Who is Tommy Mottola?
Tommy Mottola is an Italian-American music executive who went on to become one of the biggest names in the American music industry. He was born in New York, the Bronx, to a typical traditional Italian family. From a young age, he was always pulled to the world of music. He pursued his dream and eventually made a name for himself in the music industry as the indisputable wand wielder who turned artists into stars overnight. Known for his energy, enthusiasm, larger-than-life persona and charm, he has made the careers of many music artists. He is also a visionary and a shrewd businessman, a man who is willing to take risks. He went on to transform Sony Music, making it one of the biggest music labels globally. With a career spanning over 30 years, he is more than just a music wizard; he has made a name for himself in the entertainment business in various others genres as well, be it fashion, television or music. He is one of the most powerful men in the music industry and continues to be a name much–talked about.
Childhood & Early Life
Thomas Daniel "Tommy" Mottola was born in a traditional Italian family, in the Bronx area of New York on 14 July 1949 to Thomas Mottola Senior (customs broker) and Peggy Bonetti (a home maker). As his father was a New York City Customs broker, they later moved to the middle-class suburb of New Rochelle while Tommy was still a child.
At a young age, he developed a knack for music and used to play the trumpet. He later switched to guitar in his early teens.
He graduated from Iona Grammar School in 1962 and Iona Prep in 1966. As a kid he used to skip his classes a lot, due to which he was put in a military school (Admiral Farragut Academy) for a while.
He dropped out of Hofstra University (Long Island) and started pursuing his music career as a guitarist and singer.
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Tommy Mottola’s early music career started with his short lived stint as a singer for the R&B band ‘The Exotics’ and later for ‘Epic’, under the stage name of ‘T.D. Valentine’.
In the 1970s, while working for a music publisher Chappell, he came across a duo called ‘Hall & Oates’ whom he convinced to fire their existing manager and sign a deal with him. During their short lived fame, Mottola made big money and earned 25% of the total profits made.
He formed his own management company called ‘Don Tommy Enterprises’ which was later changed to ‘Champion Entertainment’. The firm catered to notable clients like John Mellencamp and Carly Simon.
In 1987, he was appointed by CBS Records as President of Columbia records and its domestic Sony Music subsidiary. Later it was bought by the Japanese owned Sony Music Entertainment which led to Mottola becoming the President of the United States division of Sony Music (1990). He then transformed the company, expanding it to over 60 countries, creating one of the most successful music companies in the world.
Tommy Mottola nurtured and developed artists who went on to become stalwarts in the music industries namely Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Shakira, Dixie Chicks, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Marc Anthony.
He left Sony in 2003 and started building his own entertainment firm which covered everything from fashion and theatre to music and television. He re-launched the failing careers of various artists including Marc Anthony and Lindsay Lohan and was instrumental in launching Cassie Ventura (2006) and Mika (2007).
Tommy Mottola co-authored a book with Cal Fussman, titled ‘Hitmaker’ (January 2013). The book talks about his road to success, the highs and the lows, and what drove him in the entertainment business.
He produced the musical adaptation of Chazz Palminteri’s ‘A Bronx Tale’ which opened at the Paper Mill Playhouse in February 2016. The show went on for a month and closed in March 2016.
He has collaborated with the Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein for live theatre while his TV production arm is actively involved in developing and producing many TV shows. He currently co-owns Casablanca Records.
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During his 15 year tenure at Sony, Tommy Mottola increased the revenue from $800 million a year to over $6 billion annually by the year 2000.
He is largely known for his astounding discovery of singing diva Mariah Carey whose debut album went on to top the charts with four No.1 hits and sold over eight million copies. He is also known for introducing other divas to the music industry including Celine Dion, Shakira, and Jennifer Lopez.
Awards & Achievements
In 2002, Tommy Mottola received the NIAF Special Achievement Award in the Music Industry at National Italian American Foundation’s Award Gala.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1971, Tommy Mottola married Lisa Clark, daughter of ABC records owner Sam Clark. The couple had two children, Michael and Sarah, and later divorced in 1990.
In 1993, he had a much publicized high profile wedding with Mariah Carey (20 years younger). The couple later got separated in 1997 citing differences due to their age gap.
He married Thalia, a Mexican star and artist, on December 2, 2000. They have two children, Sabrina Sakae Mottola and Matthew Alejandro Mottola.
Tommy Mottola’s estimated net worth is $200 million.
Michael Jackson had once branded Mottola as “racist who exploited black talent”. The accusation created a lot of stir and several famous black celebrities came out in support of Mottola.
He converted to Judaism to marry his first wife Lisa Clark.
Mottola discovered Mariah Carey at a party where he listened to her demo tape and went on to sign her for his record company.