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New Day Dawns For The Nationwide Marketing Group

LAS VEGAS — There’s a new sheriff in town in Las Vegas, as members and vendors attending the Nationwide Marketing Group’s PrimeTime convention here this week are learning.

For the first time in the organization’s 44-year history, a non-founding father – newly named CEO Dave Bilas – is running the show.

Indeed, the last members of the first-generation management team — Robert Weisner, who helped create the current group, and Les Kirk, who directed its finances for some 15 years — have now retired as co-CEOs.

The two have been succeeded by Bilas, a former GE Appliance exec who was promoted from president/COO, and by executive VP Jeff Knock, who was promoted to chief commercial officer.

In addition, senior electronics VP Tom Hickman and member services senior VP Frank Sandtner were both named executive VPs.

Dawn Carpenter continues on the executive team as chief financial officer.

The new management team is taking the helm as the CE, appliance and retail industries face epochal changes that present unprecedented opportunities for dealers, Knock said. To that end, Prime- Time, held under the theme of “Game Changer,” will emphasize the group’s aggressive Prepare For Share (PFS) strategy, designed to wrench sales from local competitors. (Visit for the latest reports from the show.)

The management changes follow a three-year succession plan by the $15 billion merchandising and marketing group for independent dealers.

“This transition once again demonstrates Nationwide’s knack for seamless succession,” said Bilas, a former GE sales VP who joined the group in 2011. “Our entire leadership team looks forward to the exciting challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Knock, an ex-Electrolux sales director who also joined Nationwide in 2011, added that the group is “even more prepared to guide the continuous evolution of our … strategies, enabling us to meet the evolving needs of our members and vendor partners. We see the timing of this transition as a great fit with overall industry shifts, presenting our group with tremendous growth opportunities.”

Weisner and Kirk will continue as executive directors of the group, which they helped grow to some 3,800 independent dealer members with over 11,000 storefronts.

Weisner follows his brother-in-law and Nationwide co-founder Ed Kelly, who retired in 2011. The two met when Weisner went to work for Kelly’s father’s business, Ed Kelly Appliance & TV, which they later acquired. The company — along with hhgregg, P.C. Richard & Son, and Lee Guttman’s Wonder Sales — was a founding dealer of Nationwide forerunner Nationwide TV & Appliance Associates, created in 1971.

Kelly and Weisner separately founded the Southeastern Businessman’s Assn. (SEBA), which later merged with Nationwide to form the present-day Nationwide Marketing Group (NMG). The brothers-in-law took the helm in 2003 following the death of president and co-founder Guttman.

Kirk formally joined the team about 15 years ago after his consultancy, RFS, began providing financial services to Nationwide members in the late 1990s.

Visit for the latest reports from the Nationwide show.