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Mo Ostin
Mo Ostin (Courtesy: Warner Records Archive)

Legendary Label Exec Mo Ostin Dead At 95

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LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Warner Music announced that longtime Warner Records executive and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Mo Ostin has died. He was 95.

In a joint statement published on Monday, Tom Corson, Co-Chairman & COO, Warner Records & Aaron Bay-Schuck, Co-Chairman & CEO, Warner Records said:

“Legendary music executive Mo Ostin passed away peacefully in his sleep last night at the age of 95. Mo was one of the greatest record men of all time, and a prime architect of the modern music business. For Mo, it was always first and foremost about helping artists realize their vision. One of the pivotal figures in the evolution of Warner Music Group, in the 1960s Mo ushered Warner/Reprise Records into a golden era of revolutionary, culture-shifting artistry. Over his next three decades at the label, he remained a tireless champion of creative freedom, both for the talent he nurtured and the people who worked for him. Mo lived an extraordinary life doing what he loved, and he will be deeply missed throughout the industry he helped create, and by the countless artists and colleagues whom he inspired to be their best selves. On behalf of everyone at Warner, we want to thank Mo for everything he did, and for his inspiring belief in our bright future. Our condolences go out to his family at this difficult time.”

Max Lousada, CEO, Warner Recorded Music added:

“In an era when creative entrepreneurs are revered, we celebrate Mo Ostin as a pioneer who wrote the rulebook for others to follow. Warner Music Group and Warner Records wouldn’t exist without his passion, vision, and intelligence. He not only helped build one of the world’s greatest music companies, but he inspired a culture driven by bravery and ingenuity. Mo saw artists for who they really were and gave them the space and support to fully realize their originality. Our condolences to Michael and the whole Ostin family. Mo was a legend, and he will be deeply missed.”

Born Morris Meyer Ostrofsky, Ostin studied economics and law at the University of California – Los Angeles and he got his start in the label industry as a controller at Norman Granz’ jazz label Clef Records.

Clef, which would later become Verve Records, included a concert promotion business that provided bookings for the label’s touring artists. The business model impressed the legendary crooner Frank Sinatra, who attempted unsuccessfully to buy Verve, which was ultimately sold to MGM Records, and he launched his own version of the idea in Reprise Records, recruiting Mo Ostin to run the label in 1960.

While at Reprise, Ostin would sign numerous future musical heavyweights, including The Kinks, who were the label’s first rock act, and in 1967, guitarist Jimmy Hendrix.

Warner acquired Reprise in 1963 and Ostin would spend the next three decades under the Warner banner, playing a key role in the acquisition of Elektra and the launch of Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, which eventually became the basis for Warner Music Group.


Ostin also helped to introduce American fans to the English rock band Fleetwood Mac, signing the band to Reprise in 1969 in time to release Then Play On, followed by Future Games, which became their first gold record in 1971.

Following his departure from Warner in 1994, Ostin teamed up with former rival David Geffen to launch the music division of the entertainment conglomerate Dreamworks SKG.

Ostin was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 by Neil Young, Paul Simon, and Lorne Michael and in 2006, he was presented with The Recording Academy President’s Merit Award during the Grammy Salute to Industry Icons.

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