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Jon Kelly, former KCRA & KCPQ station owner, dies at 84

Former KCRA and KCPQ owner Jon Kelly is seen in an undated photograph. (Courtesy image)

Jon Kelly, a California businessman who once owned television stations in Seattle and Sacramento, died this week at a hospice center in Southern California.

Kelly was 84.

In his final years, Kelly maintained a network of international Thoroughbred horse racing operations. His 84th birthday was celebrated with family and friends by his side on July 24.

Born in Berkeley, California, Kelly graduated from the University of California at Berkeley before entering the family’s broadcasting business. During his time with the company, the Kelly Family owned NBC affiliate KCRA-TV (Channel 3) in Sacramento and independent station KCPQ-TV (Channel 13) in Seattle.

Following his father’s death in 1960, Kelly was tapped to serve as KCRA’s general manager while his brother, Robert Kelly, became the station’s president. The Kelly brothers poured time, money and attention into KCRA that ultimately led it to become a local news powerhouse in the Sacramento market.

In Seattle, the Kelly family purchased television broadcast rights to Hollywood films, making KCPQ one of the top-rated independent stations on the west coast.

The Kelly family sold KCPQ to the Tribune Company in 1988. The station signed on as a charter affiliate of the then-upcoming Fox Broadcast Network. Fox Television Stations acquired KCPQ from Tribune’s successor Nexstar Media Group earlier this year.

After selling KCPQ, Jon and Robert Kelly continued to operate KCRA until 1999 when the station was sold to Hearst-Argyle Television for more than $500 million. It remains under the ownership of Hearst Television today.

In addition to running the broadcast company, Kelly founded River City Bank, a successful Sacramento-based financial institution. Kelly also oversaw several real estate development projects throughout Northern California.

Kelly is survived by his wife, six children and several grandchildren.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).