Remembering Jay Emmett

Jay Emmett — one of the entertainment world’s leading executives in the 1960s and ’70s, and a powerful influence in everything from Batman to the New York Cosmos — died last Monday night, at 86. The cause was heart failure, at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Emmett was a longtime resident of Westport, while he built his career in movies and sports marketing.

He began his career working for his uncle in a family-run comic book publishing company that owned the rights to a number of superheroes, including Batman and Superman.

Jay Emmett

Jay Emmett

Emmett founded 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 Emmett joined Warner Communications — now Time Warner — and was named president, under chairman Steve Ross.

Emmett oversaw great growth in the company’s music and movie divisions during the 1960’s and 1970’s. When the company established the original New York Cosmos, he was instrumental in signing Brazilian star Pelé. The franchise went on to draw more than 70,000 fans each game.

Emmett’s close friendship with Washington attorney Edward Bennett Williams led to his meeting Larry Lucchino, a Williams protégé. Emmett helped Lucchino’s teams — the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox — set home attendance records.

Emmett’s love of sports led him to partner with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the early 1970’s. They worked to develop the Special Olympics into one of the most important charitable institutions in the world. Emmett served in a number of capacities, including as a member of its international board of directors

Family and friends in Westport remember Emmett for his charismatic personality, infectious enthusiasm for life, and his outspoken nature. In recent years, Emmett derived great pleasure from the success of his children and grandchildren.

Emmett is survived by his sons Steven and Andrew, and daughters-in-law Deborah, Marlene, and Geri. He leaves behind 6 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Martha and son Paul.

A public celebration of Emmett’s life will be held at Fenway Park this summer. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the Special Olympics.

To express condolences and/or make donations, click here.

special olympics

11 responses to “Remembering Jay Emmett

  1. When i did recording sessions on the Warner Bros. lot in the 70s, i used to
    park in Jay Emmet’s space in the executive lot right next to the music stage.
    no one was ever in that space; did he use a limo ? anyway, thanks Jay !

  2. I lived across the street from the Emmetts during my Staples years, and Steve and I played football and track for Staples ’66. Jay was a larger than life figure — very handsome and personable. He helped create the industry of licensing pop culture into merchandise, starting with Rocky & Bullwinkle lunchboxes and then 007 cologne and other such gear. I remember when he brought home one of the Bond Aston-Martins — the ejection seat didn’t work, of course, but the button was there on the gear shift. RIP, Jay.

  3. Jay was bigger than life and sitting with Paul in 007’s car was a trip.

  4. Steve Emmett

    Hi Dan: Thanks for remembering my dad (and, a while back, my brother Paul who died 4 months ago).H
    e had one helluva life. It’s been a tough year (my mother died 4 days before my brother). Just feeling so appreciative for family & good friends.Hope to see you at my 1966 class reunion next year. Hope you are well. Peace, Steve

  5. Jay Emmett was a major figure in my early professional life. When I was between first and second years of law school at BU, after a BA at Yale and an MBA at Columbia, Jay helped out with a summer internship at what was then called Warner Communications. He got me an interview with Martin Payson, SVP. Gen’l Counsel at WCI. Payson was brutally honest with me. He told me that there was a 2nd year Harvard Law School student also in the running…but that he was also heading for a summer internship at Paul Weiss…a major firm…and that I would only get it…if the Harvard guy took the other job. Thank God? He did. I worked for Payson that summer. I spent much of the summer analyzing the contracts of the RSO (Robert Stigwood Organization) ….Saturday Night Fever!!!……and also the financials of Kinney Parking Lots (also under the corporate umbrella). Jay Emmett told me that I was on the right track. Whatever that meant. He got me going. I am soooo grateful to that man.

    • i played on Saturday Night Fever…seven double sessions..what a trip ! never seen so much cocaine around in the booth as on those sessions !
      Stigwood loved it…

  6. Steve. I can’t imagine losing a brother, mother and father in the same year. Paul is the only one of the three I knew. He, too, was larger than life. My heart goes out to you.

  7. Liz Doyle Boyd

    My condolences to Steve and Andrew, my memories go way back to clam parties with the families..and of course Paul, class of 1970…Peace and love from all the Doyles…

  8. Liz Doyle Boyd

    should have said clambakes and parties…

  9. Tom Allen '66

    Peace, love and condolences from the Allens, too, Steve. My parents, sisters and I thought the world of your dad, all the way back to Saugatuck School. See you next summer.

  10. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Paul and I were SHS ’70 classmates, fellow Orphenians and Cub Scouts at Greens Farms School and at least one of our rotating meetings were held at the Emmett house. I remember, even at 7, being bowled over by the friendliness, handsomeness and warmth of Mr. Emmett (which he passed on to his sons). When he was involved in the promotion for 007 cologne and brought home the Aston-Martin DB-5, I remember wondering if he was a cousin of Sean Connery’s because he would have made a great 007. My deepest condolences to the Emmett family. If there’s any consolation to be derived it must be that this sad year was preceded by so many good ones for this very talented and wonderful family who had so many friends in Westport and are greatly loved by all of them.