September 03, 2021
Record company executive behind global stars including Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson and Meat LoafThe former CBS Records chief executive Walter Yetnikoff, who has died from bladder cancer aged 87, became as high-profile as some of his bestselling artists. His autobiography, Howling at the Moon: The Odyssey of a Monstrous music Mogul in an Age of Excess (2004), reads almost like a parody of music industry outrageousness and debauchery. Yetnikoff portrayed himself as a cocaine-and-alcohol-crazed wild man, partying with rock’n’roll stars while entertaining a string of mistresses, yet still able to pull off brilliant business deals as he soared up the corporate hierarchy.
Walter Yetnikoff obituary
Lurid episodes from his book naturally proved irresistible to journalists, but it was as if he was embroidering his own myth as a distraction from the painful reality of being ousted from his Job by Sony’s management in 1990. Colleagues who worked under him point to the way he fought to save their jobs in the teeth of the savage cost-cutting regime implemented by the then CBS president, Larry Tisch, in the mid-80s. He also inspired loyalty in his artists. After Yetnikoff’s death, Billy Joel wrote: “I will always be eternally grateful to him for ensuring that my song copyrights and publishing rights were returned to me – intact. I loved him as a dear friend and a mentor, in a business where real friendships don’t exist.”
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