Richard King, a member of the King World Productions family dynasty that build a small syndication firm into an industry powerhouse, died Dec. 7 in Los Angeles after battling heart and lung problems. He was 79.
King was one of six children who inherited King World Productions in 1972 after the death of patriarch Charles King. The company was known for distributing “The Little Rascals” and other vintage Hollywood fare in syndication.
After the six King heirs — four brothers and two sisters — took command of the company as adults, King World Productions grew into a major player as the home of long-running hits such as “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy!” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The company’s syndication pact with Oprah Winfrey, then a star anchor in Chicago, in 1986 transformed its fortunes as the show rocketed to No. 1 in daytime and set Winfrey on the path to riches and influence.
By the mid-1980s, King World was largely run by Roger King and Michael King although the other siblings — Robert, Richard, Diana and Karen — remained board members. King World went public in 1984 and was acquired by CBS in 2000.
Known as Richie, Richard King was the second of the six children. He was known as a fun-loving raconteur and family man who loved to travel. He was a football player in his youth.
Born in Plainfield, N.J., Richard King served in the Army and worked in radio at a small station in Worcester, Mass. before turning to the family business. Later in life, King owned a chain of retail outlets dubbed All Night Boutiques and he worked as a real estate developer in south Florida.
King’s death leaves his sister Karen as the only surviving sibling. Richard King’s survivors also include his wife of 26 years, Lauren; four children, Charlie, Richard, Jr., Michael and Bobby; and five grandchildren.