Ahmut Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, died yesterday in New York City at age 83. Ertegun built his small record label into a powerhouse with acts such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and the Rolling Stones. In fact, he slipped into a coma after a fall backstage at the Beacon Theater just prior to a Stones performance at the end of October, the New York Times obituary reports today.
"Along with a partner, Herb Abramson, Mr. Ertegun founded Atlantic Records in 1947 in an office in a derelict hotel on West 56th Street in Manhattan. His initial investment of $10,000 was borrowed from his family dentist," the Times says.
Ertegun was portrayed by the actor Curtis Armstrong in the movie Ray. He also appeared in the recent documentary Once in a Lifetime, which was about another of his entrepreneurial ventures, the New York City Cosmos soccer team. The film isn't business oriented per se, but there's a lot of interesting stuff in it about how Ertegun and his partners came up with a plan for marketing a sport that few Americans knew or cared about, how they recruited star players from all over the world, and how they managed (or didn't manage, as the case may be) to handle the outsized egos of some of their top players.
Ertegun, who was Turkish, also cofounded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and remained at the helm of his record label well into the 1990s. His company "remained one of the only record labels of the 1940s to survive the multibillion-dollar mergers and acquisitions of the 1990s in more than name only," the Times notes, "with its founder still in charge."
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