Gray Executive VP and COO Robert Smith Retires

Robert (Bob) Smith Gray Television
Bob Smith (Image credit: Wisconsin Broadcasters Association)

Robert (Bob) Smith, executive VP and COO of Gray Television since 2013, resigned on Thursday. 

He decided to retire, the company said in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Smith started his TV career as an account executive at WEAU-TV in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in 1986. He later became the station's local sales manager.

He worked at stations in Virgina and Illinois before becoming general manager at WMTV in Madison, Wisconsin, owned by Benedek Broadcasting. When Gray bought Benedek, he took on oversight of seven stations before being promoted to COO.

Smith was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2018.

Smith’s retirement follows the sudden death of Lesley Swick Van Ness,  former news anchor and director of talent acquisition at Gray.

Lesley Swick Van Ness

Lesley Swick Van Ness (Image credit: WGEM-TV)

Van Ness, 42,  was vacationing with her family in Floriday and suddenly became ill, according to WGEM-TV, Quincy, Illinios, where she used to work. She was taken to a hospital April 6 and died on April 10.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we share some devastating news with you. Lesley Van Ness, who we have been so fortunate to have as part of the Gray family, passed away [Monday] morning,” said Jennifer Dale, VP of recruiting at Gray Television in a statement. “Lesley and her husband Tom have two precious young boys. Please keep all of them in your prayers.”

 Van Ness started her career as a reporter at WGEM-TV, Quincy, Illinois, in 2003, becoming weekend anchor in 2006 and weekday anchor in 2008.

She served as talent acquisition specialist for Quincy Media until it was acquired  by Gray.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.