Updated from 9:18 a.m. with additional information. 

Former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who founded and built the network into a powerful arbiter for conservative politics before being ousted amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment, died Thursday, his wife said. He was 77. 

"I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning," Ailes' wife, Elizabeth, said in a statement to Matt Drudge, who was first to report the news. "Roger was a loving husband to me, to his son Zachary, and a loyal friend to many."

A media consultant for former Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Ailes rose through the ranks of television networks and conservative politics before joining with 21st Century Fox's (FOX) Rupert Murdoch to create and launch Fox News in 1996. The idea of the network was born with the goal of giving conservatives an alternative to Time Warner's (TWX) CNN, which had become as important to news gathering as any of the four major broadcast networks.   

With an imperial management style, Ailes led Fox News as it recast the Republican Party and by extension, much of U.S. politics. The network also became a cash cow for the Murdochs' media empire, an integral part of the cable-TV business. 

"Ailes was arguably one of the most consequential figures in the last 30 years in American politics," said Nicco Mele, director of Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. "He helped to shape the very essence of who the Republican Party is today. There's no doubt that Donald Trump owes a lot to Roger Ailes' vision of conservative media." 

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