Exec engineered Westinghouse takeover of Eye

Former CBS chairman Michael Jordan, who orchestrated Westinghouse Electric Corp.’s purchase of the Eye in 1995, died Tuesday of complications from cancer in New York. He was 73.

Growing up during the Depression in Kansas, he sought a career that would weather the ups and downs of the economy. He became a chemical engineer after graduating from Yale and Princeton.

After a stint in the Navy’s nuclear submarine program, he became a business consultant and worked at PepsiCo and private investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.

In 1993, he joined a troubled Westinghouse as its first outside chairman. He led the Pittsburgh-based company, which was a mix of industrial and manufacturing businesses and TV stations, through a major transformation. After the purchase of CBS, the combined entity was renamed CBS Corp.

“With the addition of CBS, Westinghouse is creating a premierbroadcasting powerhouse and taking a leadership position in programming,” Jordan said at the time. “Our television and radio stations will reach more homes than any other broadcaster and provide a unique and powerful platform for our advertisers.”

Shortly after Westinghouse sealed the deal with CBS, Eye execs recruited then-Warner Bros. TV president Leslie Moonves to run the Eye’s programming division. Moonves’ arrival spurred the start of a turnaround for the network that has remained the nation’s most-watched network for more than a decade. Moonves, now prexy and CEO of CBS Corp., called Jordan “a man of great vision and compassion whose thoughtful guidance of both Westinghouse and then CBS helped to shape the future of our company” and also remembered him as having a “wonderful, ironic sense of humor and a great love of work and of life.”

Once the $5.4 billion acquisition was complete, the new CBS moved quickly to acquire other media properties, snapping up the second-largest radio group Infinity Broadcasting in 1996 for $4.9 billion. Jordan also pushed the Eye into the cable biz, acquiring the Nashville Network (TNN) and Country Music Television (CMT) from Gaylord for $1.55 billion.

Under Jordan’s leadership, Westinghouse sold off its industrial units such as Thermo-King and Knoll Group.

“Mike took over Westinghouse when most thought its demise was inevitable and brought it back to life, transforming the old industrial corporation into one completely focused in the media world,” Moonves said. “He was fiercely intelligent, with a great strategic mind that was able to unlock complex situations and challenges and turn them into meaningful action.”

Jordan retired from CBS in December 1998. He became a private investor and authored a mystery novel. Sumner Redstone’s Viacom acquired CBS in 2000; the companies were split in two again in 2006.

Jordan was often praised for his calm manner and easy-going style as he led the company through massive changes. While Forbes once called Jordan one of the country’s least charismatic CEOs, others said he was personally engaging and a gifted turnaround artist and dealmaker.

Survivors include his wife, Hilary Cecil-Jordan; a son and a daughter; a stepson and stepdaughter; and six grandchildren.

A memorial will be held at 4 p.m. June 14 at St. James Episcopal Church in New York.

Donations may be made to the Center for Excellence in Education, 8201 Greensboro Dr., Suite 215, McLean, VA 22102, or the United Negro College Fund, 8260 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, P. O. Box 10444, Fairfax, VA 22031

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