Longtime associate worked closely with Fab Four

Neil Aspinall, a longtime friend of the Beatles who managed their business enterprises and helped make the group a moneymaking phenomenon decades after they split up, died Sunday in New York of lung cancer. He was 66.

He was a childhood friend of Paul McCartney and George Harrison in Liverpool, England. While he didn’t contribute musically, he played several key roles in support of the Beatles, most notably as the head of their Apple Corps business, which oversaw the commercial concerns of the group, including licensing.

“I’ve known Neil many years and he was a good friend. We were blessed to have him in our lives and he will be missed,” Ringo Starr said in a statement.

Aspinall was the Beatles’ first road manager and would drive them to gigs in his van. He later became their personal assistant, and in 1968, he took over the management of Apple Corps and continued to oversee the growth of the Beatles, even after they broke up in 1970.

As head of Apple Corps, Aspinall was executive producer of the hugely successful “Beatles Anthology” album and was behind other successes, including the “Beatles One” album and the recent Cirque du Soleil production “Love,” which has been a hit in Las Vegas.

“As a loyal friend, confidant and chief executive, Neil’s trusting stewardship and guidance has left a far-reaching legacy for generations to come,” the band’s statement said.

Aspinall stepped down from Apple Corps last year.

He is survived by his wife and five children.

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