DI People: Wingstop, CollateralEdge, Meritize, and More Make Moves

In this week's roundup of hires and promotions in North Texas, you'll also find news from Sabre, Trive Capital, Dresner Partners, NuZee, TimelyMD, Meritize, JAMCO Interests, Unleashed Brands, OncoNano Medicatin, EarthxFilm.

Across North Texas, companies are promoting and hiring people for leadership positions.

Dallas Innovates covers prominent personnel moves in Dallas-Fort Worth businesses and nonprofits—from the newest startups to well-established companies. Here are the people moves tied to innovation and technology in the region.

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Sabre gets a new president

Kurt Ekert

Southlake-based Sabre is shaking up its leadership team. The provider of software and technology to the travel industry is separating the roles of president and chief executive officer, effective Jan. 3, to prepare for the future.

Kurt Ekert, who recently served five years as president and CEO of Carlson Worldwide Travel, has been named president. He’ll report to CEO Sean Menke, who currently holds both roles. 

In the new role, Ekert will oversee all aspects of business and technology operations, which includes the company’s digital transformation. He will also be responsible for travel and hospitality solutions, technology engineering, and Sabre Labs. In addition to Carlson Worldwide Travel, Ekert has held leadership roles at Travelport Worldwide, Gulliver’s Travel Associates, Orbitz Worldwide, and more.

Read more in our story.

OncoNano Medicine adds a national public health leader to its board

Brett Giroir

Southlake-based OncoNano Medicine, which is developing products that exploit pH as a biomarker to diagnose and treat cancer with high specificity, has appointed Brett Giroir, M.D., to its board of directors.

Giroir is a physician-scientist who has had a vast career improving improving public health and medicine. He previously served as the 16th Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Acting FDA Commissioner, and Admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He was also the U.S. Representative to the executive board of the World Health Organization and a member of the White House Task Force that responded to COVID-19.

Read more in our story.

Dresner Partners names a managing director to lead its Dallas market entry

Lindsey M. Wendler

Chicago-based Dresner Partners, a middle-market investment bank, has added Lindsey M. Wendler to its team to lead expansion into the Dallas market and the south-central U.S.

Wendler has vast experience in leading transactions across a range of industries and situations. Her expertise is in sell-side M&A advisory, buy-side M&A projects, restructuring advisory, refinancing, valuations, and capital raising. Most recently, she served in managing director roles at Skystone Securities and National Transaction Advisors. She also holds multiple leadership positions in Dallas including: president of the Alliance of Merger & Acquisition Advisors DFW Chapter, chair of AM&AA National Chapter Leadership Committee, member of AM&AA National Advisory Council, and more.

Read more in our story.

Trive Capital bolsters and expands its team

Kim Whitener, Jonathan Nunnaley, Andrew Frank, Nick Miner, and Tanner Cope

Dallas-based Trive Capital, a private equity firm that has approximately $3.6 billion in assets under management, has promoted three team members—Andrew Frank, Nick Miner, and Tanner Cope—to managing director and expanded its operations team.

As managing directors, Frank, Miner, and Cope will be tasked with identifying and evaluating investment opportunities, performing transaction due diligence, and working with management teams to implement operational and growth strategies.

“These individuals have made significant and sustained contributions to Trive’s growth and success,” Managing Partner Conner Searcy said in a statement. “We look forward to them taking on a greater role at the firm and within our portfolio.”

Trive has also hired Kim Whitener as chief financial officer and appointed Jonathan Nunnaley as chief compliance officer and head of special projects. Whitener will oversee finance, accounting, fund administration, and tax functions, while Nunnaley will lead firmwide strategic initiatives with a focus on growth objectives.

Read more here.

Wingstop names its first-ever chief people officer

Donnie Upshaw

Dallas-based restaurant operator Wingstop has appointed Donnie Upshaw, the current senior vice president of people, as its first chief people officer.

Upshaw has been with Wingstop since 2018. Since, he has been instrumental in instilling ‘The Wingstop Way,’ the company’s cultural values defined by service-minded, authentic, entrepreneurial, and fun. He previously led the purchase and renovation of Wingstop’s Global Support Center in Addison, a more than 75,000-square-foot, wind-powered space that support’s Wingstop’s mission to ‘Serve the World Flavor.’

“After nearly 4 years of transformational leadership and growth, I’m thrilled to congratulate Donnie on this wonderful achievement,” Wingstop Chairman and CEO Charlie Morrison said in a statement. “People are the foundation of our strategy and Donnie has made a tremendous impact on our talent framework and culture, which has propelled us forward with industry-leading growth.”

NuZee welcomes new advisors

Yoshinori Hashitani

Plano-based NuZee, the producer and co-packer of single-serve coffee products, has appointed Nobuyuki Idei and Yoshinori Hashitani as its newest advisors.

Idei is the current chairman of Quantum Leaps Corporation and former chairman and group chief executive officer of Sony Corporation. During his tenure as CEO, he led Sony through major transformation from a product manufacturing-centric company to a global digital organization. He has also served on the board of directors for companies such as General Motors, Baidu, Lenovo, and Nestlé.

Nobuyuki Idei

Hashitani is the vice-chairman and Co-CEO of Quantum Leaps Corporation. He also previously worked at Sony with Idei as the lead of the CEO Strategy Office. He has held several executive leadership positions, spearheading Sony Group brand management, general affairs, investor relations, corporate communication, and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

“I am honored to have Mr. Idei and Mr. Hashitani serve as special advisors for NuZee,” Masa Higashida, president and CEO of NuZee, said in a statement. “They both bring a wealth of experience to our company as forward-thinking leaders that have successfully led innovation and transformation of many reputable corporations and we look forward to the impact that they are expected to bring with their new roles, including to help NuZee continue to execute on its mission to be an innovative coffee company in the U.S.”

The company, which went public in 2020, moved its headquarters to Dallas-Fort Worth in 2019.

Read more here.

TimelyMD expands its leadership team

Dr. Andrew Kim, Jacki Craft, Mason Orr, Noel Geren, and Sarah Fink

Fort Worth-based telehealth TimelyMD, which focuses on improving the health and well-being of college students through virtual medical and mental healthcare, has recruited new executives following a $60 million investment from JMI Equity earlier this year.

Jacki Craft has been appointed chief people officer. Craft has more than two decades of experience leading the human aspect of emerging, high-growth businesses in finance and technology. Most recently, she was the vice president of Human Resources at Zix, where she was responsible for scale, growth, and optimization.

Noel Geren has been promoted to chief technology officer. In his new role, he will support the next stage of growth by helping to build and leverage TimelyMD’s proprietary TimelyCare technology. Prior to joining TimelyMD, he was chief architect of Teladoc, where he built the platform’s patient, provider, and care record technology stack.

Mason Orr has been promoted to vice president of finance, in which he supports and manages TimelyMD’s financial health and oversees long-term sustainability and growth strategies. Orr is a data-driven, analytical leader who has a vast background across the healthcare and financial services industries, which includes experience as a senior analyst for Southwestern Health Resources.

Sarah Fink has been named associate vice president of product marketing. Fink, a product and growth marketer, focuses on helping to develop product marketing and sales enablement programs. After several years with Ogilvy as a search strategist for Fortune 500 companies, Fink transitioned to in-house roles, where she assisted health tech companies in building their marketing and sales programs.

Dr. Andrew Kim, who has nearly a decade of experience working at the forefront of psychopharmacology research, has been named director of psychiatry. Kim is a board-certified psychiatrist who has expertise in delivering evidence-based approaches to psychological care. At TimelyMD, he is responsible for overseeing the telepsychiatry care of students.

Read more here.

Meritize grows its executive lineup

Kelly Birch, Beck Pryor, and Courtney Ramirez

Frisco-based Meritize, the developer of merit-based financing solutions and a platform that provides high-impact skills training, has promoted three employees and added to its executive team.

Beck Pryor, chief business development officer, was promoted to chief operating officer; Kelly Birch to vice president of marketing and analytics; and Courtney Ramirez to vice president of technology. John W. Watkins also joined the team as a senior advisor.

Pryor will be tasked with closely aligning operations, customer service, and business development to help Meritize expand its reach and success serving borrowers and training providers. She has a decade of experience in strategy and business development across a variety of sectors.

Birch’s role will involve unifying marketing with credit and analytics as a member of the firm’s executive leadership team. She will be responsible for positioning the firm to better serve new and existing enterprise customers through the integration of credit, analytics, and marketing.

Ramirez will oversee technical integrations and product design across the Meritize suite of borrower, school, and employer applications. She also serves as the chairwoman of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to enhance the Meritize culture, environment, and opportunities.

Watkins has decades of experience in risk management, credit analysis, portfolio strategy, and underwriting. He previously held roles as a senior risk management executive at Freddie Mac, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Citigroup.

Ashford Securities appoints new head of due diligence

Bart Malcom

Dallas-based Ashford Securities LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ashford Inc., has named Bart Malcom its new senior vice president and head of due diligence.

In his new role, Malcom will be responsible for all aspects of due diligence for alternative investment products. He will also be involved in the analysis of offering documents, portfolio composition and performance, distribution coverage and sustainability, financial models, legal and regulatory matters, and more. Malcom has some 25 years of financial services experience across the financial services industry.

“Bart is an important addition to our team and we are excited to have him on board,” C. Jay Steigerwald III, president and head of distribution, said in a statement. “With the skill sets and relationships he has fostered throughout his career, Bart has a great reputation in the industry, and we believe the broker-dealer community will enjoy working with him.”

JAMCO Interests appoints a CTO

Carissa DeSantis

Dallas-based JAMCO Interests LLC, the restaurant investment portfolio group, has named Carissa DeSantis its new chief technology officer.

DeSantis brings to JAMCO more than 15 years of experience as a technology and operational leader for global restaurant organizations. Most recently, she was the chief information officer at Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, where she led the technology group responsible for driving significant growth across all channels and brands. Before that, she led all restaurant technology for TGI Fridays.

At JAMCO, DeSantis will oversee all enterprise-wide technology and digital efforts across its brand concepts, which includes the Friendly’s and BRIX Brands portfolio (Red Mango, Orange Leaf, Souper Salad, Smoothie Factory, and Red Brick Pizza). She will also be responsible for integrating new tech and data analytics capabilities.

Unleashed Brands makes new hires

Abby Fogel

Dallas-based Unleashed Brands, the parent company of growth-oriented brands geared toward furthering child development, has hired Abby Fogel and Kristin Taylor as vice president of marketing and brand relations and senior vice president of real estate, design, and construction, respectively.

The newly created positions are dedicated to assisting with the company’s rapid growth plan.

Fogel will lead marketing for franchise lead generation, while helping each brand exceed its franchise development targets. She will also head Unleashed Brands’ new Franchise Development Leadership Accelerator program. Taylor will oversee the market planning strategy, site selection, real estate development, and the trajectory of new unit openings, in addition to real estate development and contract negotiations.

Kristin Taylor

Fogel has an extensive marketing background that began in 2015 at Soccer Shots. She later joined FranNet in 2020 and spent the past year as their director of marketing. Taylor has experience in real estate and asset management, specifically in managing large real estate development initiatives and strategies that enhance revenue growth and maximize return on investment. She previously served as EVP of real estate, design & construction for G6 Hospitality.

“As we move forward and continue to expand our reach, we feel lucky to add Kristin and Abby as vital additions to our leadership team,” Josh Wall, chief growth officer, said in a statement. “With Kristin’s impressive real estate background and Abby’s strong experience with marketing and franchise development in youth sports, they both address essential high-level needs that will elevate our team and diversify our capabilities as we transition to big things in 2022.”

CollateralEdge adds business analyst to its team

Warren Noble

Dallas fintech CollateralEdge is expanding its team after emerging from stealth this year with the hiring of Warren Noble as a business analyst.

Noble was most recently an associate credit analyst at BMO Financial Group. There, he managed a portfolio of 21 customers with a total bank exposure of $50MM+. He was also responsible for assembling the proper deal structure on a deal-by-deal basis.

“Outside of being a rock star when it comes to credit, what stands out about Warren is that he is unbelievably witty and quick on his feet in all situations,” CEO Joe Beard said. “He’s a great addition to the team.”

EarthxFilm Festival gets a new director

The EarthX Film Festival is moving to the Downtown Dallas Arts District for its 2022 series—and it’s named a new director.

Hayley Nenadal brings nearly two decades of experience at world-renowned festivals including Sundance and Telluride. She’ll head up festival programming and operations, and consult on film and documentary projects developed and acquired by EarthX to be distributed across its brands.

Nenadal joined EarthX four years ago after 10 years at Sundance in Park City, Utah. She’s also worked at the Mill Valley and Mountainfilm Festivals and at Industrial Light and Magic. She’s been on the production side of the camera, too—working on award-winning hits like “12 Years a Slave” and HBO’s “True Detective.”

Read more about Nenadal and EarthX’s recent moves here

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