Born in Istanbul, Turkey, they moved to Washington, DC with their father M. Munir Ertegun, who was then the Turkish Ambassador to the United States.
Ahmet Ertegun, together with his brother Nesuhi, producer Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler and others created the Atlantic Records in the late 1940s as an independent record company that became jazz and pop empire in the 1960s.
Their first success came in rhythm and blues, with such artists as Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, The Clovers, The Drifters, and Ray Charles. They brought a jazz sensibility (and many jazz artists) into R&B and participated in turning the genre from a minority interest into a major part of the musical scene. Ahmet Ertegun wrote a number of classic blues songs, including "Chains of Love" and "Sweet Sixteen" under the pseudonym A. Nugetre (Ertegun backwards).
Many independent record executives, like the Erteguns, were from immigrant backgrounds, including the Bihari brothers and the Chess brothers.
Although their primary musical interest was jazz (both brothers promoted jazz concerts, founded jazz record companies and organized jazz bands), they were also open to more modern styles and worked with such famous artists as Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Hank Crawford, and Sonny and Cher.
They were also co-founders and ex-directors of the New York Cosmos soccer team.
See: Turkish music