Tobin Center for the Performing Arts Names Michael Fresher as President/CEO
Michael J. Fresher has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts (www.tobincenter.org), which is owned and will be operated by the Bexar County Performing Arts Center Foundation. He will assume his new position in San Antonio on May 21. Foundation Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr. made the announcement.
Fresher, 50, comes to The Tobin from the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Connecticut, where he is Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, as well as General Manager of Bushnell Management Services.
Bugg has served as Chairman, President and CEO of the Foundation since its inception in 2007 as a volunteer, and will continue to serve as Chairman.
David Green currently serves as Interim Managing Director of The Tobin Center and the Foundation, and will continue to provide assistance in the coming months.
Members of the CEO Search Committee included Bugg as Chairman, and Foundation Board Members Cathy Burzik, former Mayor Phil Hardberger, John McLaughlin, Bill Moll and Dennert Ware.
"Our CEO Search Committee worked for more than five months and interviewed a number of outstanding candidates," Bugg said. "Mike Fresher stood out with his combination of experience over the past six years in day-to-day operations, including bookings, for the Bushnell and its 2,800-seat and 988-seat theaters while concurrently serving as general manager of Bushnell Management Services which manages the 40,000-seat Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford and formerly operated the 5,000-seat SummerWind Performing Arts Center amphitheatre in Windsor."
"Mike has had the primary operating responsibility for the Bushnell theater complex, which grosses some $30 million annually in ticket sales through very diverse programming, including symphony, opera, Broadway and off-Broadway shows, family presentations, children's theater, jazz, blues, cabaret and comedy performances," he said. "Between performances of all types and meeting and event rentals, the Bushnell has a calendar of more than 350 events a year and is a major economic driver for the Greater Hartford region."
"In addition, he has been a major advocate for technology expansion in the Bushnell, including up-to-date ticketing systems, which will be important to us at The Tobin Center," Bugg said. "Mike has also been a key member of the Bushnell's fundraising team, so his overall background makes him a perfect fit for The Tobin."
In 1998, Fresher joined Madison Square Garden CT, LLC, a subsidiary of MSG, Inc., as Vice President Finance and Controller. For MSG, he was a key executive who negotiated and secured an operating agreement with the State of Connecticut to assist in the design and construction and, ultimately, the operation of the Stadium at Rentschler Field, which is the home of University of Connecticut football and is the largest venue in the state. In addition, MSG also had contracts to operate the Hartford Civic Center as well as a minor league hockey team which played in the facility, and those responsibilities fell to Fresher.
Along the way, he became heavily involved in bookings and ticket sales (including luxury boxes), and worked with promoters, agents, patrons and city and state agencies.
When MSG's contract ended in 2007, Fresher was recruited by the Bushnell to become its Chief Financial Officer. Eventually, he was asked to assume the dual role of Chief Operating Officer, leading all operational departments, including human resources, information technology, facility operations, marketing and the box office. He established a group sales department and, as COO, developed and executed operating plans that filled the Bushnell while maintaining superior customer service.
Under his leadership, the Bushnell launched Bushnell Management Services and, ironically, won the state contract to manage The Stadium at Rentschler Field and the SummerWind Performing Arts Center amphitheater.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said, "I am thrilled that we could attract someone of Mike's caliber to become the President and CEO of The Tobin. He has the experience and skills that are needed to open and operate our new performing arts center and I look forward to working with him."
"I also want to thank Bruce Bugg for his willingness to take on this project back in 2007 when then-Mayor Phil Hardberger and I approached him with the idea of forming a foundation that could build and operate a new performing arts center," Wolff said. "Bruce's leadership has been vital in every aspect of the project, from the initial concept study to organizational development to fundraising to construction and now leading the search that is bringing Mike Fresher here as we head to grand opening in the fall of 2014. We would not be where we are without Bruce's tremendous dedication and service as a volunteer to our community."
"I truly believe my entire career has been spent preparing me to come to The Tobin Center as CEO," Fresher said. "The capabilities and opportunities of a brand new performing arts complex, with its 1750-seat H-E-B Performance Hall and 'flat-floor' capabilities, the 250-seat Studio Theater and the 400-seat River Plaza, and its location in San Antonio on the River Walk automatically makes being CEO of The Tobin Center one of the best jobs in the country."
"I was impressed with the thoroughness of the Selection Committee, which really put me through my paces," he said. "I am thrilled to be chosen for this position and I can hardly wait to get started. There is much to do as we move into the home stretch to open in the Fall of 2014, and I will hit the ground running. My family - my wife, Liana, and our two daughters - are excited about coming to Texas and quickly becoming a part of this community. We already have family in Fair Oaks, Boerne and Georgetown, so moving to San Antonio is the icing on the cake for us."
After graduating from the University of Connecticut in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance, Fresher worked with two Hartford CPA firms in supervising management consulting and advisory services for their clients.
He was recruited in 1994 to become Vice President of Finance and Administration for Connecticut Airgas, a subsidiary of NYSE-traded Airgas. When that company consolidated into New Hampshire, he chose not to relocate and instead took a position with General DataComm as Finance Manager/Controller. In 1998, he was recruited by MSG to join Madison Square Garden CT, LLC.