A man of multiple passions
Music, business and education drive David Langstaff in his post-Veridian career
- By David Hubler
- May 21, 2008
Move over, Ken Burns. David Langstaff, the former
president and chief executive officer at Veridian
Corp., is planning a TV documentary for PBS.
Langstaff is chairman at Wildheart Group,
which is producing a multiepisode history of
recorded music that is scheduled
to air in fall 2010. The
project also includes his
brother Maxim, former Beatles music producer
Sir George Martin and actor Kevin Spacey.
"We're looking at the history of recorded
music through the eyes of Sir George, and Kevin
Spacey as the narrator," he said. "It's not just
[about] the Beatles, it spans literally everything
from the standpoint of technology development,
music of course, and then the impact on society
and culture over that time. It's quite exciting."
The production offers Langstaff the opportunity
to combine his three passions: business,
music and education. His job is to provide business
guidance and help raise money for the
Toronto-based project. Filming will take place in
the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
The educational series is a long way from
Langstaff 's former career at Veridian. He was
president and CEO of the information technology
company from its formation in 1997 until its
sale to General Dynamics Corp. in August 2003
for $1.5 billion. He also served in various C-level
positions at Veridian's predecessor companies.
From September 2004 to June 2005,
Langstaff was a part-time employee of SRA
International Inc., assisting the
board of directors on strategic
matters. He has been on the
SRA board since 2004.
"It's not my nature to disengage," Langstaff
said. "I am not one to go sit on the beach or to
sleep until 10 a.m. I have been active ? just
with a broader focus and a different set of
Langstaff said he's keeping his options open for
returning to the government contractor arena. "I
may try to create a new business at some point,
run a company or join another board."
Since Langstaff 's brief stint at Olive Group, a
provider of integrated risk mitigation solutions,
ended in January 2008, he has been able to turn
his attention to his trio of interests. "Frankly, I
take a fair amount of pride that there is that
breadth, if you will, to my interests."
Langstaff is chairman of the advisory board at
the Aspen Institute's Business and Society
Program. That program seeks to foster "the kind
of relationship that should exist and the responsibility
that business has to more than just its
own shareholders," he said.
"Having been in business for so many years
and raised all kinds of capital and then taking
the business public, I have a good sense as to ?
and actually fairly clear opinions about ? the
role of business in society," he said. "The foundation
of building Veridian was as a values-based
company, and so I believe very strongly in the
leadership lessons that come from really understanding
and building off core values."
As a result of the Business and Society
Program's work with business leaders, institutional
investors and other governance experts,
the institute has drawn up the Aspen Principles to address what it believes is a short-term focus
by management and investors at the expense of
"We're trying to get people to realize that we've
got to be building businesses for the longer term if
we're going to be really responsible players," he said.
Langstaff also moderates the Aspen Seminar
for executive leadership, which combines modern
management theories with philosophy and
the great books of civilization.
He is chairman of the board of directors of the
BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown,
Md., a trustee of the Committee for Economic
Development and a member of the board of
directors of the Potomac School in Virginia.GETTING IN TUNE
Langstaff said it was difficult to maintain his
outside interests while running a public company.
However, since leaving Veridian, he has
again taken up the recorder, an instrument he
was given in the first grade. He plays baroque
music and performs a few times a year as a
soloist with orchestras in the United States and
"It's been a real source of satisfaction to get
a little bit more balance in my life performing
and playing music," he said. "It's a different
kind of pressure, but great fun."
Langstaff said only a handful of things truly
motivate him ? quality people, shared values, an
exciting vision and making an impact. "I've found
that I've been successful in periods of change ?
where there's turmoil, where there's a fair amount
of ambiguity ? because I think that kind of circumstance
lends itself to exciting and bold steps."
Langstaff said he predicts a more competitive
federal contracting market during the next few
years as agency budgets remain constrained and
procurement officials seek more value for less
money. "Companies that have a real value
proposition are going to do fine," he said. Such a
climate "really forces companies to be clear
about what it is they are trying to do."
Meanwhile, Langstaff is looking forward to
an August rafting trip down the Colorado River
in the Grand Canyon. "I've had that planned for
about five years," he said. And he is considering
a two-week music performance tour of France in
June 2009. "Perhaps [playing] Bach or
Telemann," he said. "We'll see."David Hubler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate
editor at Washington Technology.