Bernard Coutaz, who founded the respected independent classical record label Harmonia Mundi and ran it for five decades, has died, his company said Monday. He was 87.

Coutaz suffered a heart attack Friday outside his home in the southern city of Arles, said Jean-Marc Berns, head of Harmonia Mundi's press service.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said Coutaz "remained faithful to his first loves, notably early and Baroque music" and praised him as a "daring spirit, staunchly dedicated to preserving the future of records throughout the entire world."

Coutaz, who founded the label in 1958, remained attached to compact discs, eschewing digital music and making a point in reinvesting the company's profits into production. The company's shareholders do not earn dividends.

Eva Coutaz, his wife, will replace him at the head of the music label, which is based in Arles and employs around 330 people around the world.
Harmonia Mundi works on a regular basis with about 40 artists, among them Belgian conductors Rene Jacobs and Philippe Herreweghe, French pianist Alain Planes, German baritone Matthias Goerne and German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl.

A private cremation is scheduled for Coutaz at an unspecified date. A commemorative ceremony will be organized later, with musicians possibly joining the celebration, Berns said.