News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Andy Vuong, The Denver Post
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 17, 2004 - The Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau announced Tuesday that it has named Richard Scharf president and chief executive officer.
Scharf takes the post amid stagnant convention business and as the city prepares for the much-anticipated opening of the $300 million Colorado Convention Center expansion in December.
Scharf joined the bureau in 1985 and took over as head of convention sales and marketing in 1994. He held the position until November, when he was appointed interim president following the firing of former president Eugene Dilbeck.
"In the last 10 years I feel like I've given birth to a convention destination and a visitors' destination," Scharf said at a press conference. "Now, I actually get the chance to raise the child, so I'm really excited about it."
Scharf's early challenges include booking a minimum of $101 million in future conventions each year and increasing the bureau's annual budget, which ranks 41st in the nation.
Convention and meeting attendance in metro Denver, including conferences at hotels, has fallen in five of the past six years.
However, more conferences and meetings are booked for the convention center than ever before, according to the bureau.
Scharf said he plans to increase his sales staff by 50 percent over the next six months and double it within a year.
"He's well prepared to take over the job," said Dilbeck, who served as the bureau's president for 10 years. "He knows the staff. He knows the city. I think he starts from a pretty good base."
Dilbeck was fired in November after a controversy erupted over reports of bureau employees attending a meeting at a Denver strip club. The bureau also came under scrutiny because of its refusal to release records showing how it uses public funds. Hotel taxes make up about three-quarters of the bureau's annual budget.
"We looked at more than 150 candidates from around the nation," said Scott Bemis, chairman of the bureau's board. "After careful and objective evaluation, we came to the conclusion that Richard was the very best choice to lead the effort to attract visitors to our area."
The selection committee narrowed the field to 12 finalists and interviewed five, said Pat Grant, chair of the committee.
Two sources close to the convention bureau, who asked not to be identified, said that among those considered for the job were candidates from Chicago and Austin, Texas.
The bureau, a nonprofit trade association with nearly 1,000 members, markets Denver as a travel and leisure destination.
City Auditor Dennis Gallagher determined in February that the bureau violated its agreements with the city by not keeping separate accounts to show how it spends public funds. The bureau has agreed to keep financial records that separate its use of public and private money.
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(c) 2004, The Denver Post. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.