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AOL's Tartikoff dead at 48

Brandon Tartikoff, the programming whiz who transformed NBC and the chairman of AOL's Entertainment Asylum, dies of cancer.

Brandon Tartikoff, the programming whiz who transformed NBC and the chairman of America Online's Entertainment Asylum, died today after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 48.

Tartikoff initially joined AOL's Greenhouse Networks last fall and served in a content advisory role, said Pam McGraw, a Greenhouse Networks spokeswoman.

And in March, he joined Entertainment Asylum as chairman and adviser to the site's management team. Entertainment Asylum is designed as a "one-stop entertainment community and resource" for AOL and the Web, McGraw said.

Ted Leonsis, president and chief executive of AOL Studios, said in a statement: "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Brandon Tartikoff. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at this time. He has touched the lives of many people here at AOL and his wisdom will be reflected here and through out the industry."

Tartikoff, who served as the youngest-ever entertainment president of a network, at the age of 30, developed NBC into the top-rated network in the 1980s. He developed such shows as Hill Street Blues, Cheers, L.A. Law, and Family Ties.

A spokesman for his Los Angeles-based production company, H. Beale, said Tartikoff died after a battle with Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes. He has had the illness since he was 23.

A spokeswoman at UCLA Medical Center, where Tartikoff was undergoing treatment, said he died at the hospital.

Tartikoff later served as chairman of Paramount Pictures in 1991-1992, when the studio released hit movies such as Wayne's World and Patriot Games.

In January, Tartikoff disclosed to Variety columnist Army Archerd that he had been battling cancer for years.

"Back in l981 I had my first recurrence," Tartikoff said. "I was president of NBC, and while I was supported strongly by [NBC head] Grant Tinker, I did not think it wise, in my position, with a network which was not doing very well, to divulge my illness."

Reuters contributed to this report