LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A funeral was pending on Monday for Mo Ostin, who led Warner Bros. Records for over two decades, using his artist-first spirit to attract some of the biggest bands in the industry and create one of the most successful labels in music.
Variety and the Los Angeles Times reported that Ostin died of natural causes at the age of 95. According to the Times, Ostin, a graduate of UCLA in 1951 and a major benefactor of the university’s music programs, died Sunday.
Ostin was working with Verve Records in the 1950s when Frank Sinatra tried to buy the label. Sinatra lost out to MGM Records, but he decided to start his own label – Reprise – and hired Ostin to run the business.
Reprise was purchased in the 1960s by Warner Bros., and Ostin oversaw a series of successful artist signings, including the Kinks, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Prince, Madonna and Rod Stewart.
Ostin became chairman of Warner-Reprise in 1970 and took over as chairman and CEO shortly thereafter.
Other big names joined the label including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Tom Petty, Van Halen and REM
Ostin left the company in 1994, telling The Times in an interview that year that he had built the company by believing in artists and allowing them freedom and creative control over their music. But he told the newspaper he balked when the company asked him to cut payrolls, a move he saw as akin to a pinch of cash and leading to his departure.
He only left the company briefly, agreeing to join DreamWorks SKG in 1995, enjoying more success with signings such as Nelly Furtado, Toby Keith and Jimmy Eat World. This label was sold in 2003 to Universal Music Group, and Ostin retired permanently in 2004.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
In 2011, Ostin donated $10 million to UCLA to build a state-of-the-art recording studio, rehearsal space, internet-based production center and other amenities for budding musicians – known as the name of Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center, honoring his wife, who died in 2005.
He gave the university an additional $10 million to fund the Mo Ostin basketball center.
Ostin is survived by his son Michael.