Thomas J. McDermott, a co-founder of Four Star Television Inc., which once had 11 shows in prime time each week, has died of a heart attack at his Santa Monica home.
Jim Mahoney, a longtime friend, said the onetime advertising executive whose agency, Benton & Bowles Inc., bought more than $5 billion worth of television time, was 65 when he died Saturday.
Creator and/or producer of shows ranging from "Father Knows Best" to the daytime serials "The Edge of Night" and "As the World Turns," McDermott once was responsible for all network programming for Procter & Gamble and General Foods Corp., two of the largest sponsors in broadcasting history.
In 1959, he left advertising and with Dick Powell, Charles Boyer and David Niven formed Four Star Television, an outgrowth of the old Four Star Playhouse.
(Ida Lupino had been the fourth member of the Playhouse entertainment team, but when the company turned to production the title was retained, although there were only three "stars" remaining.)
McDermott, who became president after Powell's death in 1963, helped create or produce "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "Zane Grey Theatre," "The Rifleman," "The Rogues," "Dante" and "The Big Valley."
After Four Star was sold in 1970 he joined RCA. He left six years later to form a production partnership with Jack Wrather for movies and TV films. After Wrather's death in 1985 he bought out the Wrather library, which included the "Lassie" and "Lone Ranger" series and formed Southbrook Entertainment Corp. It was sold in 1987 for $40 million.
Survivors include his wife, Anne, a daughter and two sons, who ask donations in his name to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.