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Nick Davatzes, Founder of A+E Networks, Dead at 79

Nick Davatzes A+E Netowrks
Nick Davatzes (Image credit: A+E Networks)

Nickolas Davatzes, a founder of A+E Networks, died Saturday at his home in Wilton, Connecticut. He was 79 years old. The cause of death was not disclosed.

A  U.S. Marine Corp. veteran, Davatzes became head of the company when it was formed in the merger of the Entertainment Network, owned by RCA and the Rockefeller family, and the Arts Network, owned by Hearst and ABC, in 1983.  

He developed the Arts & Entertainment Network, now A&E, and later launched the History Channel in 1994. Now A+E Networks has a portfolio of channels seen in 350 million households in 180 territories around the world.

“Nick was an incredible leader, innovator, mentor, and humanitarian,” said Abbe Raven, who succeeded Davatzes as CEO and is now chairman emeritus of A+E Networks Group. 

“As the first CEO of A+E Networks and a pioneer in the cable industry, he set the standard for excellence in television programming, integrity in business and extraordinary leadership," Raven said. "His drive and passion for quality programming led A&E and The History Channel to become leading brands, along with iconic programs such as Biography, in the U.S. and across the globe. Nick was responsible for creating and nurturing a culture of creativity and innovation. His commitment to education was at the center of our corporate and community service. His legacy lives on as A+E Networks continues to reflect his leadership, his values, his passion for entertainment, and his principles. He was my mentor, champion and dear friend and I, along with so many, will miss him dearly. He was deeply loved and admired by all who had the honor to know him.”    

Nick Davatzes in 2001 screen grab from oral history project at The Cable Center.

Nick Davatzes in a 2001 oral history interview for The Cable Center. (Image credit: The Cable Center)

“Nick Davatzes made an indispensable contribution to the growth and success of A+E,” said Frank A. Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman and former CEO of Hearst, co-owner of A+E Networks along with the Walt Disney Co. “Additionally, if any individual can be thought of as the father of The History Channel, the highly successful franchise born out of A+E, it was Nick. He was an incredibly talented and strongly committed head of both channels for decades when they grew to domestic and international prominence. He was, importantly, for me, for Steve Swartz and all of Nick’s friends at Hearst, a beloved colleague who will be deeply missed. Our condolences go to his wonderful family and all who loved him.”

“Nick was a towering figure in the early days of cable television, helping build some of the most iconic brands in the media landscape,” said Bob Iger, executive chairman of The Walt Disney Co. “An incredible leader, Nick was a person of true integrity and was always a wonderful partner to all of us at Disney. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and to all of our friends and colleagues at A+E Networks.”  

“Nick was an extraordinary person and leader, and one of the true giants of the cable industry,” said A+E Networks Group’s current president and chairman Paul Buccieri. “He leaves a tremendous legacy of support for education and the humanities. Nick is at the heart of everything that is A+E Networks and was the soul of our organization. All of us owe a great debt to Nick and he will be sorely missed.”   

Davatzes is survived by his wife Dorothea Hayes Davatzes; son George (Geody) Davatzes and his wife Jennifer Davatzes; son Dr. Nicholas Davatzes and his wife Dr. Alexandra Davatzes; and grandchildren Julia, Nicholas, Elias and Lilly. Davatzes is predeceased by his son Christopher Davatzes.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting + Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.