pretty amazing, we’re all friends,” he says. “We’ll do things with each other socially that have nothing to do with business.”

Harper advises on all aspects of the film division, working very closely with Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, whom he calls two very extraordinary minds. “While they may travel very different paths through their process they often draw the same conclusion,” he notes.

Harper credits the mentality of the senior management with a comfort level that encourages innovation and builds trust. Rather than worrying about job stability, Fox employees are able to focus on the quality of their products.

“There’s a tremendous amount of trust here. A lot of the success that we’ve seen in the last four or five years has come from that dynamic.”

And instead of worrying about infighting or having to look out for number one, Harper says that at Fox, “When you hear the answer from someone… you don’t have to question where that’s coming from, like, can I trust that? You actually know that you should trust it.”

Harper notes that the team mentality carries over to the filmmakers with whom Fox collaborates.

“They’re the talent who are part of the process and we look to inspire everyone to be onboard for the same objective: to keep the costs down, to create terrific product … but not to do it wastefully and not to make it be about bigger is better, more is better, but about better is better.”

After spending 20 years in the Fox family, Harper has witnessed other management teams, but says of the current adminstration, “I think we’ve got a machine in place now that’s really outstanding.”

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