Paley, William S.

Also found in: Financial.

Paley, William S. (Samuel)

(1901–91) broadcast executive; born in Chicago. He joined the family business, Congress Cigar Co., in Philadelphia, after graduation in 1922 from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. Impressed with the results of advertising the family's La Palina cigars on a fledgling local radio network, he bought the network for $300,000 in 1928. A year later, it became the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and grew into one of the most powerful radio and television broadcasting networks in the nation, with Paley at the helm for 50 years. Among his accomplishments were development of the country's best broadcast news operation and the establishment of Columbia Records as one of the most successful recording companies in the world. He was notorious for his talent raids on competitors like the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), from which he wooed Jack Benny, Red Skelton, and Frank Sinatra. An art connoisseur, he served as president of the Museum of Modern Art.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.