Andre Harrell, a veteran music executive best known for signing a young Sean Combs to his first record deal and later went on to head Motown Records, has died. He was 59. The cause of death is as yet unclear.
DJ D Nice revealed the sad news while spinning on Instagram Live for his popular Club Quarantine series. Variety has yet to receive official word though sources have confirmed Harrell’s passing.
A native of New York, in 1983 Harrell teamed with Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam Records, and had one of his early experiences in the business working as a vice president and later GM of the label.
He left to start his own record company, Uptown Records, where he signed Sean “Puffy” Combs. He later brought Mary J. Blige onto the roster and saw success with both artists in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.
Harrell would later find a home at MCA productions where he developed multiple projects in film and television in the 1990s and returned to the music business full-time in 1995 to run Motown Records as CEO. Through that era, the label was home such acts as Boyz II Men and Johnny Gill.
Harrell and Combs remained longtime friends and business associates and Harrell served as vice chairman of Revolt, Combs’ multi-platform music network, and a producer on its panel show “State of the Culture.”
A pioneer of hip-hop and R&B and black entertainment in general, Harrell could be seen at many red carpet events on both coasts. He appears in Diddy’s 2017 documentary “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story” and, according to IMDB, had been working on a TV miniseries about Uptown that was in the treatment phase at BET.