Denis E. “Dek” Kellman, a veteran entertainment attorney who held posts at Columbia and RCA, passed away on Jan. 15 at home in Warwick, New York, of an undisclosed illness. He was 65.
Born in New York City, Kellman graduated from Yale University, then earned a law degree at Harvard Law School followed by an MBA at Harvard Business School. Starting out in corporate law on Wall Street, Kellman segued into entertainment law after joining Columbia Pictures where he worked in the film and music divisions. From there he moved to Columbia Records and then to PolyGram Records.
Shifting later to RCA Records, Kellman spent four years in London as head of the label’s business and legal affairs department. During that time, he negotiated deals for such acts as the Eurythmics, Five Star and all Motown artists whom RCA represented in Europe. Following BMG’s acquisition of RCA, Kellman relocated to New York, serving as BMG’s chief lawyer for distribution, classical music, Latin music and Broadway cast albums.
He also served as chairman of the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA), an organization comprised of more than 800 lawyers nationwide. Leaving the music industry to open a private practice from his home in Warwick, Kellman worked as chief legal counsel for Blackstone Audiobooks, Inc. for more than 10 years.
Kellman is survived by his spouse/partner Cal Miller and a host of relatives. A funeral mass will be celebrated on Jan. 25 at St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church in Warwick. Memorial donations may be sent to BESLA, P.O. Box 230794, New York, NY 10023.