Walter Yetnikoff, the head of CBS Records who presided over blockbuster releases by Michael Jackson, Billy Joel and many others has died aged 87.
Yetnikoff’s death was confirmed on Tuesday by David Ritz, who collaborated with Yetnikoff on his memoir Howling at the Moon.
The stocky, bearded Yetnikoff was a former lawyer and helped embody a moment when rock music became big business, embraced and absorbed by corporate America, when contracts and acquisitions seemed as eventful as the music itself.
He joined CBS as a staff lawyer in the early 1960s, was named president of CBS Records International in 1971 and CEO of CBS Records in 1975.
His reign peaked with such mega sellers including Jackson’s Thriller, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Joel’s 52nd Street.
CBS’ revenues more than quadrupled under his watch, from 485 million US dollars (£350 million) to over 2 billion dollars (£1.45 billion), but he also blew a fortune by arranging costly deals for Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and others past their commercial prime.
He told Rolling Stone in 1988: “If you are successful – as it should be – you simply have to pay an artist, give them a cheque for all this money.
“It’s my pleasure to give Michael Jackson a big, big cheque. Number one, it shows that we’re successful. Two, whatever he earned, we earned more.”
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