ALLEN KLEIN, 77
Managed Beatles, Rolling Stones
Allen Klein, a cunning record executive whose clients included the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and who was known as the "toughest wheeler-dealer in the pop jungle," but whose ego and temperament also contributed to the breakup of the Fab Four, died Saturday at his home in Manhattan of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
Mr. Klein was an accountant by trade and fell into musician and record company management by accident. Through his company, Abkco, Klein built his reputation on shrewd attention to financial detail. He ruthlessly negotiated rich contracts for his clients - and for his own gain. He was the target of scores of lawsuits by clients and associates while making millions of dollars for many others.
"Don't talk to me about ethics," Mr. Klein said in a 1971 interview with Playboy. "It's like a war. You choose your side early, and from then on you're being shot at."
After early work for Sam Cooke and Bobby Darin, Mr. Klein was hired by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in 1965 to renegotiate the Stones' record contract with Decca.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Klein used his accounting skills to purchase the entire 1960s back catalog of the Rolling Stones master recordings from Mr. Oldham without the band's knowledge. Mr. Klein also transferred more than $1 million of the Stones' earnings into his personal account.
Mr. Klein saw his greatest aspiration realized when he became manager of the Beatles in 1969. He was aware that Apple Corps, the band's multimedia company, was months away from bankruptcy and set up a secret meeting with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. From that conference, Mr. Klein negotiated a contract to be the group's business manager.
Mr. Lennon and Ms. Ono persuaded Ringo Starr and George Harrison to sign the contract as well. But Paul McCartney did not like Mr. Klein's brash manner and refused to participate. This rift helped lead to the band's dissolution in 1970.