The Lowdown: Mike Leven
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The Lowdown: Mike Leven

Leven is the chairman and CEO of the Georgia Aquarium. Learn about his current reads and guilty pleasures.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Atlanta is chock full of interesting movers and shakers, some bent on creativity, empire building, activism and/or just plain having fun and living the good life. Lean in to hear some off-the-cuff remarks about what makes “Mr. Hospitality” Mike Leven tick.

Find out how he has led the entertainment management industry from whale sharks to Vegas, where hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson beckoned him to turn around his mega empire.

Leven is the chairman and CEO of the Georgia Aquarium. He was the CEO of the Georgia Aquarium from 2008 to 2009 and went on to lead Las Vegas Sands Corporation as president and chief operating officer.

He also co-founded and served as CEO of U.S. Franchise Systems, Inc. (Microtel Inn & Suites and Hawthorn Suites) and was president and chief operating officer of Holiday Inn worldwide. Leven serves on the boards of The Marcus Foundation and the Birthright Israel Foundation, among others.

Get to know him better right here.


My friends tease me about …

Getting excited about small stuff. I have no patience with bureaucracy!

What are you reading?

“How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius” by Donald Robertson.

Greatest extravagance?

Flying to Scotland to play golf.

I am often mistaken for …

As a younger man, Frank Sinatra. Now … not so much.

Which talent would you like to have?

I would have been a terrific Broadway theater director.

Guilty pleasure?

Eating too much good apple pie. I do like a nice piece of fish at Kyma. I like Greek food in general.

I’ve been known to freak out about …

Missing a short putt.

You’ve met a lot of famous folks. By whom were you most awestruck?

Shimon Peres. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill more recently. … Very nice people.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

After a speech, a training consultant pulled me aside and said, “That’s the worst presentation I’ve ever seen because you weren’t being yourself.”

Best advice you gave your children.

Brains are no substitute for hard work.

Last time you cried,

Singing “My Yiddishe Momme” which, by the way, is not a true translation. It was rewritten to be more ecumenical for all mothers.

If you were a creature in the Aquarium, what would it be?

A turtle because they live a super long time!

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