He was 77.
In a career spanning more than 50 years, the New Jersey-born accountant enjoyed a reputation as a savvy gangster-like figure but he also earned grudging respect for bullying labels into giving rich deals to his clients.
“Don’t talk to me about ethics,” he told Playboy magazine in 1971. “Every man makes his own. It’s like a war. You choose your side early and from then on, you’re being shot at. The man you beat is likely to call you unethical. So what?”
It did not hurt his reputation when he was sentenced to two months in prison in 1979 for tax evasion.
He once said John Lennon hired him to protect his interest in the Beatles because he and wife Yoko Ono wanted “a real shark – someone to keep the other sharks away”.
His company, ABKCO Music & Records, is one of the biggest independentlabels in the industry. It will remain family-controlled.
Its assets include recordings by the Rolling Stones, the Animals and the Kinks.
The publishing arm boasts more than 2,000 copyrights including compositions by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
Klein broke into themusic business by auditing record labels on behalf of clients including Bobby Darin and Connie Francis. When he found they were owed royalties, he took half of the difference as a fee.
He renegotiated the Rolling Stones recording pact in 1965, and ended up managing the group for five years – taking a 20% fee.
The Stones eventually tired of Klein. But the only way to break free of him was to give up the rights to their master recordings and rights to such timeless tunes as [I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction and Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Klein offered his help to Lennon in 1969, when the Beatles’ idealistic Apple Corps label was fast draining the group’s coffers. However, Paul McCartney was bitterly opposed to him coming on board. Klein did score a rich recording deal, but relations within the group were past frayed, and it dissolved in 1970.