Don Arden

Manchester: 4th January 1926 – 21st July 2007

12th September 1961: Law Courts in the Strand, London

Born Harry Levy, was a manager, agent and businessman, best known for overseeing the careers of rock groups Small Faces, Amen Corner, Electric Light Orchestra and Black Sabbath. Arden managed several top acts, including Gene Vincent in a successful but controversial career.

Arden, a.k.a. Mr Big and The English Godfather achieved notoriety in the UK for his aggressive business tactics which led to him being known as The Al Capone of Pop. He married Hope Shaw, a former ballet dancer/teacher, and was the father of Sharon and David.

Don Arden is the subject of one of the most famous stories in British showbiz, a fabled altercation between himself and one of the other big movers and shakers of the British pop scene, Robert Stigwood.

Sometime during 1966 one of Stigwood's staff made the mistake of discussing a possible change of management with of one of Arden's top acts, The Small Faces. Not surprisingly, Arden took exception to this, and in spite of the fact that Stigwood had never met the group personally, Arden decided to pay him a visit with some of his minders, to teach him a lesson:
"I had to stop these overtures - and quickly. I contacted two well-muscled friends and hired two more, equally huge, toughs. And we went along to nail this impressario to his chair with fright. There was a large ornate ashtray on his desk. I picked it up and smashed it down with such force that the desk cracked - giving a good impression of a man wild with rage. My friends and I had carefully rehearsed our next move. I pretended to go berserk, lifted the impressario bodily from his chair, dragged him on to the balcony and held him so he was looking down to the pavement four floors below. I asked my friends if I should drop him or forgive him. In unison they shouted: ‘Drop him’. He went rigid with shock and I thought he might have a heart attack. Immediately, I dragged him back into the room and warned him never to interfere with my groups again."

21st March 1968: Don Arden, manager of the pop group Amen Corner outside court during one of his many legal disputes.
Photo: Frederick R. Bunt/Getty Images

He took over management of singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul in 1973 and by 1976, was embroiled in a lawsuit with the distraught singer over what she claimed was late payment of money owed to her. De Paul commented:
“It was a time in my life that I'll never forget and I'll never forgive him. If anybody was near suicide, and if ever I was, it was then, because it was awful."
She eventually reached a settlement with Arden in 1978.

In 1979, one of Arden's successes, Black Sabbath, sacked their vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. Arden's daughter Sharon began to date Osbourne, and took over his management from her father. Arden was livid. Reportedly, the next time Sharon visited Don, his vicious pet dogs savaged her. She was pregnant, and lost the child. Sharon eventually married Osbourne and had no contact with her father for 20 years

In the 1980s Don Arden bought Portland Recording Studios (formally IBC Studios) from Chas Chandler, and installed his son David as manager. The studios were by this time very out dated and some of the income was being generated by another company who ran half the facility known as RadioTracks (who helped keep Portland afloat for awhile), and by George Peckham (Porky Prime Cuts), a well known cutting engineer whose cutting rooms were on the ground floor at the back of the building. Don Arden had acquired shares in RadioTracks, buying out Chas Chandler without the knowledge of the other directors.

Don's son, known legally as David Levy, appeared at the Old Bailey in 1986 for his role in an alleged assault on an accountant working for Jet Records. The incident occurred in the offices at Portland Place. Convicted, Levy spent several months in an open prison. Don, tried separately on related charges, was acquitted.

The drawn-out legal problems meant Don was unable to attend to business, and legal bills proved a fatal strain on Jet Records, which collapsed. Portland Recording Studios were considerably in arrears with rent to the Prudential, who owned the building in 35 Portland Place in London, close to BBC Broadcasting House. Eventually, the Prudential evicted Jet Records.

Don had already fallen out with his daughter Sharon, who embarked on her own successful management career with her husband and major client, Ozzy Osbourne. In 2001 she told The Guardian newspaper:
"The best lesson I ever had was watching him fuck his business up. He taught me everything not to do."
Don Arden died in Los Angeles on 21 July 2007.


More info on Don Arden here and here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A real yiddish dickhead.