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James T. Aubrey
Aubrey c. 1959
James Thomas Steven Aubrey
December 14, 1918
LaSalle, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||September 3, 1994
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
|Occupation||Television and film executive|
(m. 1944; div. 1962)
James Thomas Aubrey Jr. (December 14, 1918 – September 3, 1994) was an American television and film executive. As president of the CBS television network from 1959 to 1965, with his "smell for the blue-collar", he produced some of television's most enduring series on the air, including Gilligan's Island and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Under Aubrey's leadership, CBS dominated American television, leading the other networks NBC and ABC, by nine points and seeing its profits rise from $25 million in 1959 to $49 million in 1964. The New York Times Magazine in 1964 called Aubrey "a master of programming whose divinations led to successes that are breathtaking". Aubrey had replaced CBS Television president Louis G. Cowan, who was dismissed after the quiz-show scandals. Aubrey's tough decision-making earned him the nickname "Smiling Cobra" during his tenure.
Despite his success in television, Aubrey's abrasive personality and ego led to his firing from CBS, amid charges of misconduct. Aubrey offered no explanation following his dismissal, nor did CBS President Frank Stanton or Board Chairman William Paley. "The circumstances rivaled the best of CBS adventure or mystery shows," declared The New York Times in its front-page story on his firing, which came on "the sunniest Sunday in February" 1965.
After four years as an independent producer, Aubrey was hired by financier Kirk Kerkorian in 1969 to preside over Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's (MGM) near-total shutdown, during which he cut the budget and alienated producers and directors, but brought profits to a company that had suffered huge losses. In 1973, Aubrey resigned from MGM, declaring his job was done, and then kept a low profile for the last two decades of his life.
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