Syndie Icon Roger King Passes
Wheel, Oprah & More
Roger King, CEO of CBS Television Distribution and chairman of the prolific syndication company King World, died Saturday morning at his home in Boca Raton, Florida. The cause of death was complications from a stroke. He was 63.
King, whose passing was acknowledged by encomiums from colleagues throughout the television industry, including Oprah Winfrey and CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, was a giant in the syndication business.
Born Aug. 22, 1944, in New Jersey, he was one of six children of Charles and Lucille King. Charles King, a radio producer and program salesman, had an itinerant career for much of Roger King’s youth. In 1964, with $50,000 he reportedly did not have in the bank at the time, Charles King, secured the television rights to the “Our Gang” comedy shorts produced in the 1930s by Hal Roach. King senior packaged the films into half-hour television programs, which he renamed The Little Rascals. To distribute the programs he formed a distribution company, which he christened King World Productions.
Roger King, whose background included stints as a newspaper sales representative, radio station manager, television series host and television station sales manager, took over his father’s company, along with his siblings, in 1972, upon Charles King’s death. Roger King served as chairman and brother Michael became president.
Although King World was struggling at the time, Roger and Michael King’s efforts on behalf of the company helped to turn it into one of the largest, most successful entities of its kind. Over the years, King World flourished on the strength of game shows such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, talk shows The Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil, and the news magazine Inside Edition.
Tall, voluble, fearless, energetic and willing to make personal sales calls to stations in the smallest of markets on behalf of his programming, Roger King earned a reputation as one of the most effective salespeople in television. In addition to success in first-run syndication, he helped to secure lucrative off-network sales of such CBS primetime series as Everybody Loves Raymond, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY, and the reality series Survivor, The Amazing Race and America’s Next Top Model.
In January 2000, King became chief executive officer of CBS Enterprises and King World Productions, following the merger of King World Productions with CBS.
In September 2006, when King World Productions merged with CBS Paramount Domestic Television, King assumed the titles he held at the time of his passing.
Inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1992, King also entered the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2004.
Apart from his media endeavors, King worked on behalf of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the world’s largest, most comprehensive research center dedicated to the treatment and cure for spinal cord injury paralysis. He was also active with Ronald McDonald House and the Make a Wish Foundation.
He is survived by his wife, Raemali, and three daughters, Kellie, Anna Rose and Lucinda.
A private funeral will be held Thursday in Palm Beach, Florida. A public memorial service is planned for New York City in January. King will be buried near his childhood home not far from the New Jersey shore.
In 2004, Roger King was interviewed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s Archive of American Television.
Over the course of the interview, King discussed his early years in television, including his position as general manager of Fort Lauderdale station WKID. He also discussed the founding of the syndication company King World by his father, Charles King, and his later association as an executive with the company. He talked about some of the first shows that King World syndicated and the transition to syndicating its own properties, which began with the game show Wheel of Fortune. He detailed the continued success of the company with such popular programs as Jeopardy!, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil. Additionally, he talked about King World’s merger with CBS, and his subsequent role as CEO of CBS Enterprises.
To view the three-part interview, click here