May 3, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio
After 11 years at the helm of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), CEO Peter King is getting ready to pass the baton.
The announcement of his departure from the venue was made yesterday by MCEC with glowing tributes about his contribution from the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust (MCET) Chairman and former Premier, John Brumby AO, and the Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport, and Major Events, Martin Pakula.
Both commented on King’s tremendous contribution to the state through his successful leadership of the venue through periods of enormous change. This included the expansion of the centre as well as its focus on sustainability and managing the challenges of the pandemic.
In 2019 alone, the MCEC had a record economic impact on Victoria, exceeding $1.1 billion and King is credited with making economic and social legacy a focus of his tenure.
King told micenet he will manage the transition until the appointment of a new CEO is made. His actual departure date will “depend on how quickly the Board can get someone into the position”.
He has an open mind about what he will do next, saying he would consider all his options, including working overseas.
“I’m trying to figure out what life would look like without quite the intensity that I’ve currently got. But in saying that, I still think I’ve got a bit of ‘runway’ left after having invested in the industry for so long.
“I’m keen to find a way to remain engaged and I don’t know whether that’s a full-time job or a part time advisory role,” King said.
He said it was simply time to “turn the page” and hand over to someone else and that he will work with the Board to assist the transition to the new CEO.
He made a formidable double-act with former Chief Operating Officer Leighton Wood who said that Peter King developed and led a culture that had people at its core, both MCEC customers and employees.
“He placed faith in people and his people responded brilliantly. The business thrived under his watch, evidenced by an expansion being required to meet record customer demand.
“He also made a significant contribution more broadly through his various industry association roles. He’ll be especially difficult to replace,” Wood said.
Other industry colleagues said King was a great champion of the industry especially for his contribution to the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia (EEAA) where he served for multiple terms.
EEAA president Nicole Walker said King had contributed significantly to the success of the EEAA, firstly as a past director and as a Platinum Partner through MCEC.
“Peter has selflessly always placed the industry’s needs before his own and has gone beyond the call of duty to support our sector and members’ prosperity,” she said.
“Peter has been instrumental in making the MCEC the venue powerhouse it is today. We wish Peter our very best for his next chapter, and hope that he remains part of our exhibition and events community in some way.”
Co-director at the EEAA and director of Talk2 Media and Events Matt Pearce said King’s departure would be a loss to all.
“He has taken an active role in the industry and he understands the complexity and realities of business events.
“His customer-centric approach has made the MCEC a better venue under his tenure as CEO.
“I notice there is no departure date set and so the longer we can keep him involved the better,” Pearce said.
MCEC said the King’s tenure had been “incredibly successful”.
Achievements at MCEC under his leadership include becoming home to the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal in 2014, raising much-needed funds for the hospital and leading the $205 million expansion of MCEC in 2018, which increased event space by 25 per cent, growing MCEC’s total size to 70,000m2, the largest centre of its kind in Australia.
An area of stand-out success has been King’s support for MCEC’s work in becoming a global leader in sustainable business events. In 2018, MCEC became a partner in the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project to power the 20,000m2 venue expansion with renewable energy. The centre recovered more than 68 tonnes of food waste in 2019 and donated over 74,000 meals to food rescue organisation OzHarvest.
As a close associate of King in my various industry roles, I too can attest to his outstanding leadership and fine personal qualities.
His clear thinking, calm disposition and capacity to focus on what is really important are stand-out qualities I admire and respect. He is rarely distracted by peripheral activities, instead always adding level-headed, sound, strategic advice. I wish him well in his next chapter – whatever that might be.
King is currently Deputy Chair of the Melbourne Convention Bureau and AIPC and numerous other sports-related institutions.