Stephen Diener, Former ABC Records President, Dies at 80

Stephen I. Diener, a longtime music and entertainment executive who served as president of ABC Records in the 1970s and led in its sale to MCA Corporation in 1979, died at this home in Coral Gables, Florida on April 30. He was 80.

Diener’s career included positions with a range of entertainment companies, starting with CBS Records International and CBS Records France, where he was based in Paris, and later joining ABC Records in Los Angeles, where he was named president in 1977. The label was home to Steely Dan, Tom Petty, Jimmy Buffett and The Commodores, among others. Diener also played an instrumental role in its acquisition by MCA Corporation in 1979.

The multi-lingual Diener returned to CBS International in the early 1980s, relocating to Miami as executive vice president and overseeing marketing for the company’s European and Latin American divisions. He then pivoted to home video, holding a top position at 20th Century Fox Video, followed by successful runs at Heron Communications and Fred Astaire Dance Studios, where he served as Chairman/CEO and led a private-equity acquisition of the company.

Born in 1938 and raised in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Diener resided in Coral Cables, Florida, in his later years where he devoted time and resources to aiding the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, Mercy Hospital and Chabad of the Grove. His music industry credentials extend to his son, James Diener, who previously served in senior executive roles at A&M/Octone Records and RCA and currently co-manages several acts including Avril Lavigne and The Struts. 

Said a statement from the Diener family: “Belovedly unconventional with the sharpest of minds, a deep love for jazz music and a passion for Golden-era Hollywood film, an evening with [Diener] would always be the most memorable of conversations for those at the table. A devoted father for whom family always came first, he was famously generous and quick to help at a moment’s notice. He will be dearly missed.”

Diener is survived by his son James, daughter Holly Diener, stepson Pascal Jacquelin, nephew Scott Diener and niece Sharon Newell. Services are scheduled to be held on Sunday, May 5 at 12pm at Jewish Memorial Chapel in Clifton, New Jersey.

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