Don Ohlmeyer, one of the most accomplished television producers and executives in a span of four decades, passed away yesterday in Indian Wells, California. He was 72 years old.
His family confirmed the death in a statement, saying the cause was cancer.
Former colleague and current NBC Sports player Al michaels broke the news on last night’s NBC Sunday Night Football show, ironically.
A versatile executive, Ohlmeyer’s career spanned from producing ABC Monday Night Football in the 1970s to directing NBC Entertainment in the 1990s.
Ohlmeyer began his television career in 1967 as a production assistant at ABC Sports. Under the supervision of the president of ABC Sports Roone arledge, he eventually became a producer and director of three Olympics, produced Monday Night Football, and other sports-focused programming for ABC.
Ohlmeyer moved to NBC in 1977, first as executive producer of NBC Sports. He left the network in 1982 to run his own communications company (Ohlmeyer Communications Company), but returned to NBC as president of NBC Entertainment in 1993. Ohlmeyer was one of the brains behind the “Must See TV” programming. from NBC, which included shows like Seinfeld, Friends, ER, and Law and Order. NBC became No. 1 in prime time in 1995-96.
President of NBC Entertainment Bob greenblatt issued the following statement:
“Don Ohlmeyer was a leading figure in sports and entertainment who made an indelible impact on both NBC and our industry. His legacy will live on not only because he’s directly responsible for some of TV’s biggest hits – “Friends,” “ER” and “Will & Grace” to name a few – but also because it took NBC to a new level of the highest quality elegant and sophisticated programming that we all aspire to today.
Recipient of 16 Emmy Awards, Ohlmeyer’s career has not been without controversy. He entered the Betty Ford Center in 1998 for a month of alcoholic rehabilitation.
He was also said to have been behind the dismissal of Norm McDonald from Saturday Night Live for making too many jokes about JO Simpson during the infamous murder trial. Simpson was a longtime friend of Ohlmeyer.
According to Richard SandomirThe New York Times obituary, “Mr. Ohlmeyer called it less funny and ordered Lorne michaels, the executive producer of the late night series, to immediately remove Mr. Macdonald from the segment.
Ohlmeyer left NBC in 1999 and returned to ABC to produce Monday Night Football for a season before retiring.
He was also ombudsman for ESPN from 2009 to 2011.
Don Ohlmeyer is survived by his wife Linda, four sons and nine grandchildren.