Profile: Franklin Servan-Schreiber, IOC - Reigniting the Olympic flame/The IOC puts its tarnished image in the hands of Franklin Servan-Schreiber

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new communications director Franklin Servan-Schreiber has led such a peripatetic existence that just listening to his history is enough to give you jet-lag. Whereas most people change jobs, the 34-year-old Frenchman changes continents. What’s more, his CV takes eclecticism to new heights, particularly when he gave up a professorship to become a temporary secretary.

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) new communications

director Franklin Servan-Schreiber has led such a peripatetic existence

that just listening to his history is enough to give you jet-lag.

Whereas most people change jobs, the 34-year-old Frenchman changes

continents. What’s more, his CV takes eclecticism to new heights,

particularly when he gave up a professorship to become a temporary

secretary.



Servan-Schreiber first started work in 1987 as a freelance journalist

for publications such as Paris-Match and La Vie Francaise in his native

France, which he combined with computer programming and training.



He counts his first ’proper’ job as being assistant to the publications

director of Elle in New York, an experience, he says, which gave him a

grounding in business. ’I was involved in all sorts of special projects

from helping to launch Elle Decor to arranging the relocation of an

office of 120 people,’ he says.



When Japanese fashion house Shiseido approached him to establish a

philanthropy division to support the arts, he jumped at the chance.

Based in Tokyo, the job involved so much travel that he believes he

circumnavigated the globe three times in two years, staging

international exhibitions, finding artists to support and commissioning

works of art. ’It was great fun.



I had a fantastic expense account and everyone loved me because it was

my job to take out artists and negotiate wages with them,’ he

recalls.



Servan-Schreiber learned both spoken and written Japanese for the job,

which is no mean feat given that it involves 5,000 characters and two

48-letter alphabets. However, he plays down the achievement: ’French and

Japanese are very similar in that the pronunciation is flat,’he

says.



On leaving Shiseido in 1992, he remained in Japan to become a professor

of political science and hatch plans to launch a Japanese fashion

magazine.



His ’very close negotiations’ with Conde Nast fell through - which in

retrospect he says he is glad about given the subsequent souring of the

economy.



In 1994, his father, Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, ex-minister, left

wing intellectual and founder of L’Express magazine, fell ill and he

returned to Pittsburgh to look after him. ’It was a tough period,’ he

says. He combined caring for his father with earning dollars 7.50 an

hour as a temporary secretary, serving coffee and rewriting other

people’s presentations.



Meanwhile, he was preparing a presentation of his own.



He wrote a 25-page report detailing how and why Sony should get into the

PC market and sent it to the president of Sony US. The president asked

him to present it to senior executives and Servan-Schreiber was

eventually talked out of his insistence on independence and into a job.

Much of the work he did in the company’s research labs is still secret,

he says. However, when Sony’s strategy shifted away from the PC market,

it was time to move on.



The opportunity at the IOC offered acomplete change of mindset. Apart

from leaving the globe’s heaving capital cities for the peace of

Lausanne, Servan-Schreiber has also left commerce for a more

philanthropic beast and he has thrived in his new environment. A

colleague marvels: ’From arriving at theIOC five and a half months ago

to manage the internet site, to being promoted to communications

director is unheard of. Most people take over two years to achieve

director level, if at all.’



Despite the IOC’s image crisis, following the sacking of six members for

alleged corruption in March, he says the Olympic movement is very

attractive. ’It is about more than just sport. It is about peace,

international harmony and brotherhood,’ he says, launching into an

impassioned list of the IOC’s good works, which include funding athletes

in 120 countries and rebuilding the Sarajevo stadium.



Servan-Schreiber admits that right now he and his team are busy

fire-fighting. However, he points out: ’The IOC does an incredible

amount and there are many good things to say. It is my job to make sure

that we explain what we do much, much better.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

Assistant to publications director, Elle Decor, New York

1990

International co-ordinator, philanthropy division, Shiseido, Tokyo

1995

Project leader, Sony Research Laboratories

1999

Communications director, IOC, Lausanne



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in