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Ruth Eckerd Hall president announces retirement

Ruth Eckerd Hall is going to be looking for a new president and chief executive. Robert Freedman, who has held the top post at the Clearwater performing arts center for 13 years, announced Tuesday that he is retiring.

"It was time," Freedman, 66, said in a phone interview. "I don't have specific plans at the moment. I'm just looking forward to retirement."

During his tenure, Freedman presented more than 3,000 performances at the hall. It is one of the busiest U.S. venues of its size, having been named the top-grossing venue for theaters seating 2,500 or fewer for 2010 and the past decade by Billboard magazine.

Under Freedman, the nonprofit hall walked a tightrope to try to maintain a balance between the traditional performing arts of classical music, dance and theater and more commercial fare. In a press release, he cited commissioned pieces performed by Dave Koz and David Benoit, Pilobolus and Itzhak Perlman as highlights of his legacy. He also built up Broadway offerings, investing in shows and presenting first-run tours of Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Color Purple, Rock of Ages and Young Frankenstein.

Freedman presided over a $22 million capital campaign that covered the renovation and expansion of Ruth Eckerd and the opening of the Marcia P. Hoffman Performing Arts Institute that culminated with the hall's 20th anniversary in 2003. He was instrumental in the city of Clearwater's 2009 acquisition of the downtown Capitol Theatre, which the hall has been running.

The hall's net assets doubled under Freedman, the press release says. Tuesday, he said the assets were more than $20 million.

Freedman plans to continue on the job until the end of the year. Richard Bouchard, chairman of the hall's board of directors, said a national search will be conducted for a new CEO. Total compensation for Freedman was reported as $192,922 on the hall's 2008 tax return, the latest available.

Freedman is excited about retirement. He and his wife, Leslie, have a new grandson. "I've got this whole stack of books on my nightstand that I'm really looking forward to reading," he said.

Ruth Eckerd Hall president announces retirement 04/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 10:54pm]
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