The tornado of content from the Royal Wedding was still churning through the office of a Westwood high-rise, home to three of the most iconic brands in publishing — People, People En Español and Entertainment Weekly.
Maybe it was the Chuck Taylors on his feet, or the easy cadence of his speech that made the president of the media powerhouses, California State University, Northridge alumnus Bruce Gersh ’91 (Accounting Theory and Practice), appear calm in the storm followed Prince Harry’s and Meghan Markle’s “I dos” in May. Work was still heavy, as a flood of Royal Wedding content rushed in from across the pond.
“If I’m nervous, my entire team is nervous,” Gersh said, explaining his calm. “I also have a lot of trust in the people that work for me. I’m not a micromanager. You have to put trust in your team.
“I work incredibly hard,” he said. “I work long hours. But at the same time, I have a great group that I work with and work for that lift me up.”
More than calm, it may be confidence — built from years of successfully navigating a dynamic career.
No straight line can be drawn from the start of Gersh’s career to Westwood. It has been an unconventional journey for the media executive who started in accounting, a journey with roots at CSUN.
“I was always a dreamer,” Gersh said. “If you grow up in LA, you’re always connected to the entertainment business in some way, shape or form. I always thought I’d be connected to the entertainment business, but I thought it would probably be on the finance-only side.
“If I look back to the day I put on my cap and gown and graduated, I definitely wouldn’t have thought I’d be doing this exact job,” Gersh said. “But I knew I’d be in this space in some shape or form.”
As a child, the career choices presented to Gersh were a doctor, lawyer or accountant. His father owned liquor stores and wanted his son to choose a different route than him.
At 13, Gersh declared in his school yearbook that he would become an accountant. The road to that career ran through Northridge.
After graduating from Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles — a private Jewish school where classes were small and everyone knew everyone — Gersh chose CSUN for a couple of reasons, including proximity and prestige.
“CSUN had the best accounting program in Los Angeles,” he said.
It was an impactful educational experience, he said.
“I don’t think CSUN gets enough credit for how it prepares all of us,” Gersh said. “I went to a very small high school. I never sat in classes with more than 20 people. CSUN opened my eyes to how to learn to work as a team. As the classes got larger, you had to not only figure out how to work with your friends, but how to work with your colleagues in the spirit of a work environment.”
Gersh also recalled the program’s valuable real-world experience. As a student, he prepared taxes for low-income residents in Hollywood as part of CSUN’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Clinic, which further fed Gersh’s career goal.
“It was an inspiring program and a way to give back, and it was hands-on experience,” he said.
As a junior, Gersh landed an internship at accounting giant Arthur Andersen, and, after earning his degree, he was hired by the company for the firm’s tax practice.
His career shifted in the late 1990s, when Gersh joined NBC as a strategist on the business development side. The transition from accounting was eased by the fact that Gersh still worked with numbers, analyzing data and creating business plans. But his stay at NBC was brief, as he jumped into the internet bubble, helping to launch a sports website.
In 2000, after a year in the bubble, Gersh left for Disney/ABC and stayed for the next eight years. It was the most transformative time of his professional career, he said. Gersh ultimately became the company’s senior vice president of business development, responsible for business development online, ABC daytime and primetime, and ABC’s TV studio.
In 2006, Gersh won an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Enhanced or Interactive Television (New Delivery Platforms) for the ABC.com Full Episode Streaming Player, a forerunner to popular episodic TV streaming services such as Hulu.
“The Disney process and systems are top notch, so you’re learning from and working with some of the smartest people,” Gersh said. “I was able to really grow as a [professional], had some great mentors and had an opportunity to lead a pretty significant team over a relatively short period of time.”
One of those mentors was Mark Pedowitz, current president of The CW Television Network. There was a point during his time at ABC, Gersh said, where he was entertaining an outside opportunity. But the desire to learn more from Pedowitz, then an executive at ABC, kept him with the company. It was a decision that proved beneficial because it helped Gersh further develop business and creative skills.
Both sides of Gersh’s brain battle each other for dominance. In the end, it’s a draw. He calls himself a “business/creative guy,” but could very easily be called a “creative business guy.”
The foundation of everything, though, is numbers. Understanding the mechanics of numbers and how they come together is how he makes decisions, Gersh said. That foundation was laid at CSUN. As his career has continued to evolve in media, he still uses the skills he learned at the university, he said.
After ABC, Gersh held executive positions at the William Morris Agency, Fishbowl Worldwide Media (a production company he co-founded with Peabody- and Emmy-winning producer Vin Di Bona), and ITV Studios America.
In January 2016, Time Inc. hired him as senior vice president of strategy and business development. Shortly after media conglomerate Meredith Corporation completed the purchase of Time Inc. earlier this year, Gersh was promoted to president of People, People En Español and Entertainment Weekly.
In this position, he oversees all aspects including editorial, advertising, marketing, sales and finance.
The tornado of content and the demand for it won’t stop. Yesterday, it was Royal Wedding coverage. Tomorrow, it’s the next big story — or stories. And for Gersh, it’s not just the content side, but the business side that he has to be concerned about.
“I’m having a blast,” he said. “I have the best people working with me and alongside me, and that’s all you can ask for. As you flashback over your career, I look back and there are so many amazing people I’ve worked with or for. … Now, as I look across my organization, there are so many people who are inspiring and are inspired by our brands.”