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Robert FX Sillerman dies

By | Published on Wednesday 27 November 2019

Robert FX Sillerman

Prolific entertainment industry entrepreneur Robert FX Sillerman, who had a major impact on the American live sector in the late 1990s, has died from respiratory illness. According to Billboard, he passed away on Sunday, aged 71.

Sillerman’s original business was broadcasting, but in the late 1990s he rapidly moved into live entertainment, buying up an assortment of concert promoters and venues to quickly make his company, SFX Entertainment, a key player in the live market. He then equally speedily sold on that business via a multi-billion dollar deal with US radio giant Clear Channel, which five years later spun it all off as a separate entity called Live Nation.

With his next big venture, Sillerman moved back into media by acquiring Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment and, with it, popular TV formats like ‘American Idol’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. Though that company, called CKX, also got big into the exploitation of image rights, going into business with the estates of Muhammad Ali and Elvis Presley.

After CKX, Sillerman set up another company called SFX. This one sought to capitalise on the EDM boom in the US by applying the same model he’d used in the rock and pop business in the 1990s, ie rapidly buying up an assortment of buzzy and successful independent companies so to become an overnight powerhouse within the sector.

Although he did successfully achieve that status, this time it didn’t go so well. Having taken the business public in 2013, increased scrutiny fell on the firm’s poor finances. Meanwhile, Sillerman’s efforts to take the company back into private ownership proved controversial.

Ultimately, the second SFX business filed for bankruptcy, with Sillerman not involved in the entity that came out at the other end of that process, aka LiveStyle. Instead Sillerman was left fighting litigation launched by his former investors.

However, while his latter ventures did not enjoy the same level of success, Sillerman’s early dealings in live entertainment had a big impact on the concerts business, especially in the US, which can still be seen in the industry today.

He is survived by his wife Laura Baudo.