Former Turner Broadcasting chairman Jamie Kellner dies at 77

Jamie Kellner, a titan in the television industry and the man who made the call to cancel WCW, has died.

Kellner, who was pivotal in launching the Fox network and The WB, passed away on Friday at the age of 77, according to Variety.

In 2001, Kellner was installed as the chairman and chief operating officer of Turner Broadcasting shortly after the approval of the AOL/Time Warner merger in January. Kellner’s big move in his first month on the job was to drop professional wrestling from the Turner networks after nearly thirty years.

TBS had dropped WCW Saturday Night from the network in 2000, but Turner was still producing highly-rated programming with two hours of Monday Nitro on TNT and two hours of Thunder on Wednesdays on TBS. The loss of television sunk the proposed deal by Brian Bedol’s Fusient Media to purchase World Championship Wrestling alongside Eric Bischoff and re-launch the brand in May.

Without the television slots, the brand was nearly worthless, and without time to pivot, Fusient withdrew from negotiations and set the table for Vince McMahon to swoop in and buy WCW for a modest amount and end professional wrestling’s run on TNT & TBS.

Kellner was positioned as someone who disliked professional wrestling, although told Guy Evans in the NITRO book that he grew up as a fan and claimed “it was all numbers” regarding the decision to drop pro wrestling.

WCW was coming off a disastrous 2000 where the brand reportedly lost about $62 million – just two years after hitting a revenue record for any pro wrestling company in 1998.

In the NITRO book, Bedol explained that Fusient negotiated a detail to program one of the time slots for a period of time regardless of whether pro wrestling was canceled and likely played a factor as a “poison pill” that Kellner could not relinquish to an outside company.

Kellner’s impact on WCW was his legacy within professional wrestling but in television, his time at Turner was a blip on the radar.

He worked as a syndication executive and had roles at CBS, Viacom, and Orion before helping to launch Fox with Rupert Murdoch and Barry Diller. It became the fourth U.S. television network joining NBC, CBS, and ABC. Additionally, Kellner helped launch Fox Kids before exiting the company in 1993.

Kellner’s other creation was The WB alongside Warner Bros. and Tribune Broadcasting with Kellner holding a stake in the broadcaster, which he sold in November 2002. Four years later, The WB merged with UPN to create The CW – which is the network that NXT will move to in October.

The passing of Kellner comes right as the VICE series “Who Killed WCW” is about to conclude this Tuesday with an episode focusing on the sale and Kellner’s decision to drop wrestling. Brian Gewirtz of Seven Bucks Productions spoke on the Cheap Heat podcast and stated they tried to interview Kellner for the series, but were turned down:

We wanted to interview Jamie Kellner, the Turner executive who ultimately canceled WCW on Turner and I think his P.O.V. is pretty much the same as it was in the early 2000s, late 90s, which is why does anyone want to talk about this. He was not a wrestling fan.

Kellner is survived by his wife Julie, children Melissa and Christopher, and three grandchildren.

About John Pollock 5655 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.