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RAY COOPER,
1948-2018

Ray Cooper, who ran Virgin Records with Ashley Newton in the 1990s and early 2000s, first in the U.K., then the U.S., died Saturday in Guildford, England. He was 69.

He had suffered from the neurological condition Progressive Primary Aphasia, which causes a loss of speech. Variety was first to report his death and the cause.

Cooper and Newton were named co-presidents of Virgin Records U.S. in September 1997 after the two had doubled the label’s U.K. market share the year before and pushed the imprint to #1 in singles market share. Cooper focused on marketing, Newton on A&R.

In a statement, Virgin Records founder Richard Branson said Cooper was “an extraordinary, delightful individual and an incredible talent. Virgin Records would never have grown into the music force it became without him.” 

Cooper, credited with the success of Spice Girls, Daft Punk and The Verve among others, started his career at Transatlantic Records as a sales rep, moving to Anchor Records and then Don Arden’s Jet Records, where he helped break Electric Light Orchestra.

Island Records hired him as sales director in 1980 and he moved up to Marketing Director as the label was breaking U2. Newton was island’s A&R Director.

Cooper and Newton started Circa Records 1986, scoring hits with Massive Attack, Neneh Cherry and Julia Fordham. Virgin bought the label in 1995 and installed the duo as Co-Managing Directors of the U.K. company. In the U.S. they had a run of top-sellers from Janet Jackson, Smashing Pumpkins, Lenny Kravitz, UB40, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

In 2002, Cooper left Virgin to form Zama Media Management, a management/consulting company.

Cooper’s life will be celebrated in December at two events, one in London and one in Hollywood. To write to Ray’s family, write
c/o Martin Lewis
PO Box 461378
Los Angeles, CA 90046

A tribute website, www.RayCooper.info, will be posted soon.

 

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