CEDAR RAPIDS — GO Cedar Rapids is looking to its new interim director, who has a strong background in finance, to lead the troubled tourism bureau out of the giant financial hole left from newbo evolve.
Jim Haddad, a former Yellowbook USA executive and financial consultant, was named interim chief executive officer on Monday, just days after the firing of the organization’s former chief and its creative director of the three-day festival, which lost $2.3 million.
Not having a tourism background, Haddad, who was at the GO Cedar Rapids’ office first thing Monday morning, said his job is to support the nine-person staff in continuing to provide core services and to work with stakeholders to develop a strategy to maintain the organization’s mission of promoting the city and repaying creditors and vendors — possibly over several years.
“I am doing this because I want to do it, not for the money I’m getting paid,” Haddad, 61, told The Gazette on Monday, adding later that he “agreed to take on the challenges, but I made no promises.”
The tourism bureau’s future is in doubt after the first-time festival racked up debt and unpaid bills. Members of GO Cedar Rapids’ board of directors have said they are committed to repaying what is owed. GO Cedar Rapids owes money to the city, a $1.5 million loan to Bankers Trust and an unidentified list of vendors, and has no cash reserves, board chairman John Myers told The Gazette.
Haddad replaces Aaron McCreight, who was fired after overseeing newbo evolve, held earlier this month. The event featured headliners Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson, Olympian Adam Rippon, fashion designer Carson Kressley, HGTV personality Clint Harp, and filmmaker John Waters. The board cited the loss and being mislead about ticket sales, spending and sponsorships in explaining the firing.
McCreight fired Scott Tallman, the creative director of newbo evolve, days after the festival.
Haddad said he hopes to have a plan of attack within two weeks and foresees himself in the role of interim director no longer than three or four months. If a suitable candidate is found sooner, Haddad said he would step aside and limit his focus per the board of director’s wishes.
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Among his first tasks are to meet with Mayor Brad Hart, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz and Bankers Trust.
Haddad’s background is in operations and finance. He is mainly retired but has a consulting firm, Haddad Consulting Services Inc., for occasional jobs, such as this one, he said. He also has served on several boards, including United Way.
The lifelong Cedar Rapidian and University of Iowa graduate was an early employee of the startup Teleconnect Directory Company in the mid-1980s, which grew into Yellowbook. Haddad served as chief operating officer and more recently chief financial officer.
“Based on his strong financial and community-minded background, I have full confidence in Jim’s ability to lead the daily operations of GO Cedar Rapids and work through the financial challenges facing the organization,” Myers said in a statement. “As someone with no prior association with GO Cedar Rapids, Jim can provide independent analysis and the leadership necessary to move forward in a transparent way.”
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