Jack Utsick, Founder Of Worldwide Entertainment, Dead At 80

Alicia Keys Diary Tour Wrap Party
Alicia Keys and producer Jack Utsick attend the wrap party for Keys’ “Diary Tour” at Blvd April 21, 2005, in New York City. (Photo by Frank Micelotta / Getty Images)

John Paul “Jack” Utsick, whose Worldwide Entertainment Group emerged to quickly become one of the top concert promoters in the world, died June 8 of cancer, surrounded by his family and bringing to an end a colorful life and career. He was 80.

Utsick rose to prominence as a concert promoter from humble beginnings in the 1980s, when he began promoting shows in his then-hometown of Portland, Maine, in addition to working for TWA as a commercial airline pilot after a stint in the United States Air National Guard.

While at TWA, he was sent to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by contract to Saudi Arabia Airlines, and remained in Saudi Arabia for seven years. He was “honored to fly for King Khalid” and the Saudi royal family, according to Utsick’s family.

Having always loved music, being in a high school band with original Wings drummer Denny Seiwell, Utsick got the idea to promote concerts after attending a Crosby, Stills & Young show, according to his daughters Tanya and Scarlett.

Over time, he successfully competed against more well-established promoters in the region, and by 1997 had rounded up a pool of investors to establish Worldwide Entertainment Group. Pollstar Year-End Worldwide Promoter Charts show WE first appeared among top promoters in 2001, when the company was ranked No. 6 with 1,233,248 tickets sold.

As the world emerged from the Great Recession of the late 1990s, ticket sales increased across the board, and WE was no exception. By 2004, Wordwide Entertainment finished at No. 4 with 2,401,533 tickets sold as reported to Pollstar. Among the artists he promoted in 2004 were Juanes, Blondie, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Steve Earle, Paul Weller and Journey, among many others.

Over his career, Utsick promoted artists including Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne, Gordon Lightfoot, Johnny Cash, Steve Martin, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Nugent, Heart, The Rolling Stones, Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, Eagles, Cream, Tina Turner, Aerosmith, David Bowe, Elton John, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, The Moody Blues, Carmina Burana, Eric Clapton, REO Speedwagon, The Three Tenors, and many more.

He also formed business relationships around the world, making partnerships and acquiring interests in international venues including Germany’s Wuhlheide Amphitheatre and Vector Arena in New Zealand, among others. His efforts extended beyond live music, including a Hollywood role as a producer of a Paris Hilton film, “Pledge This.”

By 2005, the last full year Utsick actively promoted concerts, he was again one of the world’s top-grossing promoters, moving 2,289,991 tickets, competing with such companies as Clear Channel Entertainment/Live Nation, AEG Live and House of Blues Entertainment. He promoted more than 2,000 concerts, appearing in Pollstar Boxoffice records from 1999-2006

Ultimately, Utsick and two of his partners would be accused in 2006 by the Securities and Exchange Commission of financial improprieties including the sale of unregistered securities and agreed to a settlement that included the repayment of more than $300 million to his investors. The bitter legal battle lasted more than a decade.

Despite his legal difficulties, Utsick’s defenders remained loyal. “He always came through, he’s an honorable guy, a straight shooter,” Jim Camacho, of Florida band The Game, told the Miami Herald in 2006. “He’s definitely a dreamer. He thinks big, and he goes for it. His dream was to take a band to the top.”

“Jack’s heart and soul became part of building an empire from the ground up and eventually being [one of the largest concert promoters] in the world,” Utsick’s family said in a statement. “He was known simply as ‘Jack.’ Everyone knew him for his kindness. … May he now rest in peace and be remembered for all the wonderful things he did in his life on earth …”