May 5, 2022
Len Levy, a veteran of the home video industry since the early days of VHS, died March 14, 2022 of a heart attack. He was 97. Levy is survived by a cousin, Dave Fogel of Chicago.
Levy was born on Jan. 10, 1925, to Jean and Sol Levy in Rochester, New York. His maternal grandfather, Samuel Hoffman, owned a record store, where he learned about music, composers, and performers. Levy graduated from Ohio State University, though his education was interrupted by 18
months’ service in the South Pacific.
After college, while working in his grandfather’s store, Levy began booking talent for a nearby supper club. That led to his meeting various New York City agents and managers. He soon joined the local distributorship of Coral Records, a subsidiary of Decca Records, as sales manager. In January 1955 he became office manager with Coral in New York. He then became national sales manager for Top Rank Records.
In 1961, Levy joined Epic Records, a subsidiary of Columbia Records, as sales
manager. He signed singer Bobby Vinton, whose first Epic single was the multimillion seller “Roses Are Red.” Through his connections in Britain at EMI, Levy signed Lulu, Cliff Richards, Donovan, The Yardbirds, and
the Dave Clark Five to Epic. He opened an office for Epic in Nashville and discovered and guided the careers of Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich, among others, and was voted into Who’s Who in County Music. He ultimately rose to SVP and GM at Epic.
Levy later served as president of Chess Records of Chicago before being approached in 1976 by The Wherehouse to head up the national record store chain’s new Video Division. In the early 1980s, Levy became marketing manager of Family Home Entertainment, where he acquired home
video rights to the Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Inspector Gadget, and other familiar family brands, building FHE into the second-biggest children’s video company, behind the Walt Disney Co.
Levy created several well-regarded labels under the FHE leadership, including International Video Entertainment (IVE) and Thriller Video. The latter featured Elvira hosting films from the Hammer House of Horror. IVE’s releases included On Golden Pond, Hoosiers, 1984, Bolero, Angel Heart, First Blood and Supergirl.
In 1987, Levy headed a new division of Fries Entertainment: Fries Home Video. He acquired new episodes of the “Care Bears,” “Shari Lewis & Lambchop,” and an eclectic collection of programming including Follies In Concert, the indie film hit Wish You Were Here, Troop Beverly Hills and Flowers in the Attic.
In 1998, Levy formed Pro-Active Entertainment Group in Rancho Mirage, Calif., providing sales and marketing advice to independent producers. The firm closed in 2007.
He married Florence (“Flo”) on May 24, 1960. Flo died of lung cancer on Feb. 17, 2016, in Rancho Mirage.