Dan Burke, Media Industry Veteran, Dies at 82

Burke helped create Capital Cities/ABC Inc. before it was sold to The Walt Disney Co.

Thursday, Oct 27, 2011  |  Updated 6:22 PM EDT
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Daniel Burke, one of the most powerful corporate leaders in America, died at his Rye, N.Y. home Wednesday.

NBC New York

Daniel Burke, one of the most powerful corporate leaders in America, died at his Rye, N.Y. home Wednesday.

Daniel Burke, a media industry veteran who helped create Capital Cities/ABC Inc. before it was sold to The Walt Disney Co., has died of complications from diabetes. He was 82.

Burke, along with Tom Murphy, built Capital Cities from a television station in Albany, N.Y., into a company with newspapers, magazines and TV and radio operations.

With Warren Buffett's backing, Capital Cities Communications bought ABC for $3.5 billion in 1986, in what was then the largest non-oil company merger in corporate history.

After helping merge the two companies, Burke was elevated to CEO, where he remained until he retired in February 1994 on his 65th birthday.

Disney bought Capital Cities/ABC for $19 billion in 1996.

Burke's son, Steve Burke, a former president of ABC, is now the CEO of Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement that "Dan had a significant impact on me and all those he touched," calling him a "gifted executive and natural teacher, and a man with a strong sense of right and wrong."

Murphy said Burke was a "brilliant executive" and a "friend whose intelligence and integrity greatly inspired those around him."

"He was serious and committed, with a wicked sense of humor that made every day more fun. The world is a better place for all he contributed," Murphy said.

Two years before he retired, Burke bought the Eastern League minor league baseball franchise, the Sea Dogs of Portland, Maine, with the aim of providing family entertainment in the state where he spent his summers.

Kathie Lee Gifford sang the National Anthem at the first opening day for the Sea Dogs in 1994.

Sea Dogs General Manager Geoff Iacuessa said Burke died surrounded by family Wednesday morning at his home in Rye, N.Y.

Burke was chairman emeritus of the team and his family said in a statement that "overseeing the operations of the team and watching stands filled with families enjoying baseball on beautiful summer nights became one of his life's greatest pleasures."

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Harriet "Bunny" Burke; his children Steve Burke, Frank Burke, Sally McNamara, Bill Burke and 14 grandchildren.

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