Michael King, whose tenure as an executive at King World Productions saw the rise of many of America’s most popular and profitable syndicated programs, has died at the age of 66.
Along with his brothers and sisters, King inherited King World from his father in 1973, and spent the next few decades transforming the distribution company into one of the top names in TV syndication. In the early ’80s, King World landed a major coup by acquiring the rights to two of Merv Griffin’s old game shows—Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy!—and transforming them into two of the top syndicated programs on American TV.
Then, in 1986, King—working with his older brother, Roger—partnered with the host of a popular Chicago-area talk show in order to bring her program to a national audience. The result was The Oprah Winfrey Show, whose distribution deal with King World would last for 20 years and spawn multiple talk show spinoffs, including Dr. Phil and Rachel Ray.
After King World’s sale to CBS in 2000, King largely retired from the television business, instead focusing on his boxing promotion company, King Sports Worldwide. A lifelong sports fan, King was also part owner for a time of various New York sports franchises, including the Nets, the New York Devils, and the Yankees.
King reportedly died of complications from a virus contracted several weeks ago; he is survived by his wife and four children.