Leonard H. Goldenson (December 7, 1905 – December 27, 1999) was President of the U.S. television and radio broadcaster ABC.
Early life and career
Goldenson was born to a Jewish family in Pennsylvania in 1905. He grew up in the town of Scottdale, Pennsylvania and graduated from Scottdale High School. He was educated at Harvard, and entered the entertainment industry in 1933 as an attorney for Paramount Pictures after graduating from Harvard Business School. Goldenson was hired to help reorganize United Paramount Theatres, Paramount's theater chain, which at the time was nearing bankruptcy. So skillful was his work at this assignment that Paramount's chief executive officer, Barney Balaban, hired Goldenson to manage the entire chain.
Career at ABC
Goldenson orchestrated the merger of United Paramount Theatres with ABC in 1953 (after Paramount was ordered to spin it off in the wake of United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., a 1948 decree of the U.S. Supreme Court). ABC was originally formed in 1943 in the wake of an earlier Supreme Court decree effectively ordering the spinoff of the largely secondary-status Blue Network from its then-parent, NBC; its buyer, industrialist Edward J. Noble, tried valiantly to build ABC into an innovative and competitive broadcaster, but by 1951 was rumored to be on the verge of selling the nearly bankrupt operation to CBS, who apparently wanted ABC's critically important owned-and-operated television stations.
Goldenson rescued ABC with a $25 million cash infusion, becoming the founding chairman of the merged company which was named American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres. The modern ABC dates its history from the effective date of the Goldenson transaction, and not the Blue Network spinoff.
Although he focused chiefly on ABC Television, Goldenson oversaw all areas of ABC-Paramount's entertainment/media operations for over thirty years, from 1951 to 1986, including the creation of the AmPar Record Corporation in 1955 and the 'rebadging' of the ABC-Paramount group as the American Broadcasting Company in 1968. Goldenson also was instrumental in the sale of ABC to Capital Cities Communications in 1986. Very early on in his tenure, Goldenson also hired the first African-American staff announcer in network television and radio history, Sid McCoy.
His wife was Isabelle Charlotte Weinstein, co-founder of United Cerebral Palsy. Goldenson, whose first-born daughter was born with cerebral palsy, co-founded United Cerebral Palsy in 1949 and used station WBKB (at the time owned by United Paramount Theatres) to be the flagship station for the inaugural UCP telethon that year.
In 1974, Mr. Goldenson received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York."
The Leonard H. Goldenson Theater at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences building in North Hollywood, California is named in his honor. Goldenson was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1987.
Goldenson was known for always flying economy class and never driving a new car.
- Los Angeles Times: "Hollywood Star Walk - Leonard H. Goldenson" retrieved December 25, 2015
- Goldberg, J. J. (1996). Jewish Power. Addison Wesley. p. 286. ISBN 0-201-32798-8.
- Murray, Michael D.; Godfrey, Donald G., eds. (1997). Television in America: Local Station History from Across the Nation. Ames, IA: Iowa State Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-8138-2969-0.
- Quinlan, Sterling (1979). Inside ABC: American Broadcasting Company's rise to power. New York: Hastings House. p. 17. ISBN 0-8038-6765-4.
- Ashley Kahn; The House That Coltrane Built (Granta Books, London, 2006), p.284
- Jewish Women's Archive: "ISABELLE CHARLOTTE WEINSTEIN GOLDENSON -Disability Rights Activist, Co-founder of United Cerebral Palsy 1921 – 2005" retrieved December 25, 2015
- New York Times: "Leonard Goldenson, Force Behind ABC, Is Dead at 94" By FELICITY BARRINGER December 28, 1999
- Leonard Goldenson at the Museum of Broadcast Communications
- Leonard Goldenson Official Website
- Leonard Goldenson at the Internet Movie Database
- Disney Legends profile
- Interview with Archive of American Television
- Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre
- Booknotes interview with Goldenson on Beating the Odds, March 17, 1991.