Stephen Swid, Music Licensing Innovator, Is Dead at 78


Sesac’s move did lead to increased competition among the performing rights societies to sign and retain top songwriters, a process that continues today.

Sesac now has more than 400,000 songs in its catalog, by songwriters and composers including Kurt Cobain, Adele, Randy Newman, Paul Shaffer, Ric Ocasek of the Cars and the members of R.E.M.

Stephen Claar Swid was born on Oct. 26, 1940, in the Bronx, to Dave and Selma (Claar) Swid. His father was a trucking executive who also helped build the New England Thruway. He graduated from Ohio State University in 1962, with many of his summers spent working as a parking attendant at the Astor Hotel in Times Square, his son, Scott, said.

Mr. Swid is also survived by his wife, Nan, a founder of Swid Powell Designs, which focuses on housewares; two daughters, Robin Swid and Jill Rosen; eight grandchildren; and a sister, Carole Eisner.

In addition to his investments in Sesac and SBK, Mr. Swid held ownership stakes in Spin magazine and Cinecom Entertainment Group, an independent film producer and distributor, whose catalog included the 1990 version of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

An art collector, he served as the chairman of the Municipal Arts Society and was on the board of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for more than 30 years.

But the company he remained closest to, and where he had his greatest success, was Sesac, which he ran as chairman and chief executive from 1992 until his retirement in 2013. Sesac, which is privately held, has always remained closely guarded about its finances. But according to Moody’s Investors Service, which has rated its debt offerings, its annual revenue grew from just $9 million in 1994 to $167 million by 2013, or about 8 percent of the American performing rights market.

In 2017, Sesac, which Mr. Swid and his partners had bought for just $15 million 25 years earlier, was sold to the Blackstone Group, the investment giant, for $1.2 billion.

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