Alumni Profiles

Greg D’Alba

Top CNN sales executive embraces ‘global village’ and the power of positive thinking

D'Alba close-up
First television job internship at WKBW-TV Channel 7 in Buffalo; Closest UB family member father, Anthony D’Alba, BS ’50; Favorite volunteer gig advisory board member for the Ghetto Film School in the South Bronx

It’s been 35 years since Greg D’Alba, BA ’81, rode his bike through the construction site of UB’s Ellicott Complex as a kid growing up two miles from the North Campus.

Today, he walks each day from his Manhattan home to his office—two adjoining rooms overlooking Central Park at the top of the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle—where he oversees nearly 500 of the 4,000 people who collectively run one of the world’s largest cable broadcast networks.

As CNN’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, D’Alba is in charge of all domestic cable and Web sales, and for two straight years made the annual CableFAX 100 list, a roster of the most influential heavy hitters in the cable industry. D’Alba, who also is chair of the Time Warner Ad Council and a member of Turner Broadcasting’s Volunteer Council, says that his 21 years at CNN “seem like 21 days” given the rate of technological change. “Today,” he says, “‘virtuality’ is reality.”

Professional achievement is only one of D’Alba’s major successes. According to him, his three children and beating cancer twice—in 1995 and 2001—are by far his greatest accomplishments in life. His positive attitude makes it easy to see how he was not only able to beat a deadly disease, but also how he ascended the ranks to become the network’s top sales executive.

“Greg brings this disarming charm to work every day that he combines with intellect and passion to be one of the best executives I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” says Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. D’Alba makes it clear that he values his team above all else. “The people at CNN are our power and our best investment,” he says.

He attributes much of his theoretical foundation about electronic mass media and the “global village” that influences his business philosophy to UB associate professor of communication Mary Cassata, who introduced him to the work of Marshall McLuhan.

However, it was as a teacher’s assistant for former UB professor Gerald Goldhaber that D’Alba discovered his potential as a leader. “It was the first time I considered myself running something, and it thrilled me,” he says. D’Alba adds that living in Buffalo and the passion of the people there taught him the value of community. “CNN connects community in so many ways. It opens the world up to diversity and to cultural respect.”

Story by Mara McGinnis, BA ’97, with photo by Douglas Levere, BA ’89