Veteran exec Daniel Burke dies at 82

Ex-Capital Cities/ABC CEO spent more than 30 years at media conglom

Daniel Burke, former Capital Cities/ABC president and CEO and the father of NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, died of complications from diabetes at his home in Rye, N.Y., on Wednesday. He was 82.

Over a period of three decades, Daniel Burke and his business partner Tom Murphy built Capital Cities from a television station in Albany, N.Y., into a company with TV and radio operations as well as newspapers and magazines.

Burke oversaw its surprise 1986 purchase of ABC, a much larger company, which thrust him and longtime business partner Murphy into the national spotlight. At the time, the $3.5 billion deal (undertaken with Warren Buffett’s backing) was the largest non-oil merger in business history. Burke retired from Capital Cities/ABC in 1994, two years before it was sold to the Walt Disney Co. for $19 billion.

Disney president-CEO Robert A. Iger called Burke “a gifted executive and natural teacher and a man with a strong sense of right and wrong” who “led by example. He stood for integrity and directness in business, and encouraged a balance in work and family life and involvement in one’s community. Dan had a significant impact on me and all those he touched, and for that I will always be grateful.”

Burke served as an infantry lieutenant in the Korean War in 1951-52 after graduating from the U. of Vermont with a B.A. in 1950. He earned his MBA at Harvard in 1955.

In 1961 Burke was working at General Foods when he was recruited by Murphy of Capital Cities Broadcasting to run the company’s television station, WTEN, in Albany. That was the beginning of their partnership. Burke was made a VP in 1962 and was appointed general manager of WJR-AM/FM in Detroit in 1964. He became exec VP and director of Cap Cities in 1967 and was president of the publishing division from 1969-72. He was president and chief operating officer of the company from 1972 to 1990, when he ascended to prexy-CEO.

The recognition Burke received for his business leadership included his appointment by President George H.W. Bush to the Hungarian-American Enterprise Fund, which managed U.S. aid to Hungary’s private sector. Outside the business world, he served as director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and chairman emeritus of New York Presbyterian Hospital. He also created a minor league baseball franchise in Maine — the Sea Dogs.

In addition to Steve Burke, a former president of ABC, Daniel Burke is survived by his wife of 54 years, Harriet “Bunny” Burke; sons Bill, a former president of TBS and the Weather Channel, and Frank; daughter Sally; a brother and a sister; and 14 grandchildren.

A visitation service will be held at Graham Funeral Home, 1036 Post Road in Rye on Monday, from 3-7 p.m. The funeral will take place at St. Martha Church, 30 Portland Road in Kennebunk, Me.

Donations may be made to Maine Medical Center, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America or the Naomie Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia U. Medical Center.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More Scene

  • Chrissy TeigenBaby2Baby Gala, Arrivals, 3Labs, Los

    Chrissy Teigen Receives Giving Tree Award at 2019 Baby2Baby Gala

    Chrissy Teigen accepted the “Giving Tree” Award at the 2019 Baby2Baby Gala on Saturday with a speech chockful of her trademark humor and humility. Upon receiving a standing ovation, Teigen laughingly told the star-studded crowd to sit down, joking that she is more accustomed to receiving an accolade for “Best Titties” at the Spike TV [...]

  • Co-host Rita Moreno performs on stage

    Rita Moreno's Role in New 'West Side Story' Is More Than a Cameo: 'It’s a Real Part'

    During her live show, “An Evening with Rita Moreno,” Saturday night, Rita Moreno told the audience she will have a “real” role in next December’s “West Side Story” remake, which recently wrapped shooting, and that she initially had concerns about the film’s production. “At first, it was interesting when I heard there were rumors that [...]

  • Charlize Theron American Cinematheque

    Seth Rogen, Seth MacFarlane Roast Charlize Theron During Bawdy American Cinematheque Ceremony

    As Charlize Theron accepted the 33rd American Cinematheque honor at the Beverly Hilton on Friday night, the atmosphere more resembled a roast than a reverential evening celebrating the cinematic achievements of an Oscar winner. Presenters like Seth Rogen, Kristen Stewart and Seth MacFarlane shared bawdy jokes and reveals about what it’s really like working with [...]

  • Katie Couric

    Katie Couric Says Matt Lauer 'Ultimately Turned Out to Be Two Very Different People'

    Katie Couric discussed Matt Lauer, the Me Too movement and female leadership in business at the Dress for Success annual Women Who Inspire breakfast in New York City on Wednesday. Couric, who spoke during a fireside chat at the nonprofit’s female empowerment event, was asked about Lauer’s ouster from the “Today” show, and the many [...]

  • Tina Turner Musical

    Oprah Winfrey Joins Tina Turner for the Opening Night of 'Tina' Musical on Broadway

    On Thursday night in New York City, Tina Turner joined the ranks of Cher, Donna Summer, the Temptations and the Jersey Boys — Carole King, too — baptized, as it were, in the disco inferno of a high-powered Broadway jukebox. “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” joins a steady stream of bio-musicals bent on squeezing, often [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content