Caparro, Jim

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Jim Caparro

Music executive

Less directly involved in music than Arista's Clive Davis and other legendary recording executives of the late twentieth century, Jim Caparro has nevertheless been as influential as any of his compatriots. As chairman and chief executive officer of the Island Def Jam Music Group from 1998 to 2001, he built a medium-sized hip-hop and rock label into the third-largest recording company in the United States. Prior to joining Def Jam he held a series of positions in the hierarchy of the Polygram conglomerate, streamlining the operations of that entertainment behemoth. In the mid-2000s Caparro launched an effort to control a major portion of the world CD manufacturing and distribution market.

Born on December 26, 1951, in Brooklyn, New York, James Caparro was the son of truck driver Vincent Caparro and his homemaker wife, Clara. Caparro attended William Paterson College (now William Paterson University), a commuter-oriented institution located in Wayne, New Jersey. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree in 1973 he planned on further schooling and headed west to Golden State University in California (now Honolulu University in Hawaii). But he got a job at a CBS records manufacturing plant that year on the side, and it was there that he found his calling. Caparro became involved in all aspects of music marketing over his long career, but his special genius involved product distribution.

Caparro did not give up on graduate education, and in the late 1970s he took classes at the New School for Social Research in New York. He kept working for CBS and its family of labels, however, and by 1979 he had moved back east and signed on as a sales representative. One of the artists for whom he was responsible during those early years was New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen. In 1980 he was promoted to sales manager at CBS and in 1983 to regional sales manager for the mid-Atlantic region.

Climbed the Corporate Ladder

Steadily climbing the music industry corporate ladder, Caparro topped out at CBS as a vice president of sales. In 1988 he moved to the PolyGram label as senior vice president for national sales and branch distribution. After revamping the label's distribution network, he was named to the same position in an enlarged PolyGram: the new PolyGram Group Distribution (PGD) was formed after PolyGram acquired the smaller A&M and Island labels. Caparro married Mary Judith Senna, and the pair raised four children. He became involved in charitable activities that led to his being named as Humanitarian of the Year by the T.J. Martell Foundation in 1998.

In 1992 Caparro was named president of PGD, replacing Gary Rockhold. His first move reflected his orientation toward product distribution: he announced the construction of a 36-acre, $14 million PolyGram distribution facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, from which all U.S. PolyGram products would be shipped. The emphasis on distribution was recognized for its success by Caparro's peers and rivals in the field: PolyGram won the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) award for best branch distribution for five years in a row between 1994 and 1998. At an annual PGD sales convention in 1996, Caparro refused to take personal credit for these successes. He spoke of a "true sense of partnership" between PolyGram's labels and PGD, according to Billboard. "We formulate plans and strategies together and execute [them] together. We don't take that for granted. That's unique in the industry."

In 1998 PolyGram became involved in another series of mergers, and Caparro's name was floated for the presidency of the new and expanded label. Instead, he became president of one of its divisions, the Island Def Jam Music Group. In this position, Caparro was responsible for the operations of the Island and Def Jam labels as well as a collection of smaller imprints—14 in all. He quickly showed that his expertise in the music business extended beyond distribution, as he supervised a team of A&R (artists-and-repertoire) executives that quickly became recognized for its skill in unearthing new artists and managing the careers of established ones.

Caparro and his team revived the career of veteran rock supergroup Bon Jovi and acquired the small Roadrunner label in order to get control of a hot new act in the rock genre, the Canadian grunge band Nickelback. But it was the hip-hop-oriented Def Jam label that grabbed the most headlines during Caparro's tenure. Caparro supervised the chart-topping performances of such urban acts as Ja Rule, DMX, Jay-Z, and Ashanti. By 2001, Island Def Jam was the top label in the United States, notching a startling market share of 9 percent and earning an estimated $100 million annual profit by 2001. "Caparro is credited as one of the main architects of IDJ's resounding chart success over the past few years," commented Daily Variety.

At the peak of his success, Caparro suddenly resigned as Island Def Jam president, sparking speculation about his motives and his next move. For his own part, Caparro maintained simply that he had accomplished what he set out to do. Calling himself a builder rather than a caretaker, he told the New York Daily News, "I'm done. The company is built." Caparro moved to the presidency of WEA Corp., the distribution arm of the Warner family of labels, but it soon became clear that he had something larger in the works.

Caparro stayed for only a year at WEA, moving on to become president and interim CEO at Atari in 2004. The long-established but troubled video game maker hoped that Caparro could revive its fortunes, but Caparro's heart was still in the music industry. He formed a small company called Entertainment Distribution Corp., and with backing from the Apollo venture capital firm, he sought to acquire WEA Corp. and then Universal Manufacturing and Logistics, the company that operated one German and four U.S. CD manufacturing facilities for the entire Universal family of labels.

Those deals fell through, but Caparro finally succeeded in a complex $122 million deal in which Universal Manufacturing and Logistics was sold to a small Atlanta-based messaging technologies firm called Glenayre Technologies, which also acquired EDC. Caparro brokered the deal and commented in a Universal press release, "My vision for EDC has not changed. Universal's well managed facilities provide the perfect springboard to rapidly develop EDC into the premier manufacturer and distributor of entertainment products and services." At the end of 2006 Glenayre announced that it was changing its name to Entertainment Distribution Company and that Caparro would be its new CEO; the original Glenayre Technologies entity became a new division called Glenayre Messaging. Although physical CDs were declining in importance as a music medium by 2007, the production and distribution of a large proportion of them was controlled by a single individual—Jim Caparro—who had started his career at an LP manufacturing plant more than 30 years earlier. With headquarters in New York City, the company stated that year that its "mandate is to be the pre-eminent independent and autonomous supply chain service provider to the entertainment industry and the retailers who deal directly with consumers."

For the Record …

Born on December 26, 1951, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Vincent (a truck driver) and Clara (Curran) Caparro; married Mary Judith Senna; children: Daniel, James, Michael, Kristin. Education: William Paterson College (now William Paterson University), Wayne, NJ, B.A., 1973; graduate work at Golden State University (1974-76) and New School for Social Research (1978-80).

Sales and marketing positions, Sony, CBS, and Epic labels, 1973-79; CBS Records, mid-Atlantic sales manager, 1980-83, sales manager, 1983-87, vice president of sales, 1987-88; PolyGram Group, senior vice president for national sales and branch distribution, 1988-90; executive vice president, 1990-92; president and CEO, 1992-98; Island Def Jam Music Group (division of Universal Music), chairman and CEO, 1998-2002; WEA Corp., CEO, 2002-03; Atari, Inc., president and interim CEO, 2004-05; Entertainment Distribution Group, founder, president, CEO, 2005-.

Awards: T.J. Martel Foundation, Humanitarian of the Year, 1998; S.I.N. magazine, CEO of the Year, 2001.

Addresses: Office—President and CEO, Entertainment Distribution Corp., 825 8th Ave., 23rd Fl., New York, NY 10019.



Billboard, September 5, 1992, p. 8; September 21, 1996, p. 51.

Billboard Bulletin, April 7, 2003, p. 1.

Crain's New York Business, December 20, 2004, p. 7; June 13, 2005, p. 1.

Daily News (New York), December 14, 2001.

Daily Variety, July 16, 2002, p. 3.

New York Post, June 25, 2004, p. 33; May 10, 2005, p. 37.


"Atari: Reaching for the Joystick," Business Week Online, May 23, 2005, (September 22, 2007).

"Entertainment Distribution Group," Entertainment Distribution Company, (September 22, 2007).

"Glenayre Technologies Proposes Name Change to Entertainment Distribution Company," Securities and Exchange Commission, (September 22, 2007).

"Jim Caparro," Biography Resource Center Online, Gale, 2003 (September 23, 2007).

"Universal Music Group to Sell CD/DVD Manufacturing and Physical Distribution Facilities to Glenayre Technologies," Universal Music Group, (September 22, 2007).

—James M. Manheim