segelstein irwin cbs records

Irwin Segelstein, president of CBS Records (second from right), with singer Minnie Riperton and recording industry colleagues, 1975.
(Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns)

Irwin B. Segelstein

Class of 1945

Inducted 2001

Irwin Segelstein was an influential broadcasting executive who became the second in command at NBC, reporting only to Fred Silverman, a close associate who was the network’s president and chief executive officer and who had worked with Segelstein before when both men were at CBS.

Segelstein was born in Brooklyn on May 1, 1925 and enrolled at City College in 1941, majoring in biology. While a student, he and some of his classmates were writing and performing comedy sketches at parties and other informal gatherings.

In 1944, during World War II, he entered the Army Air Force, serving for three years. When he returned to civilian life, Segelstein joined the advertising agency Benton & Bowles, where he spent the next 18 years. He was head of B&B’s radio and television programming department when he was recruited by CBS in June 1965 as vice president for programs in New York. Five years later, he was promoted to vice president of program administration by Silverman, who was then in charge of programming at the network.

In 1973, Segelstein was appointed president of CBS Records, succeeding Clive Davis, who had been fired for alleged expense-account violations, and whose administration was plagued by a drug and payola scandal. The offer came as something of a surprise to Segelstein, whose personal record collection consisted mainly of Broadway cast albums and cantorial music. But he also owned a reputation for honesty and that was a deciding factor.

segelstein irwin celebrating with paul simons
Paul Simon celebrating his best-selling albums with CBS Records president Irwin Segelstein

NBC had suffered a precipitous ratings decline in the 1975-76 season and hired Segelstein away from CBS in April 1976, naming him executive vice president in charge of programming. Two years later, Silverman joined NBC as president and ceo, reuniting with Segelstein. The two were so close, they even lived in the same apartment building. On his first day at work, Silverman named Segelstein his deputy and gave him a newly created position and a new title: executive vice president, broadcasting. Segelstein was Silverman’s deputy in the day-to-day operations of NBC’s five broadcast divisions: television network, radio network, stations, news and sports. In June 1980, Segelstein was named president of NBC Entertainment, a new position.

In 1981, Grant Tinker succeeded Silverman as head of NBC and appointed Segelstein vice chairman, while realigning certain departments. Under the new setup, staff areas such as business affairs, corporate planning, public affairs and law reported to Segelstein.

Segelstein left NBC in 1990 to become an independent television producer.

He died on Aug. 19, 2008 at the age of 83.