Century Media Records co-owner Oliver Withöft has passed away, Billboard has learned. He was 49.
Staffers, former employees and colleagues have said Withöft had withdrawn himself from daily management duties at Century Media after taking ill some time ago. News spread throughout the label's home office in Dortmund, Germany and quickly traveled to Century Media's US headquarters in Los Angeles Tuesday.
"Century Media has been a force in music for over 25 years under Oliver's leadership with his longtime friend and business partner Robert Kampf," former North American label president Don Robertson told Billboard. "It was an honor to work with Oliver for the past four years and develop a friendship."
Kampf founded Century Media in 1988, with Withöft coming onboard roughly a year and a half later.
In a lengthy and heartfelt Facebook post, Ula Gehret (now at Clandestine Music) described Withöft as his mentor. Nuclear Blast Entertainment cofounder and former Roadrunner A&R man Monte Connor called Withöft's passing as "a real tragedy." Nachtmystium leader Blake Judd added, "Way too young."
Century Media Records is one of the largest and best known independent labels in the world, instrumental in the careers of heavy music acts like In This Moment, Suicide Silence, Nevermore and many more. Lacuna Coil's "Karmacode" debuted at #1 on Billboard's Independent Chart in 2006. Shadows Fall, Behemoth, God Forbid, Strapping Young Lad and multiple other Century Media acts have regularly appeared on Billboard's charts. The Century Family includes Magic Arts Publishing, Lonely Planet Publishing, Inside Out Music, Super Ball, Rock The Nation America and various merchandise and management endeavors.
"Oliver was one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met in the industry," Sumerian Records publicist George Vallee told Billboard. "He gave me my first label job at Century Media in 2001 and I am proud to have been his friend. I will never forget him."
Withöft is survived by his wife, Judith, and their three daughters.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Jan. 25 at the Sotogrande Church, La Iglesia de nuestra Senora de la merced (11310), Cadiz in Spain.