Entertainment

Business brain behind Beatles, Neil Aspinall, dies at 66

Neil Aspinall, a longtime friend and business associate of the Beatles, has died in New York City, the surviving band members said Monday.

Neil Aspinall, a longtime friend and business associate of the Beatles, has died in New York City, the surviving band members said Monday.

Neil Aspinall arrives at the High Court in London on March 29, 2006. ((Matt Dunham/Associated Press))

Aspinall, 66, died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he had been receiving treatment.

His death was announced in a statement released by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison, and the band's Apple Corps Ltd. company.

"All his friends and loved ones will greatly miss him, but will always retain the fondest memories of a great man," the statement said.

"I've known Neil many years and he was a good friend. We were blessed to have him in our lives and he will be missed," Starr said in the statement.

The release didn't say when Aspinall died, but Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper reported Sunday that McCartney had flown out to see him.

Aspinall stepped down last year as chief executive of Apple Corps, the guardian of the Beatles' commercial interests.

A Liverpool school friend of McCartney and Harrison, Aspinall was the Beatles' first road manager and would drive them to gigs in his van. He later became their personal assistant, and in 1968 was given a management role at Apple Records — the band's own record label.

Known affectionately by the band as the Fifth Beatle, he sang in the chorus of Yellow Submarine.

He also played background instruments on hits such as Magical Mystery Tour, Within You Without You and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

As head of Apple Corps, Aspinall was executive producer of the hugely successful Beatles Anthology album and was behind other successes, including the Beatles One album.

"As a loyal friend, confidant and chief executive, Neil's trusting stewardship and guidance has left a far-reaching legacy for generations to come," the band's statement said.