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A tough negotiator and man of honor

Dec 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Jake Keever, who reigned for 13 years as executive VP in charge of advertising sales at ABC, primarily during the 1980s, died of cancer on Thanksgiving Day. Mr. Keever, whose real name was H. Weller Keever, was 75.
“Jake was the gentleman’s gentleman,” said Dan Rank, the former managing director of OMD and now executive VP of the Universal Television Group. “When I was a very young, very green buyer in Chicago, he befriended me. He was much senior and I was surprised he would give me the time of day. It was very generous of him, and something few people in business will do.”
Best-selling author Ken Auletta is another person who is grateful for having learned about the business from Mr. Keever. Mr. Auletta, the well-known New Yorker media writer, gave Mr. Keever 15 minutes in the spotlight when he featured him as part of his best-seller about the network TV business, “Three Blind Mice.”
“Television is generally a business that does not welcome scrutiny from journalists, especially [from] one who wants to hang around and be a part of meetings. But Jake let me do that. He was like a teacher to me, teaching me how a network sales operation works. He was wonderful. And a great salesman. Even if you didn’t have any money, Jake could have sold you something. I’m very sorry to hear of his passing.”
Jake was a big man who was not afraid to throw his weight around. “I remember him feigning to lunge at me a number of times if he didn’t like how the negotiations were going,” one media buyer said.
“I remember one really tough negotiation,” said former BBDO media executive Arnie Semsky. “I really didn’t know how I was going to approach it with Jake. Then I thought of it. I had a big plate of cookies brought in soon after our meeting started. I saw Jake’s face light up. Five minutes later the deal was done and Jake said, “Now let’s enjoy the cookies.”
“In his day, he was the most focused of the network sales chiefs,” said Irwin Gotlieb, worldwide CEO of MindShare. “He would negotiate like a son-of-a-gun, but I never knew him to go back on his word.”
He is survived by his wife, Joan, two children and two grandchildren. One of his children, Jim, is also in the TV business.