Freeman Names Janet Dell as CEO When Bob Priest-Heck Retires in July
Freeman, a global events company, has revealed its CEO succession plan. Janet Dell, currently serving as the company’s president and COO, is set to step into the role of CEO, effective July 1, 2024, succeeding Bob Priest-Heck, who will retire after a remarkable 15-year tenure. He will continue as a member of Freeman’s board of directors.
Dell, who joined Freeman in 2018, has held various key positions within the company and currently oversees the execution of its long-term strategy on a global scale. Her leadership during the pandemic notably involved rehiring 95% of furloughed employees, bringing in more than 3,000 new staff members and achieving record revenue growth. Emphasizing safety, she prioritized the well-being of employees, customers, partners and event attendees.
Priest-Heck, acknowledging Dell's transformative influence, said, "Since Janet joined Freeman in 2018, she has transformed Freeman in ways large and small." He commended her data-driven decision-making, integrated operational model and her efforts to diversify the workforce, expressing confidence in her leadership during these dynamic times for the events industry.
After joining Freeman in 2011 with the acquisition of Wheelhouse Solutions, Priest-Heck was named CEO in 2018. He was the first non-family member to lead the company and its fourth CEO. Read our full story here.
Prior to launching Wheelhouse Solutions in 2007, Priest-Heck spent the early part of his career on the show organizer side of the business. From 2003 to 2007, he served as CEO of Medialive, which bought COMDEX from Softbank in 2003. He began his career in events industry in 1985, when he worked for Hyatt for five years.
Earlier this year, Priest-Heck was honored with the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) Bob Krakoff Award.
With 35 years of industry experience, Priest-Heck has contributed to Freeman's growth. His advocacy for sustainability and his "Go LIVE Together" initiative during the pandemic showcased his commitment to the industry and its workers.
Dell expressed gratitude for the mentorship she received from Priest-Heck, emphasizing her excitement to lead the company and continue fostering meaningful client experiences.
Freeman Chair Carrie Freeman Parsons praised Priest-Heck's significant impact on the company's culture and strategy and expressed confidence in Dell's ability to lead Freeman into its next phase.
Freeman has made two major acquisitions in 2023. In April, Freeman acquired Denver-based Impact Point Group, a technology-focused, boutique consultancy firm offering a full suite of strategic advisory and event management services. Read our story here.
In August, Freeman acquired Sparks, a global brand experience agency with more than 750 employees. Sparks provides exhibit and event experiences to a diverse group of Fortune 1000 brands, including Google, Salesforce, Anheuser-Busch InBev and T-Mobile.
Sparks combined with Freeman’s agency business, which also caters to major corporate clients, including Amazon, Cisco and Kohler. Freeman’s agency and Sparks are integrating, and Sparks CEO David Sudjian, who reports to Dell, stayed on after the acquisition. Read our full story here.
The combined companies have more than 4,500 employees. Today, Freeman leverages its 96-year legacy and stands as a global leader in events, dedicated to redefining live experiences for a new era. Utilizing a data-driven approach and a vast network of industry experts, Freeman shapes exhibitions, exhibits and events that drive audience engagement.