Bill Aucoin, who discovered the rock group Kiss and helped build them into a musical and merchandising juggernaut, died Monday in Florida. He was 66.

Aucoin died at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in Aventura of surgical complications from prostate cancer, said Carol Kaye, a family spokeswoman.

A former television cinematographer, Aucoin discovered Kiss in New York City in 1973 and helped launch the makeup-wearing, fire-breathing quartet into a moneymaking machine.

He financed the band's first tour on his personal American Express credit card when money was tight, but he was well rewarded when the band's popularity exploded in 1975 with the hit "Rock And Roll All Nite."

"He was the fifth Kiss," said drummer Peter Criss, who had Aucoin serve as the best man at his second wedding. "If it wasn't for Bill, there would be no Kiss."

Aucoin first saw the band at a showcase gig at New York's Diplomat Hotel, then brought it upstairs to meet with record company executive Neil Bogart, who signed it as the first act on his Casablanca Records label.

Criss said Aucoin had an eye for what was visually striking and recognized the vast merchandising potential of rock bands in a way that few others could. With Aucoin's help, Kiss became as famous for the vast array of products bearing their likeness - including belt buckles, Halloween costumes and makeup kits, action figurines, vitamins and even a Kiss pinball machine - as they were for their music.

By 1978, they were voted the No. 1 band in America in a Gallup poll.

"He was a genius," Criss said. "Anything you could do, he could do bigger."

After parting with Kiss in the early 1980s, Aucoin managed Billy Squier and Billy Idol.

He is survived by his longtime partner, Roman Fernandez, and two sisters, Betty Britton and Janet Bankowski.