04 Sep 2013

From HBO to HBS

A 34-year veteran of HBO, Henry McGee (MBA 1979) is launching a third career in the classroom.
Re: Joe Badaracco (MBA 1978)
by Julia Hanna


When he graduated from HBS, Henry McGee (MBA 1979), a former Newsweek reporter, was pretty sure he wanted to get into the business side of media. Time Inc. offered him two jobs. One would put him on the established path of magazine publisher. The other was at the media company's relatively unknown cable TV subsidiary, Home Box Office. He took the job at HBO and stayed for 34 years, recently retiring as president of HBO Home Entertainment, the network's DVD and digital program distribution division.

"HBO has been a marvelous front-row seat to the vast changes that have happened in the media business over the past three-plus decades," McGee said over coffee in Spangler Grill during a visit to campus last spring, noting that when he joined HBO it was a single network with fewer than three million subscribers. "Our satellite signal was so crude that our affiliate in Hawaii couldn't pick it up," he recalls. "We shipped them tapes of the programming.

"Fast-forward to today, HBO has multiple networks with over 100 million subscribers worldwide, only 40 million of whom are in the United States. Our worldwide home entertainment business is huge, and the disc and digital technologies hadn't even been invented when I joined the company."

With that experience under his belt, McGee will embark on an entirely new adventure when he joins the HBS faculty in fall 2013 as a senior lecturer. "In a way, my work for HBO and in the film business has led me back here," he says. "About two years ago I noticed that documentary films about American business had become increasingly popular. I began to wonder if using film wouldn't be an interesting way of teaching business ethics. For example, you could consider ethical issues in marketing by watching Supersize Me. Or questions related to the financial services industry by looking at Inside Job."

McGee mentioned his idea to HBS professor of management practice Arthur Segel, a good friend from their undergraduate days together at Harvard College. That led to introductions to a number of HBS faculty members, including Sandra Sucher and Joe Badaracco, who each teach The Moral Leader, an EC course that uses fiction, plays, essays, and film to explore moral and ethical issues. Based on those discussions, McGee developed cases on two films (The Insider and Too Big to Fail), which resulted in an offer to join the faculty.

"I'm thrilled to be coming to HBS at a time of great change," says McGee, citing innovations to the curriculum such as FIELD. "I'm also struck by the diversity of the student body in nationality and ethnicity. The opportunity to work with some of the leading scholars in the world as well as some of the brightest students from around the globe is truly exciting."

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1979, Section I

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