"Fifth Beatle" Neil Aspinall Dies In New York

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NEW YORK — Neil Aspinall, a longtime friend of the Beatles who managed their business enterprises and helped make the group a moneymaking phenomenon decades after they split up, has died. He was 66.

Aspinall's death was announced Monday in a statement from surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison, and the band's Apple Corps Ltd. company.

Aspinall died Sunday night at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he had been receiving treatment for lung cancer, according to Geoff Baker, who formerly represented both Aspinall and Apple Corps.

Aspinall's wife and five children were by his side; McCartney visited him before his death.

He was a childhood friend of McCartney and Harrison in Liverpool, England. While he didn't contribute musically, he played several key roles in support of the Beatles, most notably as the head of their Apple Corps business, which oversaw the commercial concerns of the group, including licensing.

"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 a statement Monday.

Harrison's widow Olivia and the couple's son Dhani said: "Neil takes with him the love and history of his extended family. He was our constant and avuncular caretaker for so many years; there is no way to measure how much he will be missed."

Aspinall and the late Mal Evans were the Beatles' roadies. Aspinall would drive them to gigs in his van before they became famous, and never left the band's tight-knit circle. He took over the management of Apple Corps in 1968, and continued to oversee the group's business affairs in the decades after they broke up in 1970.

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 and the recent Cirque du Soleil production "Love," which has been a hit in Las Vegas.

"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.

Aspinall stepped down from Apple Corps last year.