Megaforce Records co-founder Jon Zazula, whom Metallica called a “father figure,” died Tuesday in Florida. He was 69.

The cause was complications of the rare neuropathic disorder chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and osteopenia, his family said.

Working with his wife, Marsha, who died a year ago, Zazula was instrumental to documenting the burgeoning heavy-metal scene of the early/mid-1980s, releasing early albums by Metallica, Anthrax, King’s X and Overkill.

Metallica said in a joint statement, “Heavy music lost one of its great champions today when Jonny Z left this world far too soon. In 1982, when no one wanted to take a chance on four kids from California playing a crazy brand of metal, Jonny and Marsha did, and the rest, as they say, is history. He was a mentor, a manager, a label head and a father figure to us all. Metallica would not be who we are or where we are today without Jon Zazula and his wife, Marsha. Our love and sympathy go out to Jonny’s children and his grandchildren, whom he cherished and brought to our shows from the time they were in diapers. We hope they will be able to take some comfort in knowing that he is reunited with Marsha, and that he helped bring so much incredible music to so many. Hopefully there’s a great show goin’ on up there tonight to welcome you! We’ll miss you Jonny!”

Megaforce released Metallica’s first two albums, the multimillion-sellers Kill ’Em All and Ride the Lightning, before the band moved to Elektra.

The Zazulas’ first foray into music was selling vinyl imports and picture discs at a flea market in East Brunswick, N.J. That led to their opening a brick-and-mortar shop, Rock n’ Roll Heaven, in Clark, N.J. A customer gave them Metallica’s demo and after attempting to get a label to sign them, the Zazulas created Megaforce Records in 1982 and released Kill ’Em All in July 1983. Simultaneously, they opened CraZed Management.

As Metallica took off and the roster grew, Megaforce signed distribution deals with Atlantic and Island.

In 1995 the Zazulas created MRI, which gave artists more control over management and distribution. They sold their stake in Megaforce in 2001 to the label’s former radio director, Missi Callazzo.

In 2014, Jon and Marsha Zazula and Testament, an early signing, formed the management company Breaking Bands.