Richard Harper, the longtime MGM Resorts International sales and marketing executive and a highly popular figure in the meetings industry, named twice as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry,” will leave his post as executive vice president of sales and marketing at the end of April and join meetings procurement and management firm HelmsBriscoe as an executive vice president.
“I had a good conversation with the MGM Resorts leadership. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, so it’s time to wind it down,” Harper told Successful Meetings in an exclusive. “Roger Helms [HelmsBriscoe founder and CEO] was able to offer a really exciting chance for me to refocus, reset, and rebalance while still be engaged in the meetings industry.”
Harper, who spent the last 12-plus years with MGM Resorts, will relocate from Las Vegas to Scottsdale, AZ, and join HelmsBriscoe on June 1. Along with serving on the company’s executive committee, he will be tasked with growing the company’s association business as well as developing and expanding its client base in all market segments in which the company operates. “I will be one more member of an already very powerful leadership team,” he notes of HelmsBriscoe.
His decision to join HelmsBriscoe, headquartered in Scottsdale, was as much a personal one as it was a professional calling. “My mother lives by herself in Scottsdale, and my wife’s mother lives there, too,” Harper notes. “It will allow me to live in a great community with my family, which is personally exciting. My mom is genuinely happy and very excited.”
A Certified Meeting Professional, Harper has been in charge of MGM Resorts’ sales strategies for the meetings as well as transient business and leisure markets. Prior to that position, he served as senior vice president of sales for MGM Resorts while maintaining his position as vice president of sales and marketing for Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. There, he oversaw operations for the 1.7-million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center, including convention sales, exhibitor services, and catering. He joined MGM Resorts in 1999 as vice president of sales for MGM Grand.
Harper is a 30-year hospitality industry veteran who has worked in food and beverage, guest services, catering, and convention services and sales. His career includes executive posts at Westin Hotels and Resorts. In both 2011 and 2006, he was named one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry” by Successful Meetings and sister publication MeetingNews, respectively. Another notable accolade occurred in 2004, when Harper was named one of the “Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing” by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI). He is a member of several other meetings industry trade groups.
After doing so much for the industry, Harper plans to “hang up the suit and tie for a little while.” His monthlong sabbatical in May includes plans to golf and getting to know his family again, he says.