Gary Lieberthal is fascinating, just sayin’.
Lieberthal’s life story reads like the script of a television show, which is rather appropriate. He is, after all, a former Hollywood television executive.
His peers and industry insiders call his impact on television “visionary,” as it was he who revolutionized the business of TV.
After graduating Cornell University, he got his start with Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio’s Tandem/TAT Company, which would later become Embassy Communications. With a leadership role, Lieberthal was in charge of syndication. It was his strategic business decision making that helped turn TV into a multibillion-dollar industry, marketing off-network television shows to the major television stations and groups around the world.
The model became the means by which revenues increased multifold, and perhaps more importantly, changed the way that Americans viewed television.
He would rise to the position of chairman/CEO of Embassy Communications, when Coca-Cola — then proprietors of Columbia Pictures Television — would buy the business. Coca-Cola made Lieberthal chairman of Columbia Pictures Television, and later added Tri-Star and Merv Griffin Enterprises to his management portfolio.
Over his career, Lieberthal enormously enhanced the economic value of award-winning television shows, including, but not limited to, All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, Who’s the Boss?, Designing Women, Married with Children and Seinfeld. His companies brought these shows to the viewer and in many ways are the reason why they are household names.
At the top of his career, Lieberthal stepped away, retiring from the industry and leaving Hollywood for a 2,000-acre plantation in Virginia.
“I had two young children, I did not want them to grow up as the children of a Hollywood studio head, so we bought the plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia,” says Lieberthal.
As his kids would grow, he would later return to Los Angeles for various reasons. He then divided his time between a home in the Vintage Club in Indian Wells, California, and Montreux, near Lake Tahoe in Nevada.
A six-handicap golfer, he awoke one day before playing a round, when he decided that he was going to uproot again and move.
“I woke up in the desert and was walking from my bedroom to my kitchen. I looked out on the golf course and said, … “Is that all there is?” The answer was no. So, I sold my homes, came to Florida, and bought my yacht, and decided that I would go wherever I wanted to go,” he recalls.
Now, he is the owner of a 132-foot yacht in Palm Beach, which makes its way to Sag Harbor in the month of May. For Lieberthal, home is where his boat is.
“I travel back and forth to the Bahamas and Miami, and come the end of May, I take the boat to the Hamptons, spending the summer there and Martha’s Vineyard,” he says.
Lieberthal’s unique path to Palm Beach presented him with unique challenges. As a television icon, he was well-known when he lived in the Los Angeles area. He chose coming to Palm Beach knowing full-well that he knew no one, with the task of meeting new people and making new friends on the East Coast.
“This is not the first time I’ve picked up and changed my entire life,” he says, referencing moving away from Los Angeles to live in Virginia and Nevada. “I find it stimulating and challenging, and you have to make a point of trying to involve yourself in the community, meet people, and I find this very enjoyable. I have met some very terrific people here in Palm Beach.”
Lieberthal is also a patriot and someone who cares deeply about the United States and freedom. He noted that he was wearing two different color shoes — one blue, and one yellow — in solidarity with Ukraine.
He is a prolific supporter of the Republican Party, which is not something that you’d expect from a former Hollywood television executive. He says, with a smile, that he was “one of four” Republicans in Hollywood: Jerry Perenchio, Arnold Schwarzenegger and former President Ronald Reagan, being the other three.
“I have a picture of the four of us together, politics in those days weren’t as poisonous,” Lieberthal adds. “I am a great believer in personal responsibility. I am also a believer that center-of-the-road Republicans and center-of-the-road Democrats want the same things: safety, to help the underprivileged, accessible medical attention, but we just disagree dramatically on how to do it.”
He shares his views in political social commentary for American Spectator magazine.
“I believe that the government is largely the problem,” he says. “I am in possession of my point of view, someone else is in possession of their own point of view — neither of us is in possession of the truth. I end each article that I write with the phrase ‘Just Sayin’,’ which I also named my yacht, because when I opine, it’s just my perspective.”
Lieberthal has written on topics including poverty, diversity, due process of law, media hypocrisy and many other topics.
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.