Guitar Center CEO Ron Japinga Out, New CEO Takes the Reigns

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
Jamie goodman

Guitar Center has named Gabriel Dalporto, a member of the company's board of directors since December 2018, its new CEO.

Dalporto replaces Ron Japinga as CEO, effective immediately, who has served as CEO since 2016 and joined the company in 2014. No reason for the departure was given, but a company statement said Japinga will no longer serve as a member of the board as well.

The omnichannel retailer also announced that Ken C. Hicks has been appointed chairman of the board, and Tim Martin is returning to Guitar Center in his prior role as CFO, effective immediately.

Dalporto brings to Guitar Center over 25 years of experience. He previously served in various C-suite roles at LendingTree, Inc., where he was instrumental in driving the company's transition from a microcap, mortgage-focused marketplace to a multi-billion dollar, fully diversified financial services marketplace. During his tenure at LendingTree, Inc., Dalporto helped deliver one of the highest stock price appreciations of any company listed on the NASDAQ exchange at the time. Dalporto currently serves on LendingTree, Inc.'s board of directors. He most recently served as CEO of Udacity, an online education platform focused on digital upskilling and talent transformation.

“Coming from a family of musicians, some of my fondest memories growing up were of visiting Guitar Center stores with my father where we obsessed over the incredible guitars and cutting-edge equipment,” said Dalporto. “I look forward to continuing to enhance that same in-store experience for our customers while also leveraging my digital transformation expertise to meet customers wherever they shop. It's rare in life to have one's personal passions and professional interests align so perfectly, and I'm thrilled to lead such an iconic brand into its next phase of growth."

"Gabe has deep expertise in areas critical to advancing Guitar Center's strategic initiatives, including digital transformation, customer acquisition and maintaining a best-in-class customer experience. As a board member, his insights have been invaluable, and we are thrilled to welcome him as the company's next leader," said the company's equity investors including funds managed by the Ares Private Equity Group, The Carlyle Group and Brigade Capital Management  (collectively, "The Investor Group").

"We are confident that Gabe's demonstrated track record of successful transformations, along with his strong operational and financial capabilities, will empower the team and accelerate our efforts to guide Guitar Center to sustainable, long-term growth. We also thank Ron for his contributions to Guitar Center. Under his leadership, the company grew its revenue base and evolved from a brick-and-mortar retailer to an omnichannel platform. We wish him all the best in his next chapter."

Hicks, the new chairman of the board, is a seasoned retail industry executive bringing over 40 years of operations and management experience. He currently serves as the executive chairman of Academy Sports and Outdoors and previously served as chairman, president and CEO of the company, where he led its transition to becoming a public company. 

Prior to that, he served as the chairman, president and CEO of Foot Locker and has held leadership positions at J.C. Penney, Payless ShoeSource, Home Shopping Network, May Department Stores Company, and McKinsey & Company. Hicks currently serves on the board of directors of Avery Dennison Corporation and previously served on the board of directors of Whole Foods Market.

Tim Martin returns as CFO, a position he held from 2012-2022. Martin is an accomplished financial and operational leader, bringing more than 25 years of experience at multiple consumer-facing companies including Torrid, Lands' End, Gap, Disney, Coldwater Creek and Amgen.

"Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for Guitar Center, our employees and our valued customers,” said The Investor Group. “The appointments of Gabe and Ken, as well as Tim's return, will bring substantial new capabilities to the company that will allow us to unlock new growth opportunities. Gabe's transformation and digital expertise combined with Ken's retail experience, along with Tim's extensive knowledge of the Company and industry, position Guitar Center well for long-term success."

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