Henry Droz, whom Billboard magazine called "one of the architects of music distribution," has died at the age of 76.
Droz, a pioneer of the branch distribution system for CDs and other recordings, died Thursday in Los Angeles of cardiac arrhythmia, his family said.
Most recently, he had come out of retirement to become president and later chairman of Universal Music & Video Distribution.
During his tenure there from 1996 to 2000, Droz oversaw releases by such artists as No Doubt, Eminem, Sheryl Crow and Diana Krall.
"Four years ago, when I came to Universal, we were at the bottom of the heap," Droz told Billboard at his exit. "But now ... we are No. 1, and that's the way I'd like to leave."
Droz had made his reputation earlier during his 20-year run, including 16 as president and chief executive, at Warner Elektra Atlantic of the Warner Music Group. It was there he developed a nationwide system of branch distribution centers to keep the music producers better attuned to rapidly shifting consumer tastes. The system was soon copied by competitors.
In 1992, when The Times Calendar section listed its Top 40 people in the pop music industry, Droz was included and credited with steering "the massive WEA operation since 1977, helping make it the envy of the industry."
When Droz retired the following year, Warner Music Group chairman and chief executive Robert J. Morgado told the Wall Street Journal that Droz had "moved distribution from a wholesale trade into one that became a direct selling operation. In all, he created the modern wheel for us. [The branch system] gave us an astute knowledge of the marketplace and assured quick movement of products."
Droz, a native of Detroit, served in the Army under Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the occupation of Japan after World War II. Later, Droz earned a degree in business administration at Wayne State University and began his career in the Decca Records warehouse in Detroit.
In 1954, Droz launched his own independent distribution company, which he called Arc. He sold it in 1962 to Handleman Co., but continued to operate it for another decade before moving to Burbank to join Warner Elektra Atlantic in 1973.
Among several awards, Droz prided himself on three: the T.J. Martell Foundation's Humanitarian Award and the City of Hope's Spirit of Life Award, both in 1989; and the National Assn. of Record Manufacturers' Presidential Award in 2000.
Droz is survived by his wife of 43 years, June; one daughter, Kathy Droz Amstock; and three grandchildren.
The family asks that memorial donations be sent to the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research.
Funeral services are scheduled for 9 a.m. today in the Church of the Hills Chapel at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.