Nat King Cole’s Estate Sells ‘Broad Range of Rights’ to Irving Azoff’s Iconic Artists Group

Nat King Cole
Courtesy Iconic Artists

The family of legendary singer-songwriter Nat King Cole, one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20 th century, has entered into an agreement with Irving Azoff’s Iconic Artists Group to manage and expand his legacy to new generations, the company announced today.

Details of the transaction were not disclosed, beyond the fact that it “encompasses a broad range of rights from Cole’s legendary career including his recorded music, publishing, television shows, and name and likeness.”

In the decades before his 1965 death from lung cancer at the age of just 45, Cole scored more than 150 singles across Billboard’s pop, R&B, and country charts and has sold an estimated 50 million-plus records worldwide. While best known as a crooner, he was a formidable jazz musician as well, and is best known for classics like “The Very Thought of You,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” “Unforgettable,” “Nature Boy,” “Stardust,” “When I Fall In Love,” “Mona Lisa,” “L-O-V-E,” and the holiday staple, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).”

As the announcement notes, Cole, who was born in Alabama in 1919, was subjected to all the barriers of the Jim Crow era, yet his success played no small role in advancing Black Americans’ presence in entertainment and public perception. Although he never considered himself an activist, he directly challenged segregation: In 1946, a 15-minute national radio program, “King Cole Trio Time,” was broadcast and was the first of its kind to be hosted by a Black musician; in 1956, he became the first Black entertainer to host a national network variety television show, NBC’s “Nat King Cole Show”; he also was a featured actor in films including “China Gate” (1957), “St. Louis Blues” (1958) and “Cat Ballou” (1965).

He was posthumously honored with the lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (now the Recording Academy) and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“We’re delighted to entrust our father’s legacy to Irving Azoff and the team at Iconic. Through the years, it’s been amazing to see how dad’s music continues to inspire and bring people together, and with Iconic at the helm, we know his musical legacy will endure and continue to grow,” said Timolin and Casey Cole in a joint statement.

“We are thrilled that Nat King Cole’s family is trusting us with his musical legacy. He was a groundbreaking artist that influenced generations of artists that followed him. One of our true greats – his voice is instantly recognizable and an enduring piece of the fabric of our lives,” said Irving Azoff.

“Nat King Cole is undoubtedly one of the most popular and influential entertainers of all time, a true trailblazer, both musically and culturally. Iconic is proud to be the new home of Nat King Cole and we look forward to working closely with his family as well as Universal Music Group and his label, Capitol Records to ensure that his incomparable talent continues to be celebrated around the world,” said Jimmy Edwards, President, Iconic.