Thomas Murphy (broadcasting)

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Murphy in 1985

Thomas S. Murphy (born May 31, 1925) is an American broadcast executive, and was chair and chief executive officer of Capital Cities / ABC, Inc. until 1996. Together with fellow Capital Cities executive Daniel Burke, Murphy engineered the 1986 acquisition of the American Broadcasting Company in 1986 for $3.5 billion.[1] Murphy and Burke, who served as President and Chief Executive of ABC until 1994, are credited with increasing the profitability and efficiency of ABC.[1]


Murphy was born in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in 1945, and Harvard University with an M.B.A. in 1949. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1946,[2] and worked at Kenyon & Eckhardt and Lever Brothers.

Murphy's fortunes changed when Broadcaster and author Lowell Thomas, and his business manager/partner, Frank Smith led a New York City-based investor group to buy control of Albany, New York-based Hudson Valley Broadcasting Company,[3] in 1954 and hired Murphy to run the WROW Stations as their new general manager. Although Murphy did not have any broadcast experience, his leadership and conservative financial restraint helped bring WROW-TV to profitability three years later. In December 1957 Hudson Valley merged with Durham Television Enterprises, owners of WTVD in Durham, North Carolina, to form Capital Cities Television Corporation, which later became Capital Cities Broadcasting Corp. in 1960 and Capital Cities Communications in 1973.

Murphy moved up quickly in the ranks of the company. In 1960 he became Capital Cities' first Vice President. In 1964 he became President while Smith moved up to become the company's first Chairman. In 1966 Smith died unexpectedly and Murphy became Chairman and CEO. The position that he held for the next 30 years. Under his leadership, Murphy helped build Capital Cities from a small broadcasting company into a multibillion-dollar media conglomerate. He then got into the publishing and newspaper business by buying Fairchild Publications in 1968, and then bought several newspapers including The Kansas City Star and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Murphy's biggest acquisition came in 1985 when he bought the American Broadcasting Company for $3.5 billion to form Capital Cities/ABC.[1][4][5][6] The merger was engineered by Murphy and the man who replaced him as WTEN's station manager, Daniel B. Burke, who became ABC's president.[1][7] In 1995 Capital Cities / ABC was bought by Disney.[8] He is a member of the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway, General Housewares Corp., Texaco, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and IBM Corporation[9] and a Life Trustee and Honorary Vice Chair of New York University[10]



  1. ^ a b c d Flint, Joe (October 27, 2011). "Daniel Burke dies at 82; former president of Capital Cities/ABC". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 29, 2011.
  2. ^ "TOM MURPHY" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 2, 2006. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  3. ^ "Tom Murphy". D23.
  4. ^ "CAPITAL CITIES' CAPITAL COUP", Fortune, Stratford P. Sherman, David Kirkpatrick, April 15, 1985
  5. ^ Buffett: the making of an American capitalist, Roger Lowenstein, Random House, Inc., 1996, ISBN 978-0-385-48491-6
  6. ^ Sharbutt, Jay (January 13, 1986). "Cap Cities Picks Chief for ABC Broadcasting". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ "Merger Would Mean New Style As Well as New Bosses at Disney", The New York Times, BILL CARTER, February 16, 2004
  8. ^ "DISNEY, CAPITAL CITIES/ABC AGREE TO MERGE; $19 Billion Transaction Will Enhance Shareholder Values By Creating World's Leading Entertainment And Communications Company. - Free Online Library".
  9. ^ "The Museum of Broadcast Communications - Encyclopedia of Television". Museum of Broadcast Communications.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 11, 2014. Retrieved July 9, 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^


  • "Thomas S. Murphy", Encyclopedia of television, Editor Horace Newcomb, CRC Press, 2004, ISBN 978-1-57958-411-5
  • Forbes, Malcolm S. "Mighty CEOs Who are Also All-round Nice Guys are Rare." Forbes (New York), December 11, 1989.
  • Gibbs, Nancy. "Easy as ABC." Time (New York), August 14, 1995.
  • Hawver, W. Capital Cities/ABC The Early Years: 1954-1986 How the Minnow Came to Swallow The Whale. Radnor, Pennsylvania: Chilton, 1994.
  • Ländler, Mark. "Creators of the Big Deal, Capital Cities' Tandem Team." The New York Times, August 1, 1995.
  • Roberts, Johnnie L. "The Men Behind the Big Megadeals." Newsweek (New York), August 14, 1995.

External links[edit]

  • "TOM MURPHY", Harvard Business School, December 2000, Amy Blitz