Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne have paid tribute to Tony Martell, a veteran music industry executive and philanthropist who died Sunday at the age of 90.
Martell spent four decades as a high-ranking executive at CBS Records and its subsidiaries, where he worked closely with many major acts, including Osbourne, the BEACH BOYS, Billy Joel and Stevie Ray Vaughan, before retiring in the 1990s.
Martell was also well known as chairman of the successful T.J. Martell Foundation, which he created in 1975 after his son, T.J., died of leukemia at the age of 19. It would go on to become the music industry's biggest foundation for leukemia, cancer, and AIDS research, and has raised more than $270 million for its cause, according to the organization's web site.
Ozzy released a statement to Billboard.com, saying: "It saddened me to hear of my friend Tony Martell's passing. Tony was the only record executive to believe in me when he signed me to Epic Records as a solo artist in 1980. He will be missed."
Added Sharon Osbourne: "Tony was always a mensch of a guy, one of the few good ones where you kind of thought, 'Are you really in the music industry?' [Laughs]
"I met him in 1975 because he'd signed ELO and Jet Records [to Epic] when I was working for my father [manager/Jet founder Don Arden]. When Ozzy started [his solo career in 1980] people turned him down because there hadn't been a lead singer that had left a band and become successful at that time, but Tony believed in him and signed him — and how many years later are we, and we're still signed to Epic and it's all down to Tony. I must add that Ozzy is truly, truly saddened by this.
"I don't think even Tony at the time realized what he was starting — that [the T.J. Martell Foundation] would become so hugely successful. So many people who were ill reached out to Tony for advice and help — people in the industry that he didn't even work with would call him and he'd give advice about doctors, about treatment. He'd made a promise to his son and he wanted to see that promise through, and he went on to help probably hundreds of people. People like him are so rare."