Wisconsin 275
Wisconsin 275
BizTimes Media

Don Smiley

Hospitality | Tourism
Milwaukee World Festival | Milwaukee

When he retires at the end of 2023, Don Smiley will have served as chief executive officer of Summerfest operator Milwaukee World Festival Inc. for two decades. Smiley is credited with leading the rebuilding of Henry Maier Festival Park; the nonprofit operator made $160 million worth of investments in the festival grounds during his tenure. That work culminated in the recent rebuilding of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, which allows the venue to host more and bigger touring acts. Smiley previously served as chairman of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District from 2010 to 2017. He is also past president of the Florida Marlins.

Education: Bachelor’s, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

First job: “My first job was operating a newspaper route in Racine. I learned how important local journalism is to your community.”

Favorite destination: “Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and any golf or fishing destination with my son and friends.”

Toughest business challenge you’ve ever faced: “Managing through the 1994 Major League Baseball strike as the new president of (the Marlins) was a big challenge. Another challenge was dealing with the hundreds of issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019-2021 and its impact on the special event industry – and even yet today to some degree – while serving as CEO of Milwaukee World Festival Inc.”

Top of your bucket list: “To play Augusta National, home of the Masters, with my son. I would also like to own a minor league baseball team.”

Stay up-to-date with our free email newsletter

Keep up with the issues, companies and people that matter most to business in the Milwaukee metro area.

By subscribing you agree to our privacy policy.

No, thank you.
BizTimes Milwaukee