Shelley Fischel ’77

Stay Tuned

Winter 2010

Several years ago, Shelley Fischel ’77 discovered a relic from 1979 hidden in an office drawer. It was a list that pitted the pluses and minuses of the job she had then—associate at Sullivan & Cromwell—against the job she had just been offered at a startup with an uncertain future. That company was HBO.

Fischel was torn. She had intended to be a litigator after law school (“I wanted to be Susan Dey in L.A. Law,” she recalls with a laugh), but her law firm job was not what she had hoped. HBO, on the other hand, was a shot in the dark. “I had never heard of HBO when I took the job,” says Fischel. “And I just did it.”

Over the course of her 30-year career at HBO, Fischel has risen from labor lawyer to executive vice president of human resources and administration. Her work has varied widely, from supervising multimillion-dollar construction projects to protecting HBO from would-be antitrust violations that threatened the then-nascent pay-TV industry. Those efforts have been peppered with perks: Fischel has talked politics with Bill Maher at the Emmys, traded phone calls with Cynthia Nixon about educating
LGBT youth, and looked up from her desk to find James Gandolfini standing in her
office doorway.

After three decades at one of the world’s most successful media companies, Fischel will retire in December. But she still intends to check in on HBO—both as a consultant and as a viewer. “I feel strongly about what we do,” Fischel says. And, she adds with a smile, “I love True Blood. I do.”