Manager Frank DiLeo, who guided Michael Jackson’s career both at the height of his ’80s fame and then near the end of the singer’s life, died Monday, Aug. 24. He was 63, and had suffered a heart attack and undergone bypass surgery earlier this year.
A Pittsburgh native, DiLeo got his start in the industry as a rack jobber and a regional promotion man at Epic Records. He went on to work for RCA and Bell (the precursor of Arista Records).
DiLeo was VP of promotion at Epic and turned the slumbering imprint into the hottest label in the country during CBS Records prexy Walter Yetnikoff’s regime. His work on behalf of Jackson’s multiplatinum 1982 smash “Thriller” led the vocalist to hire DiLeo as his manager in 1984.
He shepherded the superstar through the 1987 release of the megahit “Thriller” follow-up “Bad,” exec produced the 1988 Jackson video feature “Moonwalker,” and was point man on the “Bad” world tour and the Jacksons’ “Victory” tour. He also negotiated Jackson’s lucrative endorsement deal with Pepsi. However, he was abruptly terminated by the superstar in February 1989.
DiLeo also managed Taylor Dayne, Laura Branigan and Jodeci and helmed Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora’s solo career. In later years, he was active in Nashville as a manager and music publisher.
He reunited with Jackson during the singer’s 2005 child molestation trial and rejoined him as manager in 2009. He served as co-producer of the posthumous Jackson documentary “This Is It.”
The short, rotund DiLeo also enjoyed small but eye-catching roles as mobster Tuddy Cicero in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” (1999) and rock promoter Frankie “Mr. Big” Sharp in the Mike Myers-Dana Carvey vehicles “Wayne’s World” (1992) and “Wayne’s World 2” (1993).
DiLeo is survived by his wife, Linda; a son; and a daughter.