Friday, January 9, 2004

10 TO WATCH IN 2004:
John Monahan

HVCB chief has experience in crisis management

New chief refocuses
visitors bureau

Picture a longtime local nonprofit institution that secured annual taxpayer funding of more than $45 million to market the state's tourism industry.

Ten to watch in 2004
The Star-Bulletin is spotlighting 10 people who may have a big impact on Hawaii this year.
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Tough times arrive. A state audit criticizes the organization, a powerful state senator cries foul and the agency's head resigns.

Within two years the organization loses several of its state duties and has its taxpayer-derived funding slashed to about $24 million. Layoffs follow.

Enter John Monahan, the new president and chief executive of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau, in October to replace Tony Vericella, who resigned over the critical state audit.

Monahan comes with plenty of experience in crisis management.

In the 1990s, Monahan ascended to president of Liberty House just as a battle between the 149-year-old retailer's owners and lenders escalated into a bankruptcy reorganization case that lasted three years in court.

Amid competing boards of directors and mounting losses, Monahan steered Liberty House through bankruptcy, increased its focus on the local market and closed resort and specialty shops.

Monahan stepped down when Liberty House was bought for $200 million by Federated Department Stores Inc., which converted the chain to Macy's.

At the visitors bureau, Monahan is refocusing the agency after it lost the state contract on Jan. 1 to market the islands to international visitor markets. Once responsible for promoting Hawaii throughout the world, the bureau will promote only to North America, Hawaii's largest source of visitors, and to business travelers, a key market for high visitor spending.

The state wants to see spending by U.S. West visitors grow 5.6 percent in 2004, and spending by U.S. East visitors to increase 7 percent. Meanwhile, private companies will assume the job of generating international visitor arrivals.

Monahan will receive a $235,000 base salary and be able to get a bonus of up to 50 percent of his salary if he meets targets and criteria.

"Hawaii is my home, and I wanted to be in a position where I could contribute to the state," Monahan said.


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