Elliot Goldman, Arista Co-Founder and Former BMG Music President, Dies at 88

Elliot Goldman, the veteran record executive who co-founded Arista Records, led BMG Music as president and CEO, and served in senior roles with Warner and CBS Records across a decorated career in music, has died at the age of 88.

Goldman joined CBS Records in the 1960s, rising to administrative vice president. Later, with Clive Davis, he established Arista Records, serving as executive VP and general manager at the very inception of the storied label.

“Clive and I formed Arista Records in 1973,” he recounted in an interview with Billboard published in 2015. “One of our first releases was from a gentleman you’ve probably heard of: Barry Manilow.”

Later, Goldman took on duties as senior VP at Warner Communications, and, in 1985, was named president and chief executive of RCA/Ariola International. When BMG parent Bertelsmann acquired RCA outright from the General Electric Company, the German media giant restructured the asset into three operating units; BMG Music, BMG Music International and Arista, all part of BMG. Goldman would guide BMG Music as president and CEO, departing in 1987.

”Elliot expertly managed RCA/ Ariola through very difficult corporate transitions and company restructuring,” Michael Dornemann, co-chairman of the Bertelsmann Music Group, remarked on his departure, The New York Times reported.

A graduate of Cornell, where he majored in political science, and of Columbia Law School, Goldman served on the board of directors of the RIAA, and on the board of directors and executive committee of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Foundation at its inception.

During his lifetime, he also served on the executive council of the T.J. Martell Foundation; was co-chairman of the Home Entertainment Division of UJA/Federation; founding member and president emeritus of the Music for Youth foundation; and a recipient of the AMC Cancer Research Center’s Humanitarian of the Year Award.

Goldman leveraged his considerable major label experience into consultancy work with a string independent and major record company clients throughout the 1990s.

Before entering the music industry, Goldman enjoyed various roles in government, including the position as head of the New York office for the 1964 election campaign of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

Arista and J Records founder Clive Davis leads tributes to the late executive.

“Elliot Goldman played a substantial role in the history of Arista Records and strongly contributed to its success,” comments Davis in a statement. “He was also a great family man and Jill, Ben and the Goldman children have my deepest sympathy for this irreplaceable loss.”

He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jill, his son Ben (Allysa Lawson Goldman), daughters Elizabeth and Cathy and his four grandchildren, Justin Goldman, Dylan Goldman, Sophie Gibbons and Olivia Gibbons.
Ben and Justin have both carved out successful careers in music.

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