Tom Van Amburg Dies: Groundbreaking KABC-TV Executive Was 83

Tom Van Amburg Dies: Groundbreaking KABC-TV Executive Was 83

Tom Van Amburg died Monday in Los Angeles after a short illness. He was 83.

Van Amburg is remembered as a trailblazing Los Angeles TV executive whose innovations drove KABC to the top and launched Regis Philbin as a morning talk show fixture. He also is the father of Apple TV+ head of worldwide video Zack Van Amburg and marketing executive Chris Van Amburg.

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Van Amburg was best known for his tenure as the General Manager of ABC’s flagship O&O station KABC-TV in Los Angeles. He took on that role in 1981, and under his stewardship KABC became the No. 1 broadcast news station and a most trusted news source in Southern California.

His innovations included shepherding the era of local original programming in all dayparts, that included A.M. Los Angeles with Philbin, as well as afternoon talk shows like 330 and early-evening franchise hits such as Eye on L.A. He hired the likes of Jerry Dunphy, Christine Lund, Paul Moyer, Chuck Henry and many more to round out his top-rated newscasts and original series.

RELATED: Regis Philbin’s Death Mourned By Hollywood Fans & Friends: “A TV Legacy That Will Likely Go Unmatched”

Following that run, Van Amburg briefly ran KCBS-TV, before assuming the role of CEO of Vanamedia and production company Tri-Crown Productions as a subsidiary.

Van Amburg also found success in front of the camera, with stylish weekly editorials. He brought the 1984 Olympics to Los Angeles on KABC-TV and hosted specials including Coliseum Coliseum — tracing the historic Los Angeles venue to its roots in Rome. Another innovation was turning the station into a crime-stopping resource. He hosted Eyewitness Anonymous, a show that profiled local criminals on the loose. Van Amburg would end each profile with his signature catchphrase, “Turn ‘em in!”

His storied career spanned roots in radio and a prolific career across several ABC O&Os in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and finally Los Angeles.

Van Amburg’s passion for innovative storytelling was a family affair. His brother Fred, who went by his last name Van Amburg, was a well-known broadcast anchorman for KGO-TV in the Bay Area in the 1970s and ‘80s. And sons Zack and Chris have followed suit in their own lanes.

Van Amburg is survived by his wife, Mary; children Zack, Chris and Arden; and six grandchildren.


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