Sal Licata, Former EMI and Chrysalis President, Dies at 77

Sal Licata.

The executive later turned RED Distibution into a notable force in indie distribution.

Sal Licata, former president of EMI Records and Chrysalis, died on Thursday, March 19 from injuries sustained in a fall. He was 77.

Licata had a 40-year career in the music industry, beginning as a record label executive and winding up as a distribution executive. Along the way, he was part of the Blue Thumb Records team for whom, by 1974, he was named president under chairman Bob Krasnow.

By 1980, Licata had become president of Chrysalis Records, heading it up during the time when the label had acts like Blondie, Pat Benatar and Billy Idol. In 1984-85 he was executive vp and gm of for Clive Davis' Arista Records, before moving over to distribution in May 1986, becoming president of the newly created RCA/A&M/Arista Sales & Distribution Co., which eventually would become BMG Distribution.

The lure of another label presidency was too strong to resist, resulting in Licata's 1987 exit, when he jumped to EMI Records as president, a time when its biggest star was Richard Marx. The label later scored big on the Pretty Woman soundtrack, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and EMF during his tenure there, which ended in 1992.

RED was the next stop, in 1993, which Licata led until his retirement in 1999. Ken Antonelli, who worked under Licata at Arista, EMI and RED and succeeded Licata as the president of the latter, says that Licata "had a wonderful connection with people. One of his greatest attributes was he treated everybody like they were the only person in the room."

Licata was said to bring a "great sense of focus" to his staff and company, according to Antonelli, and transformed RED into a force within the indie distribution world. "Sal had success wherever he went," Antonelli says.

Sal is survived by his wife of 48 years Carolee Licata; daughter Dana Pineiro; sons Dean and Dennis Licata; and three grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 11 A.M.