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Friday, June 26, 2015

Jay Emmett, 86

Jay Emmett of West Palm Beach, Fla., a former Westport resident and prominent media and sports marketing executive who is credited with helping bring Batman and Superman to life on the silver screen, died June 22 of heart failure at his home. He was 86.

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Jay Emmett: former Westporter. Contributed photo

Born and raised in New York City, where he maintained a residence throughout his life, he and his late wife Martha relocated to Westport, where together they grew their family while Jay built a formidable career in motion pictures and sports marketing. They later relocated full-time to their home in south Florida. Martha died in February at age 87. (See WestportNow Feb 9, 2015)

His professional life spanned many industries and many decades. He got his start early, working for his uncle in a family-run comic book publishing company that owned the rights to a number of iconic superheroes including Batman and Superman.

It was during his time in the family business that Jay learned the skills of marketing and licensing, which would carry him throughout his storied career and later help bring these beloved characters to life in film, while working for Warner Bros. as an executive vice president.

He went on to found the Licensing Corporation of America, which expanded from licensing comic book and cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird into sports marketing, leading to partnerships with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

In 1964, he joined Warner Communications, now Time Warner, where he ultimately became president under direction of the company’s then-chairman Steve Ross.

As president of Warner, he oversaw soaring growth in the company’s music and movie divisions during the 1960s and 1970s, and when the company established the original New York Cosmos in an effort to increase soccer fandom in America, Jay insisted they sign international soccer star Pelé. The franchise went on to draw more than 70,000 fans each game.

Emmettt’s close friendship with legendary Washington attorney Edward Bennett Williams led to his meeting Larry Lucchino, a Williams protégé. The two would become best friends as Lucchino took over the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres, and Boston Red Sox.

Emmett, a board member by title, helped Lucchino’s clubs set historic home attendance records with each franchise. He was also instrumental in the development of the careers of current San Diego Padres president and CEO Mike Dee, and Boston Red Sox Executive Vice President and COO Sam Kennedy.

Emmett’s love of sports led him to partner with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the early 1970s as they worked to develop the Special Olympics into one of the most important charitable institutions in the world.

The organization benefited from his leadership for decades to follow, as he served in a number of capacities, including as a member of its international board of directors, and as a member of the executive, audit and finance and public education and awareness committees.

He is survived by his sons Steven and Andrew, and daughters-in-law Deborah, Marlene, and Geri; also six grandchildren, Heather, Jason, Doug, Erik, Katherine, and Alex. He was preceded in death by his wife, Martha and his son, Pau

A public celebration of his life will be held at Fenway Park later this summer.

In lieu of flowers, the Emmett family has asked that donations be made in his name to the Special Olympics.

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Posted 06/26/15 at 01:29 PM  Permalink



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