The Safari Club International’s top executive was hired Friday as the new CEO of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA), but not without dissent from some RSCVA board members.
Philip DeLone has been CEO of the Tucson, Ariz.-based Safari Club since 2012. Prior to that, he had been executive director of sales at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino since 1996. Five years earlier, DeLone was executive director of the Safari Club, his resume stated.
His first stint in Reno was 1987-1991 at Bally’s Casino Resort, which later became the Grand Sierra Resort, as assistant vice president and sales and marketing director. He’s also held posts in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
“He has a unique skill set to build, manage, motivate and lead a first-class team,” said Nat Carasali of the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino. “His skill set best reflects the board’s mission statement.”
Glenn Carano of the Silver Legacy, who used to work with DeLone, agreed.
“Phil will put his boots on the ground and hit the ground running from day one,” he said.
DeLone was selected over Richard Peterson, president and CEO of San Francisco-based S&P Consulting, which provides tourism, marketing, strategic planning and business development services.
The nine-member RSCVA board approved the hire in a 5-3 vote. Crystal Bay Casino General Manager Bill Wood, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Washoe County Commissioner and Board Chairman Bob Lucey voted to hire Peterson. Sparks Councilman Ed Lawson abstained.
Schieve was concerned that hiring DeLone could be a conflict of interest, especially since the RSCVA this summer began working with him in his current capacity to arrange the Safari Club convention’s return to Reno.
During the April RSCVA meeting, the board was told of plans to bid on hosting future Safari Club conventions, which departed Reno for Las Vegas three years earlier due to lack of airline seats on departure day. During that same meeting, the board voted to hire Lapham Group Inc. to help with the CEO search. In July, it was announced Safari Club would return to Reno in 2019-2021.
Lawson didn’t want to hire either candidate and predicted the board would be starting the process over within three years.
“I’m impressed with the two candidates but I had a little higher standard,” Lawson said. “We’re stepping from one sales person to another.”
RSCVA has had four CEOs in the last 10 years. Two were seated, two were interim.
Eyeing the hotel-casino executives, Lucey said the CEO will be responsible for more than just putting “heads in beds.” He encouraged the entire board to help DeLone be successful.
“Nobody succeeds on their own,” Lucey said. “We have to move forward, work together and unify.”
The board suggested that Lucey start negotiating DeLone’s contract with the RSVCA legal department and begin with discussing a base pay of about $250,000. In August, the board suggested offering a maximum $350,000 base salary with a bonus structure up to 40 percent, although most board members then didn’t want to go higher than $300,000.
Citing vague reasons, the board terminated former CEO Chris Baum’s contract in October 2015. Baum had been with the organization almost four years and had received a three-year contract extension eight months prior. Jennifer Cunningham, executive director of marketing, has been filling the CEO role in the interim.
Schieve praised Cunningham’s efforts during the last year and said she hoped other board members consulted with her before deciding between DeLone and Peterson.
“You’ve made a lot of tough decisions and I want you to know how much we respect you,” Schieve told Cunningham. “You’ve shown you could be our CEO.”
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