Thomas “Tom” Murphy (Capital Cities/ABC), HBS 1949, joined a small television station in upstate New York after graduating from HBS. Over several decades, and as a result of many brilliantly crafted deals, he gradually built the telecommunications empire Capital Cities. In 1985, Tom engineered the purchase of ABC with the backing of his long-time friend Warren Buffett, and the company became Cap Cities/ABC. Ten years later, Tom sold Cap Cities/ABC to Disney for about $19 billion. He described his experiences in an interview from his Manhattan office at ABC in December 2000. Interviewer: Amy Blitz, HBS Director of Media Development for Entrepreneurial Management.

The Early Years

I would say that the most fortunate thing that happened to me, outside of being born an American, was that my father and mother were just magnificent. They were very happily married. They were vitally interested in their children and in giving us the best possible education. They were great role models for my sister, my brother, and me. I think that to have great role models at a very young age is a very fortunate thing. It doesn’t happen to everybody. I would say that the single most important thing in my life is the wonderful family I came from.

My father was the youngest child in a big Irish family. He was the only one who went to college and later, after he got out of the First World War, he became a lawyer. He went to Fordham Law School at night. As a lawyer he developed quite a business, and during the last fifteen years of his life he was a Supreme Court judge in New York State. Unfortunately, he died when he was sixty-four. My father was very successful and I was very proud of him.

I have an older brother who’s a very successful lawyer, and a younger sister. She’s seventy years old now, but she’s still younger than I am.

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