Image of the Graduation stage during the ceremony

Bob Prattey

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Bob Prattey for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.  

Bob Prattey, Chief Executive of Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool, is being honoured today for his outstanding contribution to the economic and cultural regeneration of Liverpool. A high-profile business figure in the Midlands for many years, Bob was appointed in 2005 and has since been responsible for the set up and delivery of ACC Liverpool's corporate structure and profile in the UK's conference and arena markets. 

Under his leadership, ACC Liverpool has become a symbol of the city's cultural, physical and economic regeneration, contributing an estimated half a billion pounds in economic benefit to the city since opening in 2008, and providing a huge boost to Liverpool's image as an attractive city for tourists and business visitors and an attractive city in which to live, work and invest.   

Bob was born in Birmingham in 1955. After attending King's Heath Grammar School, Bob completed a Business Studies degree at what is now Coventry University. He enjoyed a successful placement year with IMI to the extent that the company sponsored his final year and employed him in their marketing department as soon as he graduated. 

Next he moved to TI, working in marketing and then sales. In 1983, Bob changed track and joined the National Exhibition Centre as an assistant events manager, with the task of filling the gaps between trade exhibitions with concerts and conferences. He was in the right place at the right time and for the next 20 years was at the heart of every phase of the development of the NEC, eventually becoming Managing Director of NEC Group Venues. The venues included the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham's Symphony Hall, the International Convention Centre and the NEC Arena.   

It was in 2000 that ideas for developing the under-utilised land at Kings Dock first emerged. Of the various options considered, a concert arena and convention centre were identified as likely to make the biggest impact on the local economy in terms of employment and Liverpool's wider profile. 

The construction phase of the £164 million project began in 2005, financed by English Partnerships, the Northwest Regional Development Agency, European funding, and Liverpool City Council. Just prior to the commencement of on-site construction, Bob was approached to take on the role of ACC Liverpool's Chief Executive with the task of building a team to manage, market and operate the new centre. 

He didn't need much persuading as his experience in the industry enabled him to see the great potential for the facility with its magnificent location on the waterfront in a city which already possessed a brand recognised throughout the world. 

Bob also saw the musical heritage of Liverpool as a massive plus for attracting major music acts to the city.

In summary, it was a marketing man's dream.   

ACC Liverpool, home to the BT Convention Centre and Echo Arena, was completed in 2008 in time to host the opening event of the fantastic Capital of Culture Year, attracting over 200 events, 700,000 visitors and £200 million of economic impact for the city during the first year. 

The only purpose built interconnected arena and convention centre in the UK and one of the greenest venues in Europe, ACC Liverpool has gone on to host over 800 events and well over 2 million visitors. It has hosted international events ranging from the MTV Europe Music Awards to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and has also showcased artists from around the globe, including Elton John, Diana Ross, Lionel Ritchie, and Queen, featuring our Chancellor Brian May.  

Already the venue has won a string of awards including: CONFEX's coveted 'Best UK Venue' for two consecutive years, 'Best Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative' and 'Most Effective Team' at the Exhibition News awards, and Team of the Year at the Eventia Awards Excellence in Business Tourism and Excellence in Sustainable Tourism at the 2011 TMP Awards. 

Quite rightly Bob himself had his outstanding contribution acknowledged in 2009 when he was voted Liverpool Business Person of the Year. Away from ACC Liverpool, Bob is a key supporter of Liverpool Unites, a charity for developing, nurturing and providing facilities for young people across Merseyside. 

In his leisure time, he is a keen golfer and a life-long supporter of Birmingham City FC. His family are here today: his parents Stanley and Joyce, his wife Cathryn to whom he has been married for 30 years, and their children Christopher and Samantha.   

Having led the ACC Liverpool Project from the outset and presided over its remarkable success, it would be understandable if Bob was resting on his laurels. But there's no sign of that. Last year the BT Convention centre hosted the Liberal Democrat conference and this year the Labour Party conference, so Bob sees no reason why Liverpool can't continue to attract even more high profile and global events. To this end, he intends to future proof the venue with the addition of a new 8100m2 exhibition and events complex, to be completed in 2014. 

This will place Liverpool firmly in the premier league of convention and exhibition cities, further regenerate the Liverpool Waterfront, and attract even larger and more lucrative events which are often supported by exhibitions, helping to fill the city's hotels, restaurants and shops with high-spending visitors. Bob is confident that there is no limit to the future success of our city's iconic arena and convention centre, for him this is no longer just about establishing success in the UK, but about Liverpool taking its rightful position as a global event destination, next to cities such as Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Frankfurt and Berlin.   

Bob had never been to Liverpool before he came for interview in 2005, and admits that his perceptions of the city were informed by the stereotypes portrayed in the media. But he has found that the reality is so much more positive. 

Now he can't imagine working anywhere else and sees his long-term future here. He has found that the people of Liverpool really are the city's biggest asset, so much so that the 'Liverpool Welcome' is something for which the venue is becoming renowned. Bob sees this welcome being given to ACC Liverpool visitors by everyone in the city on a daily basis and it is something which is truly setting Liverpool apart as a world-class event destination. 

With a hint of regret he says, "I know I'm not a scouser, but maybe I'll be accepted as an honorary Liverpudlian over time." 

The outstanding success of the BT Convention Centre and Echo Arena under Bob's leadership ensures that he has already done more than enough for the city to embrace him as one of its own.   

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Bob Prattey, this most distinguished adopted son of our city, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.