After building Capital Cities into a major station group, he and longtime partner Tom Murphy bought ABC. Together, they ran CapCities/ABC for 10 years before selling it in 1996 to Disney. “Dan shaped the culture of the company, with an emphasis on accountability, directness, irreverence and community service,” says Murphy. “He was serious and committed, with a wicked sense of humor that made every day more fun.”
Daniel Burke, whose exceptional broadcasting career took him from general manager of WTEN Albany, N.Y., to president and CEO of Capital Cities/ABC Inc., died today from complication of diabetes at his home in Rye, N.Y. He was 82.
Burke is the father of Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal and executive vice president of Comcast.
“Dan was a brilliant executive and my business partner for 33 years,” said his longtime partner Tom Murphy. “He was also a friend whose intelligence and integrity greatly inspired those around him. Dan shaped the culture of the company, with an emphasis on accountability, directness, irreverence and community service. He was serious and committed, with a wicked sense of humor that made every day more fun.”
Burke joined Capital Cities in 1961 as GM of WTEN Albany and steadily moved up the ranks. He was appointed GM of WJR Detroit in 1964 and EVP and director of the company in 1967. He served as president of the publishing division from 1969 to 1972.
With Burke and Murphy in charge, Capital Cities thrust itself into the top ranks of media companies in January 1986 when it acquired the American Broadcasting Companies. At the time, it was the largest non-oil merger in business history. Ten years later, they sold Capital Cities/ABC to The Walt Disney Co.
Disney CEO Bob Iger called Burke “a gifted executive … natural teacher and a man with a strong sense of right and wrong…. 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.”
Following his retirement from Capital Cities/ABC in 1994, Burke turned his attention to his minor league baseball franchise — the Sea Dogs — in Portland, Maine.
Prior to joining Capital Cities, Burke worked for General Foods’ Jell-O Division in various capacities from 1955 until 1961.
Burke received a BA degree from the University of Vermont in 1950. Following his service as an infantry lieutenant in the Korean War in 1951 and 1952, he received an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1955.
In addition to son Steve, he is survived by Harriet “Bunny” Burke, his wife of 54 years, and three other children: Frank Burke of Chattanooga, Tenn., Sally McNamara of Wellesley, Mass.. and Bill Burke of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
A visitation service will be held at the Graham Funeral Home, 1036 Post Road in Rye, N.Y. on Sunday, Oct. 30, from 3 to 7 p.m. The funeral will take place at St. Martha Church, 30 Portland Road, Kennebunk, Maine, on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, his family requests that donations be made to Maine Medical Center, The Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the Naomie Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center.