Jeff Wald, longtime manager, producer and boxing promoter, died on Friday in Los Angeles. He was 77.
Wald’s death was confirmed to Variety by his daughter Traci Wald. A cause of death was not available.
“To the very end, he was laughing and fighting for the life he lived with epic proportions in every way,” Traci Wald Donat wrote. “He was surrounded by the family he loved so much and the music that was the soundtrack to his life of eternal optimism. We are heartbroken by the loss of our husband, father, friend and fierce advocate for women’s rights and justice for all.”
Born Jeffrey Sommers in 1944, Wald began his career in Chicago as the talent buyer for Mister Kelly’s, The London House and the Happy Medium. In 1968, he moved to Los Angeles and formed a company alongside Ron De Blasio, with George Carlin and The Turtles on its roster, before signing a record deal with Capitol Records two years later.
Wald was married to actress and singer Helen Reddy at the time, working as her manager throughout their 18-year marriage. The two wed in 1966 and had two children. Wald’s deal with Capitol Records was tied to Reddy. Wald was later married to “American Graffiti” actress Candy Clark in 1987 before the two divorced in 1988.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Wald dealt with a serious cocaine problem. After overdosing in 1986 and attending the Betty Ford Center, Wald remained sober for the remainder of his life.
“I’m 25 years sober now. I never thought I could do that. And I don’t miss it,” Wald told the Hollywood Reporter in 2011. “I’m married now, 20 years, to the same person. I’m actually faithful. I’ve got a great kid; I pay attention. I’m present. I’ve got a good relationship with my older children. God bless them for being so tolerant.”
In 1975, Wald began to construct his own management company, attracting high-profile clients such as Miles Davis, David Crosby, Sylvester Stallone, Marvin Gaye, Elliott Gould, Donna Summer, Roseanne Barr and Mike Tyson. In 1986, he became president of the “The Gong Show” game show production company Barris Industries, which became the Guber-Peters Entertainment Company shortly before Sony acquired the studio in 1989.
A prolific producer, Wald’s television credits over his career included “The Roseanne Show,” “Switched at Birth,” The Contender,” “Latin Nights” and “Pensacola: Wings of Gold.” He also produced feature films for Orion and Rysher Entertainment including “2 Days in the Valley.”
In the late 1990s, Wald and Irving Azoff partnered to promoted George Foreman’s last two fights as well as fights with Sergio Mora and others.
Beyond show business, Wald was closely tied to Democratic leaders. He served as a delegate to Jerry Brown and Edward Kennedy. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve a four-year term on the board of the United Service Organizations. Brown later appointed Ward to the board of economic development for the state of California. Ward was also on the organizing committee for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Wald later served as CEO of Aria Multimedia Entertainment and Creston Enterprises, which has produced and published coffee table books including the “Official Michael Jackson Book” and “Hip Hop: A Cultural Odyssey.”
Wald is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Deborah; his children Traci Wald Donat, Jordan Sommers and Sarah Wald and his granddaughter Lily Donat.