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Clarence Avant, ‘Godfather of Black Entertainment,’ Dies at 92

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Clarence Avant, the music executive, manager, and producer who was known as the “Godfather of Black Entertainment,” died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 92.

His death was announced in a statement released by his kids, Nicole and Alexander, as well as son-in-law Ted Sarandos. 

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“It is with a heavy heart that the Avant/Sarandos family announce the passing of Clarence Alexander Avant,” the statement read. “Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as ‘the Black Godfather’ in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports. Clarence leaves behind a loving family and a sea of friends and associates that have changed the world and will continue to change the world for generations to come.”

No cause of death was provided, but his family said he “passed away gently at home.”

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Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Avant had a long and storied career in the entertainment industry. Born February 25, 1931 in Greensboro, North Carolina. He began his career as a nightclub manager in the 1950s, and then moved on to manage jazz musicians like Shifrin and Smith. In the 1960s, he founded two record labels, Venture Records and Sussex Records, which released music by artists like Bill Withers, Sixto Rodriguez and duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. 

In 1967 he married Jacqueline Gray and had two children: daughter Nicole Avant (a former U.S. Ambassador, political advisor, film producer and philanthropist, who is married to Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos) and son Alex Avant, an agent, producer and actor based in Los Angeles. 

Avant was a mentor to many young artists and executives, and he was known for his generosity and his willingness to help others. He was also a political activist, and he worked to promote civil rights and economic opportunity for African Americans.

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HOLLYWOOD, CA – OCTOBER 07: Record Producer Berry Gordy (L) speaks onstage at a ceremony honoring Music Executive Clarence Avant (R) with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fameon October 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

In 2019, Avant was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors, the highest honor in American performing arts. He helped broker the sale of Stax Records in the late 1960s and was awarded an Industry Icon Award at the Grammys in 2019 — the same year his Netflix documentary, “The Black Godfather,” debuted.

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Tributes to Clarence Avant

Avant’s death is a double tragedy for his family and friends. He was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather, and his loss will be deeply felt. Many of his friends and colleagues have taken to social media to pay their tributes to the late icon.

“Rest in peace to the legendary, game-changing “Black Godfather”, and my great friend Clarence Avant. His accomplishments speak for themselves. As a former music manager, he founded two record labels and purchased the first fully black-owned radio station. He consulted many major studios in the 1970s and advised Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama. He also served as chairman of the board at Motown Records, promoted Michael Jackson’s BAD tour and is responsible for discovering many of the most incredible music artists we know today” – Magic Johnson 

“Maaaan, woke up this morning and couldn’t believe this news!! RIP to The Black Godfather Clarence Avant, thank you for all the wisdom you’ve shared and the path you paved for artists like myself” – rapper T.I.

“It was impossible to spend time with Clarence Avant and not come away feeling more positive and wanting to follow his example.  Hillary and I just loved him. Our full statement on his passing”  – Bill Clinton 

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA – NOVEMBER 09: Jacqueline Avant (L) and Clarence Avant attend the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Patron of the Artists Awards 2017 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on November 9, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SAG-AFTRA Foundation )

Clarence Avant Wife 

Avant’s wife, Jacqueline Avant, was murdered at their Los Angeles home in December 2021. She was 81 years old. The suspect in her murder, Aariel Keshishian, was arrested and charged with murder. He is currently awaiting trial.

Clarence Avant Daughter 

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA – NOVEMBER 09: Honoree Ted Sarandos (R) and Nicole Avant attend the SAG-AFTRA Foundation Patron of the Artists Awards 2017 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on November 9, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for SAG-AFTRA Foundation )

Clarence Avant had one daughter, Nicole Avant. She is an actress, producer, and philanthropist. She is married to Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of Netflix. They have two children.

Nicole Avant is following in her father’s footsteps in the entertainment industry. She has produced several films, including “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and “The Weinstein Company.” She is also the founder of the Avant Garde Foundation, which supports arts education and programs for underrepresented communities.

Nicole Avant is a strong advocate for social justice and equality. She has worked with the NAACP and other organizations to promote civil rights. She is also a member of the board of directors of the California Community Foundation.

Clarence Avant Net Worth

Clarence Avant’s net worth was estimated to be $50 million at the time of his death. He made his money through his career in the entertainment industry, as a music executive, manager, and producer. He founded two record labels, Venture Records in 1967 and Sussex Records in 1969.

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