The Hispanic population of the United States, some 55.4 million individuals comprising 17.3 percent of the nation, is expected to double to an estimated 106 million by 2050, according to U.S. Census estimates. But just as Hispanics are more likely to self-identify more specifically by their land of origin, Latin music reflects that diversity through its styles — pop, tropical, regional Mexican and more — while remaining a unifying cultural force.
The 29 executives in Billboard‘s Latin Power Players bring these hits to fans within and beyond the Latin audience. Impact and influence certainly count for inclusion on this list, as do company market share and chart performance of the artists with whom they work.
Jesus Lopez, 60
Chairman/CEO, Universal Music Latin America/Iberian Peninsula
Lopez oversees the largest Latin music label in the United States, and his responsibility extends throughout Central and South America and Europe. A native of Galicia, Spain, who was “very involved in the student movements of the 1970s at my university against the Franco regime,” he brings a continued passion for change to Universal. Recent moves include launching a management and booking firm (called Infinity) with Mexican superstar Alejandro Fernandez, unveiling the dance label Aftercluv and entering the festival business in Spain and the States. “This year has been the beginning of many things,” says Lopez, who lives in Miami, “but I never forget my core business.” Among the many albums fueling that business: Juan Gabriel‘s top 10 Los Duo and Enrique Iglesias‘ Sex and Love, which includes the global hit “Bailando.”
Greatest Career Accomplishment: “What I did in 1989 around rock en Espanol [creating the Surco label with Gustavo Santaolalla]. I took what was in the streets — all these bands. It’s the most visionary thing I’ve done in my career.”
Afo Verde, 48
Chairman/CEO of the Latin region, Spain and Portugal, Sony Music Entertainment
The Buenos Aires-born Verde, now based in Miami, manages some 500 artists and 600 employees in 22 countries for Sony Music. And in the United States, the company is the market leader in Latin pop, tropical and rhythm. A guitarist and Latin Grammy-winning producer, Verde credits his early inspiration to a love of Bob Marley and the Argentine rock band Seru Giran. Sony Latin’s leader for six years, Verde values “the happiness I get from the success of all the artists on my roster.” He recently struck a deal for a Cirque du Soleil show inspired by the music and history of the critically acclaimed Argentine rock act Soda Stereo, and for Sony Latin to be an official ticketing agency for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. As a musician, Verde marvels at “having gone to ‘the other side’ and doing good by both artists and label.”
Greatest Recent Accomplishment: Romeo Santos’ continued international success and the recent signing of Enrique Iglesias give Sony two of Latin music’s top global sellers.
Inigo Zabala, 55
President, Warner Music Latin America/Iberia
While Warner may be the “boutique” major, Zabala, who hails from Spain and lives in Miami Beach, has scored recent coups with two key acts: Mana‘s single “Mi Verdad” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs tally, setting up the chart-topping debut of Cama Incendiada on Top Latin Albums and a sold-out arena tour. In Spain, Pablo Alboran ended 2014 as the country’s top-selling act — for the fourth consecutive year. Alboran’s tour of Spain also was produced by Warner’s in-house event company, Get In, which books shows around the world. For Zabala, who played keyboard in the ’90s with the Spanish band La Union, his job is all about discovering the next big thing. “I go to work just to feel the thrill of developing an artist,” he says.
Hardest Business Lesson: “When the team isn’t working together with the same goals, shit happens.”
Victor Gonzalez, 41
President, Universal Music Latin Entertainment
Gonzalez and his team, in partnership with Republic Records, had remarkable success with Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando,” which spent 41 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs through February 2015. The former head of Universal Music Mexico, Gonzalez, who lives with his family in Calabasas, Calif., has been UMLE president since 2011 and now oversees Latin repertoire in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.
Reason to Boast: “We just closed a deal for Juan Gabriel‘s U.S. tour,” says Gonzalez of the Mexican icon. “The tour will be 25 dates, and tickets will include his album Los Duos bundled in.”
Nir Seroussi, 39
President, Sony Music U.S. Latin
During Seroussi’s second year as head of Sony U.S. Latin, “El Perdon,” from Nicky Jam in a duet with Enrique Iglesias, has spent 19 weeks atop Hot Latin Songs, while “La Gozadera,” from Gente de Zona featuring Marc Anthony, is the ascending Latin song of the summer. A native of Israel born to parents from Uruguay, Seroussi leads by instinct — and data. “Intuition should be part of the equation,” he says, “but now we have the digital information, too.”
Hardest Business Lesson: “Not everyone respects a handshake.”
Tomas Cookman, 54
President, Cookman International
With Cookman’s launch of the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York 16 years ago, the married father of two anticipated the impact of Latin acts who start outside the mainstream: Pitbull and Calle 13 have showcased at LAMC. Cookman’s Los Angeles-based Nacional Records and Supersonic Festival have further bolstered the Latin alternative scene, with Ana Tijoux on the soundtrack to Breaking Bad and Verizon backing a talent search by Nacional.
Greatest Career Accomplishment: “Not having to close the doors. We are still here and still talking about the future.”
Angel Del Villar, 35
Founder/CEO, DEL Records
Del Villar re-energized regional Mexican music when he launched his own indie label in 2008 and started scouting young talent on YouTube. Two years later, he signed Gerardo Ortiz, who has sold nearly a half-million albums since. The father of five who lives in the San Fernando Valley, Del Villar followed Ortiz’s success by signing Luis Coronel, the youngest act (18) to top Hot Latin Albums in 13 years, and Chiquis, 30, daughter of the late Jenni Rivera. But tragedy struck in February, when DEL artist Ariel Camacho, 22, was killed in a car accident in Mexico after a show. Del Villar recently signed Jose Manuel Lopez, 18, to “keep Ariel’s legacy alive” and perform with Camacho’s band, Los Plebes del Rancho, as part of a tour headlined by Ortiz.
Reason to Boast: “I have a big, big imagination. Things are happening I visualized 10, 15 years ago.”
Gabriel Abaroa, 53
President/CEO, The Latin Recording Academy
Best-known for presenting the Latin Grammy Awards, the Latin Recording Academy, under Abaroa, fulfilled its leader’s longtime dream in 2014 with the creation of the Latin Grammy Foundation. A native of Mexico who now lives in Miami, the married father of four has seen the foundation distribute more than $1 million in scholarships, fellowships and grants, with the support of stars like Enrique Iglesias, who endowed a $200,000 scholarship at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. “We want to invest in young musicians that love Latin music,” says Abaroa.
Greatest Career Accomplishment: “Putting together teams in different countries that share the same language, which is Latin music.”
Fernando Giaccardi, 48
Manager, Red Light Management
Giaccardi worked at indie Fonovisa Records in the mid-’90s when he began working with Enrique Iglesias, then a rising young artist on the label. Two decades later, as Iglesias’ manager, the Mexico City native, who lives with his wife in Venice, Calif., celebrates the success of the singer’s hit Sex and Love Tour, which has played to 1 million fans worldwide (609,000 stateside), with more shows to come this fall. “It’s not all about selling tickets — it’s about the [promotional] work to get there.”
Words To Live By: “With Enrique, it’s never enough. It’s like, ‘Great, we did this. Now what?’ “
Walter Kolm, 47
CEO, W.K. Entertainment
A longtime Universal Music executive, Kolm went solo in 2011 and two years later managed the triumphant return of tropical-pop star Carlos Vives with Corazon Profundo for Sony — the singer’s first U.S. album in eight years. The disc hit No. 1 on Top Latin Albums, and a follow-up release won Vives a Latin Grammy. Now Kolm is managing two acts from Colombia: urban pop phenom Maluma (4.5 million Instagram followers) and singer Fanny Lu, who has Vives writing songs for her next album.
Reason to Boast: “When I work with an artist, I have this whole network of key people in every country supporting me. That’s my biggest capital.”
Johnny Marines, 42
Founder/owner, Johnny Marines Enterprises
A former sergeant with the New York Police Department, Marines had been providing security to the boy band Aventura when group member Romeo Santos tapped him as his manager 13 years ago. Marines, a single father of one who lives in Manhattan, is street-smart and protective of the Bronx-born bachata superstar. After Santos’ two sold-out shows (100,000 tickets sold) at Yankee Stadium in 2014 and YouTube’s report in June that Santos’ views have topped 4 billion, “we’ve been able to show our strength in numbers,” say Marines.
Greatest Recent Accomplishment: “Negotiating for Romeo to perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and, after that, Today.”
Angelo Medina, 56
Founder/CEO, Angelo Medina Entertainment
Medina was managing Ricky Martin when the Puerto Rican star broke through in 1999 to the pop mainstream with “Livin’ la Vida Loca.” For current client Mana, Medina engineered the launch of its U.S. tour with 250,000 tickets sold in one day. A one-time junior basketball player who now owns his own pro team (Puerto Rico’s Santurce Cangrejeros), the 6-foot-2 Medina books some of Puerto Rico’s biggest shows and crafts deals for clients like Robi “Draco” Rosa, Manny Manuel and Tommy Torres.
Words to Live By: “I don’t believe in power. I believe in respect and excellence.”
Alex Mizrahi, 42
CEO, Ocesa Seitrack
Ranchero icon Pepe Aguilar, alt-rock bands Kinky and Zoe, and indie darling Ximena Sarinana are among the clients of Mizrahi, a one-time lawyer who has linked his management company to Ocesa, the Mexican division of concert promoter CIE. The Miami-based married father of one son, Mizrahi guided the comeback of cumbia act Los Angeles Azules with Como Te Voy a Olvidar, whose CD/DVD has sold 600,000 copies. “The fact that there are 600,000 physical copies of anything being sold again,” says Mizrahi, “is good news for the entire industry.”
Words to Live By: “The right songs paired with an original idea add business value and give the industry profitability.”
Alexandra Lioutikoff, 48
Vp membership, U.S. Latin and Latin America, ASCAP
Lioutikoff carries the surname of her Russian father while her accent reveals her roots in Malaga, Spain, where her parents were living when she was born. A die-hard music fan since she was a teen (“Madonna‘s ‘Like a Virgin’ was the coolest thing I ever heard”), she’s an 18-year ASCAP veteran who has built an A&R-savvy team. This past year, ASCAP signed Gustavo Santaolalla, Gerardo Ortiz, Plan B and J Alvarez, joining a roster that includes Romeo Santos and Enrique Iglesias.
Reason to Boast: “We have put these songwriting camps together [since 2009], and we have 28 cuts from the camps that have gotten onto albums, and one song that won an ASCAP award.”
Delia Orjuela, 46
Vp Latin writer-publisher relations, BMI
Want proof of Orjuela’s stature among Latin songwriters? She organized a tribute to Latin Grammy-winning producer Sergio George at this year’s BMI Latin Music Awards, and Marc Anthony and Carlos Vives, two of Latin music’s biggest Latin stars, signed on to perform. The mother of two, who is married to concert promoter Eddie Orjuela, is an 18-year veteran of BMI and has brought rising writers like Raquel Sofia and Sofia Reyes to the rights organization, as well as veterans like Wisin, Yandel and Gloria Trevi. Her mission, says Orjuela, is to “show people how diverse Latin music is.”
Never Gets on a Plane Without: “Magazines. When I pack, I’ll have two to three issues. And my iPad, to watch movies.”
Jorge Mejia, 42
Executive vp, Sony/ATV Music Publishing Latin America, U.S. Latin
Four years after Sony/ATV merged with EMI Music Publishing — with Shakira, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Carlos Vives and Ricky Martin all on the same publishing corporation roster — the company is a solid market leader, in Latin and other genres. “Now we’re one team with one vision,” says Mejia, whose division leads the midyear Hot Latin Publishing Corporations chart. “Adapting to a changing market is the biggest accomplishment of all.” (Independent Mayimba Music leads the Hot Latin Publishers recap thanks to hits written by Romeo Santos, the top songwriter on the midyear tally.) When Mejia’s not working, he plays classical piano — he recently released a set of preludes on the digital Infusion label — and surfs in South Beach, where he lives. An 18-year veteran of Sony/ATV, Mejia recently signed Nicky Jam, Farruko and Gocho to new deals.
Reason to Boast: “I was part of the industry effort in Latin America [to set up] one of the most successful, clearest and efficient digital music publishing licensing setups in the world.”
Celeste Zendejas, 37
Director, SESAC Latina
Born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents, Zendejas lives and breathes the music loved by her family. In her eight years at SESAC, she has signed an impressive number of top songwriters in the regional Mexican genre, including Eden Munoz of Calbire 50 and Ricky Munoz of Intocable, as well as such indie music publishers as Sinaloa Music. As SESAC’s senior Latin executive, Zendejas is focused on “making a difference” in the careers of her songwriters and publishers. Her signee Luciano Luna won SESAC Latina’s songwriter award in June for the second consecutive year.
Reason to Boast: “I look [for songwriters with] talent, focus. Some of them are not very savvy, so I’ve enjoyed watching them grow and helping them receive their songwriting royalties.”
Raul Alarcon Jr., 59
President/chairman/CEO, Spanish Broadcasting System
The influence of Spanish Broadcasting System on Latin music tastes is undeniable. And so is Alarcon’s impact on every aspect of the 32-year-old company, including programming its 20 powerful radio stations, starting with WSKQ New York, the most listened to Spanish-language station in the United States. Alarcon, a married father of three grown children, was born in Cuba but grew up in New York watching his father build the SBS empire. He has added the Mega TV network, the SBS Entertainment concert division and the 130-station AIRE Network, heard through microwave frequencies. Up next: the relaunch of the LaMusica digital platform and app.
Greatest Career Accomplishment: “Having had the privilege of [reaching] millions of people on a daily basis through mass media. If SBS positively affected even one person’s life in the last three decades, then it was worthwhile.”
Jaime Jimenez, 52
Executive vp, Univision Local Media
Jimenez was named to his executive vp post in June after managing Univision stations in Los Angeles; he now leads all of Univision Radio and its 67 stations in the United States and Puerto Rico. He succeeds Jose Valle, who has moved to Univision’s political-sales team. An Angeleno who grew up listening to Mexican ranchera music star Vicente Fernandez play on KLVE Los Angeles, Jimenez now lives in Glendale with his wife and two children (“and one on the way”). He oversees operations and content for Univision Radio in the wake of its integration with local TV and digital platforms. “Unifying our assets really strengthened our brand,” says Jimenez.
Never Gets on a Plane Without: “Saying a prayer for a safe flight — and praying for good snacks.”
Tony Mojena, 51
President, Tony Mojena Entertainment/Television
Mojena has made a career of producing world-class televised Latin events. He has helped develop the Billboard Latin Music Awards for Telemundo for more than 17 years into a must-watch superstar marathon, achieving a record 3 million viewers this year. A married father of three with homes in Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mojena has had a 30-year relationship with Telemundo in South Florida and Puerto Rico, where his variety show, Raymond y Sus Amigos, is now a No. 1 hit. Whether it’s televising Telemundos’ Premios Tu Mundo awards show or presidential inauguration events in the Dominican Republic, “we do the whole thing,” says Mojena.
Hardest Lesson Learned: “You can do everything in your power to create a great show and it [may not] get the expected results. That’s the most difficult part of this business.”
Bryant Pino, 38
Director of Latin music programming, SiriusXM
From giving a national platform to stars like Mana and Daddy Yankee to boosting such lesser-known artists as Puerto Rican electro-pop singer-producer Vein, Pino makes an impact when premiering music. A native New Yorker who lives in Queens, Pino saw Vein garner 4 million YouTube views after his exposure on SiriusXM. When Pino debuted the song “Son 45” from salsa icon Ismael Miranda, “it became his first No. 1 in more than a decade.” In deciding whom to champion, he says, “I work with my gut.”
To Celebrate an Accomplishment: “I call my mom. She’s a sweet lady, but it’s hysterical she still thinks I work in a satellite in outer space.”
Francisco “Cisco” Suarez, 59
Senior vp special events, Univision Network
As the longtime producer for Univision’s highly rated music specials — the Latin Grammys, Premios Juventud and Premios Lo Nuestro — Suarez’s decisions have career-defining impact. His clout increased in 2014 as he took on music reality shows La Banda and Nuestra Belleza Latina. Married to Latin TV producer Mary Suarez-Black and the father of three grown children, Suarez says La Banda, a co-production with Simon Cowell, is “one of those projects everyone dreams of.”
Reason to Boast: “When Pope John Paul came to the U.S., I was lucky enough to be the person in charge of the entire telecast worldwide.”
Bruno Del Granado, 50
Latin music agent, Creative Artists Agency
Working with Ricky Martin’s management team years after he led the Latin-pop explosion of the late ’90s, del Granado has perspective gained from that earlier Latin music boom. A native of Mallorca, Spain, who lives in Miami, del Granado joined CAA in 2013. Looking at current tours by Enrique Iglesias/Pitbull, Yandel and Fonseca, and a planned spring 2016 arena run from Nicky Jam, he notes the difference in the Latin touring scene since Martin’s heyday. “This generation,” he says, “is a lot more savvy about the U.S. market, with production values on par with general-market Anglo acts.”
Reason to Boast: “The first time I met Madonna, she said she loved Latin music and culture and that in a previous life she must have been Latin.”
Henry Cardenas, 59
Founder/CEO, Cardenas Marketing Network
Cardenas’ CMN, a Chicago-based marketing and entertainment powerhouse, operates the most successful indie Latin concert promotion company in the country. A native of Cali, Colombia, who moved to the Windy City with his family at age 17, Cardenas has nurtured his relationships with Marc Anthony (whom he books exclusively), Chayanne, Carlos Vives, Juan Luis Guerra, Ricardo Arjona and Juan Gabriel, each of whom staged 2015 tours promoted by CMN. “We usually present 70 to 90 shows per year,” he says, “but this year we have 170.”
When Not Working: “I go to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic and relax and play golf.”
Rebeca Leon, 40
Senior vp Latin talent, AEG Live/Goldenvoice
For the world’s second-largest promoter, Leon oversees tours, promotes shows and has a management role with Juanes and J Balvin. Hailing from Miami, Leon moved to Los Angeles a decade ago as Latin booker for the Nokia Theater. AEG “let me take risks,” she says. This year, she steered the Enrique Iglesias/Pitbull tour dates that featured J Balvin, which grossed $40 million, according to Boxscore. “It’s never about one show,” she says. “It’s always the long road.”
When Not Working: “I like hiking. It feels great, and you literally climb a mountain, so it’s empowering, too.”
Rob Markus, 47
Partner, international music department, William Morris Endeavor
Markus is on the front lines of some of the year’s hottest shared bills by Latin and pop acts: pairing Prince Royce with Ariana Grande and J Balvin with Becky G. The Melbourne, Australia, native, who lives in Beverly Hills, also helped spearhead WME’s expansion of the Lollapalooza festival into Chile, and in turn helped bring Latin American acts to Lollapalooza’s flagship event in Chicago. WME music division head Marc Geiger has been Markus’ mentor. “He’s great in terms of ideas, takes chances and is thoughtful in many ways,” says Markus. “I owe a lot to him.”
Words to Live By: “Learn from the defeats and victories in the same way, and always think about the future.”
Emily Simonitsch, 61
Senior vp talent, Live Nation
A 30-year veteran of live Latin entertainment in California, Simonitsch has promoted crossover artists like Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez. But, reflecting the tastes of her local markets (which includes Las Vegas), “my forte has really been in regard to [booking artists like] Pepe Aguilar, and regional Mexican and Latin pop acts.” The mother of two grown sons, Simonitsch also supports Live Nation’s national tours with her Latin marketing expertise. “Everybody now is reaching out to that Latin consumer; we were very fortunate to recognize that growth in the early ’80s.”
Greatest Recent Accomplishment: “Selling out Mana in [California’s] Central Valley of Fresno on a Tuesday night [at the Save Mart Center], followed four days later with Marco Antonio Solis headlining at the same arena.”
Valerie Miranda Schaeubinger, 34
Label relations manager, Mexico and U.S. Latin, Spotify
For the world’s largest music subscription service, Miranda Schaeubinger, based in Mexico City, is Spotify’s Latin music point person for record labels in Mexico and the United States. Married to DJ-producer Camilo Lara, Miranda Schaeubinger created a Spanish Heritage Month promotion last fall — with interviews and playlists — which is now a permanent feature called Spotify Loves Latin.
Words to Live By: “The headstone of the iconoclast Malcolm McLaren reads, ‘Better a spectacular failure than a benign success.'”
Chelina Vargas, 46
Global manager, Latin artists and label relations, Apple
For Vargas, a nine-year Apple veteran, the June 30 launch of Apple Music and Beats 1 stands out. Previously Latin manager for the iTunes Store and iTunes Radio, the married mother of two now oversees Latin label relations stateside and Latin artist relations in the United States, Latin America and Spain. “We want to reach not only the Latino consumer but capture new audiences as well,” she says.
When Not Working: “Cooking, reading and watching TV are my indulgences.”
Contributors: Judy Cantor-Navas, Leila Cobo, Andrew Hampp, Amaya Mendizabal, Glenn Peoples, Angie Romero and Ray Waddell