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October 26, 2011

Daniel B. Burke, Influential Broadcasting Executive and Television Academy Hall of Famer

Burke and fellow executive Thomas Murphy built Capital Cities from a local station group to a powerhouse that acquired ABC.

Daniel B. Burke, a broadcasting executive whose partnership with fellow executive Thomas S. Murphy took them from a local station in Albany, New York, to control of Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., died October 26, 2011, at his home in Rye, New York. He was 82. According to news reports, the cause was complications of diabetes. Burke, the father of Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal and executive vice president of Comcast, was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 2008, along with Murphy. In a published statement, Murphy said. “Dan was a brilliant executive and my business partner for 33 years. 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 began his Capital Cities career in 1961 as general manager of WTEN-TV in Albany. In 1964 he became general manager of WJR Detroit and became executive vice president and director in 1967. He was president of the publishing division from 1969 to 1972. In January of 1986, with Burke and Murphy in charge, Capital Cities achieved global recognition with the acquisition of the American Broadcasting Companies. At the time, the $3.5 billion deal marked the largest non-oil merger in business history. Ten years later, the duo sold Capital Cities/ABC to The Walt Disney Co. In a statement upon Burke’s passing, Robert Iger, Disney president and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, said, “A gifted executive and natural teacher, and a man with a strong sense of right and wrong, Dan Burke led by example. 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.” Born in Albany on February 4, 1929, Burke graduated from the University of Vermont in 1950. He then joined the Army and served eight months in Korea as a First Lieutenant and Mortar Platoon Leader. In 1953 he left the Army and enrolled at Harvard Business School, where he received an MBA two years later. Prior to joining Capital Cities, he worked for General Foods’ Jell-O Division from 1955 until 1961. After retiring from Capital Cities/ABC in 1994, Burke started a minor league baseball franchise, the Sea Dogs, in Portland, Maine. He also served as a director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and chairman emeritus of New York Presbyterian Hospital — now Columbia Presbyterian. In 1990, President George W. Bush appointed Burke to the Hungarian-American Enterprise Fund, to promote the private sector in Hungary. He was on the board of trustees at the University of Vermont. In addition, he served on the boards of the American Woman’s Economic Development Corporation, the National Urban League, Cities in Schools, Morgan Stanley Group, Inc., Consolidated Rail Corporation, Rohm and Haas, Darden Restaurants and the Washington Post Company. In addition to son Steve, he is survived by Harriet “Bunny” Burke, his wife of 54 years, and three other children: Frank Burke, Sally McNamara of Wellesley, Massachusetts 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, November 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. Upon his induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, the The program for the Hall of Fame ceremony included 
a tribute by writer Ann Farmer, which is available here.

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