Charles Koppelman, whose publishing and talent development vision made him one of the recording industry’s top executives, has died at 82.
No cause was given by his son, Brian, showrunner of Billions, and daughter Jenny Koppelman Hutt. “He spent his last days surrounded by those he loved the most,” his son wrote on social media.
Koppelman saw the potential of music publishing early in his career.
He began his career as a singer and songwriter, part of the legendary Aldon Music staff under CEO Don Kirshner that included Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
He moved on to CBS Records in the 1970s, rising to VP/GM of worldwide publishing. He saw the potential of owning songwriter rights and formed his own company with CBS executive Martin Bandier and Bandier’s father in law, NY real estate king Samuel LeFrak. The company managed song catalogs for Barbra Streisnd, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross and Cher, among others.
In 1986, Koppelman, Bandier, and Stephen C. Swid formed SBK Entertainment World, Inc., in order to buy the 250,000 titles owned by CBS Songs for $125 million, the highest price ever paid for a music publishing portfolio at that time.
That deal made SBK the largest independent music publisher in the world, boasting a roster that included Michael Bolton and New Kids on the Block, among others.
They sold SBK to EMI Music in 1989 for $300 million. That deal allowed the formation of SBK Records, where Koppelman served as Chairman and CEO. The label was an instant hit, with Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam” becoming its first platinum seller, followed by major albums from Wilson Phillips and Vanilla Ice.
In 1991, Koppelman and Bandier sold their share of SBK Records to EMI Music. But Koppelman became the chairman and CEO of newly consolidated EMI Records Group North America. Koppelman served as CEO until 1997.
From 2000 to 2004 Koppelman was Chairman of Steve Madden, Ltd., leading that company while Madden was dealing with prison time for securities fraud. After that, he became chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. He moved on in 2011, joining various entertainment industry boards.
No memorial plans have been announced.