International music publisher and former UA Music chief Michael Stewart died at his Beverly Hills home on March 22 after a long battle with cancer. He was 70.
Since 1988 he served as a consultant to the MCA Music Division, with emphasis on the Japanese market. He remained at Universal until his illness prevented him from working further.
As a youngster in Baltimore, he appeared in several legit productions. Later he earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Johns Hopkins, but Tin Pan Alley lured him.
He began his music career in the 1950s as an artists manager and record producer, simultaneously establishing two music companies, Korwin Music and Dominion Music. A number of songs emerged, including “Chances Are,” “Moments to Remember” and “Never on Sunday,” which at one point gave company three of the top five hits on the charts.
In 1962, Stewart sold his publishing interest to United Artists, then joined it to establish the corporation’s music division, serving as chairman and president of UA Music Group. During his 15 years with UA, he acquired a series of diverse copyrights, highlighted by all the Beatles’ soundtracks plus the Broadway show “Hair.”
UA Music also named Stewart vice president of its motion picture division, a title he held for more than a decade. In that capacity, he supervised some 300 film soundtracks, including “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Rocky” and numerous James Bond film scores.
In 1973, he successfully negotiated the acquisition of MGM’s publishing division, which included Robbins Music, Leo Feist, Miller Music and Big 3 Print. He resigned from UA in 1977 to form Interworld Music Group, a joint venture with Bertelsmann of West Germany.
In 1981, he sold his 50% interest to Bertelsmann and thereafter was named president of CBS Music Publishing, where he created CBS Songs. A year later, he negotiated for CBS the acquiring of UA/MGM Publishing Cos., including Big 3 Print. He subsequently sold Big 3 to Columbia Pictures Publications.
Among his many honors and involvements were board membership of ASCAP, National Music Publisher Assn., Golda Meir Special Award from Israel, and friendships with such notables as President Johnson, Abba Eban and Rajiv Gandhi. In 1987, he and his wife Gabriela formed a film company in India, Eastern Epic, that produced films for the Asian and Indian markets.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by numerous cousins.
Donations may be sent in his name to the Cedars-Sinai Cancer Center.