Business News

Janet Dell Makes History as Freeman’s First Female CEO

Janet Dell, president & chief operating officer, Freeman

Skift Take

In its 96-year history, Freeman has never been led by a woman, but that is about to change. On July 1, Janet Dell takes the helm and will oversee one of the largest event companies in the world.

Janet Dell, Freeman’s president and chief operating officer, will succeed Bob Priest-Heck as CEO on July 1, 2024. At that time, Priest-Heck will step down as CEO and retire. He will continue as a member of Freeman’s Board of Directors.

Freeman’s 2022 revenue is estimated at just under $3 billion. It has around 5,000 full-time employees and many more contractors. Freeman made two significant acquisitions in 2023, Impact Point Group, a tech-focused events company, and brand experience agency Sparks.

Dell joins a small group of female leaders holding top roles in the events industry. This is the first time a woman has led Freeman in its 96-year history although Carrie Freeman Parsons has been chairperson of the board for several years.

Dell has held multiple roles since joining Freeman in March 2018. She currently leads the company’s long-term strategy execution across the globe. Coming out of the Covid pandemic, she architected the ramp-up of the team by rehiring 95% of furloughed employees, and onboarding over 3,000 new employees, resulting in record revenue growth.

“Since Janet joined Freeman in 2018, she has transformed Freeman in ways large and small. She has instilled a data-driven approach to decision-making, cultivated an integrated operating model to drive better cross-team collaboration and customer experience, and made meaningful strides to expand and diversify our workforce,” says Priest-Heck.

Bob Priest-Heck

A part of the events industry for 35 years, Priest-Heck began his career in tech publishing. He went on to create tech events, including Digital World, Networld + Interop, JavaOne, Java World Tour, and Web 2.0. He joined Freeman in 2011 with the acquisition of Wheelhouse Solutions and became CEO in 2018.

Priest-Heck’s focus on sustainability meant that Freeman was one of the first companies to sign the Zero Carbon Events Pledge. He also created “Go LIVE Together“, a group that helped facilitate legislative action during the Covid pandemic.