Widely influential hip-hop manager Chris Lighty died after apparent suicide attempt Thursday.
You’ve probably never heard of Lighty, but because of him you’ve almost definitely heard of Mariah Carey, LL Cool J, Sean “Diddy” Combs, 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes.
Lighty used his personal blend of business and music know-how with each of these stars, securing them all a step up in their careers. The much-loved manager was found dead on his basement patio with a gun-shot wound to the head. A 9-mm pistol was found with his body, police said. He was 44.
Lighty shot himself at about 11:30 a.m. after an argument with his wife, police said. Lighty leaves behind five children.
Veronica, his wife of seven years, and he were in the middle of filing for a divorce.
While his wife told police sources that the hip-hop mogul was $5 million in debt to the IRS, The Associated Press reported that he had paid off some of that sum after selling a $5.6 million apartment last October. However, as AP reported, Lighty still owed $330,000 in state and federal taxes.
Lighty’s financial problems continued when, in April, he was sued by City National Bank for refusing to pay back an overdrawn amount of $53,584.
Money wasn’t a problem for Lighty in the business world, however. He was known for making left-corner deals for artists that proved to be essential.
One example is a deal between 50 Cent and a small company called Glacéau, which later introduced a line of beverages called VitaminWater. This product took off and caught the attention of Coca-Cola, which later bought Glacéau in a $4.1 billion deal.
Because Lighty had gotten 50 Cent an equity stake in the company in exchange for the rapper’s endorsement, the artist later made quite a profit during the sale. Lighty was good at making artists money through sources other than their actual music.
“As music sales go down because kids are stealing it off the internet and trading it,” Lighty said in a 2007 interview, "and iPod sales continue to rise, you can’t rely on just the income that you would make off of being an artist.”
Although he may not have agreed with the way the music industry is headed, as seen in a 2010 blog post on his own website - “YOU HAVE SEEN THE SENSELESS LOSSES THAT WE HAVE IN HIP HOP … THE CHAOS AND MAYHEM WILL DESTROY HIP HOP,” Lighty wrote - he was successful at staying ahead of the game.
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