Legendary Warner Bros. Records executive Mo Ostin dead at 95

Courtesy of Warner Records Archives

Mo Ostin, the legendary record executive who headed the Warner Bros. Records label for over 30 years, died “peacefully in his sleep” on Sunday at age 95, according to a Warner Music Group press statement.

“Mo was one of the greatest record men of all time, and a prime architect of the modern music business,” Warner Records co-chairmen Tom Corson and Aaron Bay-Schuck said in a joint statement. “For Mo, it was always first and foremost about helping artists realize their vision … 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.”

As explained in a Billboard obit, early in his career, Ostin was hired by Frank Sinatra to run the iconic singer’s Reprise Records in 1960. After Warner Bros. Records bought Reprise in 1963, Ostin signed artists like The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to the label.

Ostin began his tenure as president of Warner Bros. Records in 1970, became the company’s chairman and CEO in ’72, and oversaw saw the label and its Reprise imprint until he retired in 1994.

During his years with Warner Bros. Records, the company signed such famous artists as Van Halen, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Paul Simon, ZZ Top, Don Henley, Tom Petty, R.E.M., The B-52s, Green Day, Dire Straits, Chaka Khan and Prince.

After retiring from Warner Bros., Ostin co-founded and ran the DreamWorks SKG’s music division from 1996 to 2004. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

A wide range of artists and other music-industry figures have shared tributes to Ostin, including Clive Davis, Neil Young, Nancy Sinatra, Red Hot Chili PeppersFlea, The Beach BoysAl Jardine and Christopher Cross.

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