Krispy Kreme donuts. That’s it. That’s the brand on Steve Cooper’s résumé that really leaps out and whacks you in the kisser.
Not just because its flagship glossy treats leave even the most health-nutty Angeleno salivating like a Pavlov hound. But because Cooper’s reign as CEO of Krispy Kreme Inc (from 2005 to 2006) sums up how very un-music-industry he was. Until he wasn’t.
Steve Cooper wasn’t even Steve Cooper back then. He was Stephen F. Cooper – described by everyone from Wharton to the Wall Street Journal as a corporate “turnaround guru”. His party trick? Taking hold of distressed businesses, cutting out the root cause of that distress, and making the numbers point in the right direction.
And so it was with Krispy Kreme: Cooper successfully rescued a failing company previously dogged by poor fiscal performance and dodgy accounting scandals.
Cooper was so good and so reputed at these salvage jobs, he got the call about one of the all-time worst corporate implosions, Enron, which he resuscitated and solidified as interim CEO from 2002 to 2005. Other restructuring missions included MGM, where he became Vice Chairman in 2009.
And then, in 2011, Warner Music Group came knocking. Stephen F. Cooper was hired as CEO of the WMG in the wake of Len Blavatnik / Access Industries’ $3.3 billion acquisition of the ‘third major’ – during a period of painful and repeated decline for the record business.
The writing seemed on the wall: Cooper would surely take a chainsaw to Warner Music Group, slim down its operations, revoke acquisitive growth plans, kill off frontline labels.
But Stephen F. Cooper didn’t do that. He became Steve Cooper. And he flipped the script.