Tuesday, August 21, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Corrected version

King Empire Began In '40S -- Inexperienced Founder Built Up A Communications Conglomerate

Times Staff

King Broadcasting grew from a fledgling operation in the 1940s to the multimillion dollar broadcast empire it is today.

Dorothy Bullitt formed King Broadcasting Co. in 1946. That same year, she bought radio station KEVR, changed the station to a format of classical music - her favorite - changed its call letters to KING and boosted its power to 50,000 watts.

In 1948, she purchased Channel 5, which then had the call letters KRSC, which she changed to KING. Bullitt, who died in June 1989 at age 97, had purchased the station for $375,000.

Although she had no previous broadcasting experience and little business experience, Bullitt helped expand King Broadcasting into a communications conglomerate that grew 100 times.

In the beginning, the station had only a few programs to televise. KING-TV's broadcast day began in late afternoon and finished by 10 p.m. each evening.

Channel 5 was the only television station in the Northwest. The closest station to it was in San Francisco.

Today, King Broadcasting owns six TV stations in six Western cities - Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Boise, Twin Falls and Honolulu. King also owns six radio stations - two in Seattle (KING-AM and KING-FM), two in Portland, and two in San Francisco. It also owns a cable company, TV- and radio-sales companies and mobile-production facilities.

The firm's cable system operates in Minnesota, California, Idaho and Washington.

Bullitt's broadcasting philosophy was simple. ``I thought people should be told the truth, and plenty of it,'' she said in an interview in 1988.

Soon after buying Channel 5, Bullitt mandated what was one of the first local-news operations in the country. Then she helped shape it into a news unit that earned a national reputation for innovation and public service. KING-TV also excelled in producing local non-news programming.

``She had a very strong hand in determining policy,'' said Ancil Payne, who joined King Broadcasting in 1960 as an assistant to the vice president of the business division and retired in 1987 as president of the company.

NBC affiliate KING-TV now carries a market value of about $150 million, according to industry analysts Paul Kagan Associates. The entire King Broadcasting corporation is valued at more than $400 million. That makes it one of the largest privately held media companies on the West Coast.

Dorothy Bullitt remained president of the company until 1961 when she was succeeded by her son, Stimson Bullitt. She served as chairwoman of the board until 1967 and remained active until her death last year.

In 1972, Dorothy Bullitt's daughters assumed positions with the company's board of directors. Priscilla ``Patsy'' Collins took charge of the board, and Harriet Stimson Bullitt became head of the board's executive committee.

Stimson Bullitt served as president until Payne took over in 1972.

Steven A. Clifford was named president of King Broadcasting in 1987.

Published Correction Date: 08/22/90 - An Estimate Of The Value Of King Broadcasting Co., Attributed To Paul Kagan Associates In This Story, Was Taken From A Story Written A Year Ago And Should Not Have Been Described As The Firm's Current Estimate.

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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