Hollywood Attorney Irwin Russell Dies at 87

Irwin Russell

The lawyer, who represented many industry notables over several decades, died Aug. 23. "This is a deep loss for all of us," said Michael Eisner, former Walt Disney Company CEO.

Entertainment attorney Irwin Russell, who represented industry notables including Michael EisnerJim Henson, David Wolper and Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), died Aug. 23 from complications related to Leukemia. He was 87. 

"Irwin Russell was a brilliant lawyer, an insightful executive, an eloquent writer and, in all things, a true gentleman," said Eisner, the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, in a statement. "He represented me for 40 years, including my tenures at ABC, Paramount, Disney and, until the day he died, at Tornante." 

Eisner added: "He was able to write – and get all parties to agree to – a one-page deal, something unheard of in American business. Ethics, doing it right and being fair were embedded in his DNA. This is a deep loss for all of us."

Born in 1926, Russell arrived in Los Angeles in 1971 after experience serving on the National Wage Stabilization Board in Washington, D.C and working in private practice in New York City. He was involved in the takeover of the Walt Disney Company in 1984 and served on the Disney board. 

Among the many industry deals he is credited with, Russell helped bring the Muppets to Sesame Street and Candid Camera to television.

Carol Burnett fondly recalled her friendship with Russell. "I knew Irwin from back when I got my start on the Garry Moore Show in the early 1960s," the actress said. "He was a good friend and I'm happy that we were able to keep in touch all these years. I'll miss him and our frequent conversations. He was a gentleman through and through."

The lawyer is survived by his wife, Suzanne. A memorial is set for September. The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations may be made to Harvard Law School's Irwin E. Russell J.D. ’49 Financial Aid Fund.