Don Zimmermann, Former President of Capitol EMI Records, Dies at 85

Don Zimmermann
Courtesy Lester Cohen

Don Zimmermann (center) with Bob Seger

He worked at the company from the mid-'60s until 1989.

Don Zimmermann, former president and COO of Capitol EMI Records, died Friday in Huntington Beach, California, after fighting a respiratory infection, his wife, Rosa, announced. He was 85.

A longtime Capitol/EMI employee, Zimmermann held numerous sales and marketing positions since the 1960s, when he served as a salesman and district sales manager in San Francisco.

Zimmermann moved his way up the ladder, transferring to Chicago, New York and then to the Capitol Tower headquarters in Hollywood, where he became executive vp and COO in 1976. He was named president of Capitol in 1982, had a stint as president of Capitol/EMI North America and then returned as Capitol president in 1984.

Zimmermann was named London-based president of EMI international marketing in 1987 before leaving the company two years later to become an artist manager.

Artists with whom he worked included Glen Campbell, Natalie Cole, Duran Duran, Grand Funk Railroad, Sammy Hagar, Merle Haggard, George Harrison, Heart, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, Little River Band, Paul McCartney, Steve Miller, Anne Murray, Juice Newton, Pink Floyd, Helen Reddy, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger, Sweet, Ringo Starr and Tina Turner.

"Without Don Zimmermann, there would have been no 'Live' Bullet," Seger, talking about his 1976 album, said in a statement. "Don and his crew took a chance even though [Peter] Frampton and Kiss were releasing and working huge live records at that time. That faith he had in us made all the difference in the world. Whether we were recording or mastering or out on the road, he was a remarkable leader and a true friend."

In addition to his wife, survivors include their children, Richard, Michele, Eva and Stephanie; grandchildren Hayley, Jack, Ashley, Daniel, Max and Mayahuel; and great-grandchild Abby. A celebration of his life is planned to take place when COVID-19 allows.