In 2014, Coran Capshaw estimates that he spent a total of eight weeks on an airplane, and it's a safe bet that few of those hours were for recreational purposes. "Coran loves to work," says Dave Matthews, who was Red Light Management's first client when Capshaw founded the company in Charlottesville, Va., in 1991. "If he needs to take a break from work, it's to work on something else."
Matthews says a "love of the chase" motivates Capshaw's work ethic and prodigious deal-making, both of which have made Red Light the largest independent artist management firm in the world. These strengths also have made him a wealthy man -- albeit one who loves The Grateful Dead and dresses in Levi's and Red Wing boots.
With a roster of 200 artists, steered by 60 managers in eight cities across the United States and the United Kingdom, Red Light clients include Dave Matthews Band (which has sold more than $800 million in tickets, according to Billboard Boxscore), Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Enrique Iglesias and Phish -- all of whom Capshaw is actively involved in managing -- as well as Lionel Richie, the estate of Jerry Garcia, Alabama Shakes, Lee Brice, Maddie & Tae, My Morning Jacket and Tiesto. Despite losing one of country's top acts, Tim McGraw, as a client in November, on any given night in 2014, some 75 Red Light acts were ringing up box-office receipts around the world, and according to Boxscore, five of them -- Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Phish, DMB and Richie -- grossed a combined $180 million.
To label Capshaw simply a manager, though, is to underestimate the breadth of his business interests and investments. The former club owner also has stakes in ATO Records (founded with Matthews in 2000) and its sublabel TBD, plus RLM's sister company, Starr Hill Presents, which not only promotes live music regionally and nationally, but also owns equity positions in a portfolio of music festivals that grossed more than $150 million in 2014, including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Capshaw has a sizeable stake in Austin-based C3 Presents, 51 percent of which Live Nation acquired for more than $125 million in 2014.
His empire also extends to a handful of live venues, including the 4,000-seat open-air nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville, where he lives west of the city on a farm with his wife Parke. Outside the music business, Capshaw is an owner of the Soggy Dollar Bar in the British Virgin Islands and a partner with Matthews in Dreaming Tree wine, which generates an estimated $85 million in annual revenue, making it the most successful artist-branded wine in the business.
During the last two decades, Capshaw says he has learned to accept that "not every idea I have will work," but also that business doesn't have to be ugly. "I don't really like the philosophy that everybody is supposed to be upset after a deal," he says. "The real art is getting what you want out of a deal, but having the other people feel good about it."
MOST STARSTRUCK MOMENT: "I was a young [Grateful Dead] fan walking into a hotel, and Jerry Garcia was at the front desk. I was starstruck just being in his vicinity."