Exclusive: Ron Delsener Retires After Almost 60 Years As Preeminent New York Concert Promoter

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THE GODFATHER: Ron Delsener retires after 58 years in concert promotion, Live Nation announced Oct. 13.

Live Nation NYC Chairman Ron Delsener, one of the godfathers among concert promoters in the modern live entertainment industry, is retiring after more than six decades in the nation’s biggest and most important market.

“It’s been a great honor to have played a role in bringing music’s biggest stars to stages across New York,” Delsener said in making the announcement.

“Ron helped bring concerts to New York for 50+ years and supported countless artists along the way. We wish him all the best in his next chapter,” Live Nation said in a statement.

Delsener, who turns 86 this year, began his legendary career by promoting The Beatles’ first outdoor concert at Forest Hills stadium in Queens, NY, in 1964. The preeminent New York concert promoter, Delsener worked on thousands of shows for legendary artists including the Beatles, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, and countless others.

He was the first promoter to bring concerts to Central Park in the 1960s, when he revolutionized the industry by promoting shows in the park, including Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, and made them accessible to mass audiences by pricing tickets at $1.50.

Over the years, Delsener promoted shows at landmark venues including Sting at the Metropolitan Opera House and Neil Young at Carnegie Hall in 1983. He was also the force of nature behind the restoration of the nearly 14,000-capacity amphitheater in Wantaugh, N.Y., now known as Northwell Health at the Jones Beach Theater.

In 2018, he was feted by NYC’s City Parks Foundation with a gala dinner and concert at SummerStage in honor of many years bringing music to Central Park and beyond, where he was serenaded by the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, Idina Menzel, David Sanborn and Paul Shaffer, and regaled by comedian Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci.

Delsener retires after a colorful career that includes promoting shows with the biggest names of the rock ‘n’ roll – or any – era, including Elton John, Queen, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett, Dave Matthews Band, The Who and many, many more – virtually everybody who was anybody from the mid-1960s on played shows promoted by Ron Delsener, either on his own, as a partner in Delsener / Slater Enterprises, SFX Entertainment and its successors including Live Nation.

Delsener partnered with the late Mitch Slater, who had been booking shows at Madison Square Garden, in 1988 to launch Delsener / Slater Enterprises. By that time, Delsener was promoting concerts throughout New York and New Jersey. The powerhouse promotion company dominated the Northeast back when promoters operated in unofficial territories, which changed when SFX Entertainment and Robert Sillerman began rolling up promoters, including Delsener / Slater.

“We went after every act that we could,” Delsener told Pollstar after Slater died in July, 2020. “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.”

They decided to sell the company to SFX for $20 million in 1996 and remained with the successor companies with Delsener at the helm of its New York office, until his retirement.