World Market Center’s chief executive resigns

The chief of a top West Coast furniture trading market in Las Vegas has stepped down, leaving operators of the market to find someone else to lead their ambitious expansion and leasing plans.

Officials at the World Market Center announced Thursday that Harvey Dondero will resign from his job as CEO of the market, although he will remain involved as special adviser. Dondero, who held the CEO position for less than a year, is leaving to take a position with an unidentified furniture manufacturer.

Rumors of Dondero’s departure have swirled for days and prompted speculation about unrest or slow leasing at the multibillion-dollar marketplace in downtown Las Vegas.

On Thursday, Shawn Samson, one of the World Market Center’s developers, dismissed rumors and said tenants are lining up for the third building in the World Market Center complex, a 16-story, $540 million structure.

“There is no truth to anything negative about this,” Samson said, citing Dondero’s agreement to continue as special adviser to the center.

Samson attributed rumors to the World Market Center’s fast ascension in the $120 billion home furnishings industry. In just two years the center’s two yearly market events have grown to half the size of the High Point Market, the largest market of its kind with roots dating back to 1889 in North Carolina, an epicenter of American furniture manufacturing and trading.

“We have succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of many major companies in the industry. That may not be acceptable to some who have divergent interests,” Samson said.

World Market Center operators say they are already searching for a replacement.

Dondero is a Las Vegas native with a distinguished, 33-year career in the furniture industry. Before taking the CEO job in Las Vegas, he was chief executive at Broyhill Furniture Industries, a subsidiary of one of the nation’s top furniture makers. He left that position in North Carolina to return to Las Vegas and work at World Market Center.

His father, the late Harvey Dondero Sr., was a longtime administrator and educator with the Clark County School District. An elementary school in Spring Valley is named in his honor. His mother is former Clark County Commissioner Thalia Dondero, now a member of the university system Board of Regents.

“I saw the opportunity as a way for me to make the greatest impact on the industry and be a facilitator of change,” Dondero said in a Sept. 27, 2006, statement announcing his arrival at World Market Center.

Dondero was unavailable for an interview Thursday.

“I am privileged to be part of such a dynamic project that I know will continue to be an important force in the home furnishings industry. The developers have demonstrated a remarkable vision and have amassed an incredible team of professionals that will continue to ensure World Market Center’s success in the future,” Dondero said in a statement distributed by the World Market Center.

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