It’s not quite like picking a new Pope, but for the American Gaming Association (AGA), selecting a new chief executive for only the second time in 20 years is a weighty task. After all, the person they pick will be leading a powerful group that includes the likes of Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands Corp.), Gary Loveman (Caesars Entertainment), Jim Murren (MGM Resorts International), Peter Carlino (Penn National Gaming), and Keith Smith (Boyd Gaming). Steve Wynn (and his Wynn Resorts Ltd.) it turns out, is sort of the Henry VIII of Gaming, and has separated himself from this particular group, presumably because he has his own lobbyists (sort of like Henry Rex himself).
Former Travel Association VP Picked
Selected from this conclave was Geoff Freeman, 38, who has been with the U.S. Travel Association for the past seven years as its Number Two man. Seems pretty young to handle all these cagey old goats, but maybe that’s exactly why they wanted him: someone they can easily boss around. Regardless, Freeman takes on the mantle as of July 1st, and we doubt he’ll be riding any buses or foregoing designer shoes for this gig.
“I’m not going to try and step into [departing CEO] Frank’s [Fahrenkopf Jr.] shoes,” said Freeman of his upcoming post. “There is a great team at the AGA. Gaming is a great industry, and is similar to the travel industry in its creativity and the way it has evolved.” The travel industry evolved on riverboats and via Bugsy Siegel and his ilk? Okay.
Turns out Freeman is a kind of Man for All Seasons, a Thomas More of the Washington lobbyists set; word is that although he has testified in front of Congress throughout his travel industry career, he is considered to be nonpartisan and hip to more modern methods of persuasion, like social media and grass roots consensus building. He hangs with politicians, but isn’t one himself, in other words. Good thing the days of Henry have come and gone, or “hangs with politicians” could have a whole different meaning.
It’s also considered a good thing that he’s crossing over from another similar but different industry, and isn’t any of these megalomaniac’s shoe shine boy, so to speak; he comes in as a free agent, with ties to no one in particular.
“We felt strongly about having someone with deep experience in trade organizations who also understood a regulated industry,” MGM’s Murren said. “We rejected having a retired elected official in favor of someone with more tactical experience.”
Freeman had plenty of competition for this gig; Congressional Quarterly reported back in 2010 that it pays a very kingly $2.6 million per annum. Let’s hope he can keep his head off the chopping block with this group of warlords.