Mark Leahy's last day as General Manager of the Cleveland convention center and Global Center for Health and Innovation was this past Wednesday. He'd led the $465-million dollar publicly financed facility since a few months after it opened in 2013.
There was no public announcement of his departure, nor has a permanent replacement been named. Multiple calls and emails over the past two days to Dave Johnson, spokesperson for the convention center, were not returned.
Cuyahoga County spokesperson Mary Louise Madigan confirmed Leahy's departure on Thursday but couldn't address specifics, largely whether he quit or was terminated. Scene has heard from two sources that Leahy was indeed fired.
"Mark Leahy’s contributions to the opening and ongoing operations of the convention center/global center were many and he will be missed," Madigan said in an emailed statement Thursday afternoon.
Sources said friction had developed between Leahy and George Hillow, the executive director of the Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Development Corp., a non-profit created by the county to oversee and work with SMG, the company that actually operates the convention center and the 20-percent vacant albatross formerly known as the Med Mart. "Bad management," explained one source of Leahy who was familiar with the decision. The recent study that hammered the Global Center for its 20-percent vacancy, calling it an eyesore, didn't help.
While Leahy told the Plain Dealer in late 2016 that he was "very, very pleased with the numbers, very optimistic about the future," and while the convention center exceeded event goals as a whole in 2016, exhibition hall events, the major draws, only notched 36, which fell 14 short of the goal of 50. The convention center, as all do, continues to lose money, to the tune of millions of dollars a year.
Cleveland.com's Karen Farkas reports the following memo was sent to board members of the CCCFDC Wednesday afternoon (multiple messages over the past two days to members of CCCFDC also went unreturned):
"Since 2013, Mark Leahy has been the General Manager of the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland and Global Center for Health Innovation. Mark has been a vital player in the facilities' accomplishments and growth, including hosting the Republican National Convention in 2016. During these years, the complex has been recognized for various outstanding achievements in the areas of customer service and hospitality."
At this time, SMG and Mark Leahy have mutually agreed on moving forward with new leadership for the HCCC/GCHI. SMG thanks Mark for his efforts on behalf of the Center and his long service with SMG."
SMG is moving forward aggressively with identifying the ideal candidate that will lead the team to build on the success of the Center to date. SMG will make an announcement on that candidate as soon as possible. SMG Corporate staff will be supporting the operation in the interim to ensure continuity of service."