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Obituaries

Al Rush, 76; Packaged TV Series, Negotiated Rights to Broadcast Pro Sports

January 21, 2003|Myrna Oliver | Times Staff Writer

Al Rush, television executive who packaged such series as "Wagon Train" and negotiated rights to televise major league sports for NBC, has died. He was 76.

Rush died Jan. 14 of lung cancer at his Beverly Hills home.

Since 1995, after four years of retirement, he had served as executive of special projects for the Paramount Television Group, developing domestic and international ventures.

"Al Rush is one of the creators of the television industry as we know it today," Mitch Gutkowski, president of Select Media Communications, said in 1995 when Rush was elected to the company's board. "His contributions in the development, packaging and delivery of programming, both nationally and internationally over a 40-year career, are legendary."

A native New Yorker who held bachelor's and law degrees from Columbia University, Rush began his career as a Wall Street lawyer. But by 1955, he switched to television and never left, except for his brief retirement in the early 1990s.

Rush worked from 1956 to 1968 as a vice president of MCA Artists, Ltd. During that period, he told The Times, he "was in television packaging, selling TV series: 'Alfred Hitchcock,' 'Jack Benny,' 'Wagon Train,' those things."

He left to join Creative Management Associates for a few years and from 1973 to 1978 was with NBC. He began as a vice president in charge of program and talent acquisition, including getting rights to theatrical motion pictures for network telecast.

But he soon added negotiating duties for NBC Sports at a time when production costs were rising (the number of engineers and camera operators covering the Rose Bowl effectively doubled between 1965 and 1975), the price of rights to televise major games was escalating along with players' salaries and the sagging economy limited advertisers' ability to buy high-priced commercials.

Rush returned to MCA in 1978 as president of MCA TV Enterprises.

He became president of its MCA Television Group when it was formed in 1981, and five years later was elevated to chairman, a position he held until 1991.

Survivors include sons, Bruce, Robert and Jeffrey Rush; a sister, Rita Grobison; his partner of the last six years, Dale Ann Engelson, and seven grandchildren.

Funeral services are scheduled at 12:30 p.m. today at the First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th St., Santa Monica.

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