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Frank DiLeo, a longtime music industry executive and the former manager of Michael Jackson, has died. He was 63.
The Pittsburgh native, who had spent the last five years living in Los Angeles, began managing Jackson’s career after the record-breaking release of 1984’s Thriller. He served as executive producer of Jackson’s movie Moonwalker and was instrumental in negotiating the pop star’s commercial deal with Pepsi. They parted ways professionally in 1989 but DiLeo was at Jackson’s side during the singer’s child molestation trial in 2005. It was reported in 2009 that DiLeo was back in the management picture and remained with Jackson until his final days.
Prior to his work with Jackson, DiLeo was an executive with Epic Records, starting as vp of national promotion in 1979. During his tenure at the Sony label (then under the CBS Records umbrella), he saw hits with Jackson, REO Speedwagon, Gloria Estefan and Culture Club, among many others.
Often associated with the practice of using “indie promoters” to work records to radio (later deemed acts of payola), he was a key player in Frederic Dannen’s music business primer, Hit Men: Powerbrokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business. The book was released in 1990.
DiLeo has also appeared in several movies including GoodFellas and the Wayne’s World franchise. In the latter, he played Frankie “Mr. Big” Sharp, the music mogul who discovers Wayne and Garth while riding around in his limo watching TV.
He was most recently co-managing Nevada-based pop singer-songwriter Manika.
In a statement released on Wednesday, DiLeo is described as a “legendary, iconic and highly respected music industry figure.” He died between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Boardman, Ohio as a result of complications following heart surgery, which he underwent six months ago.
DiLeo is survived by his wife Linda and two children, Belinda and Dominic, along with a grandson, Frank. Services will be held in Pittsburgh next week.
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