Last Updated: April 11, 2024
Richest BusinessProducers
Net Worth:
$300 Million
Jul 31, 1923 - Dec 14, 2006 (83 years old)
Record producer, Composer
United States of America
đź’° Compare Ahmet Ertegun's Net Worth

What is Ahmet Ertegun's Net Worth?

Ahmet Ertegun was a Turkish-born American businessman, record executive, and songwriter, who had a net worth of $300 million at the time of his death in 2006.

Ahmet Ertegun was best known for co-founding and heading Atlantic Records. Ertegun and his co-founder Jerry Wexler sold Atlantic Records to Warner Bros-Seven Arts for $17 million in 1967. That's the equivalent of $130 million after adjusting for inflation. Ahmet investeded part of his windfall in what would eventually become an extremely valuable collection of modern art and real estate. After he died, his art collection was housed at a museum in Naples, Florida.

In addition to launching the careers of many top R&B and rock artists like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, he wrote numerous blues and pop songs, and founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Among his other endeavors, Ertegun chaired the American Turkish Society and co-founded the New York Cosmos soccer team. In the 2004 film "Ray," about the life of Ray Charles, Ahmet was portrayed by Curtis Armstrong.

Early Life and Education

Ahmet Ertegun was born as Ahmet Munir on July 31, 1923 in Istanbul, Turkey. His mother HayrĂĽnnisa was a musician, while his father Munir was a legal counsel. He had an older brother named Nesuhi. In 1935, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Ertegun's father served as Turkey's first ambassador to the United States. Ertegun's passion for music thrived in D.C. as he went to see such popular black musicians as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong. For his education, he went to Landon School, an affluent college preparatory school for boys in Bethesda, Maryland. Ertegun went on to attend St. John's College in Annapolis, graduating in 1944. He then went to graduate school at Georgetown University.

Atlantic Records, 1947-1959

In 1946, Ertegun befriended National Records executive Herb Abramson. Together, they decided to start a new independent record label focused on R&B, jazz, and gospel music. With the financial help of family dentist Dr. Vahdi Sabit, the pair founded Atlantic Records in 1947. The label released a number of unsuccessful records until it scored its first hit with Stick McGhee's blues song "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee" in 1949. Atlantic Records expanded throughout the 1950s as it signed several fledgling, soon-to-be major artists, including Ruth Brown, the Drifters, the Clovers, Big Joe Turner, and Ray Charles. In the process, Atlantic became the premier R&B label in the business. With the help of pioneering recording engineer and producer Tom Dowd, the label also set new standards for high-quality recordings. In 1957, it became the first record company to utilize an 8-track tape machine.

In addition to launching the careers of several top musical acts, Ertegun wrote many songs under the alias A. Nugetre. Notably, he wrote "Chains of Love," which was a big hit for Pat Boone, and "Mess Around," which was one of Ray Charles's first hits. For the Clovers, Ertegun wrote the hits "Ting a Ling" and "Middle of the Night"; he also wrote "Fool, Fool, Fool," which became a hit for Kay Starr. Among the other hit songs Ertegun wrote were "Whatcha Gonna Do," by the Drifters; "Heartbreaker," by Ray Charles; "Story of My Love," by LaVern Baker; and "Ti-Ri-Lee," by Big Joe Turner. Internationally, he wrote "Missä Olit Silloin (Dawn in Ankara)" for Finnish singer Irina Milan. In 1958, Ertegun became the president of Atlantic Records as Herb Abramson sold his financial interest and left the company.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Atlantic Records in the 1960s and 70s

Through various partnerships with local labels, Atlantic helped to foster the growth of soul music throughout the 1960s by signing such major artists as Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, and the Rascals. Although he initially had no desire to sell Atlantic, Ertegun acceded to his business partner Jerry Wexler's wishes and sold the label to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967. A couple of years after that, Atlantic became part of the Kinney National Service conglomerate, where Ertegun was given considerable power. He went on to produce an array of successful rock acts for Atlantic, including Led Zeppelin, Yes, Bad Company, Genesis, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Other Ventures

Among his other major ventures, Ertegun founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1983. A few years later, Cleveland, Ohio was chosen as the Hall of Fame's home. Ertegun served as the chair of the RRHOF, and in 1987 became an inductee. He went on to help finance the establishment of the nonprofit Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1988.

Beyond the music industry, Ertegun co-founded the New York Cosmos soccer team with his brother Nesuhi in late 1970. In 1972, the team was acquired by Warner Communications, allowing it to sign such internationally famous stars as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, and Carlos Alberto Torres. The Cosmos competed in the North American Soccer League until 1984, after which both the team and the league dissolved.


United States-Turkey Relations

Ertegun was renowned for fostering international relations between the United States and his native Turkey. The chairman of the American Turkish Society for over 20 years, he introduced numerous American leaders and artists to Turkey. Ertegun also helped raise over $4 million for Turkey in the wake of the 1999 earthquake near Istanbul. In academics, he funded the Turkish studies departments at Georgetown University and Princeton University, and established the Ahmet Ertegun Memorial Scholarship for music students of Turkish descent at Juilliard.

Personal Life and Death

Ertegun married his first wife, Jan Holm, in early 1953. They divorced three years later. He went on to marry Mica Grecianu in 1961.

In October 2006, during a Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, Ertegun tripped and hit his head on a concrete floor. Taken to the hospital, he fell into a coma and later passed away on December 14. A number of memorial events in his honor were held the following year, including a benefit tribute concert in London headlined by Led Zeppelin.

Hamptons Mansion & Real Estate

In a book about his life, Ahmet gave the following reply when asked to define success: "When you have no keys." The implication being that whenever Ahmet arrived at one of his mansions, he did not need keys because he was met by an assistant and/or property manager. Ahmet owned at least five mansions at the time of his death. The most notable is likely a palatial estate in Southampton, NY.

In the 1990s, Ahmet commissioned what became an 11,000 square foot, 10-bedroom palatial mansion in Southampton, New York. He dubbed the 5.5 acre property the Boatman House. In March 2024, Ahmet's heirs listed this property for sale for $52 million.

Ahmet and his wife, who died in December 2023, also owned five-story townhouse in Manhattan, an apartment in Paris and a summer estate in his native Turkey.

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