ATLANTA (October 9, 2014)Georgia Aquarium announced today that hospitality guru Mike Leven will return to Atlanta, January 1, 2015, to become the chairman and CEO of Georgia Aquarium.  David Kimmel, who has served as president since 2010, and led all major construction of the facility for the past 12 years, has stepped down. The Aquarium also announced that Bernie Marcus, founder and chairman, will become chairman emeritus in 2015.

Mike Leven

“Mike returns to us at an exciting time, as we plan the Aquarium’s tenth anniversary in 2015, and as we open a new and entertaining SunTrust Georgia Explorer gallery late in the year,” Marcus added.  “Mike will fulfill all his responsibilities for Las Vegas Sands through the end of this year and then kick off 2015 with us.”

“I am grateful to Sheldon Adelson and Las Vegas Sands Corporation for allowing me to work for him at an amazing time of growth for his company,” Leven said.” I am looking forward to returning to Atlanta and Georgia Aquarium. The Aquarium has proven to be an important part of Atlanta and Georgia’s growth and recognition as a hospitality destination. Bringing visitors excitement, education and imagination has been its legacy for almost a decade.  My mission, and my commitment to Bernie and the community, is to ensure that tradition continues at the highest level.”

Explaining his decision to step down as chairman, Marcus said, “I am ready to give full control of the Aquarium to Mike and the senior management team, which will remain in place. It is time for me to move on from active management to my next level of involvement as chairman emeritus. Mike has remained on the Aquarium Board while he was in Las Vegas, so his return should be seamless.”

Leven, who previously served as vice-chairman of The Marcus Foundation, has a long and honored career in the hospitality industry, including president and CEO of US Franchise Systems, Inc. (USFS), the company he founded in 1995; president and COO of Holiday Inn Worldwide; president of Days Inn of America, and president of Americana Hotels. He was once named one of the “25 Most Extraordinary Sales and Marketing Minds in Hospitality & Travel.”

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ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the world’s largest and most magical aquariums with more than eight million gallons of water and the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of the Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards; offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. The Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.