Melanie Smith appointed as NEC Group CEO

The NEC Group in Birmingham, England, has appointed Melanie Smith (pictured), CBE as the company’s new chief executive officer. She succeeds Paul Thandi CBE, DL, who moves to the position of chairman after nearly 17 years as CEO. 

Melanie brings more than 25 years’ experience in executive and operational leadership to the live events business, having successfully delivered performance transformations at leading UK consumer and retail businesses.  

Working closely with the NEC Group board and the company’s majority shareholder, Blackstone, Smith will work to implement the business’ vision to be Europe’s leading live events business across its entire venue portfolio including the NEC and ICC Birmingham, Vox Conference Venue and Birmingham’s two live music arenas – Utilita Arena Birmingham and Resorts World Arena. 

Most recently, Smith served as CEO of Ocado Retail, the online grocer and retail company, where she oversaw major technology, marketing and supplier transitions. This included the relaunch of the Ocado brand. 

She previously held senior positions at Marks & Spencer, Bupa, TalkTalk and McKinsey & Co. She is a non-executive director at SSE plc, the FTSE 30 energy company, and the deputy chair of Sadler’s Wells, the UK dance institution. 

In 2022, she founded the Mokaraka Trust, an initiative funding Māori Women’s business studies with the aim of creating a leading global cohort of Māori women CEOs by 2040.  

Commenting on her new role, Smith said: “The NEC Group is a truly unique business with a rich history and significant future opportunities. 

“It is internationally renowned as the go-to destination for live events in the UK, hosting some of the world’s most iconic exhibitions and shows. From our proud base in the Midlands, our vision is to become Europe’s most successful and sustainable live events business – with world class venues and supporting services that ensure unforgettable live experiences for millions of people every year.  

“I am excited to lead our next chapter of growth and innovation.” 

Alexander Walsh, senior managing director at Blackstone, said: “We are delighted to welcome Melanie as the new CEO of the NEC. Her proven track record in leading successful businesses and driving transformative change and merger and acquisition initiatives aligns perfectly with our vision for the company’s future. 

“Blackstone has invested in the NEC since 2018, and as the company continues to go from strength-to-strength we look forward to working closely with Melanie as we build on the NEC’s position as a leader in live events experiences."”

For more information, visit