After losing his job at the by-then financially troubled 20th Century Fox in the early '60s, Brown moved back to New York, where he became executive vice president of New American Library's hardcover book division.
Inspired by an idea that her husband had for a book, Helen Gurley Brown wrote the 1962 bestseller "Sex and the Single Girl." After writing a sequel, "Sex and the Office," and launching a syndicated newspaper column, she was besieged with mail from readers asking her advice on personal matters.
In 1964, David Brown got the idea of creating a magazine for the women who had been writing all those letters to Helen -- women who were, as he put it, "addicted to Helen's frank, feminist views."
Together, the Browns created the format for what became the spicy new Cosmopolitan magazine, aimed at young women and launched in 1965 with Helen Gurley Brown as editor.
From the start, David Brown edited Helen's personal column in the magazine, "Step Into My Parlor," and wrote, for free, the provocative cover blurbs, such as "How to Turn Him On While You Take It Off."
In 1964, Brown returned to 20th Century Fox as vice president in charge of story operations and a member of the board of directors. He worked closely with Richard Zanuck, who had been appointed by his father as executive vice president in charge of production in 1962 and later became the company's president.
"The Sound of Music," the 1965 musical starring Julie Andrews, was a box-office smash, and the studio had other hits with movies such as " Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "MASH" and "Patton."
But the studio also lost money on a number of films, including the big-budget musicals "Doctor Doolittle," "Star!" and "Hello, Dolly!"
"We brought the company from nothing to a cash flow that has never been equaled," Brown told The Times in 1973. "Then it was 1929 all over again."
In late December 1970, the board of directors forced Richard Zanuck and Brown to resign -- a power play reportedly engineered by Zanuck's father.
After 18 months as executives at Warner Bros., Zanuck and Brown formed their own company.
"Had we not left Fox involuntarily," Brown told Forbes magazine in 1981, "we would never have chosen to become entrepreneurs."
Brown's credits as a Broadway producer include the musicals "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "Sweet Smell of Success," the comedy "The Cemetery Club," the drama "A Few Good Men" and the solo show "Tru."
He is survived by his wife.