You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Frank Biondi Jr., Former Viacom and Universal Studios Head, Dies at 74

Frank Biondi Jr., the seasoned entertainment business executive who served tenures as the CEO of HBO, Viacom and Universal Studios, died Monday of cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 74.

Biondi was the consummate example of the kind of polished, Ivy League-trained business executives who rose through the ranks in the entertainment industry in the 1980s and ‘90s. He was a respected leader known as a whiz with financial data and high-level dealmaking, but he left the creative side of network and studio operations to others.

Biondi was remembered by friends and colleagues as a key player in shaping the contemporary media and entertainment industries. Robert Simonds, chairman-CEO of STX Entertainment who is married to Biondi’s daughter Anne, considered him a mentor.

“Anne and I are devastated to lose Frank so young,” Simonds said. “He was not only an icon and mentor to me, as he was to so many in our industry, he was a noble, kind and beloved father to us and an extraordinary grandfather to our children. We cherish the life and memories we shared and we will proudly carry on his legacy.”

Highly regarded as plain-spoken and gentlemanly, he was content to stay out of the direct spotlight for a decade while working for the larger-than-life Viacom mogul Sumner Redstone. He was famously fired by Redstone in January 1996 after a nine-year run as Viacom’s CEO — a move that helped cement Redstone’s reputation as a mercurial boss.

Biondi was immediately courted by Seagrams’ Edgar Bronfman Jr., then the new owner of Universal Studios. (Redstone tried unsuccessfully to block Biondi from joining the rival studio.) But barely two years later Biondi was ousted in a restructuring amid a slump at Universal and the arrival of Barry Diller as a business partner of Bronfman. After Universal, Biondi never returned to a major executive role.

In 1999, Biondi and several partners formed WaterView Advisors, an investment firm focused on media and technology companies. WaterView had a rocky run in its first few years following the initial dot-com collapse.

In January 2006, activist investor Carl Icahn enlisted Biondi as his choice to be CEO of Time Warner as Icahn waged a proxy fight to shake up the board and management of the company that was still reeling from the AOL merger debacle. Icahn’s proxy battle was settled a few months later.

He was much in demand as a director for public media and tech firms. In recent years, Biondi served on the boards of AMC Networks, Madison Square Garden Co. and ViaSat. His past board seats included Cablevision Systems Corporation, RealD, Hasbro, Yahoo! and Harrah’s Entertainment.

Biondi grew up in New Jersey, the son of a Bell Telephone executive. After graduating from Livingston High School in 1962, he earned a BA in psychology from Princeton University in 1966 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1968.

Biondi’s early career included serving as assistant treasurer from 1974 to 1978 at “Sesame Street” producer Children’s Television Workshop. He moved on to Time Inc. as a VP from 1978 to 1984. He took on additional duties as CEO of Time Inc.’s HBO in 1982. Two years later, Biondi exited Time Inc. after he was replaced as HBO CEO by Michael Fuchs. Biondi moved on to become CEO of Coca-Cola Television from 1985 to 1987, during the period when the soft drink giant owned Columbia Pictures.

In 1987, Biondi was recruited by Redstone to run Viacom, the home of MTV, Nickelodeon and other cable channels, which Redstone acquired the same year. Biondi was a key player five years later when Redstone battled Barry Diller for ownership of Paramount Pictures.

He married ABC research executive Carol Oughton in 1974. His other survivors include a daughter, Jane.


More Biz

  • pharrell brain child show

    'Blurred Lines' Flares Up Again - Marvin Gaye Family Claims Pharrell Perjured Himself

    Like a zombie that just won’t stay dead, the “Blurred Lines” case keeps coming back. While the 2015 verdict, in which Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and the song’s publisher were ordered to pay nearly $5 million to Marvin Gaye’s family for infringing upon the late singer’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up,” was basically [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA-Agency Showdown: Role of Showrunners at Heart of Legal Arguments

    The Los Angeles courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte was packed with well-dressed lawyers on Friday morning, eager to watch a high-stakes brawl between Hollywood’s largest talent agencies and the Writers Guild of America. Birotte allowed only four lawyers from each side to sit at each table, leaving the vast majority of the attorneys [...]

  • 700700 + Ted Turner Dedication. December

    Ted Turner Tributes Established With WarnerMedia Gift to University of Georgia

    WarnerMedia has established a scholarship, internship program and exhibition hall at the University of Georgia to be named after maverick media mogul Ted Turner. The company has gifted $550,000 to the university to create the Ted Turner Scholarship Fund, for students attending the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is also the [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Judge Leans Toward Agencies' Position in Writers Guild Antitrust Suit

    A federal judge indicated on Friday that he will allow the three major agencies to pursue their antitrust lawsuit against the Writers Guild of America. The WGA has urged U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte to throw out the suit, arguing that its actions in its ongoing battle with the agencies are protected under antitrust law. [...]

  • Keli LeeStep Up Women Network 9th

    Keli Lee Exits ABC Studios International as Disney Considers Division's Fate (EXCLUSIVE)

    ABC veteran Keli Lee has left the international arm of ABC Studios as Disney considers the future of the London-based content unit, Variety has learned. Sources said Disney has told the creative community that there “has been a re-evaluation of ABC Studios International” and that it is re-assessing “the creative direction” of the business. There [...]

  • Biggest Scandals Feuds and Apologies of

    Biggest Scandals, Feuds and Apologies of 2019

    Variety looks back on some of the biggest scandals, feuds and apologies of 2019: College Admissions Scandal Wealthy parents including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged with bribing school officials to get their unqualified kids into prestigious universities. Shane Gillis Executives at “SNL” hired, then fired, Gillis in September, before the new season started, [...]

  • Biggest Media Moments of 2019

    From 'Catch & Kill' to Shepard Smith: The Biggest Media Moments of 2019

    Variety looks back on some of the most memorable media events of 2019: ‘Catch & Kill’ Reopens Wounds at NBC News Ronan Farrow’s book relitigates his complaints that NBC News tried to tamp down his investigation of harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. NBC News denies the claim. The book contains new allegations against [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content