TV executive who syndicated Oprah dies

Sun Dec 9, 2007 12:20pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Roger King, a savvy television entrepreneur who helped turn Oprah Winfrey into one of the world's most powerful entertainers, died in Florida on Saturday.

King, the CEO of CBS Television Distribution, was 63. He suffered a stroke on Friday at his home in Boca Raton, parent company CBS Corp said in a statement.

King and his brother Michael rose to fame and fortune in the 1980s with their company King World Productions, which syndicated such hugely profitable programs as "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune."

King World signed Winfrey when the one-time TV newscaster hosted a top-rated Chicago talk show called "AM Chicago." The company sold the show -- renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show" -- to local stations on condition they run it in the lucrative 4 p.m. slot.

After it launched nationally in 1986, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" quickly became a phenomenon. According to Winfrey's Web site, it is seen by an estimated 46 million viewers a week in the United States, and is broadcast internationally in 134 countries.

The Kings sold King World, a publicly traded, cash-rich firm founded in 1964 by their father, Charles, to CBS in 2000 for about $2.5 billion in stock.

Roger King, who specialized in sales and relationships with local stations, remained with the business, adding such shows as "Dr. Phil" and "Rachael Ray" to CBS' assets.

"Television has lost a legend -- a truly original executive with an unparalleled combination of business acumen, passion and personality," said CBS Corp CEO Leslie Moonves.