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Benjamin Spillman

World Market Center's new chief extols rival mart in ad

1 February 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The rivalry between dueling furniture markets in Las Vegas and High Point, N.C., took a turn for the awkward this week.

A full-page ad in the trade publication Furniture Today featured the newly crowned CEO of World Market Center in Las Vegas singing the praises of High Point Market, bitter rival to the Sin City exhibition hall.

It features Bob Maricich, named Monday as a replacement to Harvey Dondero, calling the home of his employers' nemesis "a unique concentration of home furnishings knowledge and skills that simply doesn't exist anywhere else."

It's the furniture industry equivalent of University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Lon Kruger caught on video wearing a Wolfpack sweater and extolling the virtues of Reno in the springtime.

"I think the ad speaks for itself," said Brian Casey, president of the High Point Market Authority. "Up until Monday, he was a proponent of High Point."

The irony didn't amuse Maricich.

That's probably because his new job entails recruiting furniture and home furnishings companies to shell out big bucks to rent space in World Market Center.

A color ad in a glossy trade magazine that touts a competitor for his customers doesn't help. Adding insult to injury, the magazine was distributed during the World Market Center's winter market, one of two annual events that put the spotlight of the furniture business on Las Vegas.

"They were kind of a bit in disbelief that it was run," said Maricich, describing the reaction to the ad's appearance in the Jan. 30 edition of Furniture Today. "It is an ad that was made last July, and quotes that had been used were two years old."

Maricich made the ad when he was CEO of Century Furniture, a Hickory, N.C.-based maker of high-end residential furniture.

It was one of a series of testimonials by industry leaders on behalf of High Point, the traditional home of the American furniture industry and venue for the largest annual markets that bring professional buyers and sellers together.

Casey said there was no way he could have known Maricich would become chief of High Point's Las Vegas rival. By the time World Market Center officials made the announcement Monday, the ad had already been printed and much of the magazine assembled.

"But that doesn't change what he stated in the past," Casey said.

Nevertheless, Casey doesn't expect High Point to use the ad again.

And Maricich doesn't plan on starring in any World Market Center ads.

World Market leaders haven't announced their next campaign, but Maricich said it will focus on the development of what is scheduled to grow into a $3 billion, 12 million-square-foot furnishings venue designed to make Las Vegas a global epicenter for the furniture industry.

"The star here is the plan," Maricich said. "They don't need me."