Mo Ostin, the legendary record executive who headed Warner Bros. and Reprise Records for over 30 years, died on Sunday of natural causes. He was 95.
“Mo was one of the greatest record men of all time, and a prime architect of the modern music business,” Warner Records co-chairman/CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck and co-chairman Tom Corson said in a statement. “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,” they continued. “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.”
Mo Ostin began his career in the mid-50s as a controller at Clef Records, which was soon renamed Verve Records and was eventually sold to MGM Records. He caught the attention of Frank Sinatra, who hired Ostin to run Reprise Records in 1960. When Reprise was bought out by Warner Records, Ostin led the joint label, signing both the Kinks and Jimi Hendrix in the ’60s. During his tenure, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, the Grateful Dead, and more released records on the label.
Ostin held the position of chairman/CEO at the label until 1994, when he joined DreamWorks to found the entertainment company’s music division. In 2003, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Three years later, he received Recording Academy President’s Merit Award.
Max Lousada, CEO of Warner Recorded Music, said in a statement: “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.”