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A+E Networks co-founder and cable TV icon Nick Davatzes dies aged 79

Nickolas ‘Nick’ Davatzes, CEO emeritus at A+E Networks and an innovator in cable TV, has died aged 79.

Nickolas ‘Nick’ Davatzes

Davatzes, who helped create two of the leading cable television networks in A&E and The History Channel, passed away on August 21 at his home in Wilton, Connecticut.

Described by his peers as a pioneer in the cable TV industry, Davatzes served as president and CEO of A+E from December 1983 to April 2005.

A+E Networks, a joint venture with Hearst and Disney-ABC Television Group, started with one programming network under Davatzes’ stewardship.

Today, the company has a portfolio that reaches over 350 million households and 180 territories around the world.

Davatzes joined the company in 1983 following the merger of the Entertainment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family, and ARTS Network, owned by Hearst and ABC.

He was a founder of A+E Networks, creating and developing the channel in 1984 as the Arts & Entertainment Network, before going on to found and launch The History Channel in 1995. He was succeeded by Abbe Raven as CEO of A+E Networks in 2005.

Davatzes was a leader in advocating for education and public affairs initiatives in the cable industry and was honoured with numerous awards for his commitment to education and corporate social responsibility.

In November 2006, US president George W Bush presented Davatzes with the National Humanities Medal in recognition of his contributions to the humanities.

Davatzes is survived by his wife Dorothea Hayes Davatzes; son George (Geody) and his wife Jennifer Davatzes; son Dr Nicholas Davatzes and his wife Dr Alexandra Davatzes; and grandchildren Julia, Nicholas, Elias and Lilly. Davatzes was predeceased by his son Christopher.

“Nick Davatzes made an indispensable contribution to the growth and success of A+E,” said Frank A Bennack Jr, executive vice chairman and former CEO of Hearst.

“Additionally, if any individual can be thought of as the father of The History Channel, the highly successful franchise born out of A+E, it was Nick. He was an incredibly talented and strongly committed head of both channels for decades when they grew to domestic and international prominence. He was, importantly for me, for Steve Swartz and all of Nick’s friends at Hearst, a beloved colleague who will be deeply missed. Our condolences go to his wonderful family and all who loved him.”

“Nick was a towering figure in the early days of cable television, helping build some of the most iconic brands in the media landscape,” said Bob Iger, executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company.

“An incredible leader, Nick was a person of true integrity and was always a wonderful partner to all of us at Disney. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and to all of our friends and colleagues at A+E Networks.”

Paul Buccieri, president and chairman at A+E Networks Group, added: “Nick was an extraordinary person and leader, and one of the true giants of the cable industry. He launched A&E and The History Channel, two of the most successful brands in television. Nick believed in the power of media not only to brighten people’s lives but also to inform and enrich communities. He leaves a tremendous legacy of support for education and the humanities. Nick is at the heart of everything that is A+E Networks and the soul of our organisation. All of us owe a great debt to Nick Davatzes and he will be sorely missed.”

Abbe Raven, chairman emeritus at A+E Networks Group, said: “Nick was an incredible leader, innovator, mentor and humanitarian. As the first CEO of A+E Networks and a pioneer in the cable industry, he set the standard for excellence in television programming, integrity in business and extraordinary leadership. His drive and passion for quality programming led A&E and The History Channel to become leading brands, along with iconic programs such as Biography in the US and across the globe.

“Nick was responsible for creating and nurturing a culture of creativity and innovation. His commitment to education was at the centre of our corporate and community service. His legacy lives on as A+E Networks continues to reflect his leadership, his values, his passion for entertainment and his principles. He was my mentor, champion and dear friend and I, along with so many, will miss him dearly. He was deeply loved and admired by all who had the honour to know him.”


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