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Keith Walner, an attorney and business executive for several music and entertainment industry firms, died May 2 in Los Angeles. He was 47.
Since 2007, Walner served as senior counsel and vp business & legal affairs for ProElite, a publicly held company involved with the sport of mixed martial arts. He also worked for years on a high-profile Ticketmaster class-action lawsuit concerning fees for shipping and order processing that was filed in 2003 and not settled until December.
Raised in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park and educated at the University of Colorado and the University of San Francisco Law School, Walner took his first job with entertainment litigator Neville Johnson.
In 1994, he joined with talent buyer Anita Rivas and musician, radio personality and CBS lawyer Joe Escalante to form Escalante Walner & Rivas. However, the trio assumed many roles outside the firm: Rivas with Artistdirect, Escalante with the Digital Entertainment Network and Walner as in-house counsel for Milan Entertainment/BMG. He rose to become president of Milan through 2003.
Walner then served as GM and vp business affairs for three years at Kung Fu Records, a label started in 1996 by Escalante and Warren Fitzgerald, founders of punk rock band The Vandals. In 2006, he became vp business and legal affairs for Havoc TV, a VOD company that specializes in independent music and action sports programming.
“Keith was a great person, a kind and loyal friend and co-worker that I could always count on to do the right thing,” said former ProElite CEO and television executive Doug De Luca. “He stood by his convictions even when it did not benefit him. He will be missed.”
Survivors include his parents Harvey and Barbara; his siblings Jon and Dana; and his nephews and nieces Tony, Joey, Tatum, Isabelle and Chase.
A private ceremony was held Tuesday in Wilmette, Ill. A public memorial is being organized by his family and friends in Los Angeles, with details to be posted soon on this Facebook site.
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