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Nigel Grainge, Ensign Records Founder and Brother of Universal Music Chief, Dies at 70

Record executive Nigel Grainge, who worked with Sinead O’Connor, The Boomtown Rats, Thin Lizzy, The Waterboys, 10cc, World Party, Steve Miller Band, and Eddy Grant, among others, died on June 11 of complications from a recent surgery. He was 70.

The founder of Ensign Records and older brother of Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, Nigel Grainge was introduced to music by his father, Cecil, who owned a record store in North London in the early 1950s. In 1970, he joined Phonogram, which would later become Mercury Records, as a credit control clerk. He was promoted in 1973 to label manager for all U.S. repertoire eventually becoming head of A&R and signing Steve Miller Band, 10cc, Eddy Grant, Thin Lizzy and Graham Parker and the Rumour.

In 1976, Grainge launched his own label, Ensign. The roster included the Boomtown Rats (led by Bob Geldof), Waterboys and World Party, and Sinéad O’Connor, whose Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U” became a global smash in 1990. The label saw a string of hit songs throughout the decade and was sold to Chrysalis Records.

Nigel Grainge then formed a publishing company, Dizzy Heights, which was sold to German music company Edel in 2000. He moved to Los Angeles, where his brother is based, in 2002, and served as a consultant to artists, publishers and record companies, as well as the HBO series, “Vinyl.”

Grainge is survived by two daughters, Heidi and Roxie; a sister, Stephanie Grainge; two brothers, Sir Lucian Grainge and Justin Grainge; and a grandson, Jasper.

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