Wesley Cullen Joins Oak View Group as International Venue Development VP

GLOBAL GROWTH: Sustainability will be key among Wesley Cullen’s responsibilities as Oak View Group as vice president of international venue development. (Courtesy Oak View Group)

Wesley Cullen, one-time general manager of the Coliseo de Puerto Rico, has joined Oak View Group as vice president of international venue development to help expand the company’s portfolio of sports and entertainment venues worldwide.

Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she had served as general manager of Casa Bacardi visitor center, Cullen starts immediately and reports to Brian Kabatznick, OVG’s executive vice president, business development, facilities international.

Her position involves identifying and developing new sports and entertainment venue opportunities and purchasing existing facilities. Cullen will report to Kabatznick and will assume her new role effective immediately.

Kabatznick said he’s thrilled to welcome Cullen to the OVG fold.

“We are working together to pursue opportunities globally and including Latin America,” he said.

Oak View Group is the parent company of VenuesNow and Pollstar.

Cullen has more than 20 years in the venues industry.

At Casa Bacardi, metro San Juan’s second-most visited tourism venue, she oversaw the visitor experience, brand, and promoted its sustainable production methods.

Cullen has a passion for sustainability, Kabatznick said, and will be involved in the sustainability programs for OVG’s Arena São Paulo in that Brazilian city’s Anhembi (entertainment) District.

“OVG is the leader in sustainability initiatives around the world for sports and entertainment venues and Wesley will help contribute to that,” Kabatznick said.

Recognized by Caribbean Business as one of Puerto Rico’s “Power 100,” Cullen is a VenuesNow Women of Influence honoree and has also garnered the “Ideas for Puerto Rico” award from ConPRometidos. Her résumé includes chief experience officer for the beachfront El San Juan Hotel. She also ran the 18,000-seat Coliseo de Puerto Rico and has managed international live events for World Wrestling Entertainment..

“Wesley is known as a positive disruptor and community leader who is passionate about the power of diversity and making good things happen,” said Francesca Bodie, president of business development, Oak View Group, in the hiring announcement. “I’m pleased to welcome her to our world-class team and excited to see her effectively accelerate our global growth.”

Other key players on the OVG international development team include co-chairwoman Jessica Koravos, who heads up Oak View Group International, COO Mark Donnelly, Steve Gottkine, who oversees international operations, and Sam Piccione, who oversees naming and commercial sponsorships.

Kabatznick said OVG is seeking opportunities to grow internationally in the unique post-pandemic economic environment.

“The opening of Climate Pledge Arena as the first (net) carbon-neutral arena in the world brought worldwide media attention and then the continued growth of OVG as a large developer of arenas around the world has led to a significant amount of inquiries from governments, developers who are interested to understand our business model to either buy, operate or build arenas on four continents,” he said.

Asked if certain parts of the world are more ripe than others for the kinds of projects OVG looks to get involved in, Kabatznick said the company looks at major market opportunities and historic events that have taken place within them “to understand what a renovated or new arena could look like.”

“Then we make our decision about which geographic areas we’re looking at, but obviously North America we’ve covered, in South America we’ve announced a new arena in São Paulo,” he said. “We are certainly looking at a number of opportunities in Europe. We’ve announced the new arena in Manchester (England), Co-op Live, which opens next year, the new arena in Cardiff (Wales) which will break ground shortly and we are doing some consulting work in the Middle East.”

The company is also pursuing opportunities in Australasia, he said.

Kabatznick said political and economic stability are on his wish list amid turbulent geopolitical straits in various parts of the world.

“But certainly I would say the first thing is an end to war,” he said. “Nobody ever though there would be an invasion of Ukraine and nobody thought we would be talking about this over half a year later.”