NEP Group has announced that founder Tom Shelburne has passed away aged 81 after a brief illness.
Shelburne founded NEP Supershooters in 1987, and grew the company, now called NEP Group to become the world’s leading mobile broadcast production company and later the global media technology partner it is today.
Shelburne’s vision of what a mobile production truck could do launched the remote production industry that is today so essential to live broadcasting.
The company began as WNEP, an ABC affiliate in Scranton, Pa, owned by the Shelburne family. The staff there developed the company’s first mobile broadcast units, tractor trailers filled with broadcast equipment to cover events on the road, beginning with Penn State University football games.
In 1986, the operation was spun out as NEP, an independent company, and one year later merged with Pittsburgh-based TCS. Co-founders Deb Honkus and George Wensel joined Shelburne to run the company and decided to relocate NEP to Pittsburgh.
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“Tom Shelburne was special. He was always about the people,” said Ken Aagaard, President, CBT, and former Executive VP of CBS Sports. “As the seed of NEP, Tom recognized from the beginning that he needed the best. He bought TCS just because they had two people he knew would grow his business: Hall of Famers George Wensel and Deb Honkus. Tom was not only a pioneer of sports TV but a cowboy who knew how to get whatever needed to be done, done.
“There was no show too small or too big for Tom to take on,” Aagaard continued. “There are few owners who could be found in the back of the racks of a distressed truck or who would take over a camera assignment if needed. He loved working on the front lines of sports broadcasts. There was nobody better, nobody more fun to be around.”
Co-founder Deb Honkus said, “I am honored I was able to be an integral part of building such a great company and team with Tom. His leadership and passion for what we do as a business – and as an industry – and the people was unmatched. He never followed the rules, but he always put our clients and our staff first. It was a great 30 years building a dynasty and it couldn’t have been done without Tom.”
Mike Werteen, Global President of NEP Broadcast Services, added: “There are few who can change an industry, but Tom Shelburne did. He is now on the Mount Rushmore of the remote production industry. His passion for excellence, his commitment to clients and his unwavering care for people are still the qualities NEP cares about the most. When I see the NEP logo on our offices around the globe I know Tom would be proud that his legacy and commitment will live on.”
Shelburne was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2007. His legacy of innovation in the broadcast industry and at NEP will be celebrated this December as part of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame ceremony in New York, hosted by Sports Video Group.