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Former Warner Bros. Exec. Tom Ruffino Dies

LOS ANGLES (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Tom Ruffino who headed the International Department at Warner Bros. Records for thirty years died from complications associated with polycystic kidney disease at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, CA on June 25 at the age of 70. He had retired from the label in 1999 and spent the last eleven years of his life enjoying the company of Bunny, his wife of 45 years, his two grown children and five grandchildren. The Ruffinos resided in Westlake Village.

Over the course of his tenure at Warner Bros., Ruffino is credited with facilitating successful international launches on behalf of scores of major artists including Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, ZZ Top, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Chris Isaak, George Harrison, Green Day, k.d. lang, R.E.M., Josh Groban, George Benson and numerous others. He functioned as the Burbank-based company’s liaison and de facto ambassador-at-large to its affiliates and licensees around the world.

He sent Green Day to Indonesia, ZZ Top to Australia and Chris Isaak to France, seeking enhanced sales returns from the company’s signings, increased royalty returns for the artists and tirelessly pursued a global vision that became the benchmark for the modern music business.

The Ruffino family – Tony and Vita, and children Stephen, Joseph, Carol and Tom moved from Buffalo, New York to Southern California in 1952. Tom attended John Burroughs High School in Burbank where he met Bunny Lippman, also a member of the school’s class of 1957. The two married in 1965 after Tom served a stint in the U.S. Army and had received a degree in sociology from San Fernando State College (later known as Cal State Northridge).

Ruffino’s music business career began in 1959 when he found his first job in the industry working at Columbia Records’ custom division. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he worked for Liberty Records starting in 1967 and moved to Warner Bros. two years later.

At that time, Warner Bros. had no department specific to the international arena and Ruffino was recruited to establish an International Department with an eye towards catalyzing overseas sales and awareness of artists signed to the Warner Bros. and Reprise Records rosters. Ultimately, he rose to the post of Senior Vice President while developing many close relationships with artists, managers and label executives on every continent.

Ruffino, who had a kidney transplant in 1987, made it a habit of traveling to whatever destination his work called for him to visit and go directly from the airport to a hospital where he’d receive dialysis treatment. Thereafter, he would resume his hectic schedule without moment’s hesitation.
Until her death in 2004 Vita was a strong presence in her son’s life. She lived in Burbank, near the home office of Warner Bros. Tom made it a habit to have breakfast with her before reporting for work if he was not out of the country. He introduced his mother to Madonna at the dawn of the star’s career and the two had a long-running and warm relationship for many years.

Tom Ruffino is survived by his wife Bunny, sister Carol Storti, brothers Joe and Stephen, his daughter, Michelle Ruffino Zugbaum and son, Tony, both of Stevenson Ranch as well as five grandchildren: Harley, 16; Ryan, 16; Trevor, 14; Nicholas, 13, and Warren, 8.

The Ruffino family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation, – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers