Emilio Nicolás Sr., founding pioneer of the network that would become Univision, died today at his home in San Antonio. He was 88.
Nicolás, a Mexican immigrant from Frontera, Coahuila made a name for himself in the U.S. Spanish-language broadcast industry, but it wasn’t his first career choice.
He moved to San Antonio in his late teens to study, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in biology and chemistry and a Master’s Degree at Trinity University, before going to work in 1952 as a researcher on arteriosclerosis and the polio vaccine.
While in college, he met his future wife Irma, daughter of Spanish-language radio station KCOR founder Raoul Cortez. That connection would end up changing his path.
He got his start in broadcasting in 1955, when he went to work as a producer and director for Cortez the same year his father-in-law launched KCOR TV.
In 1961, Nicolás and a group of investors that included René Anselmo and Televisa’s Emilio Azcárraga Vidaurreta bought KCOR TV and renamed the station KWEX. Nicolás became general manager, rebuilding the financially struggling station. He went on to oversee the purchase additional stations, including KMEX in Los Angeles, leading to the creation of the Spanish International Communications Corporation (SICC) station group.
In 1976, the San Antonio station became center of operations for the Spanish International Network (SIN) – the first U.S. satellite interconnected television network – and part of what is now Univision.
Among his many contributions, Nicolás, along with business partner Anselmo, successfully lobbied Congress to mandate that all television sets come equipped to receive UHF channels, where the network’s channels lived.
He stepped down from SICC in 1987 after selling SIN to Hallmark for $301.5 million. That year, the network was renamed Univision.
After a two-year non-compete period with Hallmark ended, Nicolás teamed up with Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, the son of Emilio Azcárraga Vidaurreta, to make Galavisión the third Spanish-language network in the U.S. Nicolás bought several low power television (LPTV) permits and entered into a 10-year contract with Galavisión to distribute its signal.
Nicolás and Azcárraga severed ties in 1997. Nicolás eventually sold his stations to Pappas Television that turned them into Azteca América affiliates, and to Univision, which it acquired for Telefutura (now Unimás).
In 2012, Univision honored Nicolás with the Univision Corazón Award during KMEX’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Nicolás is survived by his wife Irma, his children Emilio Jr., Miriam and Guillermo, one sister, five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.