Versatile, durable, prominent figure in the entertainment industry who began with MCA in the mid-1950s and whose career really took off when he founded Uni Records in the late 60s. Tanen had a hand in leading such performers as Olivia Newton-John, Neil Diamond and Elton John into the spotlight and soon after merged his enterprise with Decca Records to form MCA Records.
Restless for success in new fields of endeavor, Tanen promptly turned his interest to motion picture production and quickly found himself president of Universal Pictures. During the 70s and early 80s he had a hand in developing or greenlighting such films as "American Graffiti" (1973), "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977), "The Deer Hunter" (1978), "Coal Miner's Daughter" (1980), "Melvin and Howard" (1980) and "Missing" (1982). Twice during Tanen's tenure as president, in 1980 and 1982, Universal was champion at the box-office and 1982's take marked a new industry record. He duplicated these feats after moving to Paramount in 1984, putting the studio in the number one spot in both 1986 and 1987, the latter year setting another industry record. Tanen's output during this period included "Top Gun" (1986), "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987), "The Untouchables" (1987) and "The Accused" (1988). Even during the 16-month spell between his stays at Universal and Paramount, Tanen had box-office success with the three films he executive produced independently, the "brat pack" trilogy "Sixteen Candles" (1984), "St. Elmo's Fire" (1985) and "The Breakfast Club" (1985).
Tanen has a notable track record not only with film patrons and cash registers but also with his associates on the production end of the motion pictures. He has actively supported a number of first-time directors, including George Lucas, Randa Haines, Robert Zemeckis, John Hughes, Joel Schumacher and John Badham and brought such European names as Michael Apted, Costa-Gavras and Milos Forman into the American limelight. Needing a break from his lengthy career, Tanen retired from Paramount in 1988, accepted a position as senior consultant with the studio. However, in 1992 he emerged from his self-imposed relaxation to link his Channel Productions with Sony Pictures Entertainment.