NCVC Adds Burke Nihill of Tennessee Titans, Barbecue Pitmaster Pat Martin, Jim Gingrich of Alliance Bernstein and Leesa LeClaire of Hilton Nashville Airport to Board of Directors

Belmont University’s Dr. Robert Fisher Continues Term as Board Chair.

NASHVILLE – Four new members have joined the board of directors of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp: Jim Gingrich, Chief Operating Officer at Alliance Bernstein; Leesa LeClaire, General Manager of the Hilton Nashville Airport; Burke Nihill, President and CEO of the Tennessee Titans; and Pat Martin, founder of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and Hugh Baby’s BBQ & Burger Shop.

Dr. Robert Fisher, president of Belmont University, continues to serve as chair of the board of directors for Fiscal Year 2020-2021. Other members of the Executive Committee include John Esposito of Warner Music Nashville serving as chair elect; Ronnie Smith of Regions Bank as immediate past chair; Kevin Lavender of Fifth Third Bank as Finance and Audit Committee Chair; and Kevin Green of Chartwell Hospitality as Sales and Marketing Chair.

“We are grateful these four distinguished leaders will be sharing their experience and expertise as the hospitality industry manages through enormous losses due to the global pandemic,” Fisher said. “They represent diverse and important sectors both within and outside the hospitality industry. They will guide the organization in helping industry partners operate responsibly during the pandemic, as well as in rebuilding the hospitality workforce and planning the return of tourism when the time is right. The hospitality industry is an important source of tax revenue for the city, and the board will be instrumental in helping it once again be a strong economic engine for Nashville and Tennessee.”

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Nashville’s hospitality industry was on an upward trajectory with eight consecutive years as a top global destination. A record 16.1 million visitors traveled here in 2019, and Nashville generated a record $7.5 billion in direct visitor spending last year. Since March, however, the NCVC found it necessary to hold consumer marketing and instead focused on building future business with convention and tour/travel clients. The NCVC is working to help industry partners manage government-mandated business restrictions and operate with health and safety as a top priority. The NCVC established the free citywide Good to Go program with Vanderbilt Health and Ryman Hospitality Properties to make Music City safer for employees, customers, and – when the time is right – visitors by providing coronavirus resources, information and support from leading infectious disease experts.

The four new board members join existing NCVC board members for FY 2020-2021: Patrick Chaffin, Ryman Hospitality Properties; Maneet Chauhan, Morph Hospitality Group; Eddie George; Ed Hardy, Hardy Media & Entertainment; Ken Levitan, Vector Management; Kimberly Lewis, Emerson Grace; Eric Opron, Omni Nashville Hotel; Dr. Jonathan Perlin, HCA; Ellen Pryor, Frist Art Museum; Brian Tibbs, Moody Nolan; and Marcus Whitney, Health:Further.

Ex officio members include: Butch Spyridon, NCVC; Charles Robert Bone, legal counsel; and Sarah Trahern, CMA.

The 23-member volunteer board are community and business leaders who represent diverse voices in the Nashville area. The board is charged with directing the organization’s work on behalf of the city, the members of the NCVC and the city’s vibrant hospitality industry.

James A. Gingrich

Jim Gingrich has been with AllianceBernstein for 21 years, serving in the positions of Chief Operating Officer as well as CEO and Director of Research of AB’s Bernstein Research unit. Prior to joining AB, he was a partner with the management consulting firm, Booz, Allen & Hamilton. He holds BS, MEng and MBA degrees from Cornell University. He currently is on the boards of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of Greater Nashville and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Leesa LeClaire

Leesa LeClaire is currently General Manager of the Hilton Nashville Airport. She is a 35+ year veteran of the hospitality industry, serving as General Manager for two hotels locally and a training and development consultant worldwide. Leesa was 2019-20 chair of the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association and serves on the State Hospitality TN board. She is a graduate of the Leadership Brentwood Class of 2014.

Burke Nihill

Burke Nihill is in his fifth season with the Tennessee Titans and his first as the team’s President and CEO, having previously held the roles of Senior Vice President of Business Operations & Chief Legal Officer, and Vice President and General Counsel. In his previous roles with the team, Burke oversaw the club’s legal and human resources functions and worked on club initiatives related to state and local government, company culture, and general business planning and strategy for both the Titans and Nissan Stadium. During his time with the Titans, he has participated in the negotiation of club contracts with team sponsors, media rights partners, stadium vendors, and major concert and event promoters. Burke also participated in Nashville’s bidding and planning efforts with respect to the 2019 NFL Draft.

Pat Martin

Pat Martin is founder of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and Hugh Baby’s BBQ & Burger Shop. He is nationally recognized for his efforts in preserving the rare and traditional cooking style of West Tennessee whole-hog and is one of the only pitmasters in the country practicing this particular style of barbecue. There are currently four locations of Hugh Baby’s throughout the Nashville area, and there are ten Martin’s Bar-B-Que locations across the country, including spots in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Martin is a longtime member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an organization that documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South, and an original member of the Fatback Collective, a group of restaurateurs, chefs, farmers, and writers advocating the benefits of heritage breed livestock. He currently lives in Nashville with his wife, Martha Ann, and their three children, Wyatt, Daisy, and Walker.


The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp

The mission of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp is to maximize the economic contribution of the convention and tourism industry to the community by developing and marketing Nashville as a premier destination. Visit the NCVC’s website at and follow us on social media: