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Nov 27, 2019 3:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Robert F.X. Sillerman, 71, Was A Major Figure In Media, Former Southampton College Chancellor

Dec 3, 2019 3:04 PM

Robert Francis Xavier Sillerman, a one-time chancellor of Southampton College, died Sunday, November 24. He was 71.

Born in New York to Estelle (Levande) and Michael McKinley Sillerman, who founded the Keystone Radio Network, Mr. Sillerman was raised in the Bronx and was a graduate of Brandeis University.

He was a longtime East End resident and owned a mansion on Meadow Lane in Southampton. At age 57, he made the Forbes 400 list, at number 375, with an estimated net worth of $975 million, according to the financial magazine’s online bio.

In 1978, Mr. Sillerman and Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow bought two radio stations in upstate New York. The pair then purchased radio and television stations across the country, with the purchase in 1985 of KJOI-FM in Los Angeles setting a record with a $44 million price tag, according to Forbes. By 1989, the Los Angeles Times reported the sale of the station for $75 million, the largest price ever paid for an FM radio station. Mr. Sillerman bought Mr. Morrow out in 1993.

Mr. Sillerman founded Capstar Communications in 1989. It changed its name to SFX Broadcasting, then SFX Entertainment, branching out to produce concerts. In 2000, Mr. Sillerman sold SFX to Clear Channel for $4.4 billion. He started SFX Entertainment back up in 2012, but the company declared bankruptcy four years later.

In 1993, he reportedly agreed to become college chancellor, taking the helm from Angier Biddle Duke, if university officials would turn their focus to such disciplines as marine science. His tenure made news in 1996, when he named Kermit the Frog the speaker for commencement. He served in the post for 13 years.

With media companies that made, then were sold for, millions, Mr. Sillerman’s personal fortune topped the $1 billion mark, while his philanthropic gifts measured in the tens of millions. He donated $15 million to Southampton College in 2000, to be used for marine science scholarships. In 2008, his $10 million gift to his alma mater was the largest ever received from an alumnus, according to the Brandeis Heller School report.

He and his wife, Laura Baudo Sillerman, donated $5 million to her alma mater, Marietta College, and was given the Mr. Mac Award, the college website said.

The entertainment mogul listed six homes with a combined value of $107 million for sale in 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In December 2015, Mr. Sillerman sold one of his Meadow Lane properties, a 2.4-acre oceanfront estate, for $38 million. In 2014, he sold an adjacent 3.6-acre parcel with a 12,800-square-foot residence for $37.5 million.

Last summer, he agreed to settle Securities and Exchanges charges of defrauding investors by promising to never again serve as an officer or director of a public company, and paying a $179,000 fine, Newsday reported. He was accused of defrauding investors in Function(x) Inc., a Manhattan-based online publisher and entertainment company he’d founded. According to the report, Mr. Sillerman had separately filed for bankruptcy.

“Bob Sillerman was a dear friend to me and my entire family, as well as to a great many other East Enders, and we all cherished the decades of joyful times we shared,” said Tim Bishop of Southampton, who served as college provost under Mr. Sillerman, and later was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 1st District. “He and his wife, Laura, were loyal, engaged and very generous supporters of a great many local institutions, including Southampton College, The Children’s School, the Writing Program at Stony Brook Southampton, the Bay Street Theater and the Group for the East End, to name just a few. Those of us who loved him will miss him terribly, and we are heartbroken at his passing.”

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