Mitch Slater: In Memoriam – A Conversation With Longtime Partner And NY Promoter Legend Ron Delsener

Ron Delsener – Ron Delsener
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame interview. 
Over the course of his illustrious four-decade career, Mitch Slater developed a lot of friends and colleagues – as well as competitors – in the concert industry but no relationship was as long or as close as the one he had with Ron Delsener. 
The inimitable Delsener, one of the godfathers of the modern concert promotion business, had been promoting shows in New York and New Jersey while Slater was booking artists at Madison Square Garden. Eventually, Delsener would convince Slater to join his company.

Pollstar: What was the genesis of your long relationship with Mitch Slater?

Ron Delsener:  I met Mitch when he was working at Madison Square Garden. I called Mitch and said, ‘Hey, I deal with you a lot at the Garden and other places. Would you like to come over here?’ We got together at a conference and started palling around. But we hit it off and he came back, in 1987, and asked, ‘What are you going to pay me?’ Finally he said, ‘Let’s make a deal.’ He was funny and a wise guy, like me, and it was a pretty easy transition. 

How did Mitch contribute to the company’s growth?

We went after every act that we could. We went after Red Hot Chili Peppers, and couldn’t get the act. We offered them $100,000 – a lot of money back then. We got them, and they were on Lollapalooza the next year. We talked to each other every day. We started to get friendly with Sal Bonafede who was with Neil Diamond. We wanted Neil, and Mitch called Sal, and we get the whole tour.  Howard Rose was one of our best guys. We got a lot of Elton John tours. Chicago, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Huey Lewis, Mott The Hoople, Queen, all of these older bands.
Ron Delsener
– Ron Delsener
Delsener / Slater Presents alumni L-R: Susan Bank, Ali Harnell, Ron Delsener, Melissa Ormond, Mitch Slater

It was still a low-margin business then, right? 

Most of us were getting 90/10 deals, where the artist got 90% and you got 10%. At that time, I started looking to get bought out. And then Robert Sillerman came along.
We got a call from Eddie Simon, Paul’s brother, who said, “We got this guy in Massachusetts with a couple of radio stations; he’s a provost at Southampton College. Would you do a show for him?” I met Bob Sillerman at that first show. Later, Sillerman offered $20 million for the company and I split it with Mitch. Sillerman knew Mitch is the future. Mitch went to Europe and made deals for Sillerman, became very important in his organizations, including CKX after they sold to Clear Channel Entertainment and it became Live Nation.

But you remained friends over the years. 

Mitch and I would go golfing – I was terrible but he was great. What can I say about Uncle Mitchie? He was like my brother. But he called me nephew and I called him uncle, even though he was much younger than me.  I’m lost without him. We were both from Queens. He was great. We laughed and laughed all the time.