Bert Padell, the legendary music industry giant nicknamed “accountant to the stars,” passed away Sunday, January 21st at the age of 84. Bert was truly one of a kind. He was renowned amongst his clients for his unparalleled wisdom, helping to transform the lives of thousands of rising artists. He held the role of business manager, accountant, lawyer, and most importantly to him, friend. His clientele included almost every big name in the music industry — Madonna, the Talking Heads, De La Soul, the Kinks, Britney Spears, Biggie Smalls, Run DMC, Faith Evans, Missy Elliott, Rakim, Pink Floyd, Luther Vandross, Diddy and Mary J. Blige, among countless others.
Born and raised in the Bronx, he landed a gig as a batboy for the New York Yankees at only 14 years old after writing persistent letters to the manager and refusing to take no for an answer. During this time, he befriended Joe DiMaggio (who later became a client), Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and everyone in and around the clubhouse from 1949 to 1950. It was then that he began collecting — baseballs, bats, contracts and signatures that would one day be a part of his famed office collection.
Anyone who ever visited 1775 Broadway or West 56th Street could attest to the fact that there were no more than a few inches of empty space on the walls. From baseball memorabilia to gold records earned by his clients, photos, and letters, there was no shortage of history around, and no piece that didn’t go along with a story of Bert’s to tell. His desk was covered by a large piece of blotter paper listing hundreds of phone numbers, his version of a rolodex. He was almost always on the phone and when he wasn’t cursing he was greeting most with a “hey babes,” one of his many favorite sayings.
He trailblazed the music industry as a business manager for more than 50 years, and if it were up to him, he would have been on the phone making deals until the day he died. In an industry where it can sometimes feel impossible to get your foot in the door, his was always open to anyone that had a dream. He taught business management classes at the New School for 25 years, donating every paycheck to Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. He never smoked, drank or even had coffee in the morning, as his vices were poetry and baking (mostly blueberry cheesecake). He also loved to spend his very spare free time with his wife of 60 years, Bobby, and his loving children and grandchildren.
Biggie Smalls may have immortalized him on the Bad Boy remix of the 112 song “Only You,” rapping “Room 112, where the players dwell/ and stash more cash than Bert Padell” but he will be remembered by many for so much more. Everyone who knew him expected to be woken up on their birthday every year, before dusk, to him singing “Happy Birthday” in his opera voice. He will be remembered for his words of encouragement, generosity, eclectic personality, loud Versace shirts, and big heart. He was adored by his family as well as hundreds of former clients, employees, students and close friends. “Find something you love to do and do it forever” – Bert Padell (1933-2018).