Business

Reese Schonfeld, a Founder of CNN and Food Network, Dies at 88


“If I had been working for anyone else, given the Nielsen ratings, I would’ve expected a moment of congratulations, shared glory, but Ted Turner did not like to share glory,” Mr. Schonfeld wrote in a memoir, “Me and Ted Against the World: The Unauthorized Story of the Founding of CNN” (2001).

By his account the two men clashed over Mr. Schonfeld’s decision not to retain a nighttime talk show host, Sandi Freeman, a decision that Mr. Turner reversed. Mr. Turner complained that Mr. Schonfeld was too demanding of the on-air talent. Mr. Turner also disliked Mr. Schonfeld’s choice of Mr. Braden and Mr. Buchanan for “Crossfire,” according to the memoir.

Soon after leaving CNN, Mr. Schonfeld spent two years as a vice president of Cablevision on Long Island, helping to start News 12, the first all-news local cable channel in the United States. But his attempt to start a book channel with Cablevision failed.

He then worked on various projects, including producing “People Magazine on TV” and helping to plan the International Business Channel for Time Warner. In 1992 he joined an executive team that started the Food Network, which went on the air the next year. He was named its president.

“I am a newsman,” he told The New York Times in 1995. “My beat now is food.”

Maurice Wolfe Schonfeld was born on Nov. 5, 1931, in Newark to Philip and Sarah (Wolfe) Schonfeld. His father was a partner in a glass and mirror company; his mother was a homemaker, secretary and bookkeeper.

Reese, as he was known (his younger sister, Barbara, had mispronounced Maurice and the name stuck), graduated from Dartmouth College in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in government, though he said in his book that he had been more interested in gambling than grades. He nevertheless went to Harvard Law School but was expelled seven months later for his continued gambling.

Mr. Schonfeld entered Columbia Law School in 1956, fulfilling his father’s dream of having a lawyer for a son. He also started working as a copy boy at United Press Movietone News, which distributed newsreels to movie theaters and news film to TV stations. He earned his law degree in 1960 and eventually rose to managing editor of Movietone News. (He never practiced law.) In 1963, after the company ceased operations, he was named vice president of United Press International Television News.



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