Mitch Slater, an industry pioneer who helped shape the modern concert promotion business, died on Tuesday after an extended illness. He was 59.
“Our bond was as strong as it gets,” Slater’s older brother, former Capitol Records CEO Andrew Slater, tells Billboard. “When he started out in music, I said, ‘If you could be half as good in business as you are as a brother, you'll be a great success.’ And he far exceeded that mark.”
In 1988, Slater partnered with Ron Delsener to form Delsener/Slater Presents, which became one of the most successful independent concert promotion companies in the U.S. “As brilliant as Ronnie was, Mitch brought some real business acumen to it,” says CAA managing partner and head of music Rob Light, who knew Slater for over 30 years. “He was a guy you could call and just have a straightforward conversation, and always find a way to get a deal done.”
In 1996, the company was acquired by Robert Sillerman’s SFX Entertainment, where Slater rose to the position of executive vp. Light calls Slater the “key architect” behind Sillerman’s consolidation of the concert industry.
“He really was the engine behind Sillerman in SFX, because if you really look back, Bob Sillerman had no idea what the music business was,” Light adds. “He didn't know any of the players really.... It was Mitch who was standing by Bob's side and his other key business executives to say, 'Here's the companies we should buy, here's the order we should buy them in and here's how we're going to roll this up.'”
After SFX was sold to Clear Channel Entertainment -- the precursor to Live Nation -- Slater extended his association with Sillerman when he became founding partner, senior executive vp and COO of Sillerman’s CKX, which would go on to acquire the Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali estates as well as 19 Entertainment, the company behind blockbuster TV franchises including American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. (Sillerman died last November at age 71.)
Earlier in his career, Slater worked as director of booking at Madison Square Garden. He also briefly owned live event production company Metropolitan Entertainment.
In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Delsener paid tribute to his former colleague, writing, "Mitch - My partner, friend and brother forever."
Slater’s initial foray into music was inspired by his brother Andrew, who started in music journalism before rising to become a renowned record producer and music executive. “Somebody asked him what he wanted to do, and he said he wanted to work with his brother,” says Andrew. “That's how it started for him. And he took it to heights that very few people get to reach.”
In addition to his work as an executive, Slater was a long-time board member of LIFEbeat, a music and entertainment industry nonprofit focused on sexual health that was founded as a response to the AIDS epidemic. He later established The Slater Family Scholarship at Muhlenberg College, awarded annually to a qualifying student in financial need.
An avid Mets fan, Slater is remembered for his humor, creativity, mentorship and friendship. He is survived by his wife Pamela; daughters Lana, Amelia and Julia; brother Andrew; and mother Rita. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to the youth sports nonprofit Backyard Sports Cares.