Update: Emiel Petrone Remembered24 Aug, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold
Emiel N. Petrone, a CD and DVD pioneer known for his ability to build bridges between the software and the hardware industries, died Aug. 23 at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a brief illness.
Petrone, 61, will be laid to rest Aug. 26 at Church of the Hills, Forest Lawn, in Los Angeles.
One of the home entertainment industry's most colorful figures, Petrone, EVP of Philips Electronics Corporate Alliance Group, was a consummate networker, who as founding chairman of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group was ubiquitous at trade shows, conferences and other industry events. He was also on a first-name basis with many of the most powerful leaders in the home entertainment industry on both the software and the hardware sides.
“Emiel has been an industry leader whom many of us have looked up to for years,” said Bob Chapek, president of both Buena Vista Home Entertainment and DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. “His vision and passion for the business were only matched by his own integrity and humility. I will miss him both personally and professionally.”
“Emiel was a consummate executive and industry professional,” added Stephen Einhorn, president and chief operating officer of New Line Home Entertainment and DEG secretary. “He was charming, warm and a joy to work with. We will miss him greatly.”
Petrone was an ardent champion of new technology as the driver of home entertainment. In 1982, he headed the U.S. team that introduced the compact-disc digital audio system for PolyGram. Petrone helped establish PolyGram as the leading U.S. supplier of CDs and also created the Compact Disc Group of America, bringing together 40 leading consumer electronics manufacturers and record companies to develop innovative strategies to promote the audio CD among consumers. He also coined the term “jewel case” for CD packaging.
A decade later, Petrone spearheaded the launch of CD-I, a revolutionary new format that was the first to put movies on five-inch disc and is widely hailed as the precursor for DVD.
During the launch of DVD in 1997, Petrone worked alongside top movie industry executives to establish DEG. Until his death, he was the group's chairman. Petrone played a key role, along with ex-Warner Home Video president Warren Lieberfarb and Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment president Benjamin Feingold, in bringing the hardware and software industries together in a rare spirit of cooperation that helped make DVD's launch a model for successful format introductions.
“The way I like to remember Emiel is simply that he knew better than anyone else how to win friends and influence people,” Lieberfarb said. “And he did this from here to Europe, from here to Japan, in both music and movies and even in interactive multimedia. He will be missed by all.”
“He was universally respected and liked in the video business as well as the consumer electronics business,” added Columbia TriStar's Feingold. “He was a sweet guy who represented the studios' video to Philips on DVD issues. Foremost, however, he was a good friend.”
“No one did more from the consumer electronics world to support the global launch of DVD than Emiel,” said Thomas Lesinski, president, worldwide home entertainment, for Paramount Pictures. “His relationships with the studios were unsurpassed and invaluable in moving the format forward.”
David Bishop, president of MGM Home Entertainment, said Petrone “was an effervescent and effective force in the industry. He had a knack for getting people to understand and support new technological advances in home entertainment.”
“Emiel was a stalwart of the industry, having been in the business since its infancy,” said Steve Beeks, president of Lions Gate Entertainment. “I don't think there is a video executive that Emiel didn't know well. I am saddened by his passing — we will all miss him.”
Jim Cardwell, president of Warner Home Video, said, "I had the pleasure of knowing and collaborating with Emiel for many years. He stood out for his humor and his love of life. He was a great partner and a great man. I will miss him dearly."
Petrone is survived by his wife of 26 years, Marilyn; his mother, Mary; a brother, Frank; a sister, Anne; and a nephew, Peter Cicale Jr. A native of New York, Petrone had lived in Los Angeles for 32 years.
Petrone's family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the T.J. Martell Foundation In Memory of Emiel N. Petrone, 212/833-4743.
Joe Amodei, president, Hart Sharp Video: “I have been lucky enough to know Emiel since his days at Phillips/Polygram. He was the essence of the word ‘gentleman.' He was the first to call if he heard that bad times had befallen you and the first to say congrats when he heard you got back on your feet. He was also a dapper man who always dressed like old-time Hollywood did. I will miss knowing he was around. I am lucky to have been a friend.”