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tv   The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations  Bloomberg  August 13, 2021 9:00pm-9:31pm EDT

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♪ david: this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling of man kind , i have often thought is private equity. then i started interviewing. >> i want your interviews. david: i have learned from doing my interviews how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked him how much he wanted. he said 250. i didn't negotiate. i did no due diligence. >> i have something i would like to sell. david: how they stay there.
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>> you don't feel inadequate now because you are only the second wealthiest man in the world, is that right? david: one of the most successful people on television has been shonda rimes. she has taken those considerable skills to not what's. i got to meet her as a member of -- the board of trustees of the kennedy center. she was an indispensable member. she is a great writer, a great person, and she is taken up the cello. watch out yo-yo ma. you shocked the entertainment world a few years ago when you said you were leaving abc, even though your mostly their biggest profit source, and moving to netflix. not a television production company but a streaming television company. why did you do that?
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shonda: i had been looking at what was going on in the industry. television ratings had been lowering. people were watching netflix. i knew what i was watching. i knew what was exciting me and what felt like the excited programming. i also was looking for a certain kind of freedom. i had been making a very particular brand of television for abc. shondaland was a brand i was very proud of but i wanted to spread my wings and do more than that, and this was an opportunity to do so. david: so you go over to netflix. when somebody is famous and they move, let's say a baseball player or a football play or go to a different team or somebody tries something different, people are always saying this person isn't as good as the reputation. they are going to flop and there is a lot of i would say in hollywood people that do not like people who are too successful. there wishing secretly they will flop. but you did not flop. you had an incredible hit. your first show, bridger 10, was -- bridgerton was the most
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successful opening show of anything on netflix ever. >> all is fair in love and war. david: were you worried that night whether it would be a success or did you not panic? shonda: it is interesting. i was not scared about the success of the show. that is not my job. i understand that. i was happy by then because netflix was already happy. everybody really like the show. everybody was pleased with that. i wasn't worried about numbers or how i was going to do. one thing i liked about netflix is everybody told me not to worry about the numbers. ratings do not matter on netflix. of course, they do, but that was the sort of thought that was had. so i wasn't worried about that. i was much more nervous when we were editing the show and seeing what the product was. i wanted to see what the show turned out. how they felt. once i knew the shows were good, and i wanted to watch them and felt good about them and felt they could be exciting and it turned out they felt the same way, i felt fine. i don't think i paid attention
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the first day. david: you started another show coming on netflix called inventing anna, which is about a woman who pretended she was a wealthy german heiress, it turns out she was not. why did you think that would be attractive for a series? shonda: i was fascinated by the story because i am fastened by -- fascinated by journalism and i love the journalism that went with uncovering the story. anna is also an interesting character to me. she is truly a genius and i think if she were a guy and had pulled it off, people would've applauded her. but i think because she has a woman and believed she could do this, it felt like an affront to a lot of people. she was labeled in a lot of ways i don't think we label men. i like this idea of the woman with all this ambition and no place to put it. it fell profound to me and where we are now. david: when you're writing
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something, it is a solitary thing. how do you do writing but also production and other things? how do you concentrate and have the time to write? shonda: there is an aspect of writing that can be communal. your job is to help people through writing the draft of the show you have created, which is both amazing and fun and very difficult. what the pandemic did is make the process a lot harder. for me, writing is a very solitary experience and imf -- i am a very fast writer when i have the space to do so. i feel like i am much more naturally an introvert, so being the person who writes is much easier for me than the other parts of it, which are the public parts or the producing
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and explaining to everybody what has to happen parts. finding the balance has been much easier than i thought. david: during covid, i assume you worked from home more than your office. was it easier to write a show or create a show from home with three young daughters running around? shonda: i found, being at home could be both revelatory in the sense that i would always feel like there was so much work to be done that i had to be standing right in front of everybody to be doing it. i discovered no, a, a lot of people got more freedom to do things i didn't need to control, and b, i got more writing done being at home. david: will you spend more time at home now? or will you say actually i can't wait to get back to my office? shonda: i definitely think i will spend more time at home. mainly because i get a lot more writing done here. there is not as many
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interruptions. i have discovered how little i am needed on set. i used to joke i'm standing on a soundstage. i'm the only person who is not working because i am writing or editing wherever they are shooting. i am the only person not doing a job. to me, i think there is a lot more to do if i am at home, which i never would've believed before. it is the feeling of being necessary everywhere and discovering you are not necessary everywhere but the places where you can be necessary, you can make a difference if you focus on those. david: the events that led to the murder of george floyd. how did you respond to that? shonda: i felt nothing but rage and frustration. i also felt real dismay that a lot of people use the event to finally discover that racism existed.
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david: let's talk about your background. you grew up in a suburb of chicago. you were the youngest of six children. is that right? shonda: correct. david: i guess you get a lot of hand-me-down clothes as the youngest of six. do your parents pay attention by the youngest of six? by that time they're done, are they gone? shonda: i didn't get a lot of hand-me-down clothes and my parents were very focused on us, which was delightful for me. my parents are educators so i think for them, they were very intensely focused on making sure that we had what we needed. my mother -- i always said if we were poor, i did not know it because my mother made all of our clothes and they were fantastic looking and there was a lot of focus on us. my mother stayed at home along -- for a long time for us, which is a big sacrifice with somebody with her intelligence and her interest in work. she made sure we were
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well-placed in the world and ready to go and be who we were supposed to be. david: you grew up and went to college. how did you put pick dartmouth? it is fairly isolated, much different than chicago. shonda: it is interesting. i went on a college tour and dartmouth was one of the places we visited. honestly, i fell in love with the place when i got there. it was beautiful. it was in the middle of nowhere. it felt very much to meet like what college was supposed to be. -- to meet like what college was supposed to be, every person i met their was friendly and had something great to say about it. very different from a lot of colleges i went to, it was surprisingly diverse at the time. they had what might night seemed like a member now but 80% of the -- 18% of the students were students of color. it felt very welcoming. i thought this is the place for me. i absolutely love my time there. david: when he graduated, you -- when you graduated, he said i'm going to going to something
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important like credit equity or investment banking? [laughter] shonda: [laughter] i was lost for a little while when i got out of college because i really wanted to be a writer. i wanted to be toni morrison when i grow up but i did not know how to do that and i also, you know, my parents had sacrificed a lot financially for me to go to the school and i did not want to be a disappointment. so i got a job in advertising for a little bit and then i read an article that said it was harder to get into usc film school than harvard law school. and i thought, well, my parents cannot fault that because it is graduate school. and it is difficult to get into. so i applied to usc film school. i told my parents i can teach. as a professor. my parents thought she is right. she can teach. it felt like something real for them. david: you got a masters at usc and then you are writing on the side during the daytime, or the evenings? how are you doing that? shonda: yeah. i got a job at a place that help
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the mentally ill and homeless. i was an administrative assistant and at night, i would write my scripts. i had an agent or lawyer of the -- at the time, everyone got one in film school hoping something would happen to them. and i ended up selling a script and that basically changed my life. david: had that script not sold, would you still be in advertising? what would you be doing? shonda: a month before it sold, i had applied for the postbaccalaureate year for medical school at bryn mawr and i was going to go to medical school because i thought i could not starve this way. i'm going to be a doctor. luckily, i did not do that. david: the medical profession's loss is the creative writing community's again, because you are not a doctor but it worked out ok. shonda: i hope maybe the writing about doctors inspired young women to be doctors. that's how i like to think of it. david: most successful hollywood
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people as producers or writers have been white men. norman lear, aaron spelling are two classic examples. when you came along, you were not a man and you were not white. was there a lot of discrimination against you that you felt palpably or was it subtle? shonda: i find that to be a difficult question to answer and i say that because i don't know what it feels like to be a white man. i don't know how people were treating white men at the time, i only know how i have always been treated. and i was, you know, raised very clearly by my parents to be a person who did not look at things as obstacles. and when anybody treated me in a way that was not 100% respectful, i was taught that was their problem and they need to be put in their place and i should move forward. and so, i am sure that i
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experienced a lot of things that were not probably what other people experience. i just chose not to be defeated by them or bothered by them. some of them i didn't bother to notice. david: given how prominent you are in the entertainment world, do you feel discrimination at any point now or do you not? you know, there is an insularity -- shonda: you know, there is an insularity that comes with being in a certain position in hollywood but that does not change that if somebody does not who know who you are, they see you as just another person of color. the racism in this country is the racism in this country, unfortunately. david: the events that led to the murder of george floyd it. obviously, they affected our country dramatically and certainly the african-american community, particularly. how did you respond to that? you are a prominent african-american figure in the country. do you feel you had an obligation to speak out or do more? how did it change your life?
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shonda: i mean, i think the entire george floyd situation did a couple things. one, obviously, like anybody else, i felt nothing but rage and frustration. but i also felt real dismay that a lot of people use that event to finally discover that racism exists. that was disturbing to me that it took that being that horrific -- something that horrific for people to go, wait, there is inequality? that was upsetting for me. i don't know that i felt like i had a particular obligation to do anything more than any other person did. a lot of people were marching. a lot of people were protesting. i think the beauty of what happened with george floyd was how many average citizens stood up and did something. i think the power of that moment
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, and hopefully that will continue to be the power of that moment. i feel like whenever i am asked this question, i never quite know how to walk the line between saying, here's what i did and what i think is important, because i feel like it might let people off the hook because it also suggests that racism is a problem of people of color and really, i feel like i always want to say, that is not what i did to work on the drawer -- george floyd problem. it is not what i did to work on racism. racism is a white people problem. what are white people doing to solve it? that is the big question. ♪
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david: public companies often --
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david: let's talk about shondaland. it is quite an entertainment complex. let's go through how you are able to do that. you have a podcast. you are doing it with i heart media. shonda: we have a podcast division called shondaland audio. the great thing is i am lucky to have an amazing people who work with me on shondaland. sandy bailey, who runs our digital division, said we could have a podcast version and it could be powerful. she is over cnet and has come up with great shows. part of the beauty of it it's you can take somebody and -- like who was on scandal, and showcase her with a podcast about parenting, which has become one of the most popular podcast on itunes and i heart media. we can take laverne cox who is
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on the new show. we can take a show like bridgerton, create a podcast about it, that is doing really well and do behind-the-scenes video footage, take it imported on her website,, and have a nice synergy going. that has been important to me, to create a world in which all of the aspects of our shows and the people in the shondaland family and find a place to be creative and exist in one spot. david: you have a partnership as well with a company. and that is designed to let people know more about the way their hair might be worn. can you explain your views on hair for african-american women ? shonda: the partnership has been long-standing. one thing i've always loved about the they have been very positive and assertive about the idea that beauty is defined in all forms. every skin, every body, every kind of woman is their own definition of beauty.
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they have been instrumental in working on the crown act, which is a law passed in i can't remember how many states that says you can't be discriminated against because of the way you wear your hair. that has been an issue for a lot of people of color. you hear the stories of the basketball kid who gets his dreads cut off before he can play or somebody who is fired because of the way they wear their hair at work. we try so hard to police the way people look because it doesn't look like the way somebody feels they should look and that is a real bias in this country. and so the idea that we could create the crown act allows people to embrace who they are culturally and wear their hair the way they need to wear it and be the way they need to be , versus trying to achieve a standard based on a white, people should look like. what
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david: you have a book, as well. the year of yes. and that was reflecting the fact that one of your sisters had told you you always said no. so you decided one year, you would say yes to speaking engagements, graduation, commencement speeches, and so forth. what made you decide to say yes that one year and are you happy you did so? shonda: [sigh] she said you never say yes to anything. i have been detailing all these invitations i've got. that year, i was on the board of the kennedy center and i went to the kennedy center honors and i was told, not asked, that i would sit in the box with president obama and misses obama. for the honors. i had a wonderful time and it was a lovely evening and i realized on the way home somebody had asked me if i
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wanted to sit in the box, i would've said no. i would've said no because i would have been too nervous or afraid or thought, why would they want to sit with me? it was that thing of not having the confidence or the nerves to do so. i would have turned it down because it would've been too stressful to come up with the notion that i could say yes. and that really stunned me, that i would've missed an amazing experience and opportunity just because i was too nervous to do something. i decided i would spend a year saying yes to everything that scared me. and the first thing i was asked to do was give a commencement speech at dartmouth. in front of 10,000 people. >> a very successful woman, a single mother of three and was asked the question, how do you do it all? i'm going to answer that question with honesty here for you now. somebody has to tell you the truth. shonda, how do you do it all? the answer is this. i don't.
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david: you pointed out in your book you have adopted three young girls. is that more challenging than writing scripts or producing shows or is it much easier? shonda: [laughter] i always used to say i have three daughters and 47 actors or something like that when i have three shows. no, i feel like having children is far more fulfilling than any script or job or show. it is also far more fun. but i also think the older and more practiced in get at it, the more fulfilling and easy it becomes. with your first child, you are always afraid, you're always afraid you're going to kill the baby. with the last child, you pop the baby downstairs and say she will be fine. that's what my mother used to say. but really, children are such doors to reality, they keep you grounded and keep you focused on the present. and that is the best thing ever.
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david: when you are raising children in hollywood, which i've have not done but i know, when you are wealthy and famous, it can be a challenge. how do you keep your children grounded because they go out and say my mother is a famous person? how do you avoid that? shonda: for the longest time, my oldest daughter thought i ran a hospital. she really did. i kept her insulated from the idea that i had a job at all. my youngest daughter, it is a little bit harder at this point but i try hard to raise my kids the same way i was raised. the same values. i'm from the midwest. i believe you don't throw things away. this is a town where that is not a thing that was valued but i try to stick to the way i grew up and i feel kind of lucky i am surrounded by so many people who feel that way. david: what do you do for rest and relaxation? i assume you must get a little bit of it.
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shonda: i recently bought a cello. probably because i saw yo-yo ma play the cello and got really inspired by his bach series and for years i've been saying i learned -- i'm going to learn how to play the cello, for like 15 years. so i finally went out and got myself a cello and started taking lessons. that is my new way of relaxing. it seems -- i'm terrible at it but it is wildly relaxing to try something new in that way and spend that concentrated time doing something different. david: why don't you come to the kennedy center and play a duet with yo-yo ma? we could arrange it. shonda: i think poor yo-yo would be very horrified by what was coming out of my cello. david: what new worlds are there for you to conquer in the detainment world? you are at the top of the profession. i can't imagine how you could be more successful. is there something else you
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aspire to do that you have not done yet? shonda: i'm really enjoying my life at netflix. i think we have just gotten started there. i cannot wait to keep building on that. and enjoy that, making new shows there, working and building on our podcast world. enjoying those worlds. it's exciting to me.
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♪ erik: i'm eric schatzker and welcome -- erik schatzker and welcome to bloomberg's "front row." today, i am talking to victor khosla, one of the kings of stressed debt investing. his company buys loans to take control of troubled companies. it is controversial and fund managers like him have been called vultures but unlike many of his peers, victor wants to improve and build the businesses he owns. he is critical of those who don't. victor: 95% of the distressed business is paper investment. so,


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