Frank Biondi Jr., Former Top Executive at HBO, Viacom and Universal Studios, Dies at 74

AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser
Frank Biondi Jr.

He came away with huge settlement packages after he was fired by Sumner Redstone and Edgar Bronfman Jr.

Frank Biondi Jr., who helped build HBO, Universal Studios and Viacom into entertainment powerhouses during his career, died Monday of cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 74.

Biondi joined HBO in 1978 and became president and CEO in 1983, helping transform the premium cable channel into an entertainment giant with Hollywood blockbusters. He served as president and CEO of Viacom from 1987-96 and chairman and CEO of Universal Studios from 1996-98.

Biondi left Viacom after he was fired by Sumner Redstone with an estimated $12 million to $20 million-plus exit package. And after he was axed from Universal, he came away with a cash settlement worth as much as $30 million, The Hollywood Reporter reported in 2016.

In 1999, Biondi launched Waterview Advisors, which made private equity investments in media and entertainment firms like SightSound Technologies. He also helped finance the 2001 launch of the Tennis Channel.

Born in New York City and raised in suburban New Jersey, Biondi earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Princeton in 1966 and a master's in business from Harvard.

After a stint as a financial analyst on Wall Street, he joined the Children's Television Workshop, home of Sesame Street and The Electric Company, before being lured to HBO.

While working for Sumner Redstone at Viacom, the company acquired Paramount Communications and Blockbuster Video for $18 billion. However, Redstone didn't like Biondi's management style and he was fired.

Edgar Bronfman Jr., whose Seagram Co. had just purchased Universal, hired Biondi to oversee the new entertainment assets in 1986, but he lasted just two years on the job, with Ron Meyer taking over.

More recently, Biondi served on the boards of companies including Madison Square Garden, AMC Networks and STX Entertainment, led by his son-in-law Robert Simonds. Survivors also include his wife, Carol, and daughters Anne and Jane.

"Anne and I are devastated to lose Frank so young," Simonds said in a statement. "He was not only an icon and mentor to me, as he was to so many in our industry, he was a noble, kind and beloved father to us and an extraordinary grandfather to our children. We cherish the life and memories we shared and we will proudly carry on his legacy.”

The Los Angeles Times first reported his death.