Gil Schwartz, the colorful longtime CBS executive who was also an author and columnist under the pen name Stanley Bing, died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Santa Monica. He was 68.
Schwartz led communications at CBS for more than 20 years. He was well-liked and respected by journalists for his erudite and forthright approach. He was energetic in spinning the virtues of CBS Corp. — as well as pointing out the shortcomings of rival networks — but he had an underlying respect for the job of journalists that came from his many years in broadcasting and his work as a writer.
As Stanley Bing, Schwartz was a regular columnist for Fortune and Esquire. He also penned 13 business and humor books that skewered the corporate world and media in particular. He wrote three novels, including 1998’s “Lloyd — What Happened,” which was developed as a movie prospect for HBO.
“For the better part of three decades, Gil Schwartz led CBS Communications with creative flare, craftsman-like expertise and an abundance of personality,” CBS said in a statement. “He was a counselor to senior management, a mentor to future PR executives and a popular presence in every hallway. His diverse and sophisticated repertoire ranged from artful media relations and gifted wordsmithing skills to an insightful and humorous view of the media world he loved. Gil will long be remembered by the many teams he led across entertainment, news, sports and the corporate world.”
A native of New York, Schwartz grew up in New Rochelle and attended Brandeis University, earning a BA in English and theater arts. He began his professional life as a playwright, poet and actor and he was an accomplished guitarist and musician. He was the one of the co-founders of Next Move, an improv troupe in Boston. Among his early plays was 1982’s “Ferocious Kisses.”
Playwright Lloyd Gold noted that “Ferocious Kisses” would be a fitting epitaph for Schwartz. “Ferocious in his opinions, in his loyalties and his loves, Gil made every moment of his eventful life matter –- to his wife, his children, his dog and everyone who was fortunate enough to call him a friend,” Gold said.
Schwartz got his start in communications working for TV station owner Westinghouse Broadcasting, which eventually led him to CBS in 1996. He steered all communications for the Eye during a period of growth for the company that has reigned as the nation’s most-watched network for most of the past two decades.
For years, Schwartz was a big hit at CBS’ annual affiliates meeting with a Robert Benchley-esque humorous presentation about the state of the network. He hosted CBS’ annual holiday party for journalists, which was a couldn’t-miss affair for anyone with a taste for industry gossip and pigs in a blanket.
Early on in his alter ego as Stanley Bing, Schwartz kept his identity secret. His cover was blown after his second book, 1992’s “Crazy Bosses: Spotting Them, Serving Them, Surviving Them.” But he continued on with books and Bing’s column on the back page of Fortune with the blessing of a series of CEOs at CBS. His other business humor books included 2000’s “What Would Machiavelli Do?: The Ends Justify the Meanness” and 2002’s “Throwing the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up.”
Schwartz retired in November 2018 on the heels of upheaval at CBS following the ouster of his longtime boss, former chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves, after sexual misconduct allegations from his past surfaced. After his retirement, Schwartz did not hide his frustration at having a dark chapter cloud the end of a strong run for many on the team that lead the Eye network out of its mid-1990s slump to a dominant run in primetime. Schwartz was based in New York for most of his career, but in his final years split his time between CBS’ Black Rock headquarters and the West Coast.
Schwartz’s survivors include wife of 14 years, Laura Svienty; daughter Nina Pajak; son Will Schwartz; stepson Kyle Bender; stepdaughter Rachel Bender; a granddaughter, grandson and a brother.