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Posted: Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012

After a year in turmoil, Newman leaves CRVA

By Steve Harrison
Published in: CRVA

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Tim Newman resigned from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority on Friday after a year of scrutiny over his management practices and three months after the group's board hired a new chief executive to replace him.

Newman, who had been with the CRVA since 2004, had been the chief salesman and promoter of Charlotte. When he was CEO, he was in charge of landing conventions and managing city-owned venues like the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

But after a series of missteps last year, and under pressure from the Charlotte City Council and Mayor Anthony Foxx, the CRVA board announced in July that it would demote him and hire a new chief executive.

The board later hired longtime hotel executive Tom Murray. After Murray's arrival in December, Newman stayed on as an executive in charge of sales, which board members had said was his strength.

Murray said he and Newman met this week to discuss his future as Murray was making organizational changes at the taxpayer-supported authority.

"We were getting down to final decisions," Murray said. "We sat down and started talking about whether he wanted to stay on. We mutually agreed it was best for him to move on, hopefully in our community."

Murray is scheduled to give a presentation Monday to council members about his efforts to reorganize the CRVA.

Newman's departure was announced to CRVA staff late Friday morning.

Newman's salary was roughly $240,000, and remained the same after his demotion.

In some years, bonuses and other compensation had pushed his total pay to more than $300,000. For the past year, Newman asked the board not to consider him for a bonus.

When asked whether Newman would receive a severance package, Murray said he couldn't "discuss his agreement at this time."

The CRVA was created in 2004 as a merger of Visit Charlotte, a marketing group, with the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority. Newman, who had led Center City Partners, was tapped to the lead the new umbrella tourism authority.

He helped the city land the NASCAR Hall of Fame over competition from cities such as Atlanta, Kansas City and Daytona Beach, Fla.

In addition, the CRVA helped persuade the CIAA basketball tournament to relocate from Raleigh. The CIAA is one of the city's biggest tourism events.

The CRVA also was part of a team that persuaded the Democratic National Committee to bring its 2012 convention to Charlotte.

But the hall became a problem for the CRVA.

Newman predicted the hall would attract 800,000 people in its first year; only 272,000 people came, and the hall lost $1.4 million.

A consultant later found that the attendance numbers were made with little rationale or due diligence. The hall is continuing to lose money.

In addition, Newman had approved more than $100,000 in bonus payments from the CIAA to a CRVA executive who has since left the authority. Those payments - which skirted the authority's conflict of interest rules - are now prohibited after the CRVA board approved new policies last year.

Problems at the NASCAR hall, and other issues - such as Newman's expense account spending and the resignation of a national sales manager who was in a relationship with Newman - led to a standoff between City Council and the CRVA last summer.

A majority of council members, at Foxx's urging, voted to withhold $10 million in funding for the CRVA. The money was released when the authority's board said it would hire a new chief executive.

In September, a post ripping Foxx appeared on Newman's Facebook page. Newman said someone had taken his cellphone and posted the negative comment, which was taken down from the page as soon as he saw it.

Despite friction with Charlotte elected officials, Newman has numerous supporters in the hospitality industry.

"He promoted Charlotte nationally and internationally for travel and tourism," said Sid Smith of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association. "If you look at the list of conventions and meetings that he was involved in, it's got to be job well done."

Said Murray: "Despite the issues, there were many successes."

Newman couldn't be reached Friday.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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