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Motown Records Founder Berry Gordy Announces His Retirement 2 Months Shy Of His 90th Birthday

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The Chairman has stepped down — and likely taken his final bow in Detroit.

Berry Gordy, the Detroit native who built Motown Records from a shoestring operation into a music, film and television empire, told a hometown crowd Sunday night that he is at last retiring.

“I have come full circle,” he said onstage during Motown’s 60th anniversary program at Orchestra Hall. “It is only appropriate (to announce this) while here in Detroit, the city where my fairy tale happened with all of you.”

The enterprising Gordy helped revolutionize American and global culture via Motown, shepherding young Detroit talent and eventually churning out stars such as Diana Ross & the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and the Jackson 5.

Although Gordy sold the record label in 1988 and later parceled off its song-publishing arm, the 89-year-old has remained very much in the business of Motown. In recent years, his creative pursuits have included a Broadway musical and a Showtime documentary about the company.

He’s also been closely involved with the Motown Museum’s $50 million expansion campaign, including a $4 million donation to the project last month.

Speaking to an Orchestra Hall audience that included many of the key figures who have been part of his six-decade Motown journey, Gordy said Sunday that he has contemplated retirement for some time.

“For years, I dreamed about it, talked about it, threatened it,” he said.