Editor's note: Adds additional information about Crouch, the ministry and previous health issues.
By Martin Henderson (originally posted Nov. 30, 1:54 p.m.)
Televangelist Paul Crouch, loved and reviled by many but whose imprint on modern Christian television is undeniable, died Saturday after a short illness.
The news was first disclosed by his grandson, Brandon Crouch, in a tweet, and later announced on Trinity Broadcasting Network website, TBN.org.
Crouch was 79.
TBN said in a statement, "Dr. Paul F. Crouch passed into the presence of the Lord on November 30, 2013. We are grateful for the life of this amazing servant of God. Please pray for the Crouch family during this time."
Paul Franklin Crouch, the son of Missouri missionaries, parlayed an obscure Orange County television station into the world's largest
Christian TV network. It reaches "every major continent through 84 satellite channels and more than 18,000 cable and television affiliates," according to TBN.
Using proceeds from the sale of time to other preachers, and using direct contributions from viewers, Crouch bought TV stations and their boosters across the U.S., until TBN had virtual nationwide coverage. He then secured carriage on nearly all cable and satellite systems.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Trinity Broadcasting Network reported in October that Crouch had taken ill on a visit to a TBN facility in Colleyville, Texas, and was taken to a Dallas-area hospital on Oct. 22 with "heart and related health issues." He later returned to California for continued treatment. TBN had earlier revealed Crouch had suffered from heart problems for more than a year and had a pacemaker installed.
According to the book "Prime-Time Religion: An Encyclopedia of Religious Broadcasting" by Gordon Melton and Jon R. Stone, Costa Mesa-based TBN was "the country's most-watched religious network" by the mid-1980s after Crouch had purchased television stations, cable channels and satellites and had developed enough programming to sustain a 24-hour Christian network.
Crouch and his wife, Jan, hosted a nightly two-hour talk show, "Praise the Lord," which served as the anchor on the network they co-founded. They married in 1957 and had two sons, Paul Crouch Jr., and Matthew Crouch.
In 2011, Crouch reportedly said he wanted to pass on his broadcasting
empire to son Matthew, instead of the presumed heir, Paul Jr., the Christian
Post recounted Saturday. Paul Jr. left TBN for a different ministry.
Crouch was known for preaching a gospel of prosperity and asking viewers to support his ministry, but he was criticized for a lavish lifestyle built on the pledges of "prayer partners."
In 2001, local newspapers reported the Crouches had purchased a lavish house in Newport Beach with an air conditioned dog house.
According to ChristianPost.com, Crouch and his network were engaged in nasty infighting with relatives; granddaughter Brittany Koper, who had been TBN's director of finance and human resources, filed a lawsuit saying the family distributed more than $50 million for luxury goods such as jets, vehicles and estates to company directors; she was fired and allegedly threatened with violence after refusing to keep quiet about illegal money use.
Crouch was born March 30, 1934, in St. Joseph, Mo. He graduated from the Central Bible Institute and Seminary in Springfield, Mo., with a degree in theology in 1955. There, he helped build an educational AM radio station on campus, and two years later became a radio announcer in Rapid City, SD. In 1961, he began organizing and operating the Assemblies of God's newly-formed Department of Television and Film Production in Burbank.
From 1965-70, Crouch was general manager of KREL-AM in Corona, and he moved into television in 1970 as GM of KHOF-TV in San Bernardino, as well as its FM radio station. Both went from operating in the red to a $200,000 surplus after two years.
In 1973, Crouch and his wife founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and a year later purchased its first television station, KLXA Channel 40 (now known as KTBN). According to Broadcast and Cable Magazine, TBN has become the nation's seventh largest group owner of broadcast television stations in America.
Crouch received three honorary doctorates in his lifetime.
He also authored several books, including I Had No Father But God, Omega Code, Meggido, The Shadow of the Apocolypse, and Hello World.
—City News Service contributed to this report