Rhode Island buried former Governor Bruce Sundlun on Sunday, following his death Thursday (7/21) at age 91. His remarkable career included not only politics, but also more than a decade as head of a major broadcasting company.
Sundlun was President and CEO of The Outlet Company beginning in 1976. The Providence-based company owned retail stores, radio stations and TV stations. During his tenure the name changed to Outlet Communications as it merged with the Rockefeller Group. But when the Rockefeller family decided it didn’t want to expand further in broadcasting, Sundlun led a leveraged buyout of the company. At the peak Outlet owned 11 television stations from coast to coast. It had also owned 10 radio stations at various times. Sundlun stepped down from the broadcasting company in 1988, eight years before its last stations were sold.
While still CEO of Outlet Sundlun ran twice for Governor of Rhode Island, but was defeated in the 1986 and ’88 elections. He was elected in his third try, in 1990, and served two two-year terms before losing the Democratic primary in 1994.
Sundlun was so renowned for his pursuit of women that his son Tracy introduced himself to the memorial gathering as the first-born – “or, at least, I think I was.” Sundlun was married five times and fathered four children, including three sons from his first marriage and a daughter born of a relationship outside of marriage. One of the ex-wives joined his widow and other family members for Sunday’s service at Temple Beth-El in Providence.
Daughter Kara Sundlun is an anchor at Meredith’s WFSB-TV (CBS) Providence and is married to fellow anchor Dennis House.
A decorated World War II pilot, Bruce Sundlun’s long career included time in the US Department of Justice, a private law practice, helping to found Executive Jet Aviation, serving on the Providence School Board and teaching at the University of Rhode Island, along with serving on numerous boards.