Jacqueline Avant, the philanthropist and wife of legendary music executive Clarence Avant, was shot and killed Wednesday in their Beverly Hills home, police said. She was 81.
Jacqueline and Clarence’s daughter, Nicole Avant, is married to Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos. A Netflix spokesperson confirmed that Clarence Avant was not injured.
“I don’t think it’s a random attack,” said Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark G. Stainbrook. “Crime of any type will not be tolerated and we will not rest until the suspect or suspects are brought to justice.”
Stainbrook said the investigation was “very fluid” and encouraged the public to come forward with any relevant information. He also said it was too early to speculate what the motive was or whether the shooting was part of a robbery attempt.
According to documents provided to The Hollywood Reporter by the Beverly Hills Police Department, its communications center received a call at 2:23 a.m. in response to a shooting in the 1100 block of Maytor Place, in the high-end Trousdale Estates neighborhood. Upon arrival, police discovered a victim with a gunshot wound; the person was transported to Cedars-Sinai hospital but did not survive.
The report confirmed the suspect(s) were no longer on the scene when police arrived.
TMZ was first to report the news, stating the shooting occurred during a home invasion.
During a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, Stainbrook provided few details about the shooting but said it was a “difficult day for our city” and shared a message from the Avant family, calling their contributions to the city and entertainment industry “unmatched.”
“The Entire Avant and Sarandos families wish to thank everyone for their outpouring of love, support and heartfelt condolences for Jacqueline Avant,” reads the statement, provided to THR. “Jacqueline was an amazing woman, wife, mother and philanthropist and a 55-year resident of Beverly Hills who has made an immeasurable positive impact on the arts community. She will be missed by her family, friends and all of the people she has helped throughout her amazing life.”
Clarence Avant, 90, known as the “Godfather of Black Music,” is a pioneering dealmaker and Grammy-winning exec who has mentored and helped launch the careers of countless artists in the music and entertainment industries, including Little Willie John, Bill Withers, Michael Jackson, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, L.A. Reid and Babyface.
A manager, label owner, concert organizer and event producer, he created the first African American-owned FM radio station in metropolitan Los Angeles during the 1970s and founded Sussex Records in 1969 and Tabu Records in 1976 before becoming chair of Motown Records in 1993.
His life and legacy were chronicled on-screen in the 2019 Netflix doc The Black Godfather, which was produced by daughter Nicole and explored how Avant championed impressive deals for Black talent through the narrations of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Snoop Dogg and more. In May, he was announced as the recipient of the Ahmet Ertegun Award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Married in 1967 and together for more than 50 years, Jacqueline and Clarence have two children, former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas Nicole, 53, and Alexander Du Bois Avant, 50.
Born Jacqueline Alberta Gray, Jacqueline was a former Ebony Fashion Fair model known for her philanthropy. She served as president of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group for the South Central Community Child Care Center and as an entertainment chairman of the NOW benefit auction and NOW membership. She also served on the board of directors of the International Student Center at UCLA.
In an interview with NBCBLK around the release of her dad’s Netflix documentary, Nicole described her mother as a passionate person who fostered her love of the arts.
“My mom is really the one who brought to my father and our family the love and passion and importance of the arts and culture and entertainment,” she recalled. “While my father was in it, making all the deals, my mother was the one who gave me, for example, my love of literature, my love of filmmaking, my love of storytelling.”
Following the news, Tyler Perry, Quincy Jones, Viola Davis, Magic Johnson and other Hollywood figures took to social media to pay tribute to Avant.
Perry wrote, “My heart breaks for Clarence and Nicole and all the Avant family. This world can be so cruel and cold!! I have no idea what kind of sub-human could shoot an 81 year old woman, and in her own home. But you can rest assured that every available resource will be used to find whoever is responsible for this awful nightmare. This is tremendously sad.”
Magic Johnson described Avant as “the sweetest person you could ever meet.” He tweeted, “Cookie and I are absolutely devastated at the loss of one of our closest friends Jacquie Avant. She was senselessly murdered last night in a home invasion. This is the saddest day in our lives. Jackie was the sweetest person you could ever meet. She had a beautiful soul, kind heart, & always had a kind word for everybody. She was quiet, yet powerful, & very smart. We are crying for Clarence, Nicole, & Alex’s loss. Our thoughts & prayers go out to the entire family.”
Davis expressed her shock over the news of Avant’s death tweeting, “So sorry for the Avant family. My heart goes out to you!!! OMG!!!! Where are we??!!! WHAT are we?!!”
Former President Clinton also took to social media on Wednesday to pay tribute, writing that she “was a wonderful woman, a great partner to Clarence and mother to Alex and Nicole, an active citizen & a dear friend to Hillary and me for 30 years. She inspired admiration, respect & affection in everyone who knew her. We are heartbroken. She will be deeply missed.”
Scott Feinberg, Ryan Parker and Mike Barnes contributed to this report.
Dec. 1, 1:08 p.m. Updated with Bill Clinton’s tribute.
Dec. 1, 2:30 p.m. Updated with info stated by Police Chief Mark G. Stainbrook in presser.
Dec. 1, 6:42 p.m. Updated with more tributes.
A previous version of this story misspelled Jacqueline Avant’s nickname, Jacquie.