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In Memoriam: John Campion, 57

PLSN Staff • News • October 7, 2020

NEW YORK – John Campion, who is said to have arrived in America at age 21 with just $26 in his pocket, emerged as the philanthropic head of a billion-dollar company with a career path that included touring with rock bands with Showlites and transforming Showpower into a backstage powerhouse in the late 1980s. He died Oct. 2 at age 57.

Arriving in the U.S. from Cork, Ireland in 1984, Campion path to success wasn’t supported by a foundation of academic laurels. His Wikipedia profile (www.psln.me/Campion) notes that he had been “held back in primary school twice, failed secondary school exams, and did not attend college.”

“In the 80’s, he worked with many other lighting folks at Showlites, an L.A. lighting vendor,” recalls PLSN editor Nook Schoenfeld. “This company was a bunch of fun loving, wild men at the time, when our biz was mostly pirates with no regulations.”

On his blog at johnjcampion.com, a few days after David Bowie’s death in Jan. 2016, Campion penned a memorial tribute to the artist that offered a glimpse into a critical career junction when Campion was on Bowie’s elaborate Glass Spider Tour in 1987.

“On the 14th of July in Manchester, England, only 20 minutes away from show time, I came across a melting junction box, which fed all the power to the sound and video systems. I feverishly worked through the problem, splicing wires together and racing against the clock. To add to the pressure, David and his management team were watching the entire time. Fortunately, we have a good ending. The problem was fixed and the show went on.

“Shortly after, just before David walked onto stage, he patted me on the back and thanked me for my work. Later that night, I found a hand-written note from David. It was the first and only note given to me by a performer.

“I learned two valuable lessons that day that I carried with me throughout my career. First, I learned that hard work, particularly under immense pressure, leads to new opportunities. With the support of others in the music industry who had seen my work that night and throughout the tour, I launched Show Power, a company that provided reliable power sources to rock concerts and other large-scale events.

“Second, I learned the importance of a ‘thank you.’ As a 24-year-old roadie, and even more so today, I admire David’s willingness to stop and say thank you. I will always admire David for his graciousness and the kind way he treated others.”

The anecdote also hints at Campion’s technical prowess and ingenuity reflected in the patents he would later secure for scalable and portable modular power plants.

Showlites was the lighting entity run by Eric Pearce that led to separate companies being formed including ShowRig and ShowPower, which Campion led as CEO from 1987 to 1999. “Campion teamed up with some big generator manufacturers and put these large units on tractor trailers, revolutionizing mobile power for large scale touring shows forever.” Schoenfeld notes.

Campion worked as executive VP of sales and marketing for GE Energy Rentals from 1999 to 2001, then as president for Alstom Power Rentals, a subsidiary of Paris-based Alstom Power Inc., before acquiring the company in 2004 and renaming the Jacksonville, FL-based firm APR Energy.

From 2004 to 2011, Campion worked as APR Energy’s founder and CEO, and from 2004 to 2011, he served as its chairman. The company has grown over the years as a provider of reliable energy to developing markets around the world and now provides access to electricity to some 40 million people in more than 30 countries on five continents.

In 2011, Campion founded an investment firm, CJJ Hybrid Investments, and also joined HYbrid Energy Solutions Ltd., based in Kilkenny, Ireland, as a strategic advisor. HYbrid Energy Solutions had been founded in 2006 as a startup to provide off-grid power to telecom companies, then grew to become a provider of reliable energy to industries in emerging markets around the world. By 2018, Campion’s investment firm acquired HYbrid Energy Solutions , and Campion served as HYbrid’s chairman for a year.

Along with his leadership of CJJ Holdings of Jax, Campion had earned the title of Chairman Emeritus of the New York-based Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), whose 200 member companies include the likes of Coca-Cola and Chevron. He also served as a board member to the Catholic University of America.

From 2017 to the time of his death, Campion donated his time as founder and CEO of the CJJ Motorsports racing organization, a division of CJJ Holdings. CJJ Motorsports’ mission is to support the next generation of Irish racers, helping them compete globally with the world’s best motorsports teams.

Campion’s passion for motorsports is also reflected in his collection of Lancia, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Porshe sports cars. And along with his support for motorsports enthusiasts in Ireland, his philanthropic activities include support for the University of North Florida’s Osprey SAE Student Race Team.

Campion has also championed the causes espoused by the Just a Bunch of Roadies (JABOR) organization, and when the “roadies” came to Haiti’s rescue following the earthquake there in 2010, he provided fuel, trucks and personnel to support JABOR’s relief efforts.

Campion, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in 2018, succumbed to the illness Oct. 2. He is survived by his wife, Suzanne Bonnici-Campion. They had been a couple in the 1990s, married in 2013, and founded the John and Suzanne Campion Family Foundation, Inc. in 2014. Campion is also survived by a son, three stepdaughters and a brother, along with an extended family of nieces, nephews and other relatives.

Services will be held Oct. 9 at St. Elizabeth Church in Wyckoff, NJ. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, services will be live-streamed at https://saintelizabeths.org/live-streaming. A memorial service is also planned, with details to be announced.

 

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