February 24, 1943
Brooklyn, New York, United States
This top Warner Brothers executive began professional life as an accountant, but his enthusiasm for films (and the film community) has made certain that he has not been thought of as simply a bean counter. After pursuing studies in accounting and market research, the Brooklyn-born Semel entered the entertainment industry as a branch manager for Warner Brothers in 1966. In the early 70s, he acquired additional experience (and executive status) at CBS and Buena Vista in sales and distribution.By the mid-70s, Semel had returned to Warner Brothers where, working closely with Robert A Daly, he rose with remarkable speed to the presidency by 1982. Together, the co-CEOs oversaw a wide-ranging conglomerate that included Warner Bros. Pictures (with its lucrative "Batman" and "Lethal Weapon" franchises); Warner Bros. Television (producer of such hit series as "ER" and "Friends"); the struggling network, The WB, (formed in 1993); and the ever-proliferating Warner Bros. Studio Stores. He also became part of the world's largest communications corporation when Time Inc. purchased Warner Bros. in 1989 (Semel and Daly were each reported to make a $50 million profit at that time).Daly and Semel, though close friends and able co-workers, are something of an odd couple, with divergent personalities: the former is voluble yet a homebody while the latter is more contemplative yet a "social animal." In 1994, Daly made Semel his "heir apparent" by promoting him to co-chair and co-CEO of Warner Brothers, with shared duties. Since then, such hit films as "Batman Forever" (1995), "Twister" and "Tin Cup" (both 1996) have been released, as well as the fascinating if not totally successful "Mars Attacks!" (1996). In 1997, Warner Brothers continued the series with "Batman & Robin" (with immediate talk of a fifth installment in the series) and also released such high- profile features as the pairing of Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in Ivan Reitman's comedy "Fathers' Day" and teaming Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman in Costa- Gavras' "Mad City."