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Silver Dollar City announces new CEO

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by Melissa Wilson

SBJ Staff

After a nationwide search that involved screening more than 200 candidates and interviewing 40, Silver Dollar City Inc. announced Nov. 25 that Mel Bilbo, 49, of Los Angeles, has been named chief executive officer and president of the Silver Dollar City Corporation. Bilbo will join Silver Dollar City Jan. 11.

Cary Summers, Silver Dollar City's previous CEO and president, was with the company for five years.

Bilbo comes to Silver Dollar City from the Walt Disney Company, where he oversaw the development and execution of DisneyQuest, a line of 35 interactive family recreation centers set to open in 1999.

"Mel is considered by the attractions industry as a leader in developing interactive family entertainment centers," said Jack Herschend, co-owner of Silver Dollar City, in a press release.

Bilbo's 30-year career in the attractions industry includes holding top management positions in companies such as Sea World Inc. in Orlando, Fla. and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va.

His experience also includes overseeing full-time management staffs of more than 1,000 and total staffs of more than 15,000.

While at the Walt Disney Company, Bilbo also worked with Disney's Imagineering Group.

"'Imagineering' is an industry term coined by the Disney Company referring to the engineering and planning process behind their attractions," Herschend said.

Herschend said there are no immediate plans for further staff changes after Bilbo arrives in January.

"Mel recognizes the outstanding talent already within the Silver Dollar City organization," Herschend said in the release. "He will be an excellent team player who sees his job as one who serves the existing staff by finding needed resources and clearing away obstacles."

Bilbo plans to move to the Branson area soon with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Rebecca.

"There is no company and no family that has a better reputation in our industry than the Silver Dollar City Corporation and the Herschend family," Bilbo said in the release. "I have admired this organization since I first visited in the late '70s."

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