Longtime NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer dies at 72
Longtime and prolific TV executive Don Ohlmeyer, who led NBC during its heady days of Seinfeld, Friends, and ER, has died. He was 72.
Ohlmeyer’s family confirmed his death in Indian Wells, California, to the New York Times. The cause was cancer. His death was announced by Al Michaels during Sunday’s Giants-Cowboys game on NBC. “[He was] the original producer of Monday Night Football when he was in his 20s,” Michaels said of Ohlmeyer. “He made NBC an entertainment powerhouse in the ’80s and ’90s, a must-see during that particular time. He came back and produced Monday Night Football in 2000.”
While at NBC in the ’90s, Ohlmeyer helped to usher the network into the winner’s circle with mega-hits like Homicide: Life on the Streets, Frasier, and Will & Grace, as well as Seinfeld and Friends. It was during his tenure that the successful “Must-See TV” campaign was created. Both beloved and feared, Ohlmeyer ran the entertainment division from an elevated desk and would sometimes scare the daylights out of entertainment reporters, having once told a scribe, “You are dead to me,” after he wrote what Ohlmeyer perceived as an unfavorable story.
“I’m not a great politician,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1999 after leaving NBC.
“Don Ohlmeyer was a towering figure in sports and entertainment who had an indelible impact both on NBC and our industry,” NBC Entertainment chair Robert Greenblatt said in a statement. “His legacy will live on not only because he is directly responsible for some of the biggest hits in television – Friends, ER, and Will & Grace to name a few – but also because he brought NBC to a new level of classy, sophisticated programming of the highest quality which we all still aspire to achieve today.”
Ohlmeyer began his career at ABC, where he honed his craft on Wide World of Sports and Monday Night Football. He then branched out on his own and created Ohlmeyer Communications Company, which came up with “The Skins Game” for the PGA Tour, among other TV events.
Ohlmeyer is survived by his wife, the former Linda Jonsson; his sons Drew, Chris, Todd, and Kemper; and nine grandchildren, according to the NYT.