Suzanne Patmore Gibbs, Executive VP at TriStar Television, Dies at 50

Courtesy of Sony
Suzanne Patmore Gibbs

She fought to get 'Grey's Anatomy' on the air and headed the primetime scripted creative group at ABC Entertainment before shifting to Sony.

Suzanne Patmore Gibbs, who helped launch Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Lost and several other hits as a respected executive for Touchstone TV, ABC Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television Studios, died suddenly Thursday. She was 50.

Patmore Gibbs died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of complications following surgery for a hernia. Sony TV staff were informed of her death via an internal memo (read that, below).

Patmore Gibbs had been serving as the head of Sony imprint TriStar Television since the division was relaunched in May 2015. The company's first pilot was the 1960s-set newsroom drama Good Girls Revolt at Amazon. She was a vocal supporter of the feminist drama and fought hard to shop the series after Amazon's controversial decision to cancel the series shortly after its debut.

Before TriStar, Patmore Gibbs was executive vp drama development for SPT, where she and her team developed series including The Blacklist at NBC, Masters of Sex at Showtime, Outlander at Starz and Bloodline at Netflix.

As a high-ranking executive at Touchstone and ABC, Patmore Gibbs helped develop such shows as Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and its spinoff Private Practice, Lost, Ugly Betty, Brothers & Sisters, Pushing Daisies and Dirty Sexy Money.

In March 2011, shortly after the arrival of Paul Lee as president, Patmore Gibbs departed ABC Entertainment following four years as executive vp drama development. She had been named senior vp drama development in June 2004 under then-president Stephen McPherson.

Despite the objections of McPherson, she managed to get Shonda Rhimes' Grey's Anatomy on the air in 2005.

"He hated it," Grey's Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff told THR in November. "And he said to Suzanne Patmore Gibbs at the time, 'This show is going to be the chapter in my book titled, 'Why I Should Trust Myself or Why I Should Trust the People I Hire.' Because she forced that program on the air. And then it was a great big hit, and he got all the credit."

On Thursday, Vernoff told THR that "Suzanne Patmore Gibbs was a fierce advocate for all that is right and good in this world. She fought for women's voices before it was a popular thing to do. And while male network presidents often receive the credit for her work, Suzanne was the primary creative force behind Grey's Anatomy ever making it to the air.

"She was incredibly brave, and she stood up for what she believed in, even when her voice would shake. She was an extraordinary talent. She was a deeply loving mother. She was a profoundly supportive friend. This is an unimaginable loss."

Rhimes, who dedicated Thursday's #TGIT lineup to Patmore Gibbs, paid tribute to the late executive via Twitter: "She was my very first champion at ABC Studios, the first exec to say, 'Maybe Shonda could write a TV show.' Then she fought like hell to get us the chance to make the Grey's Anatomy pilot. No way to describe this loss."

Rhimes' Shondaland partner Betsy Beers also paid tribute on Twitter, writing: "Suzanne Patmore Gibbs was a wonderful friend, a tireless creative partner and fierce advocate. Her passion and commitment and big beautiful brain inspired so many of us. She was a true force of nature. It's hard to imagine a world without her in it."

Patmore Gibbs came to Touchstone in 2000 from Mutual Film Co., the Paramount-based outfit founded by Mark Gordon, and she helped develop And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003) at HBO and co-produced Miramax's The Hoax (2006), starring Richard Gere.

She did earlier stints at Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz's Bedford Falls, Chuck Gordon's Daybreak Prods. and Sean Daniel's Alphaville Prods and was an adjunct professor of screenwriting at USC's film school from 1999 to 2002.

Patmore Gibbs graduated from Pomona College in California in 1989 with a B.A. in English literature and then did a fellowship with the Seattle Repertory Theatre.

Survivors include her husband, Stuart; her children, Dashiell and Violet; her brother, Alan; and her parents, Barry and Carole.

Patmore Gibbs "was a mentor, a guiding light and a tastemaker for multiple studios … kind, thoughtful and supportive to everyone she worked with — and in return, she was respected and admired throughout Hollywood," her family said in a statement. "While she was justifiably proud of her many career accomplishments, she felt that her greatest success was her loving family and friends."

Donations in her name can be made to Girls Inc. and the Children's Institute.

Here is the memo Sony TV toppers Jeff Frost, Chris Parnell and Jason Clodfelter sent to staff Thursday:

Dear Colleagues,

We have some very sad news to share with all of you. Today we lost an amazing and wonderful member of the SPT family. Suzanne Patmore Gibbs, our head of Tristar Television, passed away suddenly. This is a shock to all of us and we are heartbroken.

All of us at Sony Pictures Television were touched by Suzanne's passion and friendship. She was a wonderful colleague and friend to all who worked with her. She will be greatly missed and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time.

Details regarding arrangements and services will be forthcoming.

In lieu of flowers, her family has asked to make a donation to the Children's Institute.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us or the Employee Assistance Program if you need anything. We will also have grief counselors here on Monday at Harry Cohn.

We are here for you all during this difficult time.

Jeff, Chris and Jason