David Spiegel. Photo credit: Adam Jeffrey, CNBC senior photo editor.

MBA alumnus is all business at CNBC, but a long-shelved script reveals his more creative side

Put aside by a demanding career and MBA ambitions, a musical comes to life on stage and inspires a series of new books for young readers.

David Spiegel, Rutgers MBA ’14, might have a nose for business news, but he also has the heart of a creative.

As senior editorial manager at CNBC, he combines a talent for news writing with marketing to develop and present exclusive content that can attract new partnerships – an important way for a modern media outlet to build its brand and remain competitive.

Spiegel helped to strengthen CNBC’s iconic Disruptor 50 franchise by developing a ranking methodology with more rigor. He credits his experience at Rutgers Business School, for giving him the skills to bolster the selection process by adding a blend of quantitative and qualitative criteria.   

For anyone who doesn’t follow business news, Disruptor 50 is a ranked listing of the most innovative and promising startup companies. It allows CNBC to acquire rich insights about high-flying companies – Lyft, Airbnb, Snapchat and Twilio among them – over a period of years before they go public.

Spiegel also helped to develop CNBC’s partnership with Kensho, a powerful tool for mining historical and financial data about stocks and market trends that adds to CNBC’s depth of reporting. CNBC can leverage the exclusive content it produces to woo sponsors and boost the brand.

David Spiegel (left) speaks with CNBC markets reporter Dominic Chu. Photo credit: Adam Jeffrey, CNBC senior photo editor.
David Spiegel (left) speaks with CNBC markets reporter Dominic Chu. Photo credit: Adam Jeffrey, CNBC senior photo editor.

"I like it because I like thinking big picture. I like thinking about trends,” Spiegel said of his job. "I like thinking about where the world is headed and where the market is headed."

Still, Spiegel had originally envisioned a different sort of career. He studied screen writing as an undergraduate and thought he would write for television – or Hollywood. After college, as much as he wanted to write, he also wanted to make a living. "I wanted to be a writer, but I always felt if you can write one thing, you can write another," he said. "I could see myself doing other things."

With the help of a family friend, he landed a job doing business news at CNN not long before subprime mortgages set off the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

In those early days of work at CNN as a production assistant, Spiegel also spent weekends with his composer brother working on a musical, a "passion project," that he called Camp Rolling Hills. The script wasn’t autobiographical but as Spiegel, who spent 12 summers at camp in the foothills of New York State’s Catskills, said: "I get the camp experience."

In the bustle of life, ambitions and career demands, the story about a group of youngsters away at summer camp – complete with scribbled notes about what sort of music still needed to be written for certain parts – was gently put aside.

After nearly five years at CNN, Spiegel began thinking about his next move. "I thought, do I want to be an executive producer, do I want to run a show? I didn’t quite see it," he said.

He decided to pursue a MBA part time at Rutgers Business School, juggling studies around reporting on business for CNN, a marriage and fatherhood. "Anytime you have a chance to add to your educational repertoire, it has benefits," he said. "Going to Rutgers got me to think about what I wanted to do and what my strengths were."

David Spiegel with his composer brother Adam and author Stacy Davidowitz on the opening night performance of the musical Camp Rolling Hills in New York.
David Spiegel with his composer brother Adam and author Stacy Davidowitz on the opening night performance of the musical Camp Rolling Hills in New York.

While he was working on his MBA, Spiegel said realized he didn’t have to change his career or leave journalism. Instead, he could use his business knowledge to build on his news media experience. When he was a semester away from completing his graduate studies in marketing and marketing analytics, he was offered his current job at CNBC.

Eventually, the script for the Camp Rolling Hills musical was pulled out, dusted off and finished by Spiegel’s brother, Adam Spiegel, a New York City-based composer and lyricist, and Stacy Davidowitz, an author and lyricist. Davidowitz, who also spent summers at camp, used the script as the basis for two sweet books for middle school readers, Camp Rolling Hills and Camp Rolling Hills Crossing Over. A third book due out next year (Camp Rolling Hills: Breakout!) will continue the series.

The musical was performed at the Pearl Theatre as part of the New York Musical Festival in association with Center Stage Theatre Co., Camp Rolling Hills Musical LLC and Paige Reinis. It closed Sunday, Aug. 7. More details about the show.

"I love what Stacy did with it," Spiegel said. "I’m thrilled that it’s happening."

He is also happy with the career path he ended up following to CNBC.

"We do good work. We do important work,” he said. “It’s still creative work. “It’s problem-solving, it’s thinking about target audiences, it’s about demographics, it’s about building a brand, all things that I learned in business school combined with all the creative stuff and business writing I learned through experience."

-Susan Todd

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