“He was my partner in everything,” Michael King said on Sunday morning, his voice catching every so often as he spoke of his older brother, Roger King, the industry titan who died unexpectedly on Saturday at age 63.
The brothers worked shoulder to shoulder for nearly 30 years to build King World Prods. into the preeminent syndie distrib of the 1980s and ’90s as the home of power hitters “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and more recently “Dr. Phil” and “Rachael Ray.”
Roger King knew just about everyone in the broadcasting biz, but Michael knew Roger in a way that only a brother and trusted business partner could. (Michael is pictured at right, Roger at left.)
“The King brothers always hung out together, before there was a King World, back when we lived on what was basically a farm on the Jersey shore. Our whole family always did fun stuff together, and we were always talking about the business we revered and how we were going to grow in it,” Michael said.
As Roger was always quick to state, the King clan’s success was rooted in the lessons they learned from their father, Charles King, who also worked in radio and TV sales. Charles preached integrity and honesty to his six kids (two other brothers, Robert and Richard, and two girls, Diana and Karen), and the importance of always looking out for the long-term relationship over the short-term gain. Charles’ fortunes in showbiz never matched that of his sons, but he was “a great salesman. So entertaining. He had a big laugh,” Michael recalls.
“My dad said, ‘Make a deal that both parties can walk away from smiling, and then give ’em a little more. You will do business with them your whole career.’ He said you have to remember that you come in to the room with your integrity and it’s the only thing you leave with. Taking every dime off the table in a deal is bad business. It’s really short-sighted. We learned from that.”