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Rock-it Cargo Eyes Expansion Under President/CEO Paul Martins

Kevin M. Mitchell • Company 411September 2021 • September 9, 2021

Paul Martins

Rock-it Cargo is looking to rock more of the world — more than just the live music industry. After recently teaming up to form a global partnership with Saudi Arabia-based Sela Sport to support the growing sports and entertainment market in that region of the world, Rock-it has additional ambitions. Managing it is Paul Martins who, after 30 years in the transportation industry, joined Rock-it in 2019 as its president and CEO. Since 1978, the company had been helmed by David Bernstein. After transitioning Martins for six months, Bernstein has stepped back, though is still actively serving on the Rock-it Cargo board. “During that transition, we spent a lot of time on the road where I met as many team members as I could,” Martins says. “And David still has a passion for this business and is deeply involved, and I can call on him any time, which is great.”

Martins is no stranger to Rock-it and is well-positioned for expansion. “What excited me about Rock-it is, it combines my passions of music and transportation/logistics.”

Music Converged with Shipping

Martins, from Cumberland, RI, studied trumpet performance at the New England Conservatory of Boston. “I was fortunate to be a freelance player for a couple of years, and I taught a lot of students in the Northeast,” he says. “It was great time.” But alas it wasn’t sustaining. When a good friend who worked at T. F. Green Airport in Providence, RI asked him to work on some marketing projects with her, he did. This led to work with Buffalo Airways, which operated aircraft around the world. There he would learn dispatching and maintenance. Martins then went to UPS in 1988, meeting Bernstein that same year. “That’s when I first got to know David, and we stayed in touch all through those years.” Martins would get promoted five times at UPS, and by 2003, he was overseeing the heavy freight division with overall accountability for P&L for annual revenues exceeding $500 million and responsible for directing 26 senior managers.

In 2003, Martins moved out to the Los Angeles area to become president and COO of Mercury Air Cargo, leading a team of 800 providing services to airlines, logistic companies and shippers. In 2008, he jumped to South Bend, IN-based Towne Air Freight for five years. Then it was back out to L.A. in 2014 to MNX Global Logistics, where he served as president and CEO (and is still on that company’s board of advisors). In 2018, conversations discussing possibilities got serious with Bernstein, and in June of 2019, he joined Rock-it. “What appealed to me about the company is that, at the end of the day, it’s not just moving rock ‘n’ roll bands,” Martins says. “The foundation of Rock-it is the process and the people, and now we’re looking to take that advantage and use it to grow into other markets.”

Expanding into Key Markets

Martins says the Sela relationship will involve Rock-it providing logistic services in their sporting and entertainment world, and Sela will assist Rock-it with regional customers and help meet the needs and requirements of countries in the Middle East. “We look at the Middle East as a naturally strong market for us, as they increasingly put on sporting spectaculars and expos,” Martins explains. “Having a partner like Sela made natural sense, and we’re excited to be working with them.”

Additional expansion is certainly on Rock-it’s current setlist. “We’re constantly looking to grow organically and actively, and over the next several months, there will be additional opportunities finalized to expand into key markets.” Fueling it is another relatively new partnership — between Rock-it Cargo and the private equity firm ATL Partners (Aerospace, Transportation and Logistics). Founded in 2014, the firm became a majority stakeholder of Rock-it in July of 2018. The timing certainly proved good for Rock-it. “We have a private equity company that believes in the company’s growth potential, and even during Covid, we didn’t take a step back. We took a step forward, protected key people, and used that time to plan for growth once we got through it.”

Martins is bullish on private equity companies, especially ATL. “This is the fourth private equity company I’ve worked with,” he says. “I have consulted with others and served on the American Investment Council meeting with many members of the Senate and the House on legislative and regulatory priorities that affect private equity.” He acknowledges that the term “private equity firms” can sometimes have a negative connotation, but he maintains that the vast majority do good work. “Private equity employs millions of people, and millions of families get a paycheck because of their investments. What they do is put capital to work, grow companies, and work alongside the team running the company to help them grow. Yes, they want to make a return, but theirs is not a short-term game. The average time for a return is five years. Many private companies hit a plateau, unable to infuse additional capital. Private equity is a great way to grow beyond that ceiling. I’ve seen it work well many times.”

Martins again stressed that there will be additional announcements coming (including a rebranding of the name to Rock-it Global), so stay tuned. “We’re really excited about where we’re headed.”

David Bernstein (right) at the 19th Parnelli Awards with awards host John Waite (left). Rock-it won the Parnelli for Freight Forwarding Company of the Year.

As for Bernstein, for his decades of service and innovation, he is receiving the live event industry’s highest honor, the Parnelli Lifetime Achievement Award, at the ceremony during the 2022 NAMM show. For more information on that, go to parnelliawards.com.

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