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Reading the Script and the Balance Sheet

11/13/2006 --

Ross School honors New Line Cinema CEO Robert Shaye at Reunion weekend.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—For Robert Shaye, BBA '60, founder, co-chairman and co-CEO of New Line Cinema Corp., producer of such blockbusters as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Rush Hour and Austin Powers, the ability to read a balance sheet, and the independence it brings, can be as important as reading a script.

Shaye received the David D. Alger Alumni Achievement Award at the Stephen M. Ross School's 2006 Reunion weekend October 27-28. Established in 1989, the award was renamed in honor of David Alger, MBA '68, president and CEO of Fred Alger Inc., who died on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center. It recognizes an alumnus whose professional achievements have brought distinction to the individual, credit to the business school and benefit to others.

Dean Robert J. Dolan, right, presents the David D. Alger Alumni Achievement to Robert Shaye.

Accepting the award from Dean Robert J. Dolan, Shaye said, "My somewhat unique personal take-away from my time at the Michigan business school has been a synthesis. I learned both to think and reason, to be reflective and pragmatic. And probably more than anything, I learned the value of independence. Business skills mean independence."

As a 16-year-old Detroiter matriculating at the U-M for the first time, Shaye looked forward to the "Socratic ideal of learning, a place of discovery and philosophy." When he arrived to enroll, he realized with some horror that the Registrar's Office had assigned him to the business school queue.

"After the shock and the request for immediate counseling, I was shown my admission application essay, which clearly stated that I thought, after college, I would be going into my father's business.

"Well, sure, I didn't exactly know what I wanted to do, and my dad was a successful grocer, but who wants to prepare for wholesale grocering at the temple of learning?"

When he learned that the business school required one year of a foreign language rather than two years for graduates of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, Shaye said, "The decision suddenly became easier.

"So I enrolled in business administration, and my blue class registration card stood out like an alien visitor in the classes I took in English and philosophy. It was a badge of certain pride. And so, eventually, was the decision to continue in business administration."

Citing such outstanding professors as the late Robert L. Dixon in accounting and Ross J. Wilhelm in business economics and marketing, Shaye said he experienced the best of both worlds by taking classes in LSA and the Ross School. "I was so eager to cram it all in, I even graduated in three and one-half years."

The bag of academic tools he assembled from both schools has served him well. "I love what I do. I was blessed with the passion for my profession from a very early age. And I am blessed to have had a father who brought me up in business, as I realize now, not to take over his, but to create and manage mine.

"Business for me became a means to an end, and not just the making of money, which, as a passionless exercise, can be a dreary achievement. Understanding business allowed me to realize my dream."

Quoting Stanley Kubrick, who, when asked if he ever took a vacation, replied, "A vacation from what?" Shaye added: "That's how I feel today — and I am extremely proud to accept this award and to say thanks to Michigan for helping me implement my dream and embark on a lifelong vacation."

For more information, contact:
Mary Jo Frank
Phone: 734-647-4626