Industry vets pay tribute to Howard Schultz

Execs from CAA, ICM, Electus, LMNO, Ugly Brother Studios and VH1 are among those paying tribute to Lighthearted Entertainment CEO Howard Schultz (pictured), following his unexpected passing.
January 9, 2015

Execs from CAA, ICM, Electus, LMNO, Ugly Brother Studios and VH1 are among those paying tribute to Lighthearted Entertainment CEO Howard Schultz (pictured), following his unexpected passing.

Schultz, who launched Lighthearted in 1992 and exec produced ABC’s Extreme Makeover, passed away unexpectedly on December 29, at the age of 61, while vacationing with his family in Hawaii.

Through Lighthearted, he exec produced shows such as Are You the One? (MTV), Dating Naked (VH1), Bye Felicia! (VH1), Next! (MTV) and The Moment of Truth (Fox).

Realscreen has reached out to many who knew him in the industry for their reactions, and presents their collected tributes below, in memoriam.

JC Mills, agent at ICM Partners: “Whenever Howard and I spoke, I always felt like I was talking to more than a prolific television producer.  He was my teacher, mentor and friend all at the same time.

“He was a straight shooter and could always tell when there was more going on with me than I was letting on. I should have known I couldn’t get one over on the creator of The Moment of Truth. If I portrayed a hint of self-doubt, Howard would quote Archimedes and say: ‘Give me the place to stand, and I will move the earth!’”

“You’d showed me where to stand, Howard, for which I am eternally grateful. You will be missed.”

Mike Duffy, co-founder of Ugly Brother Studios: “He was a great man – a lion in our genre and a true pioneer. But the things that I’ll miss most are his big bear hugs and his warmth – he always went above and beyond to connect with me and anybody else who needed it.

“As a producer, his storytelling mirrored the way he lived life – all in. That was Howard, he didn’t do anything half way and he expected the people around him to do the same. For that, and many other reasons, he made us better.”

Bobby Kenner, agent at CAA: “Howard was someone I was always excited to get a phone call from because I knew whatever idea he had just hatched up was going to be original and push boundaries. The formats he created during his career spanned every genre and even created new ones. He was never someone you could pigeonhole to one type of show.

“Everything Howard produced shared one common thread in that it would hit upon a universal human theme in a way that was entertaining. That’s why so many of his shows were hits globally, he always tapped into something that was relatable but still unique.

“Howard was someone who loved meeting new people and always wanted to really get to know them, no one who had a conversation with him ever forgot the interaction. He was one of the most genuine and interesting people I have ever met.”

Eric Schotz, president and CEO of LMNO Productions: “Howard Schultz was one of reality’s true originals. A creative pioneer in a genre that busted wide open, Howard ran his company like a family business and people loved working with him. Although he was a competitor, he was also the first to be your biggest cheerleader.

“In my recent conversations, he spoke of his ability to finally achieve a better  balance between his work life and his business. We joked about his raising goats and my total lack of understand why this was the next great meat. We laughed about that and why neither one of us sold our companies. We will miss him, he was a true mensch. We’ll miss him.”

Electus CEO Chris Grant and Electus International president John Pollak, in a joint statement: “The world has lost a truly inspirational visionary. With Howard’s passing, we lost a leader and a guiding light, we lost a man that had the ability to influence the world around him, and often did.  Howard lived in a world where everything dreamt could be achieved, where anything you put your heart into could be accomplished.  And for those lucky enough to call him a friend and a partner, he welcomed us into that world with open arms and an open heart.

“In Howard’s world, he was eager to share his passion, his determination, his loyalty. He would feverishly teach and mentor and pass down wisdom in the form of entirely entertaining stories and anecdotes. Howard lived to teach and taught to live. He taught us to appreciate everything we had, to continually strive for more and to never compromise our integrity. He was a winner, yet humble and truly cared about all those achieving greatness around him. He lived a generous and unselfish life, and for that, the world fell in love with him and mourns him terribly.

“We first met Howard in 2007 at a lunch to acquire the international rights to The Moment of Truth. It was in that first meeting when we fell in love with Howard. This was a man that had accomplished so much in his life, yet still had an unending drive to continue to achieve more. Even though he barely knew us, he was already offering his advice and counsel, and we immediately knew that we could learn so much from him. From that day on, Howard remained an amazingly consistent presence in our lives.  We grew together, we succeeded together.

“We sent him around the world in consulting jobs, we celebrated countless birthdays with he and his amazing wife Tana at MIP. We shared stories and dreams, with each conversation always more entertaining and enjoyable then the last. There is a huge void in our hearts that will never be filled, but we will make sure Howard and all he embodied lives on. Even though he is gone, we know Howard will continue to change the world.”

Susan Levison, VH1′s exec VP of original programming and production: “Although I’d known Howard in passing for years, I didn’t get to know him well until he produced Dating Naked for us last summer. During pre-production, we flew all of the finalists into LA to be interviewed in person.

“Howard sat front and center during every single interview, but not only did he attend the casting finals, he led them! He peppered every prospective contestant with questions, trying to determine what made them tick. Sometimes he used psychology, asking them about their childhoods, their parents. Sometimes he’d go light, seeing if they could roll with his playful – even cheeky – questions. But all along, he was relentlessly curious and unbelievably engaged.

“His eyes were bright with the fun he was having. That was Howard in a nutshell – charming, passionate, and someone who loved every minute of it.”

Rob LaPlante, Lighthearted Entertainment’s executive VP: “Beyond Howard’s incredible television acumen existed a man who truly cared for everyone he encountered, in a way unique from anyone I have ever met. TV has lost a visionary mind, and we have lost a mentor in life.”

Rick Feldman, executive director of the Non-Fiction Producers Association: “On behalf of the Non-Fiction Producers Association, I would like to express our deep sadness at the loss of one of our founding members. On a personal level, I’ve known Howard for over 20 years, working with him back in my KCOP days. Howard was always funny, interesting, intense and opinionated. The NPA and our business has lost one of our really great guys.”

Mike Darnell, Warner Bros’ president of unscripted TV (in a statement given to Deadline): “Howard was a fearless producer… no matter how crazy or irreverent a concept was, he would go at it full force and with no regrets.

“He was an absolute pleasure to work with, straightforward, funny and someone you could always count on. I am shocked and saddened by the news, and my heart goes out to his family.”

  • If you knew Howard and would like to pay tribute to him, please email, or leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.