DI People: Brinker International, DART, GameStop, Stream Data Centers, ATTPAC, Dallas Regional Chamber, and More Make Leadership Moves

In this week’s roundup of hires, promotions, and accolades in North Texas, you’ll also find news from the AT&T Performing Arts Center, DART, Aimbridge Hospitality, Acera, Fidelis Companies, The Rios Group Inc., Tech Titans, NEC Corp. of America, Texas Women’s Foundation, ATTPAC, LEARFIELD, and Hope Cottage.

Plus, Dallas ISD picks a lone finalist for superintendent.

Brinker International Appoints Former KFC President to Succeed Roberts as CEO

Kevin Hochman

Brinker International Inc., the Dallas-based restaurant company, announced today that Kevin Hochman will succeed Wyman Roberts, who is retiring as CEO and president and a member of the board, effective June 5.

Roberts, 63, will continue to serve Brinker in an advisory role for 12 months as part of the company’s succession plan.

“Kevin is a talented leader and innovative thinker with strategic vision, passion and a successful track record of building brands,” Board Chairman Joe DePinto said in a statement. “We’re confident he will create shareholder value and maintain the company’s culture as we work to bring Chili’s, Maggiano’s and our virtual brands to even more guests.”

Hochman, 48, brings substantial experience and expertise to Brinker. He most recently served as president and chief concept officer of KFC, U.S.

Roberts has served as CEO and president and as a member of the board of directors since January 2013, and in various other executive roles with the company since August 2005, including president of Chili’s, CMO of Brinker and president of Maggiano’s Little Italy.

Of Roberts, DePinto said: “Wyman is a leader with that special ability to make big strategic decisions in a way that makes individual guests feel special at tables in our restaurants around the world. His investment in people and the next generation of leaders, alongside his investment in operating systems and new technologies, have grown our brands through unpredictable challenges and set up our company for continued success in the future.”

Warren Tranquada [Photo: AT&T]

AT&T Performing Arts Center Announces New President & CEO

The nonprofit AT&T Performing Arts Center announced that veteran performing arts center executive Warren Tranquada will become the center’s next president and CEO.

Tranquada is currently the EVP and COO of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ. Tranquada will replace Debbie Storey, who has been president and CEO since 2017. She announced last fall that she would be stepping down once a new leader was identified.

“Warren comes to us from NJPAC, one of the top performing arts centers in the nation,” said Danny Tobey, chair of the AT&T Performing Arts Center board of directors, in a statement. “To bring that level of business experience to Dallas—along with a commitment to artistic excellence, arts education and community engagement—will prove transformative for the Center and our community.” 

“Dallas has a national reputation as a thriving cultural hub, both for its vibrant Arts District and the diverse arts community throughout the city,” Tranquada said. “I’m eager to begin working with the talented team at the AT&T Performing Arts Center and its partners to build on this tradition.” 

Tranquada has been with NJPAC since 2009, responsible for strategic planning and business operations for the organization and its $50M annual budget. The organization has a national reputation for its diverse and distinctive programming, vibrant arts education, civic engagement, and more.

Dallas ISD Picks Lone Finalist for Superintendent

Dr. Stephanie Elizalde

Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, superintendent of the Austin ISD and the former Dallas ISD chief of school leadership, was named this week as the lone finalist for the top job in the Dallas Independent School District.

The district said in a statement that the state requires a 21-day review period after naming a finalist before hiring a new superintendent. If confirmed, Elizalde would be the district’s second female superintendent, DISD said.

Elizalde left the district to take the reins of Austin ISD in 2020. Before that, she was named Dallas ISD’s chief of school leadership in 2015 after serving as the district’s STEM coordinator. A third-generation educator, her experience includes stints as a teacher and administrator in schools in San Antonio ISD and Southwest ISD.

The largest school district in North Texas opened a search for a new superintendent after Michael Hinojosa announced in January that he would resign, capping a 13-year run at the top administrator in Dallas. The district said that Hinojosa will remain as superintendent emeritus through December to help ensure a smooth transition.

Acera Hires Ex-Orthofix Executive as CEO

Michael Finegan

St. Louis-based bioscience startup Acera Surgical Inc. has hired Michael Finegan at its new chief executive officer. Finegan is the former chief strategy officer at Lewisville-based medical device company Orthofix.

Acera is developing wound-healing technology and said in a statement that Finegan begins his new duties immediately. He is taking on the new role from co-CEOs Agnès Rey-Giraud and Jake Wilson, who both will continue as board members of Acera, the company said in a statement.

Acera was founded in 2013 and focuses on commercializing products it says are “designed to be structurally similar to human tissue” for wound healing and regenerative medical applications, including soft tissue repair.

Acera was born out of research conducted at Washington University in St. Louis has received clearances from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for two product lines, the company said. Those product lines include Cerafix, which is designed to stop cerebrospinal fluid leakage, and Restrata, which helps heal wounds and burns.

Nonprofit Hope Cottage Names New CEO

Stephanie Bohan

Hope Cottage has named veteran nonprofit leader Stephanie Bohan as its new CEO.

Hope Cottage is a North Texas nonprofit that transforms lives with the love of family through adoption, foster care, education, and parenting support.

To her new role, Bohan brings more than 23 years of senior management and fundraising experience. Most recently, she was director of health and wellness services for Dallas-based Bonton Farms. Prior to that, she was the executive director of the Agape Clinic for 10 years.

“Stephanie has an impressive record of nonprofit leadership, faithfully shepherding organizations to a new level of growth. But her heart for service is what truly sets her apart,” said Andrea Carter, chair of the Hope Cottage board of directors. “We know she’s the right leader to guide Hope Cottage into its next phase of impact and visibility, for the sake of the children and families across North Texas.”

LEARFIELD Promotes SVP to Chief Strategy Officer

Ben Mathan

Ben Mathan, a “critical key advisor” since joining the company two years ago, has been promoted to chief strategy officer of LEARFIELD, the Plano-based college sports media and tech services company.

Mathan has previously held the role of SVP, strategy and business operations. In addition to bringing valuable perspective to the company’s leadership team, Mathan will be responsible for LEARFIELD’s overall strategy and data analytics. He will have senior oversight of the various teams contributing to the company’s data, insights and sales strategies, as well as Fanbase—which the company calls the largest data and analytics platform in intercollegiate athletics, with more than 30 million known fan records and 150 million anonymized devices.

Prior to joining LEARFIELD, Mathan held various roles in the investment banking and private equity sectors. He spent five years with Atairos Management as a senior associate and key member of the investment team that acquired LEARFIELD in 2016. He later guided LEARFIELD’s acquisitions of Paciolan and Mogo as well as its merger with IMG College. A  New York University alumnus, Mathan also previously served with Tenex Capital Management, Wells Fargo Securities, and Morgan Stanley.

DART Taps Public Transportation Veteran as COO

Bernard Jackson

Bernard Jackson has been selected as Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s new chief operations officer. He will assume his new role on May 23.

Jackson will report directly to DART President and CEO Nadine Lee and will lead the agency’s operations teams, including bus, light rail, facilities maintenance, GoLink, and mobility management, the agency said in a statement.

“He brings over 30 years of transit operations experience to the agency, consistently developing and achieving employee engagement and customer satisfaction performance targets that have a real impact on the lives of our riders,” Lee said.

Jackson comes to DART from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where he was chief operations officer, service delivery. Before that, he worked at the Chicago Transit Authority for nearly 30 years, including roles as VP of bus operations and director of rail operations.

Grapevine-Based GameStop Hires New COO

Nir Patel

Grapevine-based retailer GameStop has hired former Belk CEO Nir Patel as the company’s new chief operating officer effective May 31, according to a securities filing.

Patel was with Belk for under a year before his resignation was announced recently. He also previously was senior merchandising officer at Kohl’s.

According to Retail Dive, Patel is set to make a base salary of $200,000 at GameStop and is eligible for $3.4 million in sign-on bonuses. Patel’s offer also calls for a $14 million equity grant as well as a $21 million stock grant for forgoing equity awards and compensation from his previous employer (Belk) in taking the offer.

The report said that Patel will become the second COO to start at GameStop since March 2021, as the company tries to transform itself and adapt to structural changes in the gaming business.

Jenna Owens, a veteran of Amazon and Google, left in October after seven months in the role.

Fort Worth Entrepreneur Among 3 Added to U.S. Hispanic Chamber Board

Rosa Navejar

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) announced the appointment of Rosa Navejar, president of Fort Worth-based The Rios Group; Robert Martinez, founder and CEO of the Braven Agency; and Silvestre “Sil” Gonzales, CEO of Ford of Ventura, California; to its national board of directors.

In a statement, the chamber said the entrepreneurs bring years of experience serving the Hispanic community and look to strengthen their advocacy for America’s Latino-owned businesses.

“Through these three business leaders, we are enriching our expertise and industry diversity to better serve America’s expanding economic future which is fueled by small business owners,” Alice Rodriguez, USHCC chairwoman of the board of directors, said in a statement. “These three great entrepreneurs carry with them a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit and unique experience developed through years of economic success creating jobs and supporting their local communities. They will support our nation’s 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses and their needs.”

Navejar founded The Rios Group in 2012 after 25 years in banking and 11 years as president of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Her company provides its HereHER clients strategic development and operational professional services, according to a statement. Navejar emphasizes the importance of continuous training and professional development for employees, an outlook she will bring to the board, the chamber said.

Tech Titans Adds Two Business Executives to Board

Brian Walsh (left) and Justin Caskey

Richardson-based Tech Titans announced that Brian Walsh, market president at Sunflower Bank N.A., and Justin Caskey, CFO of Korbyt, have been named to the organization’s board of directors.

Tech Titans is a forum that leverages the regional technology community to collaborate, share, and inspire creative thinking to fuel innovation. It’s well-known in the region for its annual awards gala and events like the Grand Challenge competition,  

The organization’s members include the companies and individuals that create technology as well as the people and institutions that embrace, nurture, and leverage technological innovation.

Tech Titans says that it serves, encourages, and promotes the North Texas technology ecosystem—including developers of technology, adopters who implement groundbreaking technology, investors who fund and support innovative advancements in technology development and application, and educators who help shape the next generation of innovators.

Tech Titans represents the interests of a quarter million employees through its 300 member companies, the organization said.

Aimbridge Hospitality Names Former Royal Caribbean SVP as President of Global Operations

Mark Tamis

Plano-based Aimbridge Hospitality has named travel and tourism industry veteran Mark Tamis to the position of president, global operations.

In a statement, Aimbridge said that the addition of Tamis represents the company’s commitment to and investment in providing an elevated management experience to hotel owners and creating memorable experiences for guests.

“Adding a seasoned leader with the breadth and depth of experience Mark brings to the team is an opportunity to continue to elevate our operational excellence,” Aimbridge President and CEO Michael J. Deitemeyer said in a statement. “As Aimbridge continues to evolve, Mark’s expertise and leadership will empower our global operations team to further define industry best practices, partner with brands, ultimately add greater value for our owners and set new standards in the hospitality industry.”

Tamis comes to Aimbridge with over 35 years of hospitality leadership experience, including a diverse background in hotel, resort and cruise operations, Aimbridge said. Most recently, he was SVP of hotel operations at Royal Caribbean International, overseeing every aspect of hotel services across the global cruise line’s fleet and its private destinations, including all onboard revenue operations and food, beverage, and entertainment offerings.

Dallas Regional Chamber Hires Veteran Journalist as Communications Director

Matthew Berger

Matthew Berger, an experienced writer, editor, reporter, copywriter, and website consultant, has joined the Dallas Regional Chamber as director of communications.

Berger’s journalism career included stops at The Dallas Morning News, Denton Record-Chronicle, and the Daily Ardmoreite in Ardmore, Okla. where he covered sports and news, the DRC said in a statement. He has also served as communications manager at University Christian Church in Fort Worth.

The chamber said that Berger will help grow the chamber’s editorial content.

“I’m interested in learning more about the businesses moving here, and the ones that are already here,” Berger said. “The Dallas Region is constantly growing, and I’m honored to tell the stories making our communities better. I will also help member companies share their news, reminding them why being a DRC member is good for business.”

Stream Data Centers Brings on New VP of Product Engineering

Stuart Lawrence

Stream Data Centers, the Dallas-based provider of data center services to global enterprises, announced that Stuart Lawrence has joined the company as vice president of product engineering.

Lawrence will collaborate with Mike Licitra (VP of Solutions Architecture), Michael Lahoud (COO and Partner) and Chris Bair (SVP of Sales and Leasing), by aiding the sales and service delivery teams to ensure Stream’s offerings can support both the current and future technical needs of Stream’s clients, the company said in a statement.

Lawrence brings more than 20 years of mission-critical mechanical systems experience to his new job, and the company said he will ensure that Stream’s data center customers can meet their demanding availability and sustainability targets. Stream said he will collaborate closely with customers and industry experts to ensure Stream Data Centers’ facilities remain competitive in today’s rapidly evolving environment.

“Stuart will be working alongside Stream’s highly experienced engineering and construction teams, to continue to innovate and deliver energy and capital efficient data centers that exceed our customers’ ESG targets and ROI goals — while delivering at the scale and velocity they require,” Stream’s Co-Managing Partner Paul Moser said in a statement.

Fidelis Companies Adds New VP of Operations

Eden Smith

Eden Smith has joined Plano-based Fidelis Companies LLC as vice president of operations.

Fidelis is a national consulting and executive recruiting firm specializing in direct hire and contract placements for information technology, biopharmaceuticals, and engineering.

In her new role, Smith will be a crucial figure in Fidelis Companies’ growth and will help position the company for the future, including adding additional service offerings in emerging technologies, Fidelis said in a statement.

Before joining Fidelis, Smith spent the past 10 years with Adecco Professional Recruitment/LHH, an integrated talent solutions provider. During her time at Adecco/LHH, where she held multiple titles, including director of operations, managing director, strategic director, and executive recruiter.

NEC Corp. of America Names New VP of Engineering

Steve Lizotte

Irving-based NEC Corp. of America announced that industry veteran Steve Lizotte has joined the provider and integrator of advanced IT, communications, networking, and biometric solutions, as vice president of engineering.

Lizotte brings with him more than 22 years of experience in biometrics, software engineering, business transformation and developing high-performing teams, the company said in a statement.

Previously, Lizotte led software development and program delivery activities for the Identity and Security business at Idemia, where he was responsible for all development activities for biometric and digital identification systems and services used by state and local law enforcement, state departments of motor vehicles, and government background check programs.

“As the industry leader in many critical areas, NEC biometrics and advanced recognition systems are used around the world across multiple industries. Steve is a proven leader driving innovation and leading multidisciplinary teams through solution development, testing and quality.” said Eugene le Roux, VP of international operations and domestic government for NEC’s Digital Services business group.

Clockwise from upper left: Arlene Ford, Lynn McBee, Patricia “Pat” Jasso, Patricia Rodriguez Christian, Stacy Johnson, Sherri Kermanshachi, and Thana Simmons. [Images via Texas Womens Foundation]

Texas Women’s Foundation Honors Leaders at Forum, Awards Celebration

Texas Women’s Foundation held its Leadership Forum & Awards Celebration, presented by AT&T, on April 26 at the Dallas Omni Hotel and raised more than $600,000 to help lift up women and girls.

Miki Woodard, president and CEO of Texas Women’s Foundation, said “As we strive to meet the moment where we are all navigating various forms of a ‘return,’ we offered it as an in-person and online event and added an afternoon of forums from the seven honorees.”

Hilda Galvan, Board Chair, Managing Partner of Jones Day Dallas and Awards Selection Co-chair, and Brenda Jackson, Awards Selection Co-chair, presented the Maura Women Helping Women Award to five women:

Patricia Rodriguez Christian was honored for her passion in making diversity and inclusion a priority in all endeavors.

Dr. Arlene Ford received the award for recognizing the need for inclusive and equitable policies and practices within our school systems and organizations and bring transformational change in those institutions to build bridges.

Pat Jasso was recognized for her tireless work for gender equity and representation in leadership and commitment to amplifying women in political office.

Lynn McBee received the honor for leading efforts in creating opportunities for marginalized communities and for empowering the next generation with limited access by equipping them with the tools and opportunities to be leaders.

Thana Simmons was honored for her deep dedication to serving and supporting teen mothers and for her heart in providing resources for these families by providing housing and education.

Two women under the age of 40 were also recognized for blazing trails to help other women advance in leadership.

Stacy Johnson and Sharareh Kermanshachi were recognized with the Young Leader Award. Johnson was honored for pursuing her dream to create a safe place to help foster children and young adults have a home and resources so they can thrive. Kermanshachi was honored for leading the way in furthering more diversity in STEM programs to bring more women and people of color with talent into top positions in this field where they are underrepresented.

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