2023 Impact 50: David Furnish

Rocket Entertainment Group

The Olivier Awards 2023 Arrivals
(Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Managing the highest-grossing touring artist of all time wasn’t exactly what David Furnish had planned.

Furnish was an advertising executive when he met Elton John in the early 1990s and for most of their 30 years together — the two entered a civil partnership when they became legal for same-sex couples in the United Kingdom in 2005; they converted it to a marriage when same-sex marriage was legalized in 2014 — Furnish produced films (his first foray into filmmaking was as director of the 1997 doc “Elton John: Tantrums and Tiaras”) and pursued other business ventures, including as a board member of John’s various charitable interests.

But in 2015, Furnish – parenting two young sons with his husband – saw that John’s career, while humming along, lacked much of a vision for the future. John, after all, was getting close to 70 and was relying, primarily, on touring, an increasingly challenging prospect given his age and growing family.

Since Furnish took the reins, though, John’s career found a whole other gear. “The Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour has grossed more than $806 million – making history as the highest grossing tour ever. The biopic “Rocketman” made more than $195 million at the box office worldwide. His autobiography “Me was a global bestseller.

Under Furnish’s leadership, Rocket Entertainment entered into a partnership with YouTube for a contest in which young filmmakers created videos for John’s early songs (some of those are featured during the live show). John inked a new rights deal with Universal covering his recorded work, as well as licensing and publishing. 

Furnish also helped Elton navigate his way into the zeitgeist of a younger generation. His The Lockdown Sessions album went to No. 1 in the UK and top 10 around the world. A single with Dua Lipa, “Cold Heart,” went to No. 1, as well, and was one of the most streamed songs in 2022. Outside of Elton himself, Rocket Entertainment, of which Furnish is CEO, has a sports division, a motion picture production company, a theater arm, plus a music management division.