Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Entrepreneur and advisor in media distribution
Memorable faculty: Professors Primeggia, Stritzler, Price, Costello, Fennelly, Greenfield.
Involvement at Adelphi: announcer, engineer, rep-at-large, and station manager for WBAU, treasurer of Student Activities Board—“we brought Billy Crystal and Jane Fonda to campus”—and played in a theatrical pit band. “I played guitar in the pit band for Adelphi’s musical production of Godspell in which Jonathan Larson ’82 starred as Jesus.”
Al Cattabiani’s advice to today’s Adelphi students is to chart their own path—sound words of wisdom coming from an entrepreneur who has had a successful career starting and building businesses. “In these times, chances are you’ll have more than one ‘career.’”
Mr. Cattabiani came to Adelphi after graduating at the top of his class from Brooklyn’s Xaverian High School. He credits the full academic scholarship Adelphi awarded him for enabling him to go to college. At Adelphi, he was involved in the University’s radio station, WBAU, working as an announcer, engineer, rep-at-large, and station manager. “Jeffrey Filippi ’82 had a Beatles show, and I was his co-pilot,” he said. “It was so much fun.”
After graduating from Adelphi in 1980, he worked for Times Square Stores, which were located across Long Island at the time. “I taped the in-store announcements and did the in-house training videos,” he said. “It was pretty unpleasant and unfulfilling.” The unhappiness got him thinking: “Instead of asking ‘what do I have to do?’ the better question was, ‘what do I want to do?’”
This outlook has driven his career trajectory since, one in which companies hired him for jobs “they didn’t even know they wanted.” In 1982, he was hired by Capital Cities Communications (now part of the Walt Disney Company), which produced trade publications via Fairchild Publications. Mr. Cattabiani established his own position there. “I created videos to go along with a publication,” he said. “So when you got the trade magazine, there were video components to it. That was a real education,” he recalled of the experience.
After seeing the 1984 film Repo Man, he decided he wanted to work with its maker, and cold-called Michael Nesmith, formerly of The Monkees, who was the executive producer. In 1988, Mr. Cattabiani joined Mr. Nesmith at the Los Angeles-based Pacific Arts Corporation, best known for the music and comedy programming Nesmith produced. “Pacific Arts made a then unprecedented deal with a broadcast network, PBS, to create a home video label around its programming. “At the time,” said Mr. Cattabiani, who worked his way up to president and COO, “the home video business was all about studio movies. We helped create a new segment, built around TV. It’s so common now, but it was groundbreaking then.”
In 1993 he co-founded Wellspring Media, where he also served as CEO. Wellspring evolved into a leading independent distributor, worldwide and in all media, of art house cinema and programming holistic living. Its library of more than 700 titles included Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winners. He wound up selling the company—twice. “My partners and I reclaimed the business, for its second incarnation, on the morning of September 11th. The resulting rebuilding was more of an adventure than any of us could have imagined,” Cattabiani remembered.
By 2004, he sold Wellspring for the second time, and founded 1409 Entertainment and Garagista Music to develop, finance, and produce film, television, and video programming with uplifting underlying themes. 1409 Entertainment serves as a partner in niche media companies, a consultant for corporate clients, non-profits and individual artists, and an executive producer of original content for multi-platform distribution, including on public television, cable and satellite networks. “One of the ventures, Toronto-based iThentic, was named Canada’s digital company of the year for 2012, and just won an international Emmy for best fictional online series,” he said.
In addition to developing 1409 Entertainment, he sits on the board of the Global Film Initiative, a non-profit foundation to assist filmmakers in developing countries.
He remains an active musician (still gigging with three Adelphi friends), and relishes all the creative, technological and marketing changes in his various fields. His goal is to create enterprises that are “noble, profitable and fun.”
Published September 2013