Hallie Yavitch Hired as VP of Booking For Staples Center and Microsoft Theater
Cleveland Cavaliers executive will book and oversee market at two of Southern California's top grossing venues
Hallie Yavitch has accepted the position as vice president of booking for Staples Center and Microsoft Theater, the AEG-owned arena and the 7,100-seat theater that anchor the expansive L.A. Live campus in downtown Los Angeles. Yavitch spent more than 10 years working for the Cleveland Cavaliers and their home venue Quicken Loans Arena and was promoted to vp of event booking for the Cavaliers in 2017.
Yavitch will lead a restructuring of the booking and marketing teams at both venues that includes a number of internal promotions as part of a larger reorganization effort led by Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. Live which is also home to the Novo, booked by AEG Presents and Goldenvoice
"We have the opportunity on this campus to grow events and grow acts from our 2,100-seat Novo to the 7,100-seat Microsoft Theater and then on to Staples Center," Zeidman tells Billboard. "I want to create a booking department that's going to create events that encompass the entire L.A. Live campus while using all of the assets we have available."
Zeidman imagines creating signature events unique to downtown LA, like a branded barbeque festival for a major country artist, working with the many restaurants and retail concepts at L.A. Live and owners AEG, which operate the nearby LA Convention Center and are preparing a $1 billion renovation that includes a second hotel on the site of a parking garage and event deck at the mixed-use destination. Zeidman cites the success of the two-day Calibash earlier this month for Mega 96.3 FM with Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee as the model for future campus-wide activations at LA Live.
"Hallie (Yavitch) brings that kind of experience from Quicken Loans Arena where she booked concerts and created unique events," Zeidman says, explaining the organized booking and marketing departments "will be tasked with not only booking traditional events but also coming up with ideas to create events and then going to the agents and managers and promoters to form partnerships."
Yavitch is relocating to Los Angeles to take the position and will officially begin a few days before the Grammys, Feb. 10, at Staples Center.
"I'm looking forward to getting started with one of the biggest nights in music," Yavitch tells Billboard, adding that her time in Cleveland helped her prepare for her new role, saying "I had to fight sometimes to get shows to come to Cleveland and while Los Angeles is a must play market, we need to make sure the shows that come through LA play at Staples Center and Microsoft Theare."
The reorganization comes as the LA music market is heating up with several new venues including Banc of California Stadium, the new NFL stadium being built for the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood and continued compettion from the MSG-owned Forum.
"The market is changing and there are a tremendous amount of venues and competition," Zeidman said. "But what we are doing is less of a reaction to what's happening around us and more about examining whether we are really using all our assets properly."
That means growing partnerships with BET, which holds its annual BET Experience at L.A. Live, as well as creating events and festivals with their partners at Goldenvoice and AEG Presents. The reorg comes after the exit of several high profile individuals including Christy Castillo Butcher, who joined the Rams organization in October, and former vp Jenn Sandstrom who had been with AEG since 1997.
Staples Center also announced a number of promotions tied to the reorganization. Ignacio Guerra has been named vp of operations and parking and will be responsible for overseeing back-of-house operations and parking for the entire L.A. Live district and its surrounding tenants. Previously, Guerra served as the vp of parking and has been with AEG for 19 years.
Bill Garner has been promoted to senior director of parking for Staples Center, Microsoft Theater and L.A. Live. Garner was part of the original Staples Center opening team in 1999 and was most recently promoted to director of parking in 2012. Armen Dembekjian has been promoted to the newly created position of vp of event production for Staples Center and will oversee event management of an event once it has been booked and will be responsible for the supervision and coordination of union stagehands as well as all production elements. Dembekjian has been at Staples Center since 2005.
Wendy Funes has been promoted to senior director of booking for Staples Center and Microsoft Theater and will be responsible for the day-to-day oversight of booked events and managing relationships with promoters. Funes began her career at Staples Center in 2002 before eventually becoming director of booking for Microsoft Theater.
Christina Mikhail has been promoted to senior manager of booking & VIP services in a newly created role and will work closely with the Funes and Yavitch to maximize space usage and operational efficiency. Mikhail began her career at Staples Center in 2010 as an executive assistant.
Last month, Staples Center announced it had hired Amir Mertaban as its new general manager for the Microsoft Theater. Mertaban previously served as the general manager of the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside, Calif.
In 2018, Staples Center was the ffith highest grossing arena in the world, according to Billboard Boxscore, and the third highest in North America, selling nearly $80 millon worth of tickets for 59 concerts and special events. That same year, Microsoft Theater ranked seventh on the year-end Billboard Boxscore for theaters, with 69 shows generating $23.6 million.