Ted Ashley was born Ted Assofsky. "Scrawny and unfortunate-looking, with a head too big for his five-foot-five frame, Ashley had grown up in a one-room cold-water flat in Brooklyn, sleeping on a cot on one side of a worn-out curtain while his tubercular father tried to make a living as a tailor on the other." (The Agency)
In 1938, Ashley entered the William Morris mailroom. In 1942, he became an agent. In 1945, he quit to become a manager to such Morris clients as comedian Henny Youngman.
Ted Ashley died 8/24/02 at age 80 of leukemia after a long illness.
The former talent agent turned studio executive helped shape Warner Brothers in the 1970s and 1980s. During this time, Warner had box office success with with franchise-launching pictures like "Dirty Harry" and "Superman."
Ashley founded the Ashley Famous talent agency. He was a high ranking executive at Warner Communications for two decades. Ashley chose John Calley, currently Sony Pictures chairman, to serve as Warners studio chief in 1968.
Ashley began as a William Morris agent at the age of 20. He then launced his own personal-management firm. His Ashley Famous agency packaged television series such as "Mission: Impossible" and represented a wide variety of clients from Tennessee Williams to Janis Joplin and Vanessa Redgrave.
Hard-working and reclusive, Ashley rarely schmoozed celebrities or granted interviews. or hanging out at industry eateries.
Kinney Corp. bought into his talent agency in 1967.
In 1969, Ashley helped Kinney head Steve Ross acquire Warner Bros. Ashley served as Warners CEO until 1981, when he named Robert Daly and Terry Semel as successors. For the next seven years, he was vice chairman of studio parent Warner Communications, where he helped merge The Movie Channel and Showtime.
Ashley was born in Brooklyn in 1922 as Theodore Assofsky. Graduating from high school at age 15, he studied business administration at City College at night, also working as an office boy at the William Morris agency where his uncle Nat was general manager. At age 20 he graduated to full-fledged agent -- changing his name in the process -- and began representing radio clients and photographers.
After nine years at William Morris, he launched Ted Ashley Associates. His clients included Gertrude Berg ("The Goldbergs"), Allen Funt and Henny Youngman.
Within three years he launched Ashley Famous Agency, which became known for packaging and selling network series. Such TV series included "The Danny Kaye Show," "Mission: Impossible," "Get Smart," "The Carol Burnett Show," "Medic," "Star Trek," "Dr. Kildare," "The Defenders," "Tarzan," "Name That Tune," "The Twilight Zone" and "The Doris Day Show."
Ashley Famous represented playwrights such as Williams and Arthur Miller, singers Perry Como and Trini Lopez, and rock acts including Joplin, The Doors, and Iron Butterfly. Motion-picture clients included Redgrave, Burt Lancaster, Rex Harrison, Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman.
Two years into his association with Kinney and Ross, Ashley was named chairman-CEO of Warner Bros., and Ashley Famous was spun off to avoid conflicts of interest. Ashley reportedly earned $2.7 million in Warners stock from the deal and collected a $200,000 annual salary plus six-figure bonuses through the mid-1970s. One of Ashley's first theatrical hits was the "Woodstock" music documentary, which grossed $13 million.
Ashley was a board member of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a member of the National Endowment for the Humanities and a founder of the American Film Institute. He was an active supporter of the Democratic Party.
Ashley is survived by his wife, Page Cuddy Ashley; four daughters, Fran Curtis Dubin, Diane Ashley, Kim Balin and Ba-Nhi Sinclair; a brother, Alfred Ashley; and two grandchildren. (Information from Daily Variety and Reuters)