Zev Buffman Ruth Eckerd Hall President & CEO Announces His Retirement
Ruth Eckerd Hall President and CEO Zev Buffman announced to the Board of Directors, his retirement today after seven extraordinary years, as the visionary behind a substantial growth to the Ruth Eckerd Hall footprint.
“As I approach my eighty eighth birthday, I have been doing a lot of reflection on my life and my future and I have made the tough decision to retire,” Buffman said in a statement to the Ruth Eckerd Hall Board of Directors & staff. “As multiple long-term projects, like the major expansion currently underway and new opportunities at Coachman Park come to fruition, I am proud and confident these plans will move forward as envisioned. With the amazing team that is in place, I am reassured that my legacy will continue at Ruth Eckerd Hall. My time here with my Ruth Eckerd Hall family has been some of the most cherished years of my life. I’m looking forward to spending much needed quality time with my beloved wife of 56 years, our two wonderful children and our seven incredible grandchildren.”
Upon joining Ruth Eckerd Hall in January 2012, Buffman, working with the City of Clearwater, saw through the completion and re-opening of the Capitol Theatre in December 2013. He also announced several priorities, including major renovations to Ruth Eckerd Hall, bringing street festivals and concerts to downtown Clearwater and introducing several innovative programs for students to further their career in the entertainment field.
In 2012, he was instrumental in launching The GRAMMY Museum®’s Music Revolution Project®, a tuition-free, annual four-week program, which offers 20 to 30 talented youth, ranging in age from 14 to 19 years and from across the Tampa Bay region the chance to engage in musical workshops, songwriting courses, mentoring sessions and record original material that they’ve written. Over 100 students have participated in the program over the past six years.
In 2014, Buffman announced, the Expanding the Experience project, a Capital Campaign that will see $34 million in renovations at Ruth Eckerd Hall by the time of completion. Buffman was integral in cultivating relationships that led to securing the initial $19 million in funding from public and private contributions that helped see this campaign come to fruition. The Expanding the Experience project kicked-off with a $1.5 million renovation of The Murray Theatre, which included state-of-the-art upgrades and a reconfigured lobby and entry points. The next phase of the renovation included a total recreation of the Margarete Heye Great Room and an extensive renovation of the in-house kitchen.
The next major phase of the Expanding the Experience project began in June of 2017. The $11 million project, which is well under-way, includes the expansion of a six-times larger Grand Lobby with stunning floor to ceiling windows, new live music locations at The Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton Cabaret Theatre and Holt Family Stage, The England Family Welcome Pavilion, a two-story Dress Circle member lounge overlooking the Grand Lobby, The Raymond James Financial Ticket Office and an expansive six-lane Grand Entry. The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we want to thank Zev for his incredible passion for Ruth Eckerd Hall over the past seven years,” said Jana Jones, Ruth Eckerd Hall Chairman of the Board. “Personally, I have tremendous admiration for his enthusiasm and innovative spirit. A celebration of his contributions to our organization and the community is being planned for the near future.”
In charge of the day-to-day running of the organization is Interim President Susan Crockett, who has been an integral part of Ruth Eckerd Hall’s success as Chief Operating Officer. She will work with oversight by the Board of Directors, led by Chair Jana Jones. The board is forming a search committee to identify Ruth Eckerd Hall’s President and CEO.
During Buffman’s seven year tenure, Ruth Eckerd Hall experienced record-breaking ticket sales, as well as Ruth Eckerd Hall and The Capitol Theatre both being ranked #6 theatres in the world by industry trade publication Pollstar. #33 in the United States Concert Promoter, Ruth Eckerd Hall on the Road, saw substantial growth with the expansion of concerts at Coachman Park, in Downtown Clearwater, in partnership with the City of Clearwater.
“Zev Buffman brought to Ruth Eckerd Hall and Clearwater a commitment and energy that will continue to benefit the arts and each of us for years to come,” commented Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos. “I am proud to have been able to work with him.”
Buffman has produced more than 40 Broadway shows and 100 National Tours. His many Broadway hits include Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for its first run on Broadway. He also introduced Elizabeth Taylor in her Broadway debut of The Little Foxes, Dustin Hoffman in Jimmy Shine, Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit (winning her a fifth Tony Award®) and the official Broadway revivals of OKLAHOMA!, West Side Story, Brigadoon and Peter Pan.
Buffman has earned 29 Tony Award® nominations and won the New York Drama Critics’ award for Best Musical Producer. He has also served as President and CEO for many first-class performing arts centers including seven in Florida alone. Beyond performing arts, Buffman co-founded and became the first General Partner of the NBA’s World Champion Miami Heat.
Details of Buffman’s celebration will be announced soon.
Photo courtesy of Pedro Castellano.