Mo Ostin, the legendary music executive who ran Warner Brothers Records for more than 30 years, has died of natural causes at the age of 95.
Warner Records co-chairs, CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck and COO Tom Corson, confirmed the news in a joint statement on Monday, saying, “Mo was one of the greatest record men of all time, and a preeminent architect of the modern music business. For Mo it was always first and foremost to help artists realize their vision.”
“One of the pivotal figures in the evolution of Warner Music Group, in the 1960s, Warner/Reprise Records led Warner/Reprise Records into a golden age of revolutionary, culture-shifting artistry. Over the next three decades with the label, he remained a tireless champion of creative freedom, both for the talent he nurtured and for the people who worked for him.”
“Mo lived an extraordinary life doing what he loved, and he will be deeply missed by the entire industry he helped create, and by the countless artists and colleagues he inspired to be their best selves.”
Born in New York in 1927, Ostin caught his first big break in 1960 when he was recruited by Frank Sinatra to lead Reprise Records. The label was then taken over by Warner Bros. in 1963. Ostin quickly made a name for himself at Warner Bros., where he accompanied The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix in the years that followed.
In 1970, Ostin became president of Warner Bros. Records and two years later he took on the role of chairman-slash-CEO – a title he held until his retirement in 1994. Under his leadership, Warner became home to some of the industry’s most iconic acts, including Van Halen, Bonnie Raitt, Madonna, James Taylor, ZZ Top, George Benson, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Green Day, Van Dyke Parks, The Who, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Prince.
Warner’s longtime director was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 by Neil Young, Paul Simon and Lorne Michaels. “I love Mo, and you’re talking about a phrase that today means something different from what it used to mean, it was called behind the music. That sentence now refers to soap operas to me, but this man Mo Ostin was behind the music,” Young said in the introduction.
Tributes poured in from around the world as Ostin’s passing became public. Warner Recorded Music CEO Max Lousada called the man “a pioneer who wrote the rulebook for others to follow,” while Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea recalled the record executive as “the best person [he] ever met in the music business”, and said Ostin made him feel “valued, understood and welcomed” when he was young and confused.
See more tributes below.
The Sinatra family has lost another dear friend, a true force in the music industry and a true sweetheart.
Goodbye, Mo. 💙 Thank God…
Mo Ostin, legendary Warner Bros. record executive. behind Hendrix and The Kinks, passed away at 95 https://t.co/caL5vH8ZDv via @Rolling rock
— Nancy Sinatra (@NancySinatra) August 2, 2022
RIP to Mo Ostin what a great times we had thanks for all the knowledge you passed on and Jimi hendrix’s contributions to prince.. neva Be another https://t.co/53ym9lAv2F
— QTip (@QtipTheAbstract) August 1, 2022
Mo Ostin, the legendary label manager who led Verve, Reprise, Warner Brothers Records and DreamWorks SKG and oversaw legends such as The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, REM and Randy Newman, has died aged 95.
This music business wouldn’t exist today without Mo. pic.twitter.com/OrWLN6ayun
— Eric Alper 🎧 (@ThatEricAlper) August 1, 2022
My heart is so saddened to land in LA on the news of Mo Ostin’s passing. I loved him, I have known him and the family for 43 years, he is a legend and a great man. Rest in peace Mo I love you.
— rosanna arquette (@RoArquette) August 2, 2022
Mo Ostin deeply inspired Tom as chairman of the Warner Brothers Music division and was responsible for the creation of Wildflowers and the Traveling Wilburys, among many other pioneering musical endeavors. God bless Mo. One of the really good ones. Our thoughts are with his family today. pic.twitter.com/SaLYtYQWY3
— Tom Petty (@tompetty) August 1, 2022