Freeman CEO Bob Priest-Heck to retire in July, with COO Janet Dell to succeed him

Global events services provide Freeman has announced that long-serving CEO Bob Priest-Heck (pictured) is to retire and that Janet Dell, Freeman’s president and COO will succeed him as chief executive as of 1 July, 2024.

Priest-Heck has given 15 years of service at the company and will continue as a member of Freeman’s Board of Directors from next July.

Since joining Freeman in March 2018, Dell has held multiple roles and currently leads Freeman’s long-term strategy execution across the globe. She rehired 95% of the company’s furloughed employees post-pandemic, onboarding over 3,000 new employees, and has driven record revenue growth amid a challenging environment.

Priest-Heck said: “Since Janet joined Freeman in 2018, she has transformed Freeman in ways large and small. She has instilled a data-driven approach to decision-making, cultivated an integrated operating model to drive better cross-team collaboration and customer experience, and made meaningful strides to expand and diversify our workforce. Janet’s leadership and compassion are unmatched, and I look forward to seeing her lead Freeman in this exciting and dynamic time for the company and the events industry at large.”

Dell said: “Over the past five years, it has been an honour to be part of Freeman as it evolved into the company it is today. Having the opportunity to work closely with Bob has taught me a tremendous amount about the industry, leading with integrity and empathy, and our talented and resilient team across all levels and functions is truly an inspiration. I am humbled and honoured to step into the role of CEO and look forward to leading Freeman as we continue to create meaningful experiences for our clients.”

Priest-Heck has 35 years of experience in the events industry, beginning his career in tech publishing, and going on to create many of the biggest events in tech, including Digital World, Networld + Interop, JavaOne, Java World Tour & Web 2.0. He also has played an active role in promoting sustainability within the events industry as one of the early supporters and signatories of the Zero Carbon Events Pledge.

During the pandemic, Priest-Heck’s advocacy and leadership were best defined by his launch of ‘Go LIVE Together’, which facilitated legislative action to support the industry and the millions of people whose livelihood depend on it. During his tenure at Freeman, Priest-Heck has been instrumental in expanding the company’s offerings, including strategy and agency, which are now major lines of business and set the foundation for Freeman’s recent acquisition of Sparks.

Carrie Freeman Parsons, chair of Freeman, said: “Bob has made an indelible imprint on Freeman’s strategy and culture over his tenure with the company. Through his vision and leadership, he has built on our longstanding reputation for innovation and collaboration while fostering an environment where employees feel empowered. On behalf of the Board and the Freeman family, I wish Bob all the best for an active and fulfilling retirement, and I could not be more confident that Janet is the right person to lead Freeman in this next exciting chapter.”