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Leonard Goldberg, Former 20th Century Fox President and ABC Head of Programming, Dies at 85

Leonard Goldberg, Takashi Murakami and Wendy
Alex Berliner/BEI/Shutterstock

Leonard Goldberg, a prolific producer and TV executive who supervised movies and TV series that captivated viewers in two different centuries, died on Wednesday due to injuries sustained during a fall. He was 85.

Goldberg most recently served as an executive producer on the popular CBS drama series “Blue Bloods,” which is in its tenth season. He was formerly the president of 20th Century Fox, during which time the studio produced hit films like “Broadcast News,” “Die Hard,” “Wall Street,” “Big,” and “Working Girl.” Goldberg also executive produced a number of films under his own production banner, including “War Games,” “Charlie’s Angels,” and “Sleeping With the Enemy.”

He was formerly the head of programming at ABC, during which time he helped pioneer the made-for-television movie format. Hit shows like “Mod Squad,” “That Girl,” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” all came during his time at the network. As the producing partner of Aaron Spelling, Goldberg worked on hit shows like “Charlie’s Angels,” “Hart to Hart,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Fantasy Island,” and “SWAT.” He produced popular television films such as “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” “Something About Amelia,” and “Alex: The Life of the Child.”

He died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, surrounded by his family.

Goldberg began his broadcasting career with ABC’s research department. He moved over to NBC one year later, moving up to the position of supervisor of special projects. He then joined Batten, Barton, Durstine Osborne Advertising, but returned to the ABC as director of New York program development before rising to the role of vice president of daytime programming. His time in that role included introducing shows like “The Dating Game,” “The Newlywed Game,” and “Dark Shadows.” He then became head of ABC programming, a role which he held for three years.

After leaving ABC, Goldberg moved to Screen Gems (now Columbia Pictures Television) as the vice president of production. It was in this role that he shepherded the classic TV movie “Brian’s Song,” with Screen Gems also producing “The Partridge Family” during his time there.

Goldberg is survived by his wife Wendy Howard Goldberg, children Amanda Goldberg Raskind, sons Richard Mirisch and John Mirisch, their spouses, and his five grandchildren.

Many stars and entertainment industry mainstays offered tributes to Goldberg, as he had worked with some of the biggest names in the industry during his long and illustrious career. Read some of them below.

“Leonard Goldberg was quite simply irreplaceable,” “Blue Bloods” star Tom Selleck said. “As a creative force, as a boss, as a friend, as a husband, and a father. His unwavering commitment to our show inspired all of us to take to heart his frequently asked question, ‘What can we do to make it better?’ Rest in peace my friend.”

“Leonard Goldberg had that unique quality of making anyone feel comfortable & special in his presence,” Samuel L. Jackson said. “My wife, daughter & I are thankful for the joy of our friendship, we’ll miss him dearly!”

“Leonard was a giant whose talent, grace, wisdom and strength of character are the template for a life well lived,” Judge Judy Sheindlin said. “He fought so hard to stay on this side of heaven. I will miss him and good counsel.”

“Though the word is so often misused, Leonard Goldberg was the mentor of mentors to me and so many others – he gave you confidence and support and the leeway to make mistakes and he had the sure sense of himself to let you shine,” Barry Diller said. “He gave me my first job and nurtured a wrangly kid into something of an executive, and….he was decent, kind, clever, and a first class citizen.”

“I met Len 40 years ago on a show called ‘Charlies Angels,'” Jaclyn Smith said. “He was an important part of the richest years of my career. It was this shared history that became a wonderful friendship. I have the greatest respect for him not only professionally but more importantly as a loving family man. Len, you are now truly surrounded by angels.”

“Leonard was the kind of executive and producer that simply does not exist any longer,” Scott Rudin said. “He was a one-off. There won’t — there can’t — ever again be a career like his. He invented more things than it’s possible to count. And he was a brilliant, exciting, challenging, demanding, remarkably empowering and deeply inspiring boss. I learned more from him than I would ever admit. I owe him a huge amount of my own career.”

“Leonard was one of the finest people I have ever known,” Sherry Lansing said. “He was highly intelligent and had a great sense of humor. Above all, he was nice to everyone he met – and was admired and loved by them in return. His films and television series will live forever. He also was that unique individual who achieved great success and had a balanced life… He had an extraordinary marriage, wonderful children and grandchildren. He was a great friend, and I will miss him every day for the rest of my life.”

“Leonard Goldberg was a friend of mine for almost 50 years…he was a pioneer in broadcasting…..he was talented, creative, inventive, warm and devoted to his family,” David Geffen said. “He gave many people their first job in TV including Barry Diller and Michael Eisner. I will miss him.”