Denis O’Brien, George Harrison’s Former Manager, Dead at 80
O’Brien’s death was confirmed by his daughter, Kristen, who told the Associated Press that her father passed Dec. 3 in a Swindon, U.K. hospital after being admitted for severe abdominal pains. Deadline reports that his death was attributed to “intra-abdominal sepsis.”
Born in 1941, O’Brien grew up in St. Louis and later attended Northwestern University and Washington University (St. Louis). In the early ‘70s, he worked with Peter Sellers, helping the Pink Panther star manage his finances. It was Sellers who introduced O’Brien to Harrison when the former Beatle needed help sorting out his complicated tax situation. In 1973, O’Brien became Harrison’s business manager, a position he held throughout the majority of rocker’s solo career.
In 1978, Harrison and O’Brien founded HandMade films. Their first venture was Monty Python's Life of Brian. The biblical-comedy -- which famously told the story of a man mistakenly confused with Jesus -- became a worldwide hit, launching HandMade as a viable enterprise. Further releases from the company included the 1980 crime drama The Long Good Friday, starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren; 1981 fantasy-adventure Time Bandits, directed by Monty Python member Terry Gilliam and starring Sean Connery, and the 1987 dark comedy Withnail and I.
HandMade films ceased operation in 1991 and was sold three years later. Harrison later sued O’Brien for mishandling of funds, for which the musicians was awarded more than $11 million. The rise and fall of HandMade films was later chronicled in the book Very Naughty Boys.
Deadline notes that O’Brien moved to England in 2008, where he lived until his death.