A little over a month after the resignation of Frank Hugelmeyer as president and chief executive of the Outdoor Industry Association of the U.S., Emerald Expositions announced earlier this month the departure of Kenji Haroutunian as show director of Outdoor Retailer. In an e-mail from the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, which he is attending, Hugelmeyer tells us that he was surprised by Haroutunian's departure and that the timing was a pure coincidence.

Haroutunian is being replaced at the head of OR by Marisa Nicholson, group sales director of Emerald's Sports Group, which also includes Interbike and the Sports Licensing and Tailgate show. Nicholson has been involved with the OR show for 11 years. At the Sports Group, she has run a team of ten account executives for the various fairs.

A mountaineering enthusiast, Haroutunian has been with OR for 15 years, the last seven running the show. He reported to Nielsen Expositions, which was sold in mid-2013 to Onex Corp., a private Canadian equity firm that renamed the company as Emerald Expositions.

Haroutunian and Hugelmeyer worked closely together to build up the OR show in Salt Lake City, widening the range of sports and lifestyle categories covered and raising the number of exhibitors at its Summer Market up to a point where a question is rising about its future location.

The Salt Palace has become too small to accommodate everybody. Other venues have been mentioned as possible alternatives after 2016, and a decision on this is expected to be made early next year. Unless Salt Lake City can come up with a reasonable plan to cope with the growth in attendance and exhibition space, Chicago and Las Vegas appear to be the most likely candidates at this point to take over its place.

Emerald's management said that OR will continue to focus on the backcountry core of the winter market and continue to support the hiking, climbing, camping and paddling segment at its Summer Market, but did not discuss its widening scope except to say that the show needs to be “structured.” It also said that it wants to make OR more welcoming for first-time retail attendees as of next year by creating new programs and improving tools to assist in planning meetings, setting appointments and booth navigation.


Meanwhile, the OIA's board has appointed Steve Barker as interim executive director of the organization to take over Hugelmeyer's role while the search continues for a permanent successor. Barker has been on OIA's board for a decade and has been its chairman from 2001 to 2003. He founded Eagle Creek in 1975 and sold the company to VF Corp. in 2007.