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Ron Castell, Long-Time Blockbuster Executive, Dies at 75

1 Nov, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey

James Ronald “Ron” Castell, who helped Blockbuster Video grow from a handful of stores to a worldwide giant, died Oct. 31 from a rare neurodegenerative disease. He was 75.

Castell joined Blockbuster in 1989 as SVP of programming where he was responsible for film buying and studio relations. He created Blockbuster’s FAME events, was the driving force behind the company’s annual meetings and authored the book "The Blockbuster Video Guide to the Movies and Videos."

In 1993 when Blockbuster bought Aaron Spelling Productions, Castell served in the office of the president where he ran Spelling Entertainment.

After Blockbuster was sold to Dish Network, Castell would move on to serve as SVP of Huizenga Holdings. It was H. Wayne Huizenga, a Florida industrialist, who purchased a 60% stake in Blockbuster in 1987.

“Our hosts, [then-Paramount video division executives] Eric Doctorow and Bob Klingensmith, graciously took us on two sets: The Hunt for Red October and ‘Star Trek,’” Castell recalled to Home Media Magazine in 2005, discussing a 1989 trip to Hollywood with Huizenga. “Wayne was fascinated with the October submarine set, especially the fact that all the instructions on the sub were in Russian. And on the ‘Star Trek’ set, he sat in Captain Kirk's chair. He was amazed at the details.”

Born in January 1938 in Battle Creek, Mich., Castell was a Michigan State University graduate and an Army veteran who served in Seoul, Korea, where he hosted a morning radio program. He would go on to serve as EVP of marketing for QUBE, Warner Cable’s interactive cable service, where he would help the company win the Pittsburgh cable franchise. He was also host of the “Reel Ron” radio show and co-founded a venture to produce films for underserved markets.

Castell was chairman of the Broward County (Florida) Library Foundation, chairman of the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival and was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to chair the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council. He’s remembered for waking up before 5 a.m. every morning to watch a new movie while reading four different newspapers.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Barbara Ruger Castell; two daughters, Kelly (Jason) Blanton and Julie Castell, both of Columbus, Ohio; stepson Jared (Erin) Ruger, of San Francisco; and three grandchildren, Kate and Will Gingery and Carson.

A service will be held Nov. 5 at 4:30 pm at First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Castell’s honor to the Community Foundation of Broward, 910 East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301. Condolences may be shared at fredhunters.com.

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