Geoffroy van Raemdonck
CEO, Neiman Marcus Group
Geoffroy van Raemdonck, sitting behind a wooden oval table he uses as a desk in his office above Neiman Marcus’ flagship store in Dallas, has all the feels for his customers. “They come to us because they believe that we know what’s right for them,” he says. “They know we’re going to delight them. We’re in a relationship of love.”
It has been just about a year since the 45-year-old native of Belgium took over as CEO of the Neiman Marcus Group, which also includes Bergdorf Goodman department stores and the German luxury e-commerce retailer MyTheresa. Van Raemdonck brought with him a long resume of managing major fashion brands like Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton in North America and Europe. He holds multiple master’s degrees in business, including an MBA in entrepreneurship and strategy from the University of Chicago, and he spent nearly a decade advising companies with the Boston Consulting Group. He enthusiastically discusses his expectation that advances in the technologies of data mining and artificial intelligence will improve Neiman’s interactions with its customers. He’s fluent in the business-speak of “runways” and “tranches,” “scaling up” and “capital structures.”
Yet the words that seem to bubble up more than any others when van Raemdonck outlines his vision for extending the reach of Stanley Marcus’ iconic brand well into the 21st century are “delight” and “love.”
“You can’t love many people; it’s personal and reciprocal,” he says. “We have a history of incredible service—but to a small amount of customers. So, our best customers buy everything luxury with us, and then we give them a service that goes above and beyond.”
Van Raemdonck is as impeccably dressed, as one would expect a Neiman’s executive to be. On his 6-foot-3-inch frame he’s wearing a navy suit, blue tie, and checkered shirt, with just the right amount of pocket square peeking out of his jacket front. A glass of mineral water sits just to his right on the table, beside two open bottles of Acqua Panna. Not long into the interview, an assistant brings in a glass teapot, cup, and a small dish from which van Raemdonck spoons honey into his tea. Along the wall behind him, a rectangular table holds a pile of papers, his office landline, and a small collection of books, among them The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth and Stanley Marcus’ 1974 memoir, Minding the Store.
The challenge of stepping into a role once occupied by a retail legend like Marcus was enticing enough to lure van Raemdonck, along with his husband and 3-year-old twin sons, to Dallas. He says he and his family have been impressed by the close-knit sense of community they’ve felt living in the city’s Lakewood neighborhood.
“What attracted me was really, what is the Neiman Marcus of tomorrow that builds on everything that exists today?” he says. “There’s a recipe that works. There’s a purpose, but we need to make it relevant today.”
Neiman’s also needs to find a way not to be hampered by the $4.5 billion debt it carries as a result of the 2013 leveraged buyout by its private equity owners. A possible sale to Hudson’s Bay Co. (owner of Saks Fifth Avenue) reportedly fell apart in 2017 because of the heavy debt load. In early March, Neiman’s reached an agreement with its creditors to delay by three years the repayment of nearly $3 billion that had been set to come due late in 2020.
Van Raemdonck presents himself as undeterred by the obstacles to achieving his declared goal of fundamentally transforming the ways customers can interact with the Neiman Marcus brand, both online and in stores. The company has forged partnerships with startups and with Google to increase its ability to collect data about its customers and to predict (via AI) what they do and don’t like. Neiman’s newest store—its 43rd—opened in March as an anchor of New York City’s much-heralded Hudson Yards development. It’s intended to serve as the brand’s first “store of the future,” where technological integrations and more intimate-feeling spaces are tested. The concepts that work best could be incorporated into existing stores.
“I have to have every customer who shops in stores to shop online, and I have to have everyone who goes online to go into stores, because the simple math is, those customers spend four or five times more,” van Raemdonck says. That means making it possible for shoppers to seamlessly transition from the e-commerce to the in-store experience. Or, as he puts it: “The real consumer-centric way to address this is to say, ‘I’m going to love you unconditionally.’”
President and CEO, Evoque Data Center Solutions
Evoque was born of last year’s $1.1 billion acquisition of AT&T’s 31 data centers by Brookfield Infrastructure Partners. Tim Caulfield, who got his undergrad at Clark University and MBA at the University of Oregon, moved from San Diego to set up shop in North Texas. “It made sense for us to be in Dallas to work closely with AT&T on the transaction,” he says. Caulfield praises the caliber of local talent: “We have hired a number of rock stars who were local.”
President and CEO, Blucora Inc.
Former Charles Schwab & Co. executive John Clendening took the helm of Blucora Inc.in April 2016. The following year, he moved the company’s headquarters from Bellevue, Washington, to DFW. Blucora recently announced plans to acquire Dallas-based advisory rival 1st Global for $180 million. The ardent Green Pay Backers fan earned his undergraduate at Northwestern University and an MBA at Harvard.
President and CEO, Boeing Global Services
Stan Deal moved to North Texas from Seattle in the summer of 2017, just before Plano became the home to the fast-growing company he leads, Boeing Global Services. “This area is overflowing with talent and energy,” he says. “With a worldwide aerospace services market worth an estimated $2.8 trillion over the next decade, we see the industry as a whole growing exponentially, and want to take advantage of all the talent and resources that this area has to offer.” Deal earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Pepperdine University.
CEO, Rave Restaurant Group
Scott Crane led Smashburger’s growth from a two-unit startup to a global company with 330 locations. Now, he’s working his magic with RAVE Restaurant Group’s Pie Five, Pizza Inn, and PIE brands. “We’ve got an option that’s right for every consumer, in every market,” he says. Crane moved here from Denver when he was named president in January 2017. “Dallas has everything I could need or want for my business or personal life,” he says. “If we could just figure out how to have Colorado summer temperatures here in August, Dallas would be perfect.”
Ralph de la Torre
Chairman and CEO, Steward Health Care
Ralph de la Torre boasts an impressive academic resume: a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, master’s from MIT, and an MD from Harvard Medical School. By age 38, he was chief of cardiac surgery at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, but he gave up practicing medicine in 2008 to become CEO of Caritas Christi Health Care. Since 2010 he has run Steward Health Care, a for-profit hospital group owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Last August, the company moved its headquarters from Boston to the Arts District of Dallas.
Chairman and CEO, Jacobs
One of the world’s largest engineering companies, with 77,000 employees in more than 30 countries, Jacobs decided in the fall of 2016 to move its headquarters to Dallas from Pasadena, California. “We knew Jacobs would benefit from the business-friendly economic and cultural environment here,” says Steve Demetriou, who joined as CEO in August 2015. Jacobs occupies five floors at Harwood Center, and Demetriou says the company is proud to contribute to the revitalization of the city’s urban core. He and his wife have six grown children.
Former PayLease CEO Dave Dutch was looking for a very specific company to lead: “an early-stage, high-growth, SaaS product with a fun company culture, supportive ownership, and located in a great city.” He found what he was looking for in Dallas-based OrderMyGear, and became CEO in January, moving here from Traverse City, Michigan. Prior to his corporate career, he served in the U.S. Navy, where his job involved “jumping out of planes, deep-sea diving, and blowing things up.” He has a degree in ocean physics from the U.S. Naval Academy.
John “J” Hedrick
CEO, Pei Wei Asian Kitchen
Fast-casual Pei Wei’s August 2017 decision to move its headquarters from Scottsdale, Arizona, to Irving reportedly came shortly after its owners decided to separate the teams operating Pei Wei from sister chain P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. It also followed an executive team shakeup that included John “J” Hedrick’s installation as CEO in January 2017. A graduate of Georgia Tech, Hedrick previously worked for 7-Eleven, RaceTrac, and NPC International. “With an area as diverse as DFW, it’s a clear match between our team and the surrounding community,” he says.
General Manager, Edelman
As a schoolboy, Jorge Ortega encountered another kid in his class with the same first name. The boy suggested that he retain the Spanish pronunciation, while Ortega used the English equivalent. Ortega never bothered to change his name’s spelling, but “George” stuck.
The Florida native came to Dallas in March 2018 to run Southwest regional operations of Edelman, a global communications firm with about 6,000 employees. He works with clients around the Southwest from offices in Dallas, Austin, and Houston.
Ortega has logged more than 25 years of experience in the communications field. He has lived and worked in New York, Chicago, and Mexico City, spending most of his career helping brands communicate with their customers, employees, and stakeholders. What’s changed since he first got into the business, he says, is the level of direct access consumers enjoy. “You can be on an airplane, have a bad experience, and tweet about it, and five seconds later the company’s communicating with you,” he says. “It used to be that you’d have to mail a letter to the customer service department and hope someone got back to you within three weeks.”
Along with the chance to work for Edelman, it was the dynamic, growing business environment in Texas that convinced Ortega to relocate. The question he gets most often about his decision to move to landlocked Dallas with his wife and the youngest of his three daughters (the others are now adults) is: Do you miss the beach?
“I do miss the beach,” he says, but “the lifestyle here, the culture, the people, the hospitality, the professionalism—all the great things that Dallas has to offer, and Texas in general—I think make up for the sand and the beach.”
CEO, DCS Global Systems
Steve Huddleston ended 2018 with a relocation from Atlanta to Plano and a new job: CEO at DCS Global Systems, a healthcare revenue cycle management firm. He was president of service solutions for nThrive, which he helped form as a senior advisor with Pamplona Capital Management “My previous three companies had significant operational footprints in DFW, and I’ve always admired the business climate and the caliber of talent here,” he says. “It’s an outstanding place for a business with a national footprint.”
President and CEO, On The Border
Matt Hood was working for Brinker International back in the early 1990s when it acquired On The Border. So, when the chance came up last year to lead the chain, now owned by Argonne Capital Group, he jumped at the chance, moving from Irvine, California in 2018. It was like coming home for Hood, who grew up in Texas and got his undergrad at TCU (and an MBA from Northwestern). “The business environment is robust, the people are friendly, and everyone loves good Tex-Mex,” Hood says.
CEO, CORE Construction
After operating in DFW for nearly three decades, CORE Construction moved here from Phoenix last year. CEO Jim Jacobs said the decision came down to four things: availability of a highly skilled and educated workforce, quality of life, diverse and vibrant economy, and central location. It’s in temporary space while building a new headquarters in Frisco. Until moving here, Jacobs says he didn’t fully appreciate the massive scale of the region. “It’s vast in size, but also vast in opportunity,” he says.
Chairman & CEO, J.Hilburn
Andy Janowski became CEO of J.Hilburn, a custom menswear company, in February 2018, though he has been on the board since 2015. His background includes stints at Burberry, Smythson, and Escada in London, as well as 16 years at Gap Inc. in San Francisco. Working in North Texas for the first time, Janowski has been impressed by its affordability and the friendliness of its people. “Can’t beat that Texas charm,” he says. The Michigan State University grad and his husband have 6-year-old twins.
President and CEO, Ebby Halliday Cos.
Chris Kelly was named president and CEO of the iconic Ebby Halliday Cos. in October. The University of Kansas law school graduate comes to the real estate firm comprising the Ebby Halliday, Dave Perry-Miller, and WilliamsTrew brands from the Kansas City area, where he was most recently senior counsel for HomeServices of America, the Berkshire Hathaway affiliate that purchased Ebby Halliday last June. “DFW offers a pro-growth, pro-business culture,” Kelly says.
CEO, Humphreys & Partners Architects
No, she’s not an architect. Megan Dimmer says people are shocked when they learn that she’s CEO of an architecture firm, yet has never trained to draw building plans or design the sort of multifamily housing projects in which Humphreys & Partners specializes. Instead, her background is in sales, having spent the bulk of her 20-year career climbing the ladder with Lexmark, a business printer and printing services company with more than 10,000 employees worldwide. It’s the expertise she developed at Lexmark that Humphreys & Partners founder Mark Humphreys sought when he first hired Dimmer as vice president of business development, sales, and strategy in January 2015. “We are in the business of architecture, not in the architecture business; that has always been Mark’s theme,” she says. “I have the business background, and he really appreciates that, and I understood that strategy to grow the business and drive it.”
The idea that she would eventually take over for Humphreys as CEO, a role he’d held since starting the firm in 1991, enticed Dimmer to leave her longtime home at Lexmark to enter an entirely new industry with a much smaller (about 400 employees) company. For her first two years at Humphreys, she continued to live in Chicago, but she made the move to Dallas in July 2017 when she was named chief strategy officer. She was announced as Humphreys’ successor as CEO last November.
Her biggest surprise in her new gig has been how she has been embraced by the multifamily housing industry, which she describes as an unusually tight. “We absolutely get along with our competition, and we work on projects with them sometimes,” she says. “In my past life, I wouldn’t even go into a room with my competition.”
Owner and CEO, Smoothie King
A native of Seoul, Wan Kim first encountered Smoothie King while earning his bachelor’s degree at Boston University in the 1990s. He was so impressed that in 2003 he opened the first Smoothie King outside the U.S. and eventually grew to more than 110 franchises in South Korea, before buying the company in 2012. Last April, Kim announced the corporate headquarters would move from New Orleans to Coppell. “The access to strong talent and being in a leading area for franchising businesses, specifically in the food and beverage industry, makes this a great place,” he says.
President and CEO, Core-Mark International
Leading one of North America’s largest distributors of consumer goods, Scott McPherson has a fun “side business” of making pens. He hopes one day to sell them online. But those plans might remain on hold, as Core-Mark is still settling into its new Westlake headquarters, a move from San Francisco announced last September. “Our employees appreciate the friendliness of the people. Southern hospitality truly exists,” he says.
As CEO of Performics, Daina Middleton grew the Publicis-owned agency from $14 million to $150 million. She went on to head up global B2B marketing for Twitter, then worked as a leadership coach. Last October, she was named CEO of Dallas-based Ansira, one of the largest independent marketing technology and services firms, with about 850 employees. She and her husband moved here from Teton Valley, Idaho.
CEO, Medical City Children’s and Medical City Women’s
After three years as COO of West Florida Hospital, Jessica O’Neal seized the opportunity to return to Dallas in December. A graduate of Texas Christian University, where she played volleyball, O’Neal had previously spent 12 years at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, the last five as COO. She praises DFW’s hospitality. “The barriers to entry are not overbearing for businesses or individuals who are willing to work hard,” she says.
CEO, Emerald Transformer
Stuart Prior spent 31 years with ThyssenKrupp Elevator Corp., the last 11 working in Latin America. At the end of 2016, he joined Emerald Transformer, which relocated its headquarters from Florida to McKinney in early 2018. He didn’t expect to work in North Texas after leaving as a young man to attend the University of Tennessee. “I was actually born and raised in Dallas and never envisioned being back here,” he says. “It just happened.”
President and CEO, AMN Healthcare
Susan Salka grew up in a tiny Nebraska town filled with hard-working, salt-of-the earth people. “That’s where I learned my first life lessons and bedrock values,” she says. Salka has been likewise impressed by the supportive community she found after relocating from San Diego to AMN Healthcare’s Coppell office in the fall of 2017. There she joined 700 DFW employees of the nationwide medical staffing company, for which she has worked since 1990 and led since 2005.
CEO, Borden Dairy Co.
Taking the CEO post at Dallas-based Borden marked a return to North Texas for Tony Sarsam, whose three decades of food industry experience included several years as an executive for Frito-Lay in Plano. Since leaving the market in 2006, Sarsam held posts at Dreyer’s, Nestle, and Ready Pac Foods. “It’s fantastic to see how many headquarters DFW has been able to attract,” he says. “DFW has become a major hub for some of the largest, most respected brands in the world.”
JCPenney made Jill Soltau its new CEO in October, hopeful that the 30-year retail business veteran could lead a turnaround of the Plano-based department store chain that has continued to struggle, spending recent years cutting costs via layoffs and store closures. A former president and CEO of Ohio-based fabric and crafts retailer Joann Stores, Soltau’s retail background also includes stops at Sears, Kohl’s, and Shopko.
David Pillsbury moved from Boulder, Colorado, last June to take the reins of ClubCorp. His career includes posts at American Golf, Nike Golf, and the PGA Tour. “Dallas is a thriving city for business, hospitality, and golf—even more so now that the PGA of America is moving its headquarters to Frisco,” Pillsbury says. A father of five and grandfather of one, Pillsbury loves to cook and says he has been surprised by DFW’s restaurant scene. “There are so many great options,” he says.
Regional President, PNC Bank
Brendan McGuire is an entrepreneur at heart. So, after helping PNC Bank expand its Southeast operations, he jumped at the chance to work his magic in North Texas. He was named regional president overseeing Dallas-Fort Worth in late 2017 and moved here with his wife and teen daughters from Atlanta. “It was a great chance to build something super important for our company,” says McGuire, who also heads up corporate banking. “DFW’s impressive economy, entrepreneurial spirit, and growth were incredibly enticing. I knew PNC could be successful in a dynamic market like this.”
Although the bank has been active in the region for a while, its new expansion strategy brings the full scale of PNC to the market, with a focus on long-term, organic growth. A big part of its approach is to invest in the community. “Our primary passions are supporting early childhood education (through PNC Grow Up Great, our $350 million, bilingual initiative that helps prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life) and arts and culture,” McGuire says. “We aim to bring both financial resources and active leadership to these areas including knowledge, expertise and policy advocacy.”
McGuire, a graduate of Georgia’s Kennesaw State University, grew up in the “Space Coast” of Florida and dreamed of being a pilot or an astronaut someday. That dream has led to a lifelong passion for learning about the latest space science and innovations being developed, he says: “I read a ton of books about aviation and technology and was probably one of the few people awake for the entirety of the SpaceX launch to the International Space Station.”
CEO, JetSuite and JetSuiteX
Operating an air carrier that flies primarily out of four California cities (plus Las Vegas) from an office on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas might seem like an odd decision, but Alex Wilcox quickly ticks off the reasons for his companies’ departure from Irvine, California, in the summer of 2018: lower costs and taxes, a more business-friendly government, and a location that makes travel to either U.S. coast simpler. But it’s the talent pool of aviation professionals—thanks largely to being home to two of the world’s biggest airlines, American and Southwest—that makes DFW an especially suitable launching pad for the next phase of JetSuite.
Although Wilcox won’t say where the company will expand first, he expects to be flying around Texas within the next couple of years. “I have a view from my cubicle of Love Field. And watching airplanes take off all day long, none of them yours—once in awhile we have a private jet fly out of here, but that’s rare—is hard.”
A founding executive of JetBlue Airways, Wilcox has worked in the airline industry nearly his entire career. He has been JetSuite’s CEO since 2007.
President and CEO, McKesson
On April 1, the same day that Brian Tyler took the reins as CEO, healthcare supply giant McKesson officially shifted its corporate headquarters from San Francisco to the office it initially opened in Las Colinas in 2017. “We’ve been impressed by the talented employees we’ve hired in Dallas and believe there’s potential for even more growth, thanks to the deep talent pool,” says Tyler, who earned his master’s and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.
CEO, PGA of America
A former Deutsche Bank Americas CEO and father of five, Seth Waugh took charge of the association serving nearly 29,000 professional golfers last September. A few months later, the PGA announced plans to move its headquarters from Palm Beach County, Florida, to Frisco.
Dallas-based healthcare IT company T-System named Bob Wilhelm as its new CEO last August. A graduate of Georgetown University with an MBA from the University of Chicago, Wilhelm and his wife have two sons. “Dallas is such a vibrant, active city,” he says.
President and CEO, HilltopSecurties
Brad Winges spent nearly 30 years at Piper Jaffray, an investment bank in Minneapolis before moving with his family to become president and CEO of HilltopSecurities earlier this year. He says the move to Texas did require a sacrifice: “I had to give away my snowmobiles.”
CEO, Atos North America
Long a player in Europe, France-based Atos has ramped up its attempts to capture a greater share of the North American market for IT services. A year after it consolidated and relocated its continental corporate headquarters from the East Coast to Irving (in July 2017), Atos completed a $3.4 billion merger with competitor Syntel. While Atos was beginning to work out the Syntel deal, it was also talking to Simon Walsh about becoming its North American CEO. Taking the job in July 2018 required the native of England to move from New York City to Uptown. “One of the things I enjoy about working in the U.S. is that there’s a real can-do mindset that’s just an American thing,” he says.