Express & Star

New group chief for NEC

The NEC Group has appointed Melanie Smith as the company’s new chief executive.

Melanie Smith

She succeeds Paul Thandi, 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 UK’s leading 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, Melanie will work to implement the business’ vision to be Europe’s leading live events business across its entire venue portfolio including the National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre, Vox Conference Venue and Birmingham’s two live music arenas – Utilita Arena Birmingham and Resorts World Arena.

Most recently, Melanie served as CEO of Ocado Retail, the online grocer and retail company, where she oversaw major technology, marketing and supplier transitions. This included the execution of the largest and most successful brand switchover in UK grocery history and the high-profile 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, the energy company, and the deputy chairman of Sadler’s Wells, the UK’s leading dance institution.

She is also a passionate advocate for diversity and empowerment, particularly for women and the Maori community. In 2022, she founded the Mokaraka Trust, an initiative funding Maori Women’s business studies with the aim of creating a leading global cohort of Maori women CEOs by 2040.

“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," she said.

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."

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