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Cap Cities/ABC president Dan Burke dies

Sad news to share: Daniel Burke, the longtime president and chief executive of Capital Cities/ABC has died. He was 82.

Burke, along with Tom Murphy, built Cap Cities into what was probably the best-run TV station company in the country; bought ABC in '85-66 when latter was very much down on its luck and  built Cap Cities/ABC into a fine company as well; they later engineered the sale to Disney.

The Cap Cities buy was remarkable for the time — at first, people couldn't even quite figure out what a “Cap Cities” was, or whether ABC was doing the buying, or vice versa. When people figured out the ant had just swallowed the whale, it completely rewrote the entire media landscape; Ted Turner, of course, had had the idea that a small company could swallow a bigger one — hence his quixotic attempt to buy CBS, but Murphy and Burke managed the feat.

Why? Good question, but part of the thinking had to be that they owned many ABC affiliates and were alarmed at the state of the network. What was so special about these guys, Burke and Murphy? Well, they were extremely smart, and like Grant Tinker, who helped salvage NBC, classy and patient. (Of course, they had great fixation on the numbers, sales particularly.) In person, he was a warm, funny guy with very shrewd eyes. You got the sense he knew exactly what he was doing, always.

Burke, I know, has been ill for some time, though — after retirement — took on ownership of the Portland, Maine, baseball team Sea Dogs. (His son, by the way, is Steve  Burke, chief executive of Comcast which now runs NBC.)


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