You live and you learn: Bill Roedy, ex CEO of MTV

The man behind the music video on being raised by women, serving in Vietnam and making a break from MTV.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

I was raised by women. My father, who was in the army, and my mother divorced when I was three. Women - my mum, my sisters, my grandmother and great aunt - were a very powerful force at home.

We grew up with nothing. This inevitably makes you very hungry. For me it was about three things: sports, reading and social interaction.

The TV was an important part of my childhood. We had a lot of unhappiness and I saw that box bring laughter into our home.

West Point military school was tough. I struggled with authority, but, ironically, I did really well in the military.

Facing combat in Vietnam put danger in perspective. And afterwards I commanded a nuclear missile base for 18 months. After that, I could withstand pressure pretty well.

When I moved to the UK, I set up MTV like the military: small fighting units where everybody knows everybody and commanded by people who knew the local enemy - in this case, the competition.

My sister was born at Pearl Harbour. My mother and I used to watch the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!. And she'd tell me about the attack.

I spent 10 years at HBO as 'Bill the cable guy'. I did a deal with the largest cable company and the quid pro quo was I had to be at every launch. There were three a month, so I crisscrossed the country. I loved it.

I have met and spent time with some incredible people. Listening to Mandela talk about forgiveness was pretty remarkable. I've known Bono for years and he's a very warm person.

I don't want to divorce myself completely from business. Since leaving MTV three years ago, 100% of my time has been taken up with global health initiatives. But I intend to get back into the business world.

I wish I had had a family sooner. My wife and I have four kids now and I am the happiest I have ever been.

- What Makes Business Rock by Bill Roedy is published by Wiley

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