ATLANTA (OCTOBER 22, 2019) – Georgia Aquarium announced today that Steve Koonin will be chairman of the board, effective December 3, 2019. Current chief executive officer and chairman, Mike Leven, is retiring from both his positions, but will remain on the Aquarium board.

Koonin has been an Aquarium board member since its inception almost 15 years ago, served on the marketing committee, and has been marketing chairman. He is the current CEO for the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club and has served in that capacity since 2014, where he represents the NBA team and State Farm Arena. 

“We are fortunate to have someone with Steve’s long-term relationship with the Aquarium follow Mike. We have had excellent leadership at Georgia Aquarium since we opened in 2005. Having Steve continue Mike’s work is important to the Aquarium and its team, so that we remain a destination that brings people from all over the world to Atlanta,” said Bernie Marcus, the Aquarium’s visionary benefactor.

Prior to joining the Hawks, Koonin spent 14 years at Turner Entertainment Networks and more than a decade at The Coca-Cola Company where he led marketing and worldwide advertising operations. In addition to being the newly-elected chairman of the board for Georgia Aquarium, Koonin sits on the boards for Rubicon Global, the Fox Theatre, GameStop, and is an executive committee member for the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

“I look forward to my ongoing involvement with Georgia Aquarium as the new chairman and I am honored to be in this position,” said Steve Koonin. “The Aquarium is a great organization to be a part of and I’m proud to continue Bernie’s vision and Mike’s work from the last several years.”

Mike Leven has been the Aquarium’s CEO twice in the Atlanta landmark’s 15-year history; first from 2008 to 2009, and most recently, since December 2014. Leven ushered in numerous enhancements and achievements in the last five years, including the sea lion exhibit and presentation theater, a revamped dolphin presentation, and its newest project, Expansion 2020 slated to open in fall 2020. Under his leadership, the Aquarium saw its best attendance records since opening in 2005.

“I have been lucky to serve Georgia Aquarium twice in its history and I’m proud of all of our staff and volunteers for their hard work in setting this organization apart from other destinations and educating the millions of our guests about our ocean,” said Mike Leven. “I know the Aquarium will be in good hands with Steve and the rest of our leadership. I am looking forward to continuing my work on the board for Georgia Aquarium.” 

Leven says he will continue his charitable work throughout Atlanta and the world. The Aquarium will continue the impressive work instituted from Leven’s years at the helm of the organization, and Aquarium senior leadership, including President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Handy and Executive Vice President of Operations Dr. Brian Davis, will work closely with Koonin.