March 08, 2006

Colin C. Rorrie Jr., Ph.D., CAE, announced March 8th that he will step down as president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International as early as next week. While his three-year contract does not expire until September, according to an MPI spokesperson, Rorrie noted in a statement to MPI members that he had accomplished his objectives for the association and "the time is right for me to explore new horizons, both personally and professionally." However, in a press conference this afternoon, Rorrie said the decision came only last week, after an MPI board meeting concerning a restructuring of the organization. Plans call for a more decentralized leadership model, confirmed Christine Duffy, chair of the MPI board and president/CEO of Maritz Travel Inc. Filling Rorrie's role in the interim will be MPI chairman-elect Mark Andrew, CMP, CHA, general manager of the Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina in Vancouver. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has granted Andrew a leave from his hotel post so that he can relocate to Dallas and guide MPI through the transition, beginning this Friday. Duffy will establish a task force to find a replacement. Rorrie told reporters today that he has no current plans for his next career move but does not intend to retire.

CKX Inc., a company that owns and develops commercial use of entertainment content, including the "American Idol" enterprise, has entered into discussions with Memphis, Tenn., officials about turning Graceland into a more robust tourist attraction and, possibly, a convention destination. CKX, owned by Robert F.X. Sillerman, who controls 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises, has not finalized his proposal for transforming the former home of the rock 'n' roll legend. A spokesperson for CKX said the development phase of the project has "just started" and declined to elaborate on plans that Sillerman recently discussed with city and county officials. However, the New York Times reported on March 5 that "two 400-room hotels, convention space, an entertainment complex, restaurants, shops, an outdoor amphitheater and a spa" were among elements under consideration.

On Monday, Australian-owned Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. announced its US$900 million purchase from Wynn Resorts the right to own and operate two hotel casino resorts in Macau, China, to be dubbed "Crown Macau" and "City of Dreams." According to James Packer, PBL's executive chairman, "Steve Wynn's proposed second casino in Macau will be right next door to our City of Dreams project, and together we will provide a major draw card for that end of the Cotai strip."

The French hotel group Accor has announced the sale of another 82 properties in Europe and the United States as it continues its strategy of management over ownership. Of the properties sold to various investors, six were Sofitels, 71 were Novotel, Mercure and Ibis hotels, and five were health spas in France. However, Accor says it has maintained the rights to manage all 82 properties under established long-term agreements.

Charlotte, N.C., was chosen to be the site for the new NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Charlotte Convention & Visitors Bureau announced on March 6. To open in 2009, the $154.5 million project will include a significant expansion of the adjacent Charlotte Convention Center. Exact details of the expansion have not been determined, but plans call for a ballroom connecting the center to the hall of fame. NASCAR will move its headquarters to a 100,000-square-foot office on the same site.

Brian C. Whiting, president and CEO of the Providence-Warwick (R.I.) Convention and Visitors Bureau, resigned last Tuesday, citing personal reasons. He had been with the bureau since 2003. George Donnelly, vice president of marketing, communications and research; Joyce Pacifico, director of administration; and Neil Schriever, vice president of sales, collectively will lead the bureau in consultation with board chairman Kevin Cameron until a replacement is found. Cameron said Whiting's resignation was "somewhat unexpected" but added, "We've got good people in place. We're looking forward to moving forward." A search committee has been activated.

Voters in Duluth, Minn., have approved a proposal to increase the food and beverage tax from 9 percent to 9.75 percent to help fund an expansion at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The legislature and the governor must approve the tax and agree to provide an additional $33.5 million in order for the project to move forward. The expansion proposal calls for a $67 million, 6,300-seat arena that could open as early as fall 2008.