In 2007 Television Week Magazine named Sam Haskell, III “One of the 25 Most Innovative and Influential People in Television of the Last 25 Years,” an honor he shared with Ted Turner, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, Walter Cronkite and other television legends. Haskell earned his ranking among the industry’s best through his 27-year career at the renowned William Morris Agency where he was one of the most powerful agents and dealmakers in the business.
Originally from Amory, Mississippi (population 7000) and a 1977 graduate of the University of Mississippi, Haskell’s career began in the Fall of 1978 when he moved to Los Angeles and fought his way into the renowned William Morris Agency mailroom, about which David Rensin wrote extensively in his 2003 bestseller "The Mailroom: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up." By May 1980, Haskell was promoted to agent in the TV Variety Department where he packaged specials starring Lily Tomlin, Lynda Carter, Debbie Allen, David Frost and Diana Ross. In 1990, he became the Agency’s youngest Senior Vice-President, and in 1994, was elevated to the position of West Coast Head of Television. In 1997 he was named Executive Vice President and a member of the WMA Board of Directors, and, in 1999, he was appointed to the esteemed position of Worldwide Head of Television.
Haskell oversaw the "packaging" of all agency-represented network projects, including such mega-hits as " Fresh Prince of Bel Air," "Mad About You," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Lost," "Murphy Brown," "Sisters," "Suddenly Susan," "Live with Regis & Kathie Lee," "Diagnosis Murder," "King of Queens," "Las Vegas" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," among many others.
Prior to Haskell's retirement from WMA in 2005, his clients included: Kathie Lee Gifford, Ray Romano, Whoopi Goldberg, Debbie Allen, Delta Burke, Dolly Parton, George Clooney, Sela Ward, Marilu Henner, Martin Short, Kirstie Alley, Tony Danza, Sean Hayes, Michael Feinstein, Emily Procter, Lily Tomlin, Marilyn McCoo, Joan Van Ark, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Swoosie Kurtz, Lucie Arnaz and His Royal Highness The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
Widely known as “the nice guy in Hollywood,” Haskell is revered for rising to the top of a turbulent and often conscienceless business with his character, integrity and value-system intact. His reputation for honesty, integrity, loyalty and fairness made him a consistent force in a sea of inconsistency and someone with whom actors, writers, directors and other industry professionals were eager to work. He is equally well-known for his far-reaching philanthropic endeavors, notably serving as executive producer of "Mississippi Rising," a three-hour, MSNBC special hosted by Morgan Freeman which raised over $30 million for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. As Chairman of the Mary Kirkpatrick Haskell Scholarship Foundation founded in his mother's memory, Mr. Haskell's biennial "Stars Over Mississippi" benefit concerts in Amory have raised millions of dollars in college scholarship funds for Mississippi youngsters in need of financial assistance to further their education. In addition, Mr. Haskell serves as Chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization and Executive Producer of the past 7 Miss America Pageant telecasts on ABC. Over the last 15 years Sam and his wife, Mary, have helped to raise over 55 million dollars for charitable causes. Since 2013, Sam has run Magnolia Hill
Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television in Los Angeles, CA, where he is producing four television movies for NBC. The first, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, eclipsed over 13 million live viewers making it the most viewed original television movie among the Big Four Networks in four years.
Sam is married to his college sweetheart Mary Donnelly Haskell, a former Miss Mississippi. They have two children, Sam IV, and Mary Lane. Sam and Mary's first grandchild, Samuel Bond Haskell V, was born April 19, 2013.
From the Mailroom to the Board Room
In this stirring keynote, Emmy nominee and former Executive at one of the largest talent agencies in the world takes the audience on a journey from starting as an intern in the mailroom to becoming of the most influential people ever in television. Sam started out in a small town in Mississippi and through determination, out working his competition, and being considerate of others conquered the bright lights of Los Angeles.
Sam has spoken to dozens on Colleges and University campuses about goal setting, leadership, and navigating the cut throat world of Hollywood while remaining true to yourself and your values. This is a wonderful opportunity to bring the same man who some of todays top film and television talent come to for career advice and guidance.
Staying True to Yourself Amidst Change
Haskell would rely on his mother’s teachings–honesty, self-reliance, and belief in God–as he swiftly rose from the William Morris mailroom to eventually become the company’s Worldwide Head of Television. His capacity for friendship and his insistence on living his version of the Golden Rule (being “thoughtfully political”) allowed him to handle various client crises and the tense negotiations that nearly scuttled the last years of Everybody Loves Raymond and the entire existence of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Haskell has achieved success through self-respect, and from his story we learn how we, too, can maintain our dignity when faced with life’s challenges. This stirring memoir is a testament to mothers everywhere who instill in their sons the lasting values they need to become good men and devoted fathers.
Stories from Hollywood
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