Get to know an industry giant: Jack Kent Cooke


Jack Kent Cooke (October 25, 1912 – April 6, 1997) was a Canadian-American entrepreneur who became one of the most widely-known executives in North American professional sports. He owned the Washington Redskins (NFL), the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), and the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), and built the The Forum in Inglewood, California.

He was an encyclopedia salesman in the 1930s before becoming a runner on the floor of the Toronto Stock Exchange. He was selling soap in Northern Ontario for Colgate-Palmolive in 1936 when he met Roy Thomson, who hired Cooke to run radio station CJCS in Stratford, Ontario. The two became partners in 1941, buying radio stations and newspapers in Ontario and Quebec. With the financial backing of J. P. Bickell, Cooke purchased CKCL in 1945.

With the support of Francis E. Walter, Cooke quickly became a citizen when both houses of Congress and President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a waiver of the usual five-year waiting period.

At the time, Canada and the U.S. both had laws prohibiting foreign control of radio and TV stations. Cooke had entered the U.S. broadcasting industry in August 1959 by acquiring Pasadena, California radio station KRLA 1110 through his brother, Donald Cooke, a U.S. citizen.

Cooke formed American Cablevision in the 1960s and acquired several cable television companies. He acquired majority ownership of TelePrompTer cable TV and sold it in the late 1970s for $646 million.[2] In 1980, he bought the Chrysler Building in New York City, one of the world’s most renowned skyscrapers. In 1985, Cooke bought the Los Angeles Daily News for $176 million.[3] A year later, he acquired another cable TV company.[4

Cooke was married five times; two of those marriages were to his final wife. His first marriage, to Barbara Jean Carnegie in Toronto in 1934, ended in 1979 in what was at the time the largest divorce settlement in history—$42 million. The presiding judge was Joseph Wapner, who later came to fame as the judge on The People’s Court. They had two sons: John Kent Cooke and Ralph Kent Cooke.

His second marriage, to Jeanne Maxwell, lasted 10 months.

Cooke’s third wife, Suzanne Elizabeth Martin, had a baby girl whom she named Jacqueline Kent Cooke when Jack Kent Cooke was 74 and she was 31. However, the marriage was dissolved after 73 days. She sued Cooke for $15 million.[5] Jacqueline Kent Cooke has sued the estate seeking $275 million,[6], but the case was thrown out on November 24, 2008. [1]

Following his death, it was revealed that his final wife, Marlene Ramallo Chalmers—a former drug runner from Bolivia who was 40 years his junior—had been cut out of his will.[7] They had married in 1990, divorced in 1993 (after she made headlines in May 1992 by accidentally shooting herself in the finger and in September 1993 by driving drunk in Georgetown with a man pounding on the hood of her Jaguar convertible), and remarried in 1995. She filed suit against the estate and reportedly received $20 million in a settlement reached about a year after Cooke’s death.

The bulk of Cooke’s $825 million estate went into establishing the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to help struggling people achieve the same success that he enjoyed. The stated mission of the foundation is to “help young people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education.”


2 Responses to “Get to know an industry giant: Jack Kent Cooke”

  1. machosteakjet Says:

    Little known additional facts: he enjoyed killing endangered species with an experimental taser and he had a lifelong passion for antebellum evening wear.

  2. orange rumped agouti Says:

    This post made me fall back in love with Judge Wapner. All over again.

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