NEW YORK (AP) – Philip J. Smith, who rose from treasurer at the Imperial Theater on Broadway to chairman and co-CEO of theater giant Shubert Organization, has died of COVID-19, according to his daughters. He was 89 years old.
In a career of 63 years, Smith worked in all departments of the Shubert organization and in 1964 was appointed general manager of all Shubert theaters. The Shubert Organization owns and operates 17 Broadway theaters and six off-Broadway venues.
Smith “influenced every aspect of professional theater and earned the respect and admiration of everyone from the bouncers to the greatest actors and creative talents of our time,” said Robert E. Wankel, chairman and CEO of the Shubert Organization, in a statement.
Smith assumed the role of president and was named chairman and co-CEO alongside Robert E. Wankel in 2008. Smith retired in June 2020 and also stepped down as chairman of the Shubert Foundation, the company’s nonprofit.
In 2011 Smith received a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement for his contributions to the theater industry. “We may live in smartphones and iPads, but nothing will ever replace the magic of Broadway. I’m so proud to be part of it, ”he said at the time.
Smith was promoted to Shubert vice president in 1969, a position he held for 15 years. One of his most important innovations was the introduction of credit cards as a method of buying show tickets. He was also instrumental in setting up the TKTS discount card stand in Times Square. He helped decide what Broadway-goers would see, sometimes producing and often investing in shows, negotiating employment contracts, and maintaining the aging theaters.