Robert F.X. Sillerman, the New York entertainment businessman who consolidated a series of companies and helped form the modern concert industry, died Sunday of a respiratory illness, Billboard reported. He was 71.
Founder of SFX Entertainment, Sillerman carved his way into the music industry by purchasing and consolidating multiple promoters in the 1990s, including Bill Graham Presents based in San Francisco; Cellar Door Concerts from Florida; and Houston's Pace Concerts.
He merged the individual entities into SFX Entertainment and later sold the business for $3 billion to Clear Channel Communications in 2000. That eventually became the empire that is now Live Nation, which merged with Ticketmaster in 2010.
A Bronx native, Sillerman was born into a family whose father, Michael McKinley Sillerman, built the Keystone Radio Network.
As an undergraduate in the 1960s at Brandeis University, he launched his first business, Youth Market Consultants Inc., offering students marked-down magazine subscriptions and helping advertising companies attract young audiences.
He started buying radio stations in the late 1970s with DJ Bruce Morrow, and over the next decade amassed TV and radio stations across the country. The company sold eight of the stations to Westinghouse Broadcasting in 1989 for more than $350 million, a record transaction at the time.
In the early 1990s, Sillerman and partner Steven Hicks created SFX Broadcasting in reaction to the deregulation of the radio industry. When the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted, Sillerman bought and consolidated dozens of radio stations before selling 71 of them in the late 1990s for $2.1 billion.
This left room for Sillerman to focus on live entertainment.
In a 2000 interview with CNBC, Sillerman talked about why he created SFX.
"Live entertainment is a way to do things in a communal environment that validates your taste," he said, "and we are seeing that those things that are in fact not time adjustable, not using a VCR or anything like that, are being incrementally rewarded."