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Subject: Thomas Wyman, 73, Former CBS Chief

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Date Posted: January 10, 2003 5:14:53 EDT

Thomas H. Wyman, a former chairman and chief executive of CBS who resigned his membership in the Augusta National Golf Club last month to protest its refusal to admit women, died on Wednesday in Boston. He was 73.

The cause was complications of an abdominal infection, his son, Michael, said. He lived in Cambridge, Mass., where he taught at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Mr. Wyman was at the helm of CBS in the first half of the 1980's, when the network stubbornly clung to its history as the gold standard of networks.

But fundamental challenges were confronting television. Independent stations, cable television and changing viewer habits eroded network viewership. CBS faced particular troubles: soaring debt, flagging book and record divisions, and repeated hostile takeover attempts.

When Mr. Wyman took over as president and chief executive on June 2, 1980, he was the fifth president in less than nine years and the third in less than four.

By 1982, earnings were down and rumors circulated that Mr. Wyman was on the way out. William S. Paley, the founder of CBS, quelled the speculation by stepping down as chairman and giving the job to Mr. Wyman in April 1983. But it was still not easy sledding.

"He had to keep the troops' spirits up, he had to keep the wolves at bay, he had a board to deal with, he had a founder to keep happy, he had to deal with wild swings in the stock market," Franklin Thomas, a CBS director, said in an interview with Ken Auletta for his book "Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way" (Random House, 1991).

By September 1986, Laurence A. Tisch owned a quarter of CBS stock, and he and Mr. Paley persuaded the board to oust Mr. Wyman. Mr. Paley returned as chairman, and Mr. Tisch became president.

Mr. Wyman moved on to other executive positions, including a seat on the board of General Motors, where he led the successful push for a nonexecutive chairman, a rarity in major corporations.

Thomas Hunt Wyman was born on Nov. 30, 1929, in St. Louis. He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and he majored in English and was an all-American soccer player at Amherst. He was an enthusiastic alumnus. An article in 1955 in The New York Times discussed his ceremoniously returning a statue that his class of 1951 had "liberated" from a college museum. He later became chairman of Amherst's board of trustees.

After graduation, he worked for the First National City Bank in New York. He then served in the Army Corps of Engineers in Korea during the Korean War.

He worked for Nestlé for 10 years before joining Polaroid in 1965. At Polaroid, his boss was Edwin H. Land, the company's hard-driving founder. Mr. Wyman's experience with Mr. Land helped him learn to get along with difficult bosses like Mr. Paley. For example, Mr. Wyman quit smoking after stubbing out a cigarette on an American Indian plate that Mr. Land grimly informed him was irreplaceable.

He came to be regarded as Mr. Land's successor, but grew tired of waiting and took the top job at Jolly Green Giant, where he changed the focus from canning to fancy frozen vegetables. When Pillsbury bought the company, Mr. Wyman became a vice chairman there.

His first marriage, to Patricia A. Purdy, ended in divorce. His second wife, the former Elizabeth Minnerly, died in January 2002. He is survived by his wife, the Rev. Dr. Deborah Whiting Little, whom he married on Nov. 16.

Besides his wife and his son, Michael, who lives in Winnetka, Ill., he is survived by two other sons, Peter, of New Canaan, Conn., and Thomas Jr., of Tiburon, Calif.; a daughter, Lisa Cordle, of Littleton, N.H.; three sisters, Betty Caspari and Mary Hunt, both of St. Louis, and Sally Slack, of Chapel Hill, N.C.; and 11 grandchildren.

In addition to serving on many corporate boards, Mr. Wyman was active in many civic and civil rights organizations. He did not mince words in a December interview with The Times after he resigned from the Augusta country club.

"There are obviously some redneck, old-boy types down there," he said, "but there are a lot of very thoughtful rational people in our membership, and they feel as strongly as I do."

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