Lee N. Steiner, long one of the two or three top entertainment attorneys, whose ability to bring industryites to the negotiating table and accomplish deals was well known, died Thursday of complications from Parkinson’s disease in Scarsdale, N.Y. He was 79.
In the 1950s and ’60s, his roster of clients included Sophia Loren, Carlo Ponti, Vittorio De Sica, Dino De Laurentiis and Silvio Clementelli as well as David Lean, Peter Sellers, David Niven, Judy Garland and Maximilian Schell.
Steiner was the first American to open a fully staffed, U.S.-style law firm in Italy serving major showbiz clients.
For two decades through the 1980s, he was one of the leading New York attorneys, with clients including Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Elliot Kastner, Martin Ransohoff and Arnon Milchan.
Outside the film area, he was Jacques Cousteau’s lawyer and close confidant for more than 30 years.
During the 1990s, he represented Panavision in its acquisition and sale of numerous film libraries. Steiner also was a major behind-the-scenes force at several studios, especially MGM in the 1970s.
Steiner served as outside counsel for ABC when the web was making feature films and also repped financial institutions that invested in film, including Credit Lyonnais.
Born in Newark, N.J., he graduated from Lafayette College in 1943 and earned his J.D. from the U of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1949.
After law school, he worked as an associate for the New York law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges and later joined Hess, Segall, Guterman, Pelz, Steiner & Barovick, which merged into Loeb & Loeb in 1986.
He is survived by his wife, Rosalind, three daughters and four grandchildren. Eldest daughter Terry r is a distributor to non-theatrical markets, primarily airlines. Youngest daughter Nancy Steiner is a TV producer with Kuhnhardt Prods. in New York.