Peter Barton — Liberty Media Corp.'s founding president and a key executive in the growth of both MSO Tele-Communications Inc. and the home-shopping industry — died Sept. 8 after a long bout with stomach cancer. He was 51.
Barton "was critically important in building [Liberty] into what it was," Liberty chairman John Malone said in a prepared statement last week. "He was a hell of a lot of fun and a breath of fresh air. I'm going to miss him."
Added MTV Networks Inc. president and COO Mark Rosenthal: "It's an unbelievable loss. Peter just had a zest for life and living, and lived every minute to the fullest.
"First and foremost, his biggest industry contribution was helping Malone assemble Liberty from scratch into one of the great holding companies of the entertainment industry."
In what turned out to be his last public appearance, Barton surfaced at MTV: Music Television's 2002 Video Music Awards
in New York Aug. 29, during a trip arranged for his family by Rosenthal and his colleagues, along with Starz Encore Group LLC CEO John Sie.
During a commercial break, MTV personality Carson Daly acknowledged Barton's efforts to expand MTV's distribution while at TCI in the early 1980s.
Barton, always a big VMA
fan, wanted to come with his family this year, after he learned of his illness.
"A month and a half ago, I asked him to come," Rosenthal said. "He didn't think he was going to make it. I said, 'Guess what, it's earlier this year by a week or two.' He said: I'm there.'
"I spent a lot of that evening with him," he added. "When Carson made the announcement, he stood up and started rocking out. He was really happy. I'm going to remember that all my life."
STARTED IN '82
Malone signed Barton for his first cable-industry role in 1982 with TCI, then the nation's largest cable operator, as head of franchise and programming negotiations. Four years later, TCI launched Cable Value Network, a home-shopping service rival to first-mover Home Shopping Network (which went national one year earlier), with Barton presiding.
In time, Cable Value Network became second to HSN in sales revenue, before it was merged with QVC Network Inc.
At Liberty, Barton helped grow a variety of cable networks, including QVC, Discovery Communications Inc.'s family of channels, the Starz Encore Group LLC services and Court TV.
He served with Liberty from 1991 through 1997, leaving to launch a private investment firm, as well as the Privacy Foundation at the University of Denver, a watchdog group to research technology's impact on privacy matters.
With his wife, Laura, Barton also started Random Acts of Kindness, a venture offering aid to the needy on an anonymous basis.
Along with Laura, Barton is survived by three children, his mother and two brothers. Donations in his memory are encouraged to be sent to The Denver Foundation and the Children's Hospital Foundation, both city-based institutions.
Barton will be honored posthumously by Broadcasting & Cable
on Nov. 11 as one of the magazine's 2002 Hall of Fame inductees.