Howard Kaufman, whose lengthy career in artist management saw work with such stars as the Eagles, Stevie Nicks, Aerosmith and Def Leppard, has died at the age of 79. As of now, the cause of death is unknown, although his occasional business partner, Irving Azoff, suggested that he had been ill for some time.

"Howard was a giant among men. He never sought the spotlight, but was the best in the business," Azoff said in a statement reprinted by Billboard. "We worked together for more than 45 years. He was a great influence on me and taught me a lot. Despite his major health issues, he always wanted to work till the end and I’m glad he got his wish. It’s a tragic loss for our industry. He will be missed by me as well as scores of others he touched."

Kaufman and Azoff created Front Line Management in 1974, where their roster included the Eagles, Steely Dan and Jimmy Buffett. Nine years later, Azoff left to become president of MCA Records, where he stayed until 1989, and Kaufman formed HK Management. They merged and revived the name in 2005, and sold it to Ticketmaster in 2008, at which point Azoff became its CEO.

"Given our positions he wanted/demanded more for his artists than what we might spend in support of any of our other artists," Bob Sherwood, who was a marketing executive with Columbia Records in the '80s said, "which was typical of the best artist managers. He had my respect and I'll be lighting a couple of candles and offering some prayers in St. Mary's tomorrow morning."

In addition to the names mentioned above, over the years, Kaufman also represented Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, Lenny Kravitz and Chris Isaak.

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