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Virgin Anniversary Salute: The U.s.: Co-presidents Cooper And Newton Are An Illustrious Pair Who Travel Well And Know Their Places

Publication: Billboard
Date: Saturday, September 5 1998

Though "The Road To Los Angeles" sounds like a vehicle for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, it describes the career path of another illustrious pair, the long-running executive team of Ashley Newton and Ray Cooper. Their partnership was forged at Island Records in 1984, where Newton was director of A&R and Cooper served as director of marketing; their respective skills meshed to create a distinctive and profitable roster for that label‹which came to include Bob Marley, Robert Palmer and U2. Next, Cooper and Newton formed Circa Records in '88, signing Massive Attack and Neneh Cherry. They eventually took the imprint to Virgin U.K. and were made joint managing directors of the latter company in 1992. Reporting to president Paul Conroy, they contributed to the phenomenal break-through successes of the Spice Girls, the Verve and the Chemical Brothers.
The English duo was named co-presidents of Virgin Records America in September '97, in the wake of Phil Quartararo's move to Warner Bros. Records. Ray Cooper was the first to relocate to L.A., arriving during the fall in '97, with his partner Ashley Newton finally making the move in January '98. As Newton points out, "I have the privilege of a dual function for Virgin‹along with my co-presidency of Virgin Records America, I am also senior VP of A&R for the Virgin Music Group worldwide. It has involved virtually commuting from Los Angeles to Europe as I continue to oversee the A&R processes for many U.K. based acts. It has been a stretch, but I certainly wouldn't wish to give this aspect of my work up."
Describing the factors involved in Ken Berry's offering the co-presidency of Virgin America to Newton and himself, Cooper says, "Ken liked the work that we had done in collaboration with Paul Conroy in focusing the U.K. [label] to become the No. 1 album, singles and compilations company of the last four years. Certainly, the Spice Girls' impact would have played a great role in Ken's perception that we could take on the challenge. We were signing and developing artists that were being understood in America. He felt that we could, over a period of time, bring our particular focus to developing American artists. As he'd worked with us for the past 11 years, Ken knew that ours were a reasonably safe pair of hands."
To which Ashley Newton adds, "I recognize that we had the privilege of coming here because we're enjoying success with acts out of Europe. But these weren't parochial success stories; they were able to be moved to the international forum."
Likening their working style to that of Jeff Ayeroff and Jordan Harris, the founding co-
presidents of Virgin America, Cooper cites the complementary nature of Newton's A&R skills meshing with his own highly focused marketing perspective. "The way that