Leonard H. Goldenson

Founder of ABC Network


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, the first Archive of American Television interviewee, Leonard Goldenson, (1905–1999) recalls his early days working for Paramount Theaters and talks extensively about the formation of ABC. He details ABC's programming, and the competition it faced from NBC, CBS, and the Hollywood studios. He fondly recalls ABC's eventual rise to become one of television's formidable powers, despite doubts from CBS' William Paley and NBC's David Sarnoff. Goldenson also discusses ABC's long partnership with Walt Disney, and outlines his television deal with Jack Warner. He speaks of the creation of ABC Sports, the popularity of ABC's news anchors, and the very first broadcast of a television miniseries. He outlines several of ABC's hits, including The Fugitive, Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, Roots, and Monday Night Football. B-roll consists of photos from his life and career - including pictures from events for the organization he helped found, United Cerebral Palsy. Marvin Wolf conducted the interview in Long Boat Key, FL on May 14, 1996.

"When I acquired ABC, everyone in the motion picture companies had refused to deal with television, but Walt Disney wanted to build Disneyland and he needed money. I made up my mind that I was going to do everything in our power to bring Disney into television. If I could crack Disney, then I could maybe crack the other motion picture companies."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Leonard Goldenson on getting into the movie business - working for Paramount theaters
Leonard Goldenson his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC
Leonard Goldenson on his programming ideas for ABC and making a deal with Walt and Roy Disney
Leonard Goldenson on Roone Arledge's impact on ABC and sports
Leonard Goldenson on merging with Capital Cities and Disney acquiring ABC
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on his interest in movies and radio; on attending Harvard University at 16 and going to law school
On getting into the movie business - working for Paramount Theaters; on becoming head of Paramount Theaters
On seeing television for the first time at the 1939 World's Fair; on Paramount's early association with DuMont; on seeing the potential of television; on ABC making a deal with Walt Disney
On his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC

Chapter 2

On acquiring ABC and conversations with NBC's David Sarnoff and MGM's Nicholas Schenck; on convincing Paramount's board members to buy ABC; on the state of ABC when he purchased it
On ABC not merging with DuMont; on his programming ideas for ABC and making deals with Walt Disney and Jack Warner; on hiring talent
On his relationship with NBC's David Sarnoff and CBS' William Paley; on Frank Stanton's unsung achievements at CBS; on his relationship with Walt Disney; on others' attempts to take over ABC
On making a deal to merge with ITT (which fell through); on hiring young executives that would become instrumental to the television industry
On ABC's success with Westerns and Action-adventure shows; on success with comedies and medical shows; on ABC's deal with Jerry Lewis

Chapter 3

On ABC's The Fugitive and The F.B.I.; on several other ABC hits and ABC's success with miniseries and movies of the week
On changing the sponsorship model for television; on Oliver E. Treyz's contributions to ABC; on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety
On the success of American Bandstand; on the payola scandal; on his management style, executives he hired, and grooming a successor; on ABC becoming the number one network
On Roone Arledge's impact on ABC, sports, and news; on the success of Monday Night Football

Chapter 4

On his most important decisions at ABC; on his career regrets; on his close relationships with several American Presidents
On ABC news being the last network to switch from 15 to 30 minute broadcasts; on Peter Jennings becoming news anchor; on the ABC anchor team of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters; on changes in network news
On ABC's successful Movies of the Week; on Roots; on believing in Aaron Spelling and shows he produced; on "jiggle television" at ABC
On getting into cable television; on acquiring ESPN and starting A&E and Lifetime; on the future of network television; on merging with Capital Cities and Disney acquiring ABC

Chapter 5

On what represents the best of television and television at its best; on the network aftermath of JFK's assassination
On thoughts on colleagues
B-roll footage of photos from his life and career

Chapter 6

B-roll footage of photos from his life and career - at ABC, at events supporting fundraising for Cerebral Palsy, at school, and playing high school football
B-roll footage of photos with Richard Nixon, Dick Clark, Walt Disney, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adolph Zukor and others

Chapter 7

B-roll footage of photos from his life and career, contd. - on photos with Richard Nixon; on his working relationship with Nixon and the Nixon-Kennedy debates; on photos with John F. Kennedy, Rupert Murdoch, and others
On his access to and relationships with American Presidents; on his paintings; on photos of awards and letters
Shows

77 Sunset Strip

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Detective/Action Adventure shows and Westerns

All in the Family

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Leonard Goldenson on asking Norman Lear to adapt the British show 'Til Death Do Us Part, in what became All in the Family, and passing it up

American Bandstand

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Leonard Goldenson on the payola scandal surrounding American Bandstand

Batman

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Batman

Charlie's Angels

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Leonard Goldenson on "jiggle television" at ABC, personified by Charlie's Angels

Cheyenne

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Westerns, particularly Cheyenne

FBI, The

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's The F.B.I.

Fugitive, The

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's The Fugitive

Hollywood Palace, The

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with The Hollywood Palace

King's Row

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Westerns, particularly Cheyenne  

Love Boat, The

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Aaron Spelling's The Love Boat

Marcus Welby, M.D.

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's Marcus Welby, M.D.

Mod Squad, The

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Aaron Spelling's Mod Squad

Monday Night Football

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football

Roots

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Leonard Goldenson on the decision to air Roots on consecutive nights

Soap

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Leonard Goldenson on approving ABC's Soap

That Girl

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's That Girl

United States Steel Hour, The

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Leonard Goldenson on changing the sponsorship model for television

Wonderful World of Disney, The aka Magical World of Disney, The

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC making a deal with Walt Disney to air "Disneyland" on Walt Disney's The Wonderful World of Color
Topics

Coverage

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Leonard Goldenson on seeing television for the first time at the 1939 World's Fair

Diversity in Television

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Leonard Goldenson on the impact of Roots

Hollywood Blacklist

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Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC

Industry Crossroads

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Leonard Goldenson on changing the sponsorship model for television
Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
Leonard Goldenson on his most important decisions at ABC

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Leonard Goldenson on the network aftermath of JFK's assassination

John F. Kennedy

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - John F. Kennedy
Leonard Goldenson on the network aftermath of JFK's assassination

Lyndon B. Johnson

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Lyndon B. Johnson

Media Consolidation

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Leonard Goldenson on acquiring ESPN and starting A&E
Leonard Goldenson on merging with Capital Cities
Leonard Goldenson on Disney acquiring ABC

Memorable Moments on Television

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Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC

Minorities

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Leonard Goldenson on the impact of Roots

Network Creation

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Leonard Goldenson his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC
Leonard Goldenson on convincing Paramount's board members to buy ABC
Leonard Goldenson on acquiring ESPN and starting A&E

Richard M. Nixon

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Richard M. Nixon

Sports

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football

Television Industry

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Leonard Goldenson his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC
Leonard Goldenson on convincing Paramount's board members to buy ABC
Leonard Goldenson on his programming ideas for ABC and making a deal with Walt and Roy Disney
Leonard Goldenson on making a deal with Jack Warner
Leonard Goldenson on changing the sponsorship model for television
Leonard Goldenson on his most important decisions at ABC
Leonard Goldenson on getting into cable television
Leonard Goldenson on acquiring ESPN and starting A&E
Leonard Goldenson on merging with Capital Cities
Leonard Goldenson on Disney acquiring ABC

Television and the Presidency

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - John F. Kennedy
Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Lyndon B. Johnson
Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Richard M. Nixon
Leonard Goldenson on the network aftermath of JFK's assassination

We Considered

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Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC
Professions

Executives

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Leonard Goldenson on his management style at ABC
Leonard Goldenson on his most important decisions at ABC

Network Founder

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Leonard Goldenson on his management style at ABC
Leonard Goldenson on his most important decisions at ABC
Genres

News and Documentary

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Leonard Goldenson on putting Roone Arledge in charge of news
Leonard Goldenson on changes in network news due to network ownership

Sports

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with miniseries and movies of the week
Leonard Goldenson on the decision to air Roots on consecutive nights

Western Series

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's success with Westerns
People

Roone Arledge

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Leonard Goldenson on Roone Arledge's impact on ABC and sports
Leonard Goldenson on putting Roone Arledge in charge of news
Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues

Barney Balaban

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Leonard Goldenson on Paramount head Barney Balaban and his early association with DuMont television

Jack Benny

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Jack Benny

Ted Bergmann

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Leonard Goldenson on DuMont head Ted Bergmann and ABC not merging with DuMont

Dick Clark

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Leonard Goldenson on the payola scandal surrounding American Bandstand
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Dick Clark

Howard Cosell

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Leonard Goldenson on the success of Monday Night Football
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Henry Kissinger and Howard Cosell at a United Cerebral Palsy event

Barry Diller

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Leonard Goldenson on hiring young executives that would become instrumental to the television industry
Leonard Goldenson on heading up ABC's movies of the week

Roy E. Disney

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Leonard Goldenson on his programming ideas for ABC and making a deal with Walt and Roy Disney

Walt Disney

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC making a deal with Walt Disney
Leonard Goldenson on his programming ideas for ABC and making a deal with Walt and Roy Disney
Leonard Goldenson on his relationship with Walt Disney
Leonard Goldenson on Walt Disney telling him he wanted to be number one
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues - Walt Disney
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Walt Disney and his wife
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Walt Disney and others after ABC's deal with Disney

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife

Michael Eisner

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Leonard Goldenson on hiring young executives that would become instrumental to the television industry
Leonard Goldenson on his management style at ABC and managing Michael Eisner
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Michael Eisner

Billy Graham

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Billy Graham

Alger Hiss

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Leonard Goldenson on Howard K. Smith wanting to do a story on Nixon

Bob Hope

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo of an award presented to Bob Hope
Leonard Goldenson on a photo of a Christmas card of Bob Hope; on Hope's involvement with Goldenson's foundation for Cerebral Palsy

Roy Huggins

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Leonard Goldenson on The Fugitive

Howard Hughes

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Leonard Goldenson on others' attempts to take over ABC (including Howard Hughes)
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues

Peter Jennings

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Leonard Goldenson on Peter Jennings becoming news anchor at ABC
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Peter Jennings

Lyndon B. Johnson

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Lyndon B. Johnson
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Lyndon B. Johnson

John F. Kennedy

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - John F. Kennedy; on his dealings with Joseph Kennedy
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with JFK and Jackie Kennedy in 1960
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with John F. Kennedy and others at a Boston Children's Hospital event

Henry Kissinger

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Henry Kissinger and Howard Cosell at a United Cerebral Palsy event

Ted Koppel

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Ted Koppel and Tom Murphy

Abe Lastfogel

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Leonard Goldenson on William Morris' Abe Lastfogel helping ABC acquire talent

Norman Lear

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Leonard Goldenson on asking Norman Lear to adapt the British show 'Til Death Do Us Part, in what became All in the Family, and passing it up

Jerry Lewis

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Leonard Goldenson on ABC's deal with Jerry Lewis

Joseph McCarthy

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Leonard Goldenson on airing The McCarthy Hearings in their entirety on ABC

Rupert Murdoch

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Leonard Goldenson on a career regret - selling stock in Rupert Murdoch's company
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Rupert Murdoch

Thomas Murphy

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Ted Koppel and Tom Murphy

Richard M. Nixon

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Leonard Goldenson on his close relationships with several American Presidents - Richard M. Nixon
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Richard Nixon
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Richard M. Nixon
Leonard Goldenson on a photo of Richard Nixon; on his working relationship with Nixon and the Nixon-Kennedy debates

Edward J. Noble

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Leonard Goldenson his deal with Edward J. Noble (head of Lifesavers) to purchase NBC's Blue network, which became ABC

William S. Paley

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Leonard Goldenson on his relationship with NBC's David Sarnoff and CBS' William Paley
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with CBS' William Paley and NBC's David Sarnoff

Ronald Reagan

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Ronald Reagan

Harry Reasoner

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Leonard Goldenson on the ABC anchor team of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters

Eleanor Roosevelt

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Eleanor Roosevelt

Elton H. Rule

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Leonard Goldenson on Elton Rule's contributions to ABC 
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Elton Rule

Anwar Sadat

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Anwar Sadat

David Sarnoff

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Leonard Goldenson on acquiring ABC and having a conversation with NBC's David Sarnoff
Leonard Goldenson on his relationship with NBC's David Sarnoff and CBS' William Paley
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with CBS' William Paley and NBC's David Sarnoff

Edgar J. Scherick

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Leonard Goldenson on Roone Arledge's impact on ABC and sports and recruiting Edgar Scherick
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues

Fred Silverman

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Leonard Goldenson on the decision to air Roots on consecutive nights

Howard K. Smith

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Leonard Goldenson on Howard K. Smith wanting to do a story on Nixon

Aaron Spelling

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Leonard Goldenson on believing in Aaron Spelling

Frank Stanton

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Leonard Goldenson on Frank Stanton's unsung achievements at CBS

Elizabeth Taylor

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Elizabeth Taylor

Marlo Thomas

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Marlo Thomas

Danny Thomas

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Leonard Goldenson on William Morris' Abe Lastfogel helping ABC acquire talent

Laurence A. Tisch

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Leonard Goldenson on making a deal to merge with ITT (which fell through)

Oliver E. Treyz

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Leonard Goldenson on hiring young executives that would become instrumental to the television industry
Leonard Goldenson on Oliver E. Treyz's contributions to ABC
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues

Donald J. Trump

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Donald Trump

Barbara Walters

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Leonard Goldenson on the ABC anchor team of Harry Reasoner and Barbara Walters

Jack L. Warner

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Leonard Goldenson on making a deal with Jack Warner
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Jack Warner

Lew Wasserman

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Leonard Goldenson on negotiating movies of the week with Lew Wasserman
Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues

Sylvester L. "Pat" Weaver

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Leonard Goldenson on thoughts on colleagues - Pat Weaver

Lawrence Welk

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Leonard Goldenson on getting Lawrence Welk on the air

Adolph Zukor

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Leonard Goldenson on a photo with his wife and Adolph Zukor
Leonard Goldenson on a photo with Adolph Zukor and Barney Balaban

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