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Richard L. Berger, 64; Launched Touchstone Films for Disney

October 04, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Richard L. Berger, a motion picture and television executive who forged the Touchstone label as president of Walt Disney Pictures, has died. He was 64.

Berger died Wednesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of lung cancer.

The entertainment management veteran was tapped by Disney in 1983, when the company formed a separate subsidiary to handle motion picture and television production.

During his two-year presidency, Berger launched Touchstone Films, opening a new era of film production and marketing for Disney. Among Berger's successful Touchstone projects was "Splash," starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks.

Born in Hillsdale, N.Y., to a former Ziegfeld girl and a theatrical producer, Berger attended Cornell and graduated from UCLA, where he was an All-American soccer player and team captain. His first marriage was to actress Meredith MacRae.

He worked as a certified public accountant before joining 20th Century Fox as a vice president for programs in 1973. Working for Alan Ladd Jr., whom he later followed to MGM, Berger spent a decade at Fox developing film and television productions.

In the middle of his Fox years, he took time out for a stint as CBS vice president of programming, helping to develop such series as "Lou Grant" and "Dallas."

Berger joined MGM in 1985 and was named president in 1990, leaving two years later in a shakeup.

In recent years, Berger devoted his time to charitable administration, including serving on the board of the Children's Institute Inc.

He is survived by his wife, the former Lisa Hornburg, and a daughter, Alexandra, from a former marriage to Sylvia Sands.

Memorial services will be private. Instead of flowers, donations may be sent to Children's Institute Inc., 711 S. New Hampshire Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90005.

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