Las Vegas -- Manny Cortez, who as chief of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) helped build this city into the country's number-one meetings destination, died at home here Sunday of a heart attack. He was 67 years old.
Cortez served as the LVCVA's president and chief executive from July 1991 until his retirement, in May 2004. The LVCVA, which operates the Las Vegas Convention Center in addition to marketing southern Nevada, is by far the country's largest convention bureau, with 513 employees and an annual budget of nearly $228 million.
During Cortez's tenure at the LVCVA, convention, trade show, and meetings in Las Vegas grew annually from 1.8 attendees combined to 5.7 million. The number of overall visitors grew from just over 21 million to 37.4 million, and the number of hotel rooms increased 70 percent, to 131,000.
"There is no question Manny's leadership helped make the LVCVA the world's most lauded destination-branding organization and helped chart the path of success enjoyed by the destination today," Cortez's successor, Rossi Ralenkotter, said in a statement yesterday. "We are all grateful for the tremendous contributions he made during his tenure here. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to his family."
A Las Vegas resident since 1944, Cortez was first elected to the Clark County Commission, the county's highest elected body, in 1976 and went on to serve four terms. He joined the LVCVA board of directors in 1983 and served as chairman from 1985 through 1990.
Among the many industry accolades he received during his career, Cortez in 2003 was named one of MeetingNews' 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, Catholic Church, with burial thereafter at Palm Mortuary and Valley View Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Manuel J. Cortez Elementary School or the Children's Advocacy Alliance.