October People News: New Hires and Promotions at GES, Freeman, Spectra and More 

October 23, 2019

This fall has been a busy one for companies in the meetings and trade show business. Take a look.

GES announced two major leadership changes this week. Jay Alitzer, who joined the company in May 2018, has been named global president, and Ian Dunhill, formerly CFO of Gold’s Gym International, joins the company in the newly created position of executive vice president of finance. 

Freeman has promoted Michelle Johnson, previously senior vice president and chief information officer, to executive vice president of the company. She has been with Freeman since 2009.

Joyce Leveston
Joyce Leveston

Philadelphia-based Spectra, a company specializing in venue management, food and hospitality, and partnerships, has named two new leaders to its executive team. Joyce Leveston, previously with Boston’s Hynes Convention Center and Boston Convention & Exhibitions Center, is now senior vice president of convention centers. William Hughston, most recently of Thompson Hospitality Corporation, is senior vice president of human resources. 

Mike Burns has joined the Oklahoma City CVB as vice president of sales, overseeing the sales and convention services team. He previously served in a similar role at Destination Cleveland.

The Meetings Mean Business Coalition selected Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company, as its next co-chair (alongside Trina Camacho-London of Hyatt Hotels Corporation). He will begin his new role in January 2020.

INTERSCHUTZ USA, managed by Hannover Fairs USA, has a new show manager. Rachel Lesczynski, a trade show veteran, was previously with Access Intelligence. 

Michael Mandl, previously group vice president of Reed Exhibitions US, has been appointed CEO of Reed Exhibitions Mexico. Previously, he’s overseen various large-scale shows at the company, and will continue his work to grow the Mexico market. Taking over his former position will be Randy Field, who will oversee National Hardware Show, INTERPHEX, BUILDINGSNY, ALUMINUM USA, BAR CONVENT BROOKLYN, Fastener Fair USA, FIBO USA and ICE USA. 

Naji El Haddad was named new regional manager for UFI’s Middle East-Africa region last month. He brings more than a decade of experience in the region to his new role, including his most recent position as group event director for Reed Exhibitions. Géraud de Dieuleveult has also joined the company as business development manager, based in Paris. 

Michelle Johnson
Michelle Johnson

Two new directors have been elected to International Houseware Association’s board of directors: Paul Cosaro is CEO of Picnic Time Family of Brands, and Kavita Shukla is founder and CEO of The Freshglow Co. Their three-year terms began Oct. 1.

Sean Thorndike is now director of business development for CSI DMC in Chicago, and Nicole Rolstad joined the company’s Denver office as senior account executive.

Atlanta CVB announced two new managerial promotions in September. Megan Wilkinson, manager of convention services, will manage bookings for groups from 250 nights on peak to citywides. She previously served as a sales manager with the CVB. Joseph Henry has also been promoted to technology manager, after previously working as a technology specialist. Also at the CVB, Brad Minton has been hired as a sales manager for national accounts, and Treasure Williams has joined the team as a sales manager.

Surf Expo appointed two new staff members last month: Nikki Houston Duroe is the new show director, and John “JR” Rosenberg is senior category manager.

Kaela Simeonoff is now sales manager for The Expo at World Market Center Las Vegas, set to open in July 2020. She previously spent seven years with MGM Resorts International.

Joseph Henry
Joseph Henry

ON Services, a GES company and full-service audiovisual provider, has two new hires. Craig Pemberton is national sales manager for corporate business, and Matt McGraw is account manager for corporate trade show accounts.

IAAPA, the global association for the attractions industry, elected Jim Pattison, Jr., who’s president of Ripley Entertainment, as second vice chair during its Sept. 16 meeting in Paris. He will serve as first vice chair in 2021 and lead the association as chairman of the board in 2022.

Miami Beach Convention Center named Patricia M. Rios as new human resources business partner. She has 18 years of HR management experience, including roles with Centerplate, Starwood Hotels and KSL Resorts.

April Halm, a veteran information security professional, has joined Seattle-based event registration and technology company Eventcore as compliance and data privacy manager.


Hargrove, a full-service event, exposition and experience marketing production organization, hired Tara Higgins to lead the company earlier this month. In her new role as president, she will lead the company in its next chapter of growth. Rachel Paisley has also joined the company as director of sales for events. Previously with Red Velvet Events, Inc. in Austin, Texas, she brings 17 years of director-level experience to her new position.

Orange County Convention Center in Orlando has hired Katrina Dos Santos as assistant manager of marketing and communications.

Have a people announcement to share? Email it to kogletree@tsnn.com for a chance to be featured in our next People roundup.

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Partner Voices
Just when it seems like Las Vegas can’t get any bigger, brighter or more exciting for groups, MGM Resorts raises the bar again. The company continues to invest and innovate across its portfolio of Las Vegas resorts, with new attractions and upgraded experiences for attendees of all interests.  Remodeled Guest Rooms MGM Grand is the largest single hotel in the world with over 5,000 guest rooms and an 850,000-square-foot conference center. It is home to the newly remodeled MGM Grand Studio Tower—700 reimagined guest rooms with a fun mid-century vibe. Nearby, the iconic New York-New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino recently completed a $63M redesign and remodel of its 1,830 guest rooms and 155 suites. Down the street, Bellagio Las Vegas is sporting renovated rooms in the Spa Tower with sunrise-inspired decor and luxurious soaking tubs in Premier King rooms after a $110-million transformation. Reinvented Luxury Experiences The Luxury Meetings District, made up of Bellagio Las Vegas, ARIA Resort & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas, is now more connected than ever before. A new interior walkway opened this October for a seamless attendee experience – connecting Vdara, Bellagio, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, guests can now walk from Park MGM to Bellagio in around 15 minutes. New on the scene in the Luxury Meetings District is Cathedrale at ARIA, TAO Group’s upscale establishment specializing in exquisite French-Mediterranean cuisine offering elevated private dining experiences that opened in May. Heralded by World’s Best 50 Restaurants, GQ and VOGUE, LPM at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is opening this fall and will deliver its signature spontaneity and imaginative celebration of France’s Mediterranean cuisine, art, and culture to the unique luxury resort in impeccable fashion.  A “New Wave  for Mandalay Bay A new wave of enhancements and experiences has arrived at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, including Flanker Kitchen + Sports Bar, an 8,445-square-foot restaurant that opened this June, perfect for pre- and post-game eats and drinks. Event planner’s favorite, Chef Michael Mina’s StripSteak, received a full renovation and now includes one of the largest private dining rooms on The Strip. Retro by Voltaggio debuts a one-year residency with a fun take on pop culture of the 80s and 90s with classic American dishes. An exciting addition planned for 2024 is Swingers, a 40,000-square-foot oasis of street food, miniature golf and art at Mandalay Bay. Most exciting for meeting planners, the 2.1 million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center  is undergoing a complete refresh, with lightened space, added eye-catching art, and improved technology infrastructure for even more flexible space. Energy-efficient digital signage now leads the way with faster internet speeds and new AV options. From renovated guest rooms and meeting spaces to celebrated dining options and dedicated teams, MGM Resorts is dedicated to delivering exceptional and innovative meeting experiences.