Richard Leibner, the long-serving agent who has backed some of the best-known news anchors in the U.S., is delivering some headlines of his own: He’s retiring after decades on the job.
The veteran talent representative intends to step away from his role as partner at United Talent Agency at the end of the year, according to a memo sent to staffers by Jay Sures, co-president of the agency. “Throughout his career, Richard has represented one major news figure after another, building them up, helping make them household names and playing an important role ensuring journalism always stood for something meaningful, ethical and about high quality,” Sures said.
His exit from UTA will mark the end of an era. Leibner is a clever and passionate advocate for clients, and has never been shy about delivering his opinion of the latest goings-on in the ever-churning news sector — as long as he isn’t being quoted. He is also generous with his time, offering to take a reporter out for meatball appetizers at a nearby watering hole, for example, within minutes of getting a phone call.
Over the years, Liebner has represented Dan Rather — and helped position him as the replacement for Walter Cronkite at CBS News. He has been the business force behind “60 Minutes” correspondents such as Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Morley Safer, Bob Simon, Steve Kroft and Bill Whitaker. He advised Diane Sawyer, helping her move to ABC News, and Paula Zahn, assisting her in her move to CNN from Fox News Channel. He helped staff CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNBC when they launched and played a significant role in the development of daytime TV as well.
His wife, Carole Cooper, another veteran news agent, intends to continue her work at UTA, representing Anderson Cooper, Dan Abrams, Bill Hemmer, Dana Bash and Juju Chang, among others. Leibner and Cooper are regulars on the media social scene, turning up at TV upfronts, media company holiday parties or the launch of an anchor’s production outlet.
Leibner started his career in a less colorful sector. In 1963, armed with a master’s degree in taxation from New York University, a B.S. in Accounting from University of Rochester and a C.P.A. license, he went to work for his family’s accounting firm. In 1964, Leibner co-founded N.S. Bienstock, Inc. with Nate Bienstock, and built an independent powerhouse in talent represntation. In 2014, the business, run by the Leibner family, was acquired by UTA. Leibner and his family continued their work under the new owners.
Leibner intends to shift his focus to charitable work as the head of Leibner-Cooper Family Foundation. He is a board member of the Library of American Broadcasting and The League of Women Voters, and intends to mentor and sponsor diverse students working to enter the broadcast industry.