As president of the Classics and Jazz Division at Universal Music Group, Christopher Roberts sought to make classical music more relevant to contemporary music listeners. Christopher Roberts initially joined Universal Music when it merged with PolyGram Records in 1999 and he continues his role as head of Classics and Jazz.
Based in the Netherlands, PolyGram had its roots in the postwar creation of a European Common Market that enabled the Dutch firm Philips Electronics N.V. to partner with the German firm Siemens A.G. to create a joint venture. This merger included Deutsche Grammophon and other record labels.
The joint venture achieved success in the European classical music arena but did not have the funds to internationally distribute its products until 1970, when distribution was arranged via United Artists through the Polydor Records division. Two years later, PolyGram took over the leading jazz label Verve and also acquired the United Artists distribution network outright. At the same time, it acquired Chappel Music’s publishing operation and the full range of music copyrights.
PolyGram struck a rich vein in the late 1970s through its acquisition of the Robert Stigwood Organization, which led to successful film forays such as Grease and Saturday Night Fever, and a roster of international pop artists such as KISS and Donna Summer. By the late 1990s, PolyGram had achieved status as the leading record company worldwide.
Navigating an illustrious career through a tumultuous period in the music industry, Christopher Roberts provided visionary leadership for the world’s largest recording company.