Hal Gaba dies at 63; chairman and co-owner of Concord Music Group

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Hal Gaba, a veteran entertainment industry executive who was chairman and co-owner of Concord Music Group, one of the world’s largest independent record companies, has died. He was 63.

Gaba, who also was co-chairman of Village Roadshow Entertainment Group and chief executive of ACT III Communications, died Monday at his home in Los Angeles of a rare form of prostate cancer called small cell cancer, said Concord Music Group spokesman Joel Amsterdam.

“They make Hal Gabas three times a century. I have yet to meet the other two,” TV producer Norman Lear, Gaba’s longtime friend and business partner, told The Times on Thursday.


“He was brilliant and kind and generous and open to a fault,” Lear said. “There wasn’t anybody in the building, from the parking attendant with whom he spoke fluent Spanish, to everybody involved in any department, who didn’t enjoy bumping into Hal.”

Gaba launched his longtime association with Lear in 1974 when he joined Lear, Bud Yorkin and A. Jerrold Perenchio at Tandem Productions as an acquisitions consultant.

In partnership with Lear in 1990, Gaba became president and chief executive of ACT III Communications, a multimedia holding company with interests in broadcasting, exhibition theater, publishing, motion pictures and music.

At one point near the end of the ‘90s, while Lear and Gaba were discussing what to do next, Lear said that they had been following his bliss with ACT III. What, Lear asked Gaba, was his passion?

“Music,” Gaba replied.

In 1999, Lear and Gaba became co-owners of Concord Records, which was founded as a small jazz label in Concord, Calif., in 1973.

Now based in Beverly Hills and called the Concord Music Group, it has grown to encompass many genres of music, including jazz, pop, rock, Latin and classical.


The company’s growth is a reflection of Gaba’s vision, Lear said. “In a sense, Hal was the growth of Concord: It was his bliss, his passion,” he said. “If you wanted to hear Sinatra any time day or night, you walked into his office. He was always playing great music. That was his love.”

Glen Barros, Concord Music Group’s president and chief executive, said “the plan was always to grow into something much bigger.”

“Hal was an extraordinary guy, who had such credibility and skills in figuring out ways to accomplish that,” Barros said.

In 2003, Concord Music Group teamed with Starbucks to jointly release “Genius Loves Company,” a 2004 album of Ray Charles duets that sold more than 5 million copies worldwide and won eight Grammy Awards, including album of the year. It was so successful that it led Starbucks and Concord Music Group in 2007 to jointly form a new record label, Hear Music, which has released records from Paul McCartney, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Joni Mitchell and others. (Before, Starbucks had used the name Hear Music on its proprietary compilation CDs.)

The Concord-Starbucks partnership provided a marketing bonus: In addition to all the usual outlets, Hear Music releases are sold -- and played at -- the thousands of Starbucks locations in the United States and Canada.

In 2004, Concord Music Group purchased the historic catalog of Fantasy Records, whose labels included Fantasy, Stax, Prestige and Milestone, among others. The catalog features recordings by artists such as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MGs and Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 2008, Gaba merged the Concord Music Group with Village Roadshow Pictures of Australia to form Village Roadshow Entertainment Group.


Harold E. Gaba was born Jan. 22, 1946, in Oakland. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance at UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in finance at UCLA.

He launched his career in 1967 as a research analyst with the Los Angeles investment management and brokerage firm William O’Neil and Co. He later was president of Embassy Pay Television and vice chairman of Hal Roach Studios.

He is survived by his wife of 23 years, Carole; daughters Lauren and Elizabeth; his mother, Thelma Gaba; a sister, Joelle Lawson; and a brother, Jeff Gaba.

Contributions in Gaba’s memory may be made payable to UC Regents and mailed as follows: Matthew B. Rettig, M.D., For Use by the Prostate Cancer Research Program, Department of Urology, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Box 951738, Los Angeles, CA 90025-1738.

A celebration of Gaba’s life will be held at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Ahmanson Ballroom, Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.