Larry Morton named new CEO of Hal Leonard

Keith Mardak to become chairman

Keith Mardak and Larry Morton

Last updated on July 1st, 2019 at 03:27 pm

Milwaukee-based Hal Leonard announced today that Keith Mardak is stepping down as its chief executive officer and Larry Morton will become president and CEO. Mardak will remain with the company as chairman of the board and act in a consultant role for the foreseeable future, the company said.

The new roles for both Mardak and Morton take effect August 1.

Hal Leonard is the world’s largest publisher of music performance and instructional materials.

Morton joined Hal Leonard in 1990 and soon became national sales manager and then vice president of sales. Mardak appointed Morton as president of Hal Leonard in 1999.

Mardak got his start in the music industry as an accordion and organ teacher. He worked in music retail and then entered the world of publishing in 1965 when his boss Zeb Billings, who was an organ salesman, had him write instructional manuals for organ manufacturers. In 1970, Mardak left Billings and co-founded Learning Unlimited which launched cassette band and guitar courses. He first started working with Hal Leonard in 1970 with the Learning Unlimited joint venture.

Hal Leonard annual sales at that time were $960,000. In just two years, the sales of Learning Unlimited products outsold the rest of the offerings from Hal Leonard. Negotiations with the Hal Leonard ownership ensued, and Mardak and the rest of the Learning Unlimited owners became minority shareholders in the Hal Leonard Publishing/Pointer System companies. Mardak led the company through the 1970s and by the end of the decade, he became executive vice president.

In 1985, Mardak purchased the company, which then had annual sales of $16 million, and he has been its CEO ever since.

Under Mardak’s leadership, the company has become a world-wide leader in educational methods and repertoire, and its annual sales have grown to over $250 million. In addition, the company has expanded around the world with offices in Australia, England, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and more. The company now has nearly 800 employees.

When Mardak started thinking about his estate planning he began looking at potential investors to buy the business. In 2016, Hal Leonard announced that private investment firm Seidler Equity Partners had acquired a majority interest in the company. As part of that agreement, Mardak stayed on for three years to help with the transition.

“I am proud of the work I’ve done with Hal Leonard and happy that I’ve been able to spend the majority of my days working in the music industry,” Mardak said. “Over the years I’ve had the honor of working with amazing people with the common goal of sharing the joy of making music. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.