Ed Hookstratten, Famed Sports and Entertainment Attorney, Dies at 83
UPDATED: "The Hook" scored big deals for such clients as Johnny Carson, Bryant Gumbel, Vin Scully, Pat Riley and Paul Moyer. He was "the last of the great and effective lone operators," says Tom Brokaw.
Ed Hookstratten, the legendary sports and entertainment attorney, died Wednesday of natural causes after a long illness at his home in Beverly Hills, publicist Todd Beck reported. He was 83.
In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Hookstratten was a powerful and iconic force in show business, with clients that included Elvis Presley, Dan Rowan & Dick Martin, Joey Bishop and Johnny Carson (he replaced Henry Bushkin at Carson Productions); news personalities Bryant Gumbel, Tom Brokaw, Tom Snyder and Jessica Savitch; and Vin Scully, Dick Enberg, Phyllis George, Merlin Olsen, Harry Kalas, Dick Stockton, Pat Haden, Marcus Allen and Don Meredith from the world of sports.
Widely known as “The Hook,” the attorney had a well-deserved reputation for getting his star clients innovative, lucrative and unprecedented deals.
Amid an intense three-network bidding war, Hookstratten engineered Gumbel's move from NBC in 1997 to CBS with a contract that paid the longtime Today show host nearly $5 million a year. Earlier, he got L.A. anchorman Paul Moyer a whopping $1.4 million a year to shift from KABC Channel 7 to KNBC Channel 4 in 1992.
He was particularly powerful on the local L.A. news scene, also representing Pat O'Brien, Hal Fishman, Steve Rambo, Ann Martin, Colleen Williams and Jim Hill in addition to Moyer.
Said Brokaw: "The Hook was a one-man force in the agency business, the last of the great and effective lone operators who knew everyone on both sides of the table.
"I remember the first time I hired him. I was up for a big job at NBC, and when I told the executive in charge Ed would represent me, he clutched his heart and said, 'Oh, God -- the Hook!' I knew then I was in good hands."
"When you're negotiating with Hook, you're playing at a big poker table," then-NBC News president Andrew Lack told the Los Angeles Times in a 1994 profile of the industry's top TV agents. "Does he occasionally bluff? Sure. But he takes care of his clients, and I like him enormously."
"He can be a real (expletive) when he wants to," added Moyer in the Times piece. "And that's what I pay him for. Underneath he's a sweet man and not that complicated. But he drives the networks crazy."
"Ed Hookstratten was a brilliant lawyer, my representative and one of my dearest friends in all the world," added Scully. "He introduced me to my wife Sandi, was our best man at the wedding and was there for me during my darkest hours. My heart goes out to his family with deepest sympathy."
Hookstratten, who once described his business as "a boutique as opposed to a factory," also represented high-profile pro basketball and football coaches such as Pat Riley, George Allen, John Robinson, Chuck Knox and Jack Pardee and served for several years as general counsel for the NFL's Los Angeles Rams.
His name surfaces in former Paramount studio head Robert Evans’ 1994 book The Kid Stays in the Picture and in Those Guys Have All the Fun, the ESPN origin story written by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales that was published in 2011.
Hookstratten also served as the namesake of the “Lt. Bob Hookstratten” character (Fred Willard, who welcomes the band to Lindbergh Air Force Base in Seattle to play at its monthly "at-ease weekend") in Rob Reiner’s rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (1984).
Born in 1930 in Whittier, Calif., Hookstratten attended USC on a baseball scholarship and earned his law degree from Southwestern School of Law.
Survivors include his wife, Aimee; his former wife, Please Don't Eat the Daisies TV star Pat Crowley Friendly; his brother Jim; his son Jon; his daughters Ann, Eve and Mae; and his grandchildren Eddie, Erin, Katie, Will and Clare.
"My father was a larger-than-life personality in a town that specializes in them. He was obsessed with taking care of his clients, who became a part of his family," said Jon.
Memorial service arrangements are forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his memory to USC Athletics – Baseball, c/o Jill Dennis, 3501 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0602.