Freeman President John O'Connell Retiring, Bob Priest-Heck Stepping Into Role

July 18, 2013

Freeman’s chief sales officer, Bob Priest-Heck, will step into the president and COO role when John O’Connell, the company’s current president, retires June 30, 2014.

The leadership transfer will be in phases, with Priest-Heck assuming the COO role Aug. 1 of this year and reporting to O’Connell and Freeman CEO Joe Popolo.

When O’Connell retires, Priest-Heck will step in his new president role, overseeing the Freeman Companies, overseeing Freeman’s Exposition business, as well as Freeman AV and FreemanXP.

"As a family and employee-owned business, we take great care to ensure that our leaders reflect our company values of integrity, empathy, innovation, enthusiasm and performance excellence,” Popolo said.

He added, “This thoughtful, long-range approach has enabled us to build our management team with strong leaders like John and Bob, whom our customers and employee-owners can count on to be with us for the long haul.” 

 Prior to joining Freeman, Priest-Heck served as president and CEO of both Immersa Marketing and Wheelhouse Solutions, which Freeman acquired in 2011.

He also served as president and CEO of MediaLive International Inc., where he worked with media brands such as Interop, Business Communications Review Magazine, COMDEX, Seybold Seminars and Publishing, and Web 2.0.

In addition, was vice president, International Operations at SOFTBANK Expos; executive vice president of Operations for Ziff-Davis; and held various positions with Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

Priest-Heck also is a board member for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR).

He will be only the fifth person to hold the president title at Freeman in 86 years.

“Bob has a proven track record of bringing together strategic, collaborative and high-performing teams,” O’Connell said.

He added, “I’m confident that Bob’s passion and expertise uniquely position him to lead the Freeman team as we continue to not only grow and expand our business but also deepen our relationships with our valued clients.”

O’Connell has worked with Freeman for 25 years and personally produced several of Freeman's largest shows including the New York International Auto Show and the Boston Seafood Show.

“John is an outstanding leader. He helped guide our company through both challenging times and exciting opportunities,” Popolo said.

He added, “We are all incredibly grateful for John’s many contributions to our clients, our employees and our company throughout his distinguished tenure with Freeman and look forward to benefitting from John’s leadership as a member of our Board of Directors.”

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