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Entertainment Tycoon Lew Grade Dies

December 13, 1998 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ Lew Grade, the legendary, cigar-chomping entertainment tycoon who founded Britain’s first commercially funded television company, died Sunday. He was 91.

Grade, whose projects included the TV series ``The Saint,″ and the movie ``On Golden Pond,″ died of heart failure at the London Clinic two weeks after undergoing surgery, said his spokesman Dennis Michael.

Grade, the son of immigrants from Ukraine, gave up an early dancing career and started a small showbiz agency in 1934.

Twenty-one years later he founded Associated Television, the first commercially funded channel launched in Britain to compete with the British Broadcasting Corp.

Grade, who was knighted in 1963 and given a life peerage in 1976, rode showbiz rapids for 70 years _ with a string of TV hits, some movie flops, fantastic deal-making skills, and memorable one-liners.

Of perhaps his most expensive box office flop, ``Raise the Titantic″ which cost $30 million to make in 1980, he quipped, ``It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic.″

Born Louis Winogradsky on Christmas Day 1906 in Tokmak, Ukraine, he came to London at age six. His family became a showbiz dynasty _ one nephew heads Britain’s Channel 4 and a brother ran a music and electronics business.

After school, as Louis Grad, he took up dancing, becoming the World Charleston Champion in 1926. In 1929 a French journalist misspelled his name _ and Lew Grade stuck.

ATV dominated much of British popular television through the 50s, 60s and 70s.

He is survived by his wife, the former Kathleen Moody, his son, and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were not announced immediately.