Legendary Talent Agent Lee Gabler Passes Away at 84

Television Legend Lee Gabler Dies at 84 After Brain Injury.

by Nouman Rasool
Legendary Talent Agent Lee Gabler Passes Away at 84
© Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

Lee Gabler, a giant in the world of television and former co-chairman and managing partner at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), died Wednesday in Los Angeles from a brain injury. He was 84 years old. Beginning his career in the early 1960s, Gabler climbed the ranks from a mailroom worker at Ashley Steiner Famous Artists in New York to a top-tier talent agent, shaping the television landscape for decades.

Under his guidance, the agency evolved into International Creative Management (ICM), where Gabler ascended to executive vice president. His early assignments included significant variety shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, laying the groundwork for a career characterized by historic television deals.

In 1982, CAA recruited Gabler to bolster its television division. By 1989, he led the division, turning it into Hollywood's most formidable television agency department. During his tenure, he signed transformational deals, such as David Letterman's landmark move from NBC to CBS, which redefined late-night TV.

He ensured the Letterman show was a staple for over two decades and won six Emmy Awards.

Shaping Industry Giants

Gabler had gone beyond just the individual shows to work with and structure the careers of industry giants like Aaron Spelling, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, and Jerry Bruckheimer.

His strategic negotiations placed 52 television shows on the air in a year—a record for CAA—and led to the success of iconic series such as Taxi, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Beyond the boardroom, Gabler was also a mentor and trusted advisor, nurturing the careers of countless agents and producers.

His legacy includes pioneering programs like the Gabler Promise Scholars Writing Program at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Gabler Writing Partners Program at NYU/Gallatin, both aimed at supporting students from under-resourced communities.

Born in New Jersey in 1940, Gabler's upbringing in the Bronx and Westchester County shaped his early life. He graduated from Mamaroneck High School and SUNY Buffalo and embarked on a journey that would take him to influence the highest echelons of the television business.

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, President of 3000 Pictures at Sony Pictures Entertainment; daughters Annalise Gabler and Jennifer Gabler Rawlings; and four grandchildren. His life will be celebrated privately with a public Celebration of Life later this summer.