|Intro||American businessman, music publisher|
|Was||Businessperson Record producer Talent agent Entrepreneur Talent manager|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Business Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music|
|Birth||18 December 1931, Newark|
|Death||4 July 2009, New York City (aged 77 years)|
Allen Klein (December 18, 1931 – July 4, 2009) was an American businessman, music publisher, writers' representative, filmmaker and record label executive, most noted for his tough persona and aggressive, innovative negotiation tactics, many of which established higher industry standards for compensating recording artists. He founded ABKCO Music & Records Incorporated. Klein revolutionized the income potential of recording artists, who previously had been routinely victimized by onerous record company contracts. He first scored massive monetary and contractual windfalls for Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen, one-hit rockabillies of the late 1950s, then parlayed his early successes into a position managing Sam Cooke, and eventually managed the Beatles and the Rolling Stones simultaneously, along with many other artists, becoming one of the most powerful individuals in the music industry during his era.
Rather than offering financial advice and maximizing his clients' income, as a business manager normally would, Klein set up what he called "buy/sell agreements" where a company owned by Klein became an intermediary between his client and the record label, owning the rights to the music, manufacturing the records, selling them to the record label, and paying royalties and cash advances to the client. Although Klein greatly increased his clients' incomes he also enriched himself, sometimes without his clients' knowledge (the Rolling Stones $1.25M advance from Decca in 1965 was deposited into a company that Klein set up and the fine print of the contract didn't require Klein to release it for 20 years). Klein's involvement with both the Beatles and Rolling Stones would lead to years of litigation and, specifically for the Rolling Stones, accusations from the group that Klein had withheld royalty payments, stole the publishing rights to their songs, and neglected to pay their taxes for five years (necessitating their French "exile" in 1971).
After years of pursuit by the IRS Klein was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of making a false statement on his 1972 tax return, for which he spent two months of 1980 in jail.
Klein was born in Newark, New Jersey, the fourth child and only son of Jewish immigrants. His mother died of cancer very soon afterward, and Klein lived for a time with his grandparents, then subsequently in a Jewish orphanage, until his father remarried shortly before Klein's 10th birthday. In early work experience with a magazine and newspaper distribution company he showed an astounding facility with numbers, and learned alarming lessons about how profits were often systematically concealed from those who deserved them. Eventually he would realize that much the same situation existed in popular music, where labels routinely took much profit from the transitory careers of the artists who created the profit-generating music, and gave precious little back.
After military service, and with the assistance of the G.I. Bill, Klein majored in accounting at Upsala College, graduating in June 1957, and was hired by a Manhattan accounting firm, Joseph Fenton and Company. He was assigned to assist Joe Fenton in an audit of a music publishers' organization, the Harry Fox Agency, and several record companies, including Dot Records, Liberty Records, and Monarch Records. In an early setback to Klein's career, he was fired by Joseph Fenton and Company after four months because of chronic lateness. The company wrote to the State of New Jersey urging officials not to approve him as a Certified Public Accountant, and Klein chose not to take the examination. He briefly attended law school but soon dropped out.
Aided by his friendship with music publisher Don Kirshner, a fellow alumnus of Upsala College, Klein worked as an accountant for the next several years, assisted by Henry Newfield, a CPA who was a friend from school and the Army, and Marty Weinberg, another CPA, under the name Allen Klein and Company. Klein's clients included Ersel Hickey, Dimitri Tiomkin, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gormé, Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen, Lloyd Price, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Darin, Bobby Vinton, Scepter Records, and the estate of Mike Todd. A key early contact was attorney Marty Machat, who frequently performed legal work for Klein over the years.
In June 1958 Klein married Betty Rosenblum, a Hunter College student seven years his junior. The couple had three children: Robin, Jody, and Beth.
Klein acquired a reputation as a tough negotiator who could bring money to his clients. Two of them, rockabilly singers Knox and Bowen, were owed royalties by Roulette Records. Morris Levy, co-owner of Roulette, feared because of his organized crime connections, was known to pay artists as little as possible. Klein persuaded him to pay Knox and Bowen the royalties they were owed over a four-year period. Klein's success with the Knox and Bowen negotiation brought him new clients, and he and Levy became lifelong friends.
In 1963 Klein began a business partnership with Jocko Henderson, an urbane black disc jockey who had daily radio shows in both Philadelphia and New York. Henderson hosted lavish, profitable live rhythm and blues shows at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and formed a partnership with Klein to begin doing the same in Philadelphia. As Henderson's partner, Klein was introduced to Sam Cooke, a preeminent talent equally adept at writing, producing, and performing his numerous hit records. Cooke had scored four top ten hits between 1957 and 1963, including his number one hit, "You Send Me", among 33 records in the top 100 in that period. Although Cooke was clearly making his label, RCA Records, a great deal of money, label executives nonetheless wouldn't honor his many requests for a review of his accounts. Klein forced the reluctant label to open its books for a thorough audit. Shortly afterward, RCA agreed to re-negotiate Cooke's contract.
Klein secured for his client a genuinely groundbreaking deal. Klein created a holding company, Tracey Ltd., which was owned by Klein and named after one of Cooke's daughters. Tracey would manufacture Cooke's recordings and give exclusive rights to RCA to sell them for 30 years, after which the rights would revert to Tracey. Cooke would receive a cash advance of $100,000 per year for three years, followed by $75,000 for each of two option years. Instead of being paid the first $100,000 in cash, Cooke was paid in Tracey preferred stock, which would be taxed only when he sold it. While the deal benefited Cooke, it also greatly benefited Klein, who ended up owning the rights to all of Cooke's recordings when Cooke was killed in 1964 and his widow sold Cooke's remaining rights to Klein.
Klein's successful negotiations on behalf of Cooke brought him new clients, including Bobby Vinton and the Dave Clark Five. As with Cooke, Klein arranged for his clients to be paid over a period of time to reduce their tax liability. This also benefited Klein, who took advantage of the earning potential of money over time to "make money from the money".
Mickie Most and the British Invasion
In 1964 Klein became the American business manager of Mickie Most, a former singer who was the savvy producer of hits for the Animals and for Herman's Hermits. Klein extended to Most a million-dollar promise, adding that if he failed to deliver in only one month, Most owed him nothing. Klein did deliver, through strategic re-negotiations of existing contracts and new producing opportunities for RCA, including offers for Most to produce for both Sam Cooke and Elvis Presley. Though the latter two prospects did not materialize, Most was suddenly one of the most talked-about and financially gratified figures in the English recording industry, and Klein was a step closer to eventual agreements with both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
His victories for Most won Klein access to several key English musicians. He eventually negotiated vastly improved deals for the Animals, Herman's Hermits, the Kinks, Lulu, Donovan, and Pete Townshend of the Who. However, Klein's help came at a price. To shelter his clients' money from Britain's high tax rate on income earned abroad, Klein held the money for them at the Chemical Bank in New York City and paid it to them over periods of time of up to 20 years. Klein invested this money, which earned far more than what Klein was obligated to pay to his clients, and kept the difference in the accounts, maintaining control over the money.
The Rolling Stones
In the spring of 1965 Andrew Loog Oldham, co-manager of the Rolling Stones, saw in Klein a terrific business adviser and ally, one who could help him win an incipient power struggle with Eric Easton, a music business veteran who was then the other half of the band's management team. Barely 21, Oldham was profoundly important in the development of the Stones' image, and in initiating the songwriting partnership of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. After some management mishaps, blame for which fell at Easton's feet, and Jagger's ascension in the band's hierarchy following "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", the Stones' first number one record in America, Oldham sought and received Jagger's blessing to bring Klein aboard for re-negotiation of the group's contract with Decca Records. The label offered the band the opportunity to make $300,000 if their records continued to sell. Klein countered with, and quickly secured, an arrangement paying the Stones twice as much, in the form of an advance. He also forced London Records, Decca's American subsidiary, to sign a separate contract. It too was for $600,000. By the time Klein subsequently re-negotiated the deal one year later, Easton having been removed as co-manager, the Stones were guaranteed $2.6 million—more than the Beatles were making.
When Klein examined the Stones' management contract with Easton and Oldham he found that the latter were receiving a disproportionate share of the group's income: not only did Easton and Oldham receive an 8 percent royalty on sales of the Stones' singles—the Stones themselves only received 6 percent—but they also received a 25 percent commission on the Stones' income. At Klein's insistence, Oldham increased the Stones' royalties to 7 percent and relinquished his commission. Klein offered the Stones a million-dollar minimum guarantee, paid over a 20-year period to reduce the Stones' tax liability, to let him become their music publisher, based on his faith in the Jagger-Richards songwriting team. He also arranged for a level of tour support and publicity far above anything the band had ever previously experienced for the Stones' 1965 American tour in support of the album December's Children.
Jagger, who had studied at the London School of Economics, gradually became distrustful of Klein, particularly for the latter's ability to insert himself as a profit participant in the group's ever-growing financial picture. For example, in 1968 Klein very profitably bought out Oldham's share in the band for $750,000. By 1968 the Stones were so concerned with how their finances were being handled by Klein that they hired a London law firm, Berger Oliver & Co, to look into their financial situation and Jagger hired the titled merchant banker Prince Rupert Loewenstein to be his personal financial adviser. Another possible factor in the Stones' dissatisfaction with Klein was that when the latter began to manage the Beatles he focused more of his attention on that band's affairs than on the concerns of the Stones. In 1970, on the occasion of needing to negotiate a new contract with Decca, Jagger announced that Klein would be replaced as manager by Prince Loewenstein.
The split between Klein and the Stones led to years of litigation. In 1971 the Stones sued Klein over U.S. publishing rights. The suit was settled the following year, with the Stones receiving $1.2 million as a settlement of all American royalties earned up to that point (and was essentially the $1.25M advance that Decca had paid the Stones in 1965 that Klein had been withholding since August 1965). However, the Stones were unable to break their contract with Klein, who held an additional $2 million of the Stones' money to be paid over a 15-year period, ostensibly for tax purposes. Klein's company, ABKCO, continued to control the rights to publish the Stones' music and it was Klein who made a fortune off the Stones all-time best-selling album, Hot Rocks 1964-1971. In 1972 Klein alleged that some of the songs on their album Exile On Main Street had been composed while the Stones were still under contract with ABKCO. As a result, ABKCO acquired ownership of the disputed songs and was able to publish another Rolling Stones album, More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies). In 1974 negotiations over royalties led to a payment of $375,000 to the Stones and ABKCO's release of an additional Rolling Stones album, Metamorphosis. In 1975 more lawsuits and negotiations resulted in a $1M payment to the Stones for non-payment by Klein of song-writing royalties, and the release of four Rolling Stones albums including Rock and Roll Circus and Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones. In 1984 Jagger and Richards sued to break their publishing agreement with ABKCO because of non-payment of royalties. The judge encouraged the two sides to reach a settlement.
Starting in 1986, when the introduction of compact discs brought great profits to the music industry, relations began to improve between Klein and the Stones. In 2002 the Stones' album Forty Licks and the Licks Tour, celebrating the Stones' 40th anniversary, incorporated songs owned by ABKCO. The Stones agreed to a five-year payment plan suggested by Klein's son, Jody. In 2003 Klein negotiated with Steve Jobs to make ABKCO's Rolling Stones songs available on iTunes.
Cameo-Parkway and ABKCO
In February 1967, with an eye toward producing films and finding a way to invest his clients' money, Klein attempted to acquire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. His hopes were blunted when Edgar Bronfman, Sr., heir to the Seagram fortune, took control of the firm. Klein then turned his attention to Cameo-Parkway Records, a Philadelphia-born, Los Angeles-based label which had enjoyed hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, thanks to Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp and others, but which by 1967 was no longer prospering. It was one of the first publicly traded record companies, making it ideal for a financial maneuver Klein had in mind, known as a reverse acquisition. It was meant to take Allen Klein and Company public via its being acquired on paper by Cameo-Parkway. By July 1967, Klein and his associate Abbey Butler had acquired a controlling interest and filed to rename Cameo-Parkway as ABKCO, which is an acronym for the Allen and Betty Klein Company. Fueled by speculation, the stock price increased from $1.75 a share in July 1967 to a peak of 76⅜ in February 1968 before the SEC halted trading. The American Stock Exchange declined to reinstate the stock; instead, ABKCO continued to trade over the counter, and the stock price dropped to more realistic levels. In 1987, Klein made ABKCO a privately held company.
In 1964 Klein approached the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, with an offer for the Beatles to sign with RCA for $2 million but Epstein wasn't interested, saying that he was loyal to EMI. After Epstein died in August 1967, in January 1968 the group formed Apple Corps, which they announced in May 1968. They hoped it would provide the means for correcting Epstein's unfortunate business decisions, which had both limited their incomes and ensured high tax burdens. Although "Hey Jude", the Beatles' first Apple release, was an enormous success, the label itself was a money pit, with little accountability for how money was being spent.
Klein contacted John Lennon after reading his press comment that the Beatles would be "broke in six months" if things continued as they were. On January 26, 1969 he met with Lennon, who retained Klein as his financial representative, and the next day met with the other Beatles. Paul McCartney preferred to be represented by Lee and John Eastman, the father and brother respectively of McCartney's girlfriend Linda, whom he married on March 12. Given a choice between Klein and the Eastmans, George Harrison and Ringo Starr preferred Klein. Following rancorous London meetings with both Eastmans, in April Klein was appointed as the Beatles' manager on an interim basis, with the Eastmans being appointed as their attorneys. Continued conflict between Klein and the Eastmans made this arrangement unworkable. The Eastmans were dismissed as the Beatles' attorneys, and on May 8 Klein was given a three-year contract as the business manager of the Beatles. McCartney refused to sign the contract but was out-voted by the other Beatles.
Once in charge of Apple, Klein fired a large number of Apple employees, including Apple Records president Ron Kass, and replaced them with his own people. He closed Apple Electronics, which was headed by Alexis Mardas. Mardas resigned his directorship in May 1971.
Klein was hit with his first crisis in managing the Beatles when Clive Epstein, brother of Brian Epstein and chief heir to NEMS, the management company his brother had founded, sold NEMS to Triumph, a British investment group managed by Leonard Richenberg. NEMS held a 25% stake in the Beatles' earnings, which Klein as well as the Beatles themselves desperately wanted to buy out. This led to tough negotiations with Triumph. Klein ultimately secured the Beatles' rights in their previous work for just four annual payments amounting to 5% of their earnings. However, in the lead-up to those negotiations Richenberg commissioned a hostile investigative report on Klein, which The Sunday Times ran under the headline "The Toughest Wheeler-Dealer in the Pop Jungle."
An even more important battle to secure the Beatles a financial situation commensurate with their worldwide popular acclaim was with Northern Songs Ltd., the publishing company. Northern Songs, a legacy of Brian Epstein's lack of business acumen, was managed by Dick James, whom Epstein had rewarded with the Beatles' publishing rights in return for his helping them get placed on a TV show, Thank Your Lucky Stars, early in their career. But James had constructed a contract that gave him an outsized share, and Epstein hadn't understood its implications. James knew that Klein would soon eliminate his perks, so he quickly offered to sell Northern Songs to ATV, run by entertainment mogul Lew Grade, rather than allow Lennon and McCartney an opportunity to buy back publishing rights to their own songs. Klein worked feverishly to pull together a consortium which would beat Grade's offer, but ultimately his efforts were derailed by infighting between McCartney and Lennon themselves.
In the fall of 1969, while Klein was in the midst of renegotiating the Beatles' substandard recording agreements with EMI, Lennon told him of his plans to quit the group. It was agreed that this was the wrong time to either make or announce such a move. EMI was loath to re-negotiate, but their American subsidiary, Capitol Records, was so impressed by Abbey Road that they agreed to vastly improved royalty terms. McCartney joined his band mates in endorsing the deal Klein had secured.
Abbey Road proved to be the Beatles' last true collaboration, but Klein saw in an unfinished and all-but-discarded previous album and related documentary project, both titled Get Back, a means of getting another record out of the splintered group while also fulfilling their obligation to provide one more film to United Artists, the studio which had previously released both A Hard Day's Night and Help! Phil Spector, the producer famous for his "wall of sound" recordings with The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers, and many others, was eager to sign on as producer for the record, which was eventually titled Let It Be. McCartney didn't approve of Spector, but the other Beatles did. This proved to be McCartney and Klein's last face-to-face meeting. However, Apple made $6 million in the first month following the May 1970 release of the record and the film.
Unhappy with production decisions on the Let It Be album and the other Beatles' decision to hire Klein as their manager, McCartney went public with his plans to exit the Beatles in April 1970. He wanted to be released from his partnership with Lennon, Starr, and Harrison, who had in recent months proved a steady three-to-one majority against McCartney's proposals. The Eastmans convinced McCartney to file suit against his former band mates for dissolution of the Beatles' partnership, which he did on December 31, 1970.
It was clearly proven in the resulting 11-day trial that Klein's management had rescued the Beatles financially, but McCartney's claims of mismanagement were given credibility by the then recently delivered conviction of Klein in the United States for failing to file tax forms "in a timely manner." The taxes in question had been paid; it was only a question of late paperwork. However, the judge ruled in McCartney's favor in March 1971. He decided that the combined financial affairs of the former Beatles should be placed in the care of a receiver until mutually acceptable terms for their break-up could be found. With that stroke, Klein retained a position in the post-breakup, solo careers of Harrison, Starr, and Lennon, but was no longer in charge of their affairs as a partnership.
For a time after the Beatles' contentious breakup, George Harrison was the most popular and successful of the former group. His November 1970 three-disc set, All Things Must Pass, was a sales triumph, and produced hit singles in "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life". In the spring of 1971, Harrison learned from his friend and mentor, Ravi Shankar, about the desperate people of Bangladesh, who had been devastated both by military violence and a vicious cyclone. Harrison immediately set to organizing an event which would take place in Madison Square Garden within just five weeks, The Concert for Bangladesh. Klein hustled to get the invited artists, including Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton to play for free while donating their shares of royalties to charity, and convinced Capitol Records to grant an unprecedented 50% royalty rate. Ironically, Shankar refused to donate his own royalties. Klein coproduced the filmed concert documentary, also called The Concert for Bangladesh. The film and the album raised over $15 million. The IRS attempted to tax the income, and $10 million of that amount was held back for years.
Despite their initial enthusiasm to have him appointed to handle the Beatles' affairs, both Harrison and John Lennon subsequently became disenchanted with Klein. Harrison's "Beware of Darkness" from his All Things Must Pass album contained the lyric "beware of ABKCO" in an early demo version; while Lennon's "Steel and Glass" from the 1974 Walls And Bridges album is also a thinly veiled dig at Klein. In early 1973 the former Beatles served notice that they would not be renewing Klein's management contract when it expired in March. Klein sued the Beatles and Apple in New York, and they sued him in London.
Harrison had been sued for plagiarism in 1971 because of the alleged similarity of his song "My Sweet Lord" to "He's So Fine", which had been recorded by the Chiffons in 1963 and was owned by Bright Tunes Music. The case was still pending in 1976, after Klein's split with the Beatles. Klein purchased Bright Tunes for $587,000 and thus became the plaintiff in the lawsuit against Harrison. The judge ruled that Harrison had infringed on Bright Tunes' copyright, and the ruling was upheld on appeal. The judge initially assessed damages of $2,133,316 which Harrison would have to pay to Klein, then reduced it to $1,599,987, and finally ruled in 1981 that Klein still had a fiduciary responsibility to Harrison even though he was no longer Harrison's manager. Klein was ordered to hold "He's So Fine" in trust for Harrison provided that Harrison reimburse him the $587,000 which it had cost Klein to purchase Bright Tunes.
Klein's 1973 lawsuit against the Beatles was settled in 1977, with Klein receiving a lump sum payment of approximately $5 million in lieu of future royalties and as repayment of loans which ABKCO had made to the Beatles.
Films and theater
The multi-Academy Award-winning 1955 film Marty, an independently produced movie that undercut the Hollywood studio system, provided a business template which Allen Klein closely studied and later adapted to the recording industry. In the late 1950s Klein shared an office with press agent Bernie Kamber, who represented Burt Lancaster, one of Marty's producers. Klein absorbed much from Kamber on how the producers had structured their business model, a paradigm whose strength derived from the fact that artists drove marketplace success, not film studios or record labels, and that intense preparation and canny negotiation could lavishly reward artists and their representatives. In 1961 Klein did accountancy work for an independent film, Force of Impulse, where he formed lasting relationships that he would turn to for many film projects of his own. In 1962 Klein produced a film called Without Each Other. He took it to the Cannes Film Festival and later claimed that it had won the "Best American Picture Award" there, though no such award actually existed. A distributor never materialized, but Klein's enthusiasm for film persisted.
Starting in 1967 Klein produced four films in the Spaghetti Western genre, a lean-and-mean style of cowboy movie with taciturn heroes and explosive violence. Klein utilized actor Tony Anthony, whom he'd met on Force of Impulse, in all four. Their films included a trilogy comprising A Stranger In Town, The Stranger Returns (1967), and The Silent Stranger (shot in 1968 but not released until 1975). Blindman (1970) featured Ringo Starr as a Mexican bandit, Anthony as its lead, and Klein as an extra.
In 1971 John Lennon directed Klein's attention to El Topo, a surrealistic western by the Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky. Inspired by Lennon's enthusiasm, Klein bought the film and put it in American release. He then produced and financed Jodorowsky's next film, The Holy Mountain, an allegorical journey with psychedelic overtones. Later the producer and the director's planned collaboration on a proposed film version of The Story of O was halted when Jodorowsky refused to make the film and to return substantial advance monies. Klein retaliated by withdrawing both El Topo and The Holy Mountain from distribution. In 2008 Jodorowsky released the films in Europe and was sued by Klein. After a face-to-face reconciliation between the two men Klein dropped his lawsuit and ABKCO released the films on video, paying Jodorowsky to remaster them.
In 1972 Klein co-produced The Concert for Bangladesh, discussed above. Klein also produced the 1978 film The Greek Tycoon, in which Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset played characters based on Aristotle Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy. In the early 1980s Klein produced two Broadway plays. It Had to be You, a romantic comedy starring Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna, ran for barely a month. Next Klein produced The Man Who Had Three Arms, written by Edward Albee. Although Albee had also written big successes in The Zoo Story and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the play Klein produced had an even shorter run than his previous attempt.
Criminal conviction and jail time
In 1977 Klein and ABKCO's head of promotion, Pete Bennett, were each charged with three felony counts of attempted income tax evasion for 1970, 1971, and 1972, and related misdemeanor counts of making false statement on their income tax returns for each of those years. The IRS, which had been investigating Klein for several years, claimed that Klein and Bennett had sold promotional copies of Beatles and post-Beatles albums—common practice in the music industry at the time—without declaring the sales on their tax returns. Klein was alleged to have received over $200,000. Bennett pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge and became a witness against Klein. Klein testified that he had not instructed Bennett to sell promotional copies of albums and that although he'd received cash payments from Bennett the payments were a return of cash advances which Bennett had been given. Klein's first trial ended in a mistrial because the jury was deadlocked. At his second trial in 1979 the jury found Klein innocent of the felony charges and convicted him of a single misdemeanor charge of making false statements on his 1972 tax return. Klein was fined $5,000 and sentenced to two months in jail, which he served in July–September 1980.
In 1988 Klein began managing Phil Spector’s business affairs, including his publishing and recording assets. Although Spector had not been active as a producer for several years, his early work was still frequently broadcast and also licensed for film soundtracks. Spector’s publishing company, Mother Bertha Music, Inc, was controlled by Trio, a Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller company, which was in turn administered by Warner/Chappell Music. Warner/Chappell was making appropriate payments, but significant amounts were not being passed on to Spector. Klein's goal was to get Spector all the money owed him, and also to wrest a concession allowing Spector to co-administer the future licensing of his music. Klein and Spector brought suit in federal court. A courtroom win would secure the first goal, but not the second, so Klein advised a settlement strategy. It proved successful.
On their song "Bitter Sweet Symphony" the British alternative rock group the Verve sampled the Andrew Oldham Orchestra's version of the Rolling Stones song "The Last Time," the rights to which were owned by ABKCO, and included it on their 1997 album Urban Hymns. The Verve had obtained the rights to sample the recording from Decca but didn't think of getting permission from ABKCO until the album was ready for release by EMI. Realizing that he had the advantage in negotiations, Klein forced Verve vocalist Richard Ashcroft to sell his rights as lyricist to ABKCO for $1,000 and ABKCO became the sole publisher of "Bitter Sweet Symphony."
The song became a hit, popular for use at sporting events, and it was a big money-maker for ABKCO, which licensed its use for commercials advertising Nike shoes and Opel automobiles. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year, even though "Bitter Sweet Symphony" bears little resemblance to the Stones' "The Last Time".
Klein was diagnosed with diabetes at age 40. He suffered several heart attacks over the years, of varying severity. In 2004, when ABKCO collected a Grammy Award for a Sam Cooke documentary, Legend, Klein fell and broke bones in his foot, requiring surgery. He was subsequently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He died on July 4, 2009 in New York City. The cause of his death was respiratory failure. Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon attended Klein's funeral. Andrew Loog Oldham testified at a subsequent memorial service that Klein had greatly magnified the success of the Rolling Stones.
In June 2015, American journalist Fred Goodman published a biography of Klein, Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll.