William Samuel Paley (September 28, 1901 – October 26, 1990) was the chief executive who built Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from a small radio network into one of the foremost radio and television network operations in the United States.
Paley's father, Samuel Paley, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, ran a cigar company and, as the company became increasingly successful, the new millionaire moved his family to Philadelphia in the early 1920s. William Paley matriculated at Western Military Academy in Alton, IL then received his college degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in expectation that he would take an increasingly active role running the family cigar business.
The younger Paley's career took a fateful turn in 1927 when his father, brother-in-law and some business partners bought a struggling Philadelphia-based radio network of 16 stations called the Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System. Paley Senior's intention had been to use his acquisition as nothing more than an advertising medium for promoting the family's cigar business, which included the La Palina brand. Within a year, under William's leadership, cigar sales had more than doubled, and, in 1928, the Paley family secured majority ownership of the network. Within a decade, Paley had expanded the network to 114 affiliate stations with WCAU radio and later WCAU TV as the flagship stations.