Jacqueline Avant, the 81-year-old wife of legendary music executive Clarence Avant, was shot to death Wednesday during a break-in at the couple’s home in the Trousdale Estates community of Beverly Hills.
The shooting was reported at about 2:25 a.m. in the 1100 block of Maytor Place, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department. The victim died at a hospital, according to police.
No suspect description was available, and no arrests were reported.
BHPD Chief Mark Stainbrook said nobody else was injured. Stainbrook, who was sworn in as Beverly Hills police chief on Tuesday, called it a “difficult day for our city.”
“The Avant family’s contributions to the world of entertainment, and the (improvement of) communities across Los Angeles are unmatched,” he said. “There are no words to express our profound sorrow for this immense loss for Jacqueline’s husband, Clarence, their children and the entire Avant family.”
Stainbrook declined to speculate on a motive for the shooting, or whether the break-in was a home-invasion robbery. He urged anyone with information to contact police.
“I don’t think it’s a random attack, but I can’t speculate on that right now,” he said.
The chief read a statement on behalf of the Avant family, saying, “The entire Avant family wishes to thank everyone for their outpouring of love, support and condolences for Jacqueline Avant. Jacqueline was an amazing woman, wife, mother and philanthropist and a 55-year resident of Beverly Hills who has made an immeasurable positive contribution and 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.”
TMZ reported that Clarence Avant was home at the time of the shooting. Stainbrook declined to comment further on any specifics of the investigation.
Clarence Avant, 90, is known as the Godfather of Black Music, and has been regularly celebrated by artists such as Jay-Z and Diddy, L.A. Reid and Babyface. He began as a talent manager in the 1950s, worked at Venture Records in Southern California and founded L.A.-based Sussex Records and Avant Garde Broadcasting.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in October.
Jacqueline Avant served as president of the Neighbors of Watts, a support group that focused on child care. She was also on the board of directors of UCLA’s International Student Center.
She and Clarence Avant have two grown children — Nicole and Alexander. Nicole Avant, a film producer who served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas during President Barack Obama’s administration, is the wife of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. She also served as a co-producer on the Netflix film “The Black Godfather,” a documentary about her father’s life and career.
Former President Bill Clinton issued a statement, calling Avant “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.”
Musician John Rich, of the country duo Big & Rich, wrote on Twitter, “I have friends from all walks of life, and Mr. Clarence Avant is one of them. He’s one of the most influential people to ever be in music and he and Ms. Jacqueline have treated me like family for decades. Prayers up for the Avant family tonight.”
On Twitter, award-winning actress Viola Davis reacted to the news, writing, “So sorry for the Avant family. My heart goes out to you!!! OMG!!!! Where are we??!!! WHAT are we?!!”
Actress Yvette Nicole Brown wrote, “Mrs. Avant was a lovely woman who did so much for her family and the world. Hearing of her passing and HOW has broken my heart.”
Laker legend Magic Johnson said he and his wife were “absolutely devastated” by the death of Avant, whom he called “one of our closest friends.”
“This is the saddest day in our lives,” he wrote. “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 praying for Clarence, Nicole & Alex’s loss. Our thoughts & prayers go out to the entire family.”
In a statement, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles and a candidate for L.A. mayor, said, “The devastating events of last night along with recent reports of brazen crime in Los Angels rupture the expectation of safety we have for our friends, families and fellow Angelenos.
“All of us have a right to be safe and last night was an absolute violation of that right. Those responsible must be held fully accountable. My thoughts are with Mr. Avant, Nicole and Ted, Alex and the rest of the Avant family as they mourn the loss of such a wonderful wife, mother and friend.”
Stainbrook sought to reassure Beverly Hills residents, calling such violent crime “extremely rare” and saying, “Your city remains safe and one of the safest in the nation.”
“Crime of any type will not be tolerated in this city and we will not rest until the suspect or suspects in this case are brought to justice,” he said.