The Heart Won’t Lie: A Conversation With Steve Chamberlain
“The heart won’t lie. I’ve had to make dramatic adjustments in my own life to follow my true path and nature.”
- Steve Chamberlain
Steve Chamberlain is a private equity investor based out of Atlanta, GA whose 40+ year career is nothing short of amazing. After rising through the ranks and serving as the executive vice president of Turner Home Entertainment for over eight years, Steve lead the Beatles Anthology at Capital Records which became the most successful music compilation series in history. He founded Bobby Jones Productions, and his investments have led to successful exits with companies like WebMD, N2 Broadband, ViTrue, and more.
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with this Atlanta legend to hear more about his highs, lows, and everything in between. Here are just a few highlights from that conversation.
Tell us about your background.
I’m originally from south Florida. My father, who’s deceased now, was a medical surgeon. I come from a family of all medical people so I was the first person to sort of break those ranks. I went to the University of Florida and majored in journalism. My father was very disappointed in me at that time because he thought I should follow in his footsteps and become a doctor.
What brought you to Atlanta?
I came to Atlanta to become the head of marketing for The Landmarks Group, and they were wonderful to me. They were so nice to me. I was in my early thirties. I had all the money, cars, all this stuff, but I didn’t enjoy it. I really disliked working in commercial real estate. I know people that have made a fortune in that business, and God bless them, but it wasn’t me. So, I took a 50% cut pay to go work for this mad man, Ted Turner.
Tell us about your time with Turner Broadcasting.
I was on the cable side for about three years and really enjoyed it, but then Ted Turner bought MGM. We bought the movie production company, and it came with 5,000 motion pictures like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, you name it. I decided I wanted to be in the entertainment business instead of cable, so they put me in charge of the distribution of those moves around the world; at that time in VHS and later in DVD. I rose through the ranks and became the Executive Vice President of the company.
What was it like working with Ted Turner?
I’ll say this about Ted Turner—there would be no Turner Broadcasting without him. The cable industry, at least back then, was really a utility; they didn’t have a personality. This guy, with all this magic to him and bigger than life personality was the P.T. Barnum. He gave cable TV personality and they rallied around him. It’s a phenomenal story. He was wonderful to me and for me, and I’m eternally grateful for him.
Tell us about a low point in your career.
In 1993, we had a major management change at the very top of the company. The new guy that came in made me miserable. I ended up having to fire over 100 people in my last year, people that 80% of them didn’t need to be fired, but they wanted a complete change of the guard and I was one of the executioners. It was really upsetting to me because this was my family. I’d hired most of these people; they sailed with me from the very first moment that we started Turned Home and Entertainment. I ended up resigning from the company. That was one of the lowest moments of my professional life because I felt like I was a failure. I thought I’d let everybody down, that I couldn’t continue, couldn’t control it, and it was a very depressing time for me.
How did you recover? What was next for you?
There was an article about me leaving Turner in Variety Magazine, and a guy that I knew very well that live in Los Angeles called me. He was the number three guy at Capitol Records. I flew out, got introduced to the top guys at Capital, and they made me a consultant. My first project was with Frank Sinatra on one of the last albums that he did called Duets.
This was only the beginning of Steve Chamberlains epic professional journey. To hear more from Steve, and how he got pulled in on the biggest project of his life, be sure to listen to the full interview.For more real-life stories and behind-the-scenes insights from tech leaders, founders, innovators, and visionaries, subscribe to TechCONNECT.