Merv Adelson: Examining the Legacy of a Media Mogul

Photo of author

By David

Real Name:Mervyn Lee Adelson
Birthday:October 23, 1929 - September 8, 2015
Net Worth$300 million
Occupation:American Real Estate Developer, Businessman, Television Producer, Former Husband of Barbara Walters

Merv Adelson was an American real estate developer and television producer, best known as the co-founder of Lorimar Television. Born in Los Angeles on October 23, 1929, Adelson grew up in a Jewish family, with his parents Nathan and Pearl Adelson running a few grocery stores. During his early years, he assisted his family’s business by working in the stores and conducting deliveries after school.

As he ventured into his professional career, Adelson shifted from the grocery business to real estate, and eventually entered the realm of television production. In the 1970s and 80s, his company Lorimar became a dominant force in Hollywood, producing hit shows such as “The Waltons,” “Dallas,” and “Knot’s Landing.” Adelson’s successful career showcased his ability to adapt and thrive in various industries, making him a prominent figure in both real estate development and television production.

Early Life and Career Beginnings

Merv Adelson was born on October 23, 1929, in Los Angeles, California. Coming from a modest background, Adelson had aspirations of making a significant impact in the world of real estate development and television production. His journey began when he established a partnership with a fellow entrepreneur, Irwin Molasky.

Partnership with Irwin Molasky

In the early stages of their careers, Merv Adelson and Irwin Molasky joined forces to create a real estate development empire. The duo recognized the potential in Las Vegas and sought to capitalize on the city’s rapid growth and increasing popularity.

Ventures in Las Vegas

Among their many ventures, Adelson and Molasky became involved with influential Las Vegas figure Moe Dalitz. Together, they developed several successful projects, including the Las Vegas Country Club, which marked a significant shift in the city’s real estate landscape.

With their collective abilities and strategic partnerships, Adelson and Molasky contributed to the development of key projects in Las Vegas such as:

  • Las Vegas Country Club: A prestigious golf course and residential community that attracted celebrities and wealthy individuals.
  • Sunrise Hospital: Las Vegas’ first private medical facility, addressing the healthcare needs of the growing population.
  • Boulevard Mall: An expansive shopping center catering to the needs of the local community.

These early ventures laid the groundwork for Adelson’s eventual entry into the television production industry, where he went on to create the iconic production company, Lorimar Television.

Lorimar and Television Success

Formation of Lorimar Productions

Merv Adelson, an American real estate developer and television producer, co-founded Lorimar Television. This company’s foundation paved the way for its eventual television success throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Lorimar Productions became agile within the television industry, capitalizing on popular television series and gaining widespread recognition as a leading TV production company.

Popular TV Shows and Series

During its peak, Lorimar produced a range of memorable television shows that captivated audiences across the United States. The following list includes some of the most popular series produced by the company:

  • The Waltons: A heartwarming family drama depicting the lives of the Walton family during the Great Depression and World War II.
  • Knots Landing: A spin-off of Dallas, focusing on the residents of a suburban Southern California cul-de-sac, this soap opera tackled various real-life issues faced by middle-class families.
  • Dallas: A prime-time soap opera that dominated the ratings in the 1980s, chronicling the lives of the wealthy Ewing family who owned an oil and ranching empire in Texas.
  • Eight Is Enough: A drama-comedy series revolving around the life of a newspaper columnist and his eight children.
  • Falcon Crest: A soap opera that centered on the lives of the wealthy Gioberti/Channing family, who owned a large vineyard in the San Francisco area, dealing with family conflicts, power struggles, and schemes.

These shows were instrumental in shaping the TV landscape during their respective eras, contributing to Lorimar’s success and establishing Merv Adelson as a key player in the television industry.

Hollywood Influence and Relationships

Marriage to Barbara Walters

Merv Adelson married renowned television journalist Barbara Walters in 1981. Their relationship was a significant intersection between real estate, television production, and journalism. They divorced in 1984 but remarried in 1986 before finally getting divorced again in 1992. Throughout their time together, Adelson and Walters were both influential figures within the entertainment industry.

Industry Connections and Collaborations

Merv Adelson’s Hollywood journey was marked by his strong connections and fruitful collaborations. As a co-founder of Lorimar Television, Adelson played a critical role in the company’s success. Lorimar was responsible for producing iconic shows like The Waltons, Dallas, and Knots Landing.

In 1969, Adelson teamed up with Lee Rich, who was already well-established in the advertising world, to create the successful company. Their combined efforts and business acumen helped develop Lorimar into a major television production force.

Throughout his career, Adelson worked with numerous high-profile individuals in the entertainment industry. One notable connection was Leslie Moonves, who eventually became the CEO and Chairman of CBS Corporation. Adelson mentored Moonves in the early stages of his entertainment career, and under Adelson’s guidance, Moonves developed a strong foundation in the industry.

A few of Merv Adelson’s achievements include:

  • Co-founding Lorimar Television
  • Playing a critical role in the production of successful TV shows
  • Gaining influence within Hollywood through partnerships
  • Mentoring future executives like Leslie Moonves

Adelson’s contributions to the world of Hollywood and television production have had a lasting impact, as evidenced by the careers of those he collaborated with and mentored. His relationships with industry giants like Barbara Walters, Lee Rich, and Leslie Moonves demonstrate the extent of his influence in the entertainment landscape.

Business Expansions and Real Estate

Diversification into Other Business Areas

Merv Adelson was a well-known American real estate developer who ventured beyond real estate and diversified into the television industry. He co-founded Lorimar Television, a production company that became a significant player in Hollywood. Although Adelson focused on his entertainment business, his real estate interests remained an essential part of his career.

Real Estate Developments in California

As a real estate developer, Adelson was active in various parts of California, including Santa Monica, Malibu, and Beverly Hills. While he built a considerable fortune in this industry, he also faced challenges along the way. His development projects contributed to the growth and prosperity of these prime Californian locations.

Santa Monica

In Santa Monica, Adelson developed upscale commercial properties and residential complexes that catered to the city’s growing population and demand for luxury accommodations.


Known for its scenic beauty and beachfront properties, Malibu was a natural choice for Adelson’s real estate developments. He played a significant role in enhancing the city’s reputation as a sought-after location for high-end residences.

Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills stands as one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in California, featuring an array of luxury estates and mansions. Adelson’s real estate projects in this area undoubtedly contributed to the city’s glamorous image and high-class living standards.

Philanthropy and Medical Contributions

Support for Medical Facilities

Merv Adelson was a well-known philanthropist and business magnate. One of his significant contributions to society was in the field of medical research and facilities. In the 1950s, Adelson, along with his partners Irwin Molasky and Moe Dalitz, played a crucial role in the development of the Las Vegas Country Club and consequently Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. The establishment of this medical center provided much-needed healthcare services to the growing Las Vegas community.

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center has continued to expand and develop over the years, providing state-of-the-art care and treatment to the local population. Their efforts include but are not limited to:

  • Emergency services
  • Cardiology services
  • Surgical and medical oncology
  • Women’s health services
  • Rehabilitation services

Community Engagement and Giving Back

Adelson’s dedication to philanthropy extended beyond the establishment of medical facilities. He was actively involved in contributing to various charitable causes and community engagements. His generosity helped improve the lives of many individuals in a variety of ways. Some of his notable efforts include:

  1. Support for medical research, particularly in the fields of oncology, cardiology, and women’s health.
  2. Active community engagement through partnerships with various local organizations and initiatives.
  3. Financial assistance to those in need, enabling them to receive proper medical care.

Through his philanthropic efforts and contributions to medical facilities, Merv Adelson has left a lasting impact on the communities that he has served. His actions have inspired others to give back and strive for positive change in society.

Personal Life and Legacy

Family and Personal Interests

Merv Adelson, born on October 23, 1929, was an influential American real estate developer and television producer who co-founded Lorimar Television. Merv was born in Los Angeles to a Jewish family, with parents Nathan and Pearl Adelson (née Swartz). In his personal life, he was married to Lori Kaufman.

Adelson had a keen interest in entertainment, which was reflected in his professional career as a television producer. As a loving grandfather, Merv shared his interests and passions with his grandchildren, ensuring a lasting legacy and strong familial bond.

Health Challenges

Throughout Merv Adelson’s life, he faced several health challenges, showcasing his resilience and determination. He experienced multiple bouts of cancer, fighting the illness with tenacity and courage. Unfortunately, his health continued to decline, and in the latter years of his life, Adelson suffered from a stroke that eventually led to complications and his passing on September 8, 2015 at the age of 85.

Adelson’s personal life was marked by his strength and dedication to his family, instilling a sense of resilience in those around him. As a philanthropist, Merv Adelson supported various causes and initiatives, further bolstering his legacy as an influential figure both in the entertainment industry and in society.

Final Years and Death

Late Career Moves

In Merv Adelson’s later years, he continued to make significant contributions to the entertainment industry as a producer and developer. Merv, born in Los Angeles in 1929, co-founded Lorimar Television, which produced popular 1970s and ’80s TV shows such as The Waltons and Dallas. As a developer, Adelson was involved in real estate and resort development. While he experienced both successes and setbacks in his career, his daring spirit proved influential to many in the television industry.

Passing and Memorials

Merv Adelson passed away on September 8, 2015, at the age of 85. As an influential figure in both the TV industry and philanthropy, his death was mourned by many who knew him personally and those who appreciated his work. Merv left a lasting legacy through the television shows and charitable endeavors he was involved in, and his dedication to the industry will always be remembered.