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October 19, 2009

Agent Berle Adams Dies at 92

Represented Primetime Emmys for overseas sales.

Berle Adams, a longtime agent who co-founded Mercury Records died August 25, 2009, in Los Angeles following a long illness. He was 92.

As an agent, Adams represented musicians as well as film and television talent. He also was active in the television industry, packaging and selling shows to the networks. In addition, he was active in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and represented overseas syndication of the Primetime Emmys.

Born in Chicago, Adams was still in high school when he began booking swing bands. He then worked as an agent at General Artists Corporation, where he represented musicians such as jazz greats Louis Jordan, Coleman Hawkins, Fats Waller and Art Tatum.

After leaving GAC to form his own agency, he created the publishing companies Champagne Music and Preview Music. In 1945, he formed Mercury Records with partners Irving Green, Ray Greenberg and Art Talmadge. Mercury recorded Frankie Laine’s “That's My Desire” in 1947 followed by Vic Damone’s “I Have But One Heart.”

Upon relocating to Los Angeles, Adams was hired in 1950 at the powerful agency MCA, where he worked for more than 20 years. During the 1960s, he represented such top names as Jack Benny, Rosemary Clooney, Alfred Hitchcock and Dinah Shore.

At MCA, Adams packaged such television programs as This Is Your Life and Queen for a Day, and created the company’s international television division in 1957.

Adams also established MCA’s Universal Records, which signed the Who, Neil Diamond, Elton John and Olivia Newton-John. After MCA bought Decca Records in 1962, Adams and MCA colleague Brian Brolly signed Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to record the score for Jesus Christ Superstar.

In 1971 Adams left MCA went on to create a sports division at the William Morris Agency. He also formed the corporation BAC, Inc. to represent television producers for international distribution and for 24 years was the sole distributor for the Primetime Emmys to more than 100 countries.

Adams’ wife, Lucy, died of cancer in 1990. Prior to her death, they were devoted to promoting cancer research, and Adams served as president for USC’s Norris Cancer Center and Hospital.

He is survived by a son, Richard; a daughter, Helen Kleinberg; four grandchildren, including Lewis Kleinberg, a writer-producer, and Elliot Kleinberg, chief operating officer of United Artists; and seven great-grandchildren.

Services will be held Sunday, August 30, at 10 a.m. at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.

Donations may be made to the University Kidney Research Org., 2049 Century Park East, Suite 3180, Los Angeles, CA 90067.

Berle Adams had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television.

During the interview, conducted on November 13, 2003, Adams talked about his early career in the music industry as a band booker, working with artists such as Louis Jordan, and then as a founding executive at Mercury Records. He described in detail his work as a Hollywood talent agent at MCA, first as a band booker and then later in the television department.

He also talked about working with MCA heads Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman, and described MCA’s rise to dominance in the entertainment industry. He spoke of MCA’s famous “uniform” for executives, and its methods for signing top-level clients. Adams explained the process of packaging clients with television shows and his technique in structuring a deal.

In addition, he recalled many of the programs he represented, including The Jack Benny Program, This Is Your Life, The Ford Show and The Colgate Comedy Hour. He spoke about his career after his acrimonious departure from MCA, creating a sports department at the William Morris Agency and later distributing the Primetime Emmy Awards show internationally.

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