Rick Ludwin

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Rick Ludwin
Richard Adam Ludwin

(1948-05-27)May 27, 1948
DiedNovember 10, 2019(2019-11-10) (aged 71)
Alma materMiami University
OccupationNBC television executive
Years active1980–2012
Known forChampioning Seinfeld's first season
Also worked on The Tonight Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Saturday Night Live

Richard Adam Ludwin[1] (May 27, 1948 – November 10, 2019) was an American television executive and former vice president at NBC Television. He is notable as the executive who backed Jerry Seinfeld's series Seinfeld, which went on to become one of the most popular and successful television sitcoms of all time.[2][3] During his 31 years at NBC, Ludwin worked with every The Tonight Show host — Steve Allen and Jack Paar, albeit after their time on Tonight, as well as Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and Jimmy Fallon. He also helped guide the network through the Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno conflict in 2010.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Ludwin was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 27, 1948,[1] and grew up in the suburb of Rocky River. He graduated from Rocky River High School in 1966 and attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, graduating with a degree in mass communications in 1970.[5][6]

Ludwin started his television career in 1968 hosting the talk show Studio 14 on Miami University's WPDT Channel 14. For years, Ludwin returned to his alma mater to talk to students. In March 2019, the Williams Hall studio where he began his television career was named the Richard A. Ludwin Television Production Facility.[7]

He also donated items and memorabilia – including 15 original Seinfeld scripts – to the university, where it is now housed as the Rick Ludwin Collection.[8]


In the 1970s, Ludwin wrote jokes for Bob Hope and produced a variety show that aired in Ohio.[9] After graduating from college, Ludwin joined NBC in 1980 and worked at the network for 32 years, during which time he was executive vice president of late night and special programming. As vice president, he oversaw The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Saturday Night Live. He was a staunch supporter of Late Night with Conan O'Brien during its fledgling early years, when other executives wanted the show cancelled,[10] and championed several other notable series, including Seinfeld and The Office.[11]

Even though Ludwin had never worked on a sitcom before, he commissioned the Seinfeld pilot "The Seinfeld Chronicles", which aired in 1989. Other NBC executives wanted to pass on the series, but Ludwin lobbied on behalf of the show and used money from his specials budget to order four more episodes. Though market testing was mostly negative in response to "The Seinfeld Chronicles", Ludwin believed in the show so much he canceled a planned Bob Hope special in order to finance Seinfeld's first full season.[12][13] When then-NBC President Brandon Tartikoff worried it was "too New York" and "too Jewish" and thus would not be popular with mainstream American audiences, Ludwin, who was not Jewish, defended the show and its content.[14] The series was immensely popular, earning NBC more than $2 billion during its nine seasons, with an additional $3 billion in syndication deals.[15]

Ludwin was promoted from executive vice president to senior vice president in 2005. Following the 2010 Tonight Show conflict, Ludwin fell out of favor with Jay Leno, who was unhappy the executive had backed Conan O'Brien over him. Leno reportedly stopped communicating with Ludwin. In September 2011, NBC announced that Ludwin would make a transition into acting as a consultant for the network.[16][17] He left NBC in 2012.[11]


Ludwin died from organ failure in Los Angeles on November 10, 2019, at age 71.[18][19] Comedian John Mulaney paid tribute to Ludwin in a series of tweets in which he described their friendship. Mulaney in part tweeted, "He was kind and thoughtful in an arena where that can be rare". Late night television hosts Conan O'Brien, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon also paid tribute to him on their respective shows, as well as a tribute on Saturday Night Live episode on November 16, 2019. [20]


  1. ^ a b Sandomir, Richard (November 13, 2019). "Rick Ludwin, NBC Executive Who Championed 'Seinfeld,' Dies at 71". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  2. ^ Rosenthal, Phil (August 21, 2005). "NBC executive stands apart by taking stands". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  3. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (November 12, 2019). "Alan Horn Remembers How Rick Ludwin Saved 'Seinfeld'". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  4. ^ Carter, Bill (2010). The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy. Penguin. p. 66. ISBN 9781101443422. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  5. ^ "Mass Comm alumnus returns to campus for 34th time". The Miami Student. October 14, 2015. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  6. ^ "Summer '07 - Stay Tuned". Miamian Magazine. Miami University. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  7. ^ Dawidziak, Mark (November 11, 2019). "Rick Ludwin, NBC executive who championed 'Seinfeld,' dies at 71". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  8. ^ "Rick Ludwin Collection". Miami University Special Collections & Archives.
  9. ^ Grant, Adam (2017). Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Penguin. pp. 44–46. ISBN 9780143128854. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  10. ^ Bennett, Anita (November 12, 2019). "Conan O'Brien Pays Tribute To NBC Late-Night Executive Rick Ludwin". Deadline. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Rick Ludwin Shares Years of Late Night Insight". KCRW. February 20, 2015. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  12. ^ Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin (2016). Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything. Simon and Schuster. pp. 33–35. ISBN 9781476756127. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  13. ^ Lowry, Brian (February 17, 2014). "From Allen to Fallon, Exec Has Worked With All 6 'Tonight Show' Hosts". Variety. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  14. ^ Neuwirth, Allan. They'll Never Put that on the Air: An Oral History of Taboo-breaking TV Comedy. Allworth Press. pp. 350–351. ISBN 9781581158489.
  15. ^ Fahey, Mark (May 31, 2015). "'Seinfeld': 25 years of making beaucoup bucks". CNBC. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  16. ^ "Truly End of an Era with Rick Ludwin Leaving NBC After 31 Years". TV Week. September 16, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  17. ^ Carter, Bill (September 15, 2011). "Rick Ludwin to Leave Late Night Post at NBC". The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
  18. ^ Sandomir, Richard (November 13, 2019). "Rick Ludwin, NBC Executive Who Championed 'Seinfeld,' Dies at 71". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  19. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (November 11, 2019). "Rick Ludwin, NBC Late-Night Executive Who Backed 'Seinfeld,' Dies at 71". Variety. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
  20. ^ Moniuszko, Sara M. (November 12, 2019). "Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, John Mulaney mourn NBC executive Rick Ludwin". USA Today. Retrieved November 12, 2019.

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