Philip J. Smith, a Tony Award winner who led Broadway’s Shubert Organization for decades, died on Jan. 15 at age 89, the theater group announced Friday. The longtime theater executive died of complications from COVID-19, according to his daughters, Linda Phillips and Jennifer Stein.
Smith, who got his start in 1957 as box office treasurer at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre, rose through the ranks of the Shubert Organization, which owns and operates 17 Broadway theaters. He became president of the company in 1996, then chairman and co-CEO in 2008 until his retirement last year.
During his six-decade-plus career, he helped usher in many innovations in the industry — including the use of credit card purchases of tickets and computerization in ticket sales through Telecharge. He also helped to establish the TKTS discount ticket booth in Times Square.
Smith also served as a director and chairman of The Shubert Foundation, the nation’s largest private foundation dedicated to unrestricted funding of not-for-profit theater and dance companies. He served on the board of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and was a leader of Catholic Senior Services.
“We have lost a giant of the American Theatre and a most beloved member of our Shubert Organization family,” Shubert Organization chairman and CEO Robert Wankel said in a statement. “Over his 63-year career, Phil Smith influenced every aspect of the professional theatre and earned the respect and admiration of everyone from the stage doormen to the greatest performers and creative talents of our time.”
In 2011, Smith accepted a special Lifetime Achievement Tony Award for his extraordinary contributions to the industry. He was also inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame and honored as a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
Smith is survived by his two daughters and their families. His wife, Phyllis Campbell, a professional dancer who appeared with Elaine Stritch in Broadway’s 1954 revival of “On Your Toes,” died in 1994.