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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Frank DiLeo, who managed Michael Jackson during much of his 1980s superstardom and returned to the King of Pop's side in his final days, died on Wednesday from complications of past heart surgery. He was 63.
His wife Linda and business associates issued a statement saying they were "deeply saddened by the loss of the legendary, iconic and highly respected music industry figure."
DiLeo began working in music in 1968 with CBS Records and moved around the industry before landing at Epic Records where he was vice president of promotions when Jackson's smash album "Thriller" was released in 1982.
"Thriller," with hits such as "Beat It" and "Billie Jean," remains the best-selling album of all time.
In his book, "Moonwalk," Jackson said of DiLeo that he "really worked hard and proved to be my right hand during the years ahead." DiLeo managed Jackson's Bad tour and stayed with him for several years during the 1980s.
Even after their unexplained split, the pair remained friends. In 2009, before Jackson's sudden death in June by drug overdose, DiLeo returned to the "Thriller" singer with plans to help him through his ill-fated "This Is It" comeback concerts.
"He was not only one of the great veterans of the music business, he was a beloved friend to me and all who were lucky enough to have had him in their lives," John Branca, co-executor of Jackson's estate said in a statement. "He was one of a kind. He was a character. He was an original."
In the early 1990s, his company Frank Dileo Management handled the careers of Taylor Dayne, among others, and he was co-president of Savage Records.
More recently, DiLeo was working the career of teenage pop star Manika whose songs include "Just Can't Let You Go."
He is survived by his wife, two children and one grandson.
Editing by Jill Serjeant