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Gordon Smith, NAB President/CEO, To Step Down End of 2021

Gordon Smith during the 2019 NAB Show
(Image credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video, Kevin Jones, Adam Shane, Lisa Staszewski and Timm Andrews)

Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, shifts to what the association is calling “an advisory and advocacy role” as of Dec. 31. Curtis LeGeyt, chief operating officer of NAB, takes over as president and CEO Jan. 1, 2022. 

“It has been my great honor to give the lion’s roar for broadcasters – those who run into the storm, those who stand firm in chaos to hear the voice of the people, those who hold to account the powerful – and to stand with those of the fourth estate who have the hearts of public servants,” said Smith. 

Smith became president and CEO of NAB in November 2009. He was a two-term U.S. senator from Oregon and later a senior advisor in the Washington offices of Covington & Burling, LLP. 

NAB was  looking for someone who could make key connections on the Hill, something Gordon came already equipped with.

Smith guided broadcasters through some seismic changes for broadcasters, including the broadcast incentive auction and repack, the rollout of the ATSC 3.0 Next Gen broadcast standard, and the building of a new headquarters closer to the FCC and Hill action.

Among broadcasters' victories under Smith was the media ownership deregulation order under Republican Chairman Ajit Pai that was initially thrown out by an appeals court but reinstated last week by the Supreme Court.

It eliminated the newspaper-broadcast and radio-TV crossownership prohibitions and tweaked local ownership limits.

Smith beat the drum loudly for greater regulatory parity between broadcasters and their cable, satellite and online video provider competition as well as for the value of free over-the-air spectrum as the wireless industry eyed it hungrily.

And while cable made strong pushes to eliminate the must-carry/retrans regime broadcasters and NAB strongly defended, that regime remains in place.

In a more recent win, Congress expanded eligibility for Paycheck Protection Program loans to more local media outlets, including those radio and television stations which were previously excluded.

And Smith and NAB early on (Nov. 7 to be exact) called for President Trump to acknowledge Joe Biden as the new President. "With due respect to President Trump’s rights to judicial review of election results," Smith said at the time, "it is time to acknowledge the election of Joe Biden and to allow him the chance to bind our nation back together.” 

NAB Joint Board of Directors chairman Jordan Wertlieb, president of Hearst Television, thanked Smith for his service. “Gordon is the ultimate statesman, bringing people together from both sides of the aisle to discuss ideas, find common ground and lead NAB to success on countless fronts,” said Wertlieb. “On behalf of the leadership of NAB, we extend our sincere gratitude for more than a decade of service to the broadcast industry. We look forward to continuing to work with Gordon and benefiting from his guidance for years to come.”

LeGeyt has been with NAB for nearly a decade. Prior to becoming chief operating officer, LeGeyt spent five years as NAB executive VP, government relations. Before joining NAB, LeGeyt was senior counsel to then-Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy (Vt.).

“I am honored and humbled to be named the next leader of this great organization,” said LeGeyt. “To represent the broadcast industry and the local stations that bind our communities together in a moment of such tremendous change across the media landscape is a privilege. Our stations’ role in communities across this country has never been more important, and I look forward to working every day to ensure their ability to grow and thrive.”

Smith will be in the advisory role, which includes lobbying on behalf of broadcasters, through 2024. 

“I am also delighted to share that NAB is in the enviable position of having cultivated top talent within the organization to provide for a smooth and stable transition in leadership,” Wertlieb said. “Curtis LeGeyt has the utmost confidence of the NAB leadership and staff to lead our association into the future.”

"Gordon and I have usually (but not always) been on opposite sides, but I have great respect for him," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior counselor at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, who argued in court against the media ownership dereg that Smith and NAB advocated for. "He has always been gracious, candid and good to his word."

"Gordon Smith has been an outstanding executive, statesman and advocate for the broadcast industry," said Dick Wiley, chairman emeritus of powerhouse communications law firm, Wiley, and former FCC chairman. "Kudos to him on his truly exemplary service."

Even those on the other side of policy issues praised Smith.

“Senator Smith has a genuinely decent manner that made him an extraordinarily effective advocate for Broadcasters," said Preston Padden, principal of Boulder Thinking LLC and a former top association and network executive and lobbyist.

“ACA Connects salutes NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith on his service over the past 12 years as leader of the National Association of Broadcasters," said his opposite number at ACA Connects, association president Matt Polka. "Although free TV broadcasters and traditional pay-TV providers have had their policy differences on occasion, Sen. Smith’s leadership has permitted us, at times, to be able to set aside those differences and produce win-win outcomes that benefit the American public.”

 “We wish Sen. Smith the best of luck as he looks ahead to new adventures.”

John Eggerton contributed to this report.