Tinker took over the network in 1981, when NBC was in last place in ratings among the broadcast networks. Under his leadership, it rose to first, thanks to shows he helped develop including Cheers, Hill Street Blues and The Cosby Show. He left NBC in 1986 after it was acquired by GE.
Before NBC, Tinker was a co-founder of MTM Enterprises with his then-wife Mary Tyler Moore(Tinker and the legendary actress split in 1981 after 19 years of marriage). The power couple led a production company that made Moore's eponymous show, The Bob Newhart Show, and WKRP in Cincinnati, among others.
He died at his home in California on Nov. 28. No cause of death has been released. He is survived by his sons John and Mark Tinker, who are both TV producers, son Michael, and daughter Jodie, children from his first marriage to Ruth Byerly.
In a statement, current NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said, "Grant Tinker was a great man who made an indelible mark on NBC and the history of television that continues to this day. He loved creative people and protected them, while still expertly managing the business. Very few people have been able to achieve such a balance. We try to live up to the standards he set each and every day. Our hearts go out to his family and friends."
Mary Tyler Moore also issued a statement. "I am deeply saddened to learn that my former husband and professional mentor Grant Tinker has passed away," she said. "I'm forever grateful for and proud of what we achieved together with the creation of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and founding of MTM Enterprises (an independent production studio that created what remain some of the best TV shows ever made). Grant was a brilliant, driven executive who uniquely understood that the secret to great TV content was freedom for its creators and performing artists. This was manifest in his 'first be best and then be first' approach. He lived life to the fullest in his nearly 91 years and he left an indelible mark on the television industry and its audiences. My thoughts are with his four children, John, Mark, Michael and Jodie."
Tinker won a lifetime achievement Peabody in 1994 and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1997.