A television mogul who was one of the true legends of the industry has died. According to media reports, Merv Adelson died Wednesday at 85.
Adelson was a co-founder of Lorimar with Irwin Molasky and Lee Rich in 1969, and went on to produce some of television’s biggest hits of the 1970s and 1980s. Lorimar became a prolific supplier of hit TV series including “The Waltons,” “Eight Is Enough,” “Dallas,” “Knots Landing,” “The People’s Court,” “Falcon Crest” and “Full House.”
Adelson was married to another TV icon, Barbara Walters, twice — from 1981-84 and again from 1986-92.
“Adelson’s long career was marked by highs and lows that were equally spectacular,” Variety notes. “He was once one of the most powerful independent moguls in Hollywood, but in later years lost his fortune on bad bets during the early dot-com era and in the meltdown that followed the merger of AOL and Time Warner. He was forced to declare bankruptcy in 2003 and spent his final years living in modest digs in Santa Monica.”
The Hollywood Reporter notes that Adelson, born in Los Angeles, made his first fortune in his 20s through a 24-hour grocery store he opened in Las Vegas. “The grocery store led to more real estate projects, including the building of the famed La Costa resort in the early 1960s,” THR reports.
The THR story adds: “Throughout this period, Adelson and partner Molasky were dogged with rumors of mob ties, and Adelson later admitted in a 2013 Vanity Fair profile to being friends with the ‘Godfather of Las Vegas,’ Moe Dalitz. ‘I never asked him about [anything illegal]. I didn’t want to know the answer,’ he told the magazine.”
Lorimar was so successful in its heyday that it became known as the fifth network. “The company merged with syndicator Telepictures in 1985, and the whole company was sold to Warner Bros. in 1989 for $1.2 billion,” THR reports. “Following the acquisition, Adelson became the vice chairman at Warners until 1991.”