Philip J. Smith will step down as chair and co-CEO of The Shubert Organization effective June 30. He retires after a 63-year career in the theatre industry.
His fellow CEO, Robert E. Wankel, will be named sole CEO and chair of both The Shubert Organization and The Shubert Foundation in the wake of Smith's departure (Smith will become chairman emeritus).
“The decision to retire feels exactly right at this time in my life,” Smith said in a statement. “The current COVID-19 crisis has pushed the business of Broadway into uncharted territory. It seems an appropriate time for me to step down and turn over my leadership responsibilities to my friend and colleague, Bob Wankel.”
Smith joined the company, which owns and operates several theatres including 17 Broadway houses, in 1957, then as box-office treasurer at the Imperial Theatre (around that time home to such shows as The Most Happy Fella and Jamaica). Seven years later, he was named general manager of all Shubert venues, and in 1969, promoted to vice president.
It was during his tenure in that role Smith helped usher the company into the digital age and increase accessibility to theatre, including the launch of Telecharge and the opening of the TKTS ticket booths (operated by TDF). He was named president in 1996 following the death of Bernard B. Jacobs, and served alongside chair Gerald Schoenfeld until his passing in 2008—at which point Smith assumed the roles of chair and co-CEO (sharing the latter with Wankel).
Smith also serves on the board of governors for the Broadway League, as vice chairman of the board for The Actors Fund, and the board of trustees for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In recognition of his myriad contributions, he received the Tony Awards' Lifetime Achievement honor in 2011, and in 2015, was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.