Wisconsin 275
Wisconsin 275
BizTimes Media

Gary Witt

Hospitality | Entertainment
President and CEO
Pabst Theater Group | Milwaukee

Gary Witt was handpicked by entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Cudahy in 2002 to lead the Pabst Theater in downtown Milwaukee. Today, Witt oversees the group of music venues that includes the Pabst, Riverside Theater, Turner Hall Ballroom, The Backroom at Colectivo and Miller High Life Theater. Pabst Theater Group, which has about 350 employees, hosts nearly 700 shows and events annually at its own venues as well as Fiserv Forum, the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and Bradley Symphony Center. Witt was a vocal advocate for music venues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, sounding the alarm on the lack of financial support available to the hard-hit live entertainment industry.

Education: High school

First job and what you learned: “Peeling potatoes to make amazing French fries at a great hot dog place. Persistence. Every job is worth doing.”

Two business leaders you would want to have dinner with: “Steve Jobs and John Doerr. Because I want to continue to grow to become even more intentionally restless, with ferocious curiosity and have an even better ability to execute.”

Toughest business challenge you’ve ever faced: “The 100% shuttering of our business due to the pandemic. A few of us started a trade group called NIVA. I hired a major lobbying firm (Akin Gump) and we were able to obtain $16 billion dollars from the federal government to help to save the independent concert venues in America.”

As you enter your office, what would you choose to be your walk-up song or theme song? “Van Morrison, ‘Spanish Steps.’”