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Clarence Avant

Clarence Avant, a famed executive who dedicated his working life to a wide range of entertainment interests, has died according to reports. Dubbed “The Black Godfather,” Clarence Avant stood both as a powerful and influential figure in the world of entertainment and also a mentor to those who went on to forge their own formidable paths.

As shared through a prepared bio from the Avant family, Clarence Avant was born on Feb. 25, 1931, in Greensboro, N.C. In the late 1940s, Avant moved to New Jersey and began working at a music lounge in Newark. Mentored by Joe Glaser, Louis Armstrong’s manager, Avant learned the ropes of the music business under his tutelage in the 1950s ahead of managing the careers of Lalo Schifrin and Jimmy Smith in the 1960s. Avant also managed the careers of Sarah Vaughan, and jazz producer Creed Taylor among others.

Avant oversaw the sale of the soul label Stax Records, adding to a number of other deals he helped broker at the time. Avant was also once the chairman of the board at Motown Records and went on to become the first Black board member at PolyGram. Avant’s interests also moved into the world of politics, and he advised Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama.

As a mentor to future greats, Avant lent his time to assist Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, L.A. Reid, Sylvia Rhone, Jimmy Iovine, Babyface, Jheryl Busby, and more. Avant’s imprint on the entertainment world that powerful figures such as Quincy Jones lauded him for his efforts and lasting influence.

In a statement from his children, Nicole Avant and Alex Avant, and his son-in-law Ted Sarandos, the family made note of Avant’s significant contributions to the culture at large.

“It is with a heavy heart that the Avant/Sarandos family announce the passing of Clarence Alexander Avant. Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘The Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports. Clarence leaves behind a loving family and a sea of friends and associates that have changed the world and will continue to change the world for generations to come. The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss. Clarence passed away gently at home in Los Angeles on Sunday, August 13, 2023. He was 92,” the statement reads.

2020 Roc Nation THE BRUNCH - Inside

Avant was the subject of a documentary titled The Black Godfather, highlighting his rich career behind the scenes as one of the most powerful executives of his era. We feature the trailer for the 2019 documentary below.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, tributes to Clarence Avant have been posted. We’ll share a handful below.

Photo: The Avant Family