Team San Jose, along with its board of directors, have announced the passing of Karolyn Kirchgesler, president and CEO. The entire Team San Jose family, which includes the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, the collection of San Jose Theaters and Visit San Jose, extend their condolences to the Kirchgesler family and to all of her loved ones. Kirchgesler was diagnosed with cancer in October 2019 and officially stepped back from her role as CEO of Team San Jose in a heartfelt video message this April.
John LaFortune, COO of Team San Jose, has been leading the organization since the announcement.
Kirchgesler served as president and CEO of Team San Jose since September 2013. Under her leadership, Team San Jose's gross operating revenues for the organization grew 165 percent, from $23.8 million in fiscal year 2012/13 to $63.1 million in fiscal year 2018/19 and the gross operating results grew by 194 percent, from $4.8 million to 14.1 million. Through a concentrated sales strategy, San Jose was able to attract events by such iconic brands as Apple, Google, Facebook, Intuit, NVIDIA, NetSuite, Adobe, Oculus, Twitch and Atlassian. Embracing the importance of destination management and marketing, Kirchgesler launched the Visit San Jose leisure travel destination brand in 2016 that contributed to a 77 percent growth of citywide hotel revenue over a five-year period.
Kirchgesler became an important leader in the community. She served as a board member of the Silicon Valley Organization, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, San Jose Sports Authority and was vice chair of the San Jose Police Foundation. She also partnered with the City of San Jose, San Jose Sports Authority, San Francisco 49ers, San Jose Sharks and San Jose Earthquakes to help San Jose be recognized as a true sports destination, hosting WrestleMania 31, Super Bowl 50, the 2016 Major League Soccer All-Star Game, the 2019 College Football Championship Game and the 2019 National Hockey League All-Star Weekend. Her efforts were recognized by being honored as the 2019 Businesswoman of the Year by the SVO and a 2014 Woman of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
Most recently, she was also inducted into the 2020 Destinations International Hall of Fame as a leader who has advanced and improved the destination industry through her leadership, innovation and creativity. Kirchgesler has dedicated her entire career to the travel and tourism industry and has been on the board of the U.S. Travel Association, Cal Travel and Destinations International.