Like the city he hails from, Michael Capponi’s life is a story of triumph over adversity. Credited as the man who helped land Miami’s South Beach on the jet-set party map by promotiing such influential nightclubs as Warsaw and B.E.D. Miami, Capponi battled addiction and health problems until a successful stint in rehab gave him a new lease on life. His career has taken off from there, with his development company, Capponi Group, and club ventures like The Wall at W South Beach, and pool parties at the Mondrian. But after spending months in Haiti assisting with the 2010 earthquake recovery effort, Capponi decided to build a hotel there, creating a world-class destination for vacationers, while giving locals opportunities to rebuild their lives as he himself has done.
What has turned your attention to humanitarian work?
In the mid-nineties I dealt with a lot of personal and life-altering things, ranging from major drug addiction to brain surgery and ending up in the streets for a stint. Since my recovery in 1999, I have really tried to contribute to good causes and have lived with a motto of " duty first."
Has your career in nightlife helped you with your efforts in Haiti?
While nightlife remains a somewhat controversial topic, it has opened more doors for me than anything I have ever done. In over 20 years in nightlife, I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of people, presidents, dignitaries, celebrities, moguls, developers, publishers etc. When you start looking and connecting all the dots, you realize that all those relationships can really serve Haiti in a big way.
How are you putting those skills acquired during your club days to work?
I think my main skill set is that I’m hands-on. Also, I understand development as a developer but, most importantly, I understand the art of rebranding, PR, and promotions. It’s all these key factors that are needed to help recreate a positive image for the new Haiti.
Are you worried that our attention on Haiti is waning?
No, I don’t see Haiti being forgotten. There was too much money donated and too much media and celebrity attention devoted to it. People like Donna Karan and Sean Penn continue being in the headlines, reminding people how important it is to stay focused on that island.
What is your plan of action there?
After 18 aid trips, I realized that Haiti needs to be fixed in a completely different manner. I’m developing a hotel on the southern coastline of Haiti, in Jacmel, where my focus will lay on creating tourism there, while preserving the local culture. Really, I thought about a hotel to create jobs there, and give tourists a nice place to stay when visiting. It maybe a small model, but with it I hope to lead the country into the world of self-sustainability.