Lee Zhito, the former editor-in-chief and publisher of Billboard magazine and an influential force in the music business during the 1970s and 1980s, died Dec. 8 after being struck by a car near his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 77.
Born in Kiev, Russia, in 1918, Zhito was raised in St. Louis. He joined Billboard in 1945 as a reporter in the L.A. office, and during his nearly 50 years with Billboard rose to editor in 1963, editor-in-chief in 1974 and finally publisher and exec VP.
He surprised the music industry that same year by moving Billboard’s HQ from New York to Los Angeles, signifying the West Coast’s growing dominance in entertainment.
Although officially retired, Zhito remained active in the music business and most recently served as principal organizer of a salute to record industry pioneer James B. Conkling, held Nov. 13 in L.A.
He is survived by his wife of almost 40 years, Miriam, and two daughters, Nina and Lisa.