Paul Thandi to become UK’s NEC Group chairman

The UK-based NEC Group has announced that Paul Thandi CBE, DL, is to step into the position of chairman after 16 years as CEO of the company.

It comes as the NEC Group announce several changes to its team. Current chairman Peter Phillipson will step down from the NEC Group board in September. As of 4 September, Melanie Smith CBE will take on the role of NEC Group CEO.

NEC Group Chief financial officer Richard Ashton will also step down from his position. Paul Reeve is expected to join the Group as CFO in October, with Ashton remaining in post until this time.

Thandi was appointed CEO in late 2006, bringing over 20 years’ experience in the media and events industries. The company said he has since transformed the business, secured record levels of growth and turned it into a customer-centric and data-led organisation.

Having increased its portfolio of businesses and venues during this period, the company now annually connects around seven million people at more than 750 events. Highlight events during Thandi’s tenure include the G7 Summit, Conservative Party Conferences, Crufts, Concert for Ukraine, Wireless Festival and last summer’s Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Under Thandi’s stewardship the NEC Group has made multi-million-pound investments, redeveloping both arenas, introducing greater digital and ticketing technology and enhancing its business intelligence capabilities. He has also agreed major commercial partnerships with organisations such as Genting and Merlin Entertainments.

In recent years Thandi also led the NEC Masterplan initiative and steered the Group from public sector ownership to private ownership through two management buyouts. The first was backed by LDC in 2015, and then a sale of the business in 2018 to the world’s largest private equity business, Blackstone.


New NEC Group CEO Melanie Smith was most recently the CEO of Her previous roles include strategy and services director for Marks & Spencer, global strategy and marketing director at Bupa and chief operating officer at TalkTalk. Prior to this, she was a partner in McKinsey’s consumer practice. In her spare time, she is also the deputy chair of Sadler’s Wells and the Remco Chair of SSE.

Of his move, Thandi said: “To be at the helm of this incredible business for so many years has been an honour and I look forward to maintaining a key role in driving the growth of the Group. We have been lucky to secure Mel to take on the leadership position. The importance of our people and my belief in giving them the best leadership, support and strategy, are all values that Mel shares close to her in her business and personal life, and I look forward to working with her over the coming years. It has been the greatest pleasure being CEO – there are more incredible things to come for the NEC Group.”


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