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Island Def Jam honcho Caparro exits

Jim Caparro, the man who helped build the Island Def Jam Music Group into the third-biggest record label in the U.S. through aggressive consolidation and savvy A&R, has decided to resign as chairman of the Universal Music division after three years on the job.

Caparro, whose duties will be taken up by his longtime colleague, IDJ president Lyor Cohen, said the timing was perfect for his departure, with the label group at its peak performance and a strong cadre of execs to take up the reins.

“People in this position normally leave because they get fired,” Caparro told Daily Variety. “But for me, it’s perfect here now and because it’s perfect here now, my job is done.”

Caparro rose through the ranks of music giant Polygram over the past decade, starting as a senior vice president at Polygram Records in 1988 and later moving up to exec VP and eventually president and chief exec of Polygram Group Distribution. In that role, he helped create the company’s video, merchandising, Polymedia, indie label and new-media operations.

After Polygram was sold to Canadian entertainment and beverage giant Seagram for $10 billion in 1998, Caparro assumed his current role, overseeing the merger of Chris Blackwell’s storied imprint Island Records with the seminal New York hip-hop label Def Jam, as well as the absorption of Polygram’s other flagship label, Mercury.

The combined company has tripled its market share to 6.9% over the last three years, and become one of the twin jewels of the Universal empire, along with Interscope/Geffen/A&M. Among IDJ’s marquee acts are Jay-Z, Ja Rule, DMX, Bon Jovi, Sum 41 and Shelby Lynne.

More recently, Caparro helped orchestrate the purchase of heavy metal indie Roadrunner Records, which has since yielded hits from Slipknot and Nickelback. He also oversaw the creation, by former Mercury Nashville president Luke Lewis, of Lost Highway Records, a specialty label dedicated to Americana acts such as Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams and Robert Earl Keen.

Caparro said he hasn’t made any specific plans for his post-IDJ years, but expects to take a break before evaluating his options. After that, “I’ve got one more challenge in me that I’m looking to attack,” he said.

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