A Music King's Shattering Fall

How the brilliant builder of CBS Records spun out of control

With his stocky build, spread-collar shirts and locker-room charm, Walter Yetnikoff fit right in among the sharp-elbowed power brokers in the music business. He was tone-deaf as well, yet for 15 years the colorful and fiery Yetnikoff steered CBS Records (major labels: Columbia, Epic) to world prominence. He boosted its revenues from $485 million in 1975 to well over $2 billion last year, when it ranked second only to the Warner Music Group. In the process, Yetnikoff managed to foster some of the most profitable talent ever to reach the music industry, from Michael Jackson and Billy Joel to the Rolling...

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