Ed Ansin — the longtime owner of WHDH-TV (Channel 7) who shook up Boston television with flashy graphics and a breaking news style that has become the norm — died Sunday at his Miami home. He was 84.
Paul Magnes, executive vice president of Channel 7′s parent company, Sunbeam Television, confirmed Ansin’s death.
At an age when most people are retired, Ansin remained involved at Sunbeam, which owns Channel 7 and Boston sister station WLVI-TV (Channel 56) and WSVN-TV (Channel 7) in Miami.
“Most people think I’m crazy not to retire,” Ansin told the Globe in December. “Tom Brady plays football until he’s 42, and that’s crazy, too. I’m obsessed with television. I just like it.”
Even though Ansin had a succession plan in place with his two sons, the media mogul was not ready to relinquish control. “I want to die with my boots on,” Ansin said.
Magnes said Ansin had been healthy and was at work last week but didn’t feel well over the weekend.
“He got out the way he wanted to,” said Magnes.
In a memo to Sunbeam employees, Magnes wrote: “Besides his family, Ed loved nothing more than owning and operating his television stations. We are all so fortunate to have worked for a man who truly cared about his employees and the industry.”
Ansin’s two sons, Andy and James, will take over the leadership of the company, according to Magnes. The Ansin family has been in the television business for more than half a century, first in Miami and then in Boston, where Ed Ansin bought Channel 7 in 1993.
The family has also amassed real estate holdings, which, along with the television stations, helped make Ed Ansin a billionaire.
In recent years, Ansin was in the headlines after a bitter breakup with NBC. WHDH had been the longtime Boston affiliate for the network, which gave it programming lead-ins like “The Today Show” and “The Voice.”
But in 2017, the two parted ways after more than two decades. Ansin set up an independent station, and NBC set up NBC10 Boston. Ansin, known as a maverick in the industry, decided to double down on local news and added staff to WHDH to ensure it would remain competitive.
One reason, Ansin explained, was that he hoped one day WHDH would find another partner.
“My attitude has always been you have a first-class news operation, chances are somebody is going to want to affiliate with you, whether it’s Fox, Apple, or Amazon someday,” he told the Globe.
First in Miami and later in Boston, Ansin pioneered flashy graphics and a breaking news format in local television that became ratings gold. Even as an independent station, WHDH held its own in the ratings race in Boston.
A four-minute segment aired Sunday during WHDH’s regular 10 p.m. newscast and again at 11 p.m., honoring Ansin and his contributions to the Boston media scene.
“His last years were probably his most successful because he did for this station what no one else has done, and that’s to be number one in prime time, a breaking-news leader, and to be doing so well as an independent local station,” said anchor Kim Khazei following the segment.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston was among an outpouring of tributes on Twitter to Ansin.
”Sad to hear of the passing of Ed Ansin,who was a trailblazer in the Boston media market, leading 7News with a steady hand for decades and leaving a lasting mark on the entire television industry,” Walsh wrote. “He will be missed.”
Chris Wayland, the president and general manager of NBC’s Boston TV stations and regional cable network, worked with Ansin at both WHDH and Sunbeam. Wayland said in a statement that Ansin changed local broadcast “more than anyone [who] has ever lived.”
“He changed my life both personally and professionally in immeasurable ways,” he wrote in the statement. “I will forever be indebted and grateful to Ed. I am crushed and my heart aches for the Ansin and Sunbeam family. We lost a giant today the likes of which we will never see again.”
As word of Ansin’s death spread on Sunday, tributes appeared on Twitter.
At a time when local news is so endangered, Ed Ansin stood out for his unwavering personal commitment to broadcast journalism. Roots in the community actually meant something to him. He led @7News with passion and drive. Saddened by his passing. pic.twitter.com/2JbArjnDEx— Joe Sciacca (@BHsciacca) July 27, 2020
The ch 7 family @7News @wsvn is in shock over the sudden death of our owner, Ed Ansin. The man lived and breathed local news and proclaimed in January “I want to die with my boots on.” He sure did. We were CBS when Ed and Joel Cheatwood hired me in late 1993.— Jonathan Hall (@JHall7news) July 26, 2020
Globe correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this story.