Australian-born music mogul Robert Stigwood, who managed the Bee Gees at the height of their fame and guided musician Eric Clapton's successful solo career while producing musicals for the stage, has died aged 81, friends said on Tuesday.

The announcement of his death was made on Facebook by Spencer Gibb, a son of Bee Gees band member Robin Gibb.

Further details about his death were not immediately available.

"I would like to share the sad news with you all, that my godfather, and the longtime manager of my family, Robert Stigwood, has passed away," Gibb wrote.

Stigwood, who was born in South Australia, worked with a staggering number of groundbreaking acts, both on the Broadway stage and on the pop charts, producing counterculture stage hits Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar.

He produced the groundbreaking film of The Who's rock opera Tommy and Saturday Night Fever, which introduced a young John Travolta to film audiences around the world, while propelling the Bee Gees to global stardom.

Six months after Fever led to a huge boom for disco music, he produced another massive hit with Travolta, Grease.


Producer Robert Stigwood is shown on the left, with director Alan Parker, centre, and producer Andrew Vajna, right, after Evita won Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 19, 1997. (Reuters)

But he was most closely associated with his work with fellow Australians The Bee Gees, an act he guided since the late 1960s when they consistently charted with songs like To Love Somebody, Holiday and Massachusetts.

Stigwood became aware of the group's availability through his business relationship with Beatles manager Brian Epstein, and signed them shortly before Epstein's death.

With the Bee Gees in tow, Stigwood formed RSO Records in 1973.

He helped Clapton transition from being a member of several groups to becoming a consistent seller as a solo artists, with hit albums like 461 Ocean Boulevard and Slowhand.

The Bee Gees at the time were mired in a multi-year slump, which would turn around with the RSO release Main Course, featuring a move to R & B and disco and the hits Jive Talkin' and Nights on Broadway.

After the massive success of Grease, flops produced by Stigwood would follow in the weeks and months ahead in 1978 for both Travolta, with Moment by Moment, and the ill-advised movie turn for the Bee Gees in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, was commercially successful but critically panned.

Stigwood would be involved in producing just one more film, Evita, which in 1997 won three Golden Globes, including Best Musical or Comedy.

Broadway musical producer Andrew Lloyd Webber, with whom Stigwood worked on multiple projects, praised him on Twitter .

Farewell beloved Robert, the great showman who taught me so much. With love, ALW, he wrote.

With files from CBC News