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May 27, 2017

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Ex-Rolling Stones, Beatles manager Klein dies at 77: publicist

NEW YORK -- Music manager Allen Klein, a no-holds-barred businessman who bulldozed his way into and out of deals with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, died Saturday, a publicist for his company said. He was 77.

Klein, who was one of the most powerful figures in the music business in the 1960s but ended up feuding with some of his biggest clients, died at his New York City home of Alzheimer's disease, said Bob Merlis, publicist for ABKCO Music & Records.

An accountant known for his brashness, temper and tenacity in tracking down royalties and getting better record deals, Klein garnered clients including Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin and Herman's Hermits.

But he became most famous — and later infamous — for signing on the Rolling Stones and then the Beatles. Both arrangements eventually spurred lawsuits, with some Beatles fans blaming Klein for contributing to the tensions that broke up the group.

Klein was convicted of tax fraud in 1979 and served two months in prison for failing to report income from sales of promotional records by the Beatles and other groups; the records were supposed to be given away. The Rolling Stones grew so infuriated with Klein — whose company still owns an enormous chunk of their 1960s songs — that Mick Jagger once chased him down the hall of a posh hotel.

Klein was reputed to be the basis for the slick manager "Ron Decline," played by Jon Belushi, in the parodic 1978 film "The Rutles," and the inspiration for John Lennon's bitter 1974 song "Steel and Glass."

Regardless, Klein remained "very proud of the position he was in and what he was able to do with the different artists he was able to work with," Merlis said.

Klein began building his reputation by auditing record companies' books and finding unpaid royalties for Darin and other artists. After meeting Cooke in 1962, he helped the soul singer secure a then-unusual level of control over his music and finances.

"I never wanted to be a manager," he told The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey, in 2002. "It was going over the books that I loved. And I was good at it."

That helped him win over the Rolling Stones, who hired him in the mid-1960s. He helped the group negotiate a new contract with its label, but the relationship soured after Klein bought the rights to the band's 1960s songs and recordings from a former manager.

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