Jim Paratore, the veteran producer and former Warner Bros. syndie exec who helped launch the TMZ website and TV show, died following a heart attack while cycling in France on Tuesday. He was 58.
In his more than 25 years with Warner Bros., Paratore was renowned in the syndie biz for his skill at identifying talent and developing long-running franchises. After leaving his post as prexy of Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Prods. in 2006, he launched the WB-based shingle ParaMedia and was an exec producer of Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talker “Ellen” and “TMZ on TV.”
Harvey Levin, “TMZ” exec producer, called Paratore “a total triple threat” who thrived on challenge of developing, producing and marketing TV shows. The two worked together on numerous series over the years.
“Jim was an idea guy,” Levin told Variety. “He was so intensely creative in a very unconventional way. And he was a great producer and strategist. He would always be thinking nine steps ahead of everyone else and know what the ramifications of a decision would be down the line.”
Paratore helped launch TMZ.com after working with Levin on the syndie courtshow “Celebrity Justice.” That show, which ran from 2002-05, had a hard time consistently generating material to fill a daily half-hour format. But Paratore had the brainstorm that the concept would work better as a website, where it could be aggressive in breaking news.
With Levin at the helm, TMZ debuted in late 2005 as a partnership between Telepictures and AOL. Two years later, Paratore shepherded its the adaptation as a nightly magazine-style show.
Although his background from his earliest days in local TV was in programming, Paratore also had a knack for selling shows to prospective buyers, Levin said.
“He was a phenomenal salesman,” Levin said. “From conception to producing, Jim was a master.”
Paratore championed DeGeneres as a natural for daytime TV in 2003 after she’d endured a rough ride with a short-lived CBS sitcom.
“He gave me a chance when no one else would. I love you, Jim,” DeGeneres said via Twitter on Tuesday.
Paratore was a generous boss who took time to mentor younger execs, said Hilary Estey McLoughlin, who succeeded him as Telepictures prexy. “He inspired us to never compromise and to always shoot for the moon,” she said.
Bruce Rosenblum, Warner Bros. TV Group prexy, said Paratore “left an indelible mark not only on our company’s success but on each of us who worked with him during the past 26 years.”
A native of New Orleans, Paratore worked in programming and marketing for TV stations in Miami and Jacksonville, Fla., before becoming veep of production for Lorimar-Telepictures in 1987. He rose to prexy of Telepictures in 1992, after it had been acquired by Warners, just as the syndie biz was enjoying a growth spurt.
He was closely involved with some of the company’s most successful productions, including “Extra,” “Judge Mathis” and “The People’s Court,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “The Tyra Banks Show” and primetime series “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “High School Reunion” and “Steve Harvey’s Big Time.”
Paratore also served as exec VP for Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution from 2002-06.
He is survived by his wife, Jill Wickert, and a daughter.