Industry vet Willingham named new CEO at Shangri-La Resort

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Shangri-La Resort has announced the elevation of Jason Sheffield to the position of Chairman of all Shangri-La Golf Club, Resort, Marina and Residential properties, and has named Barry Willingham to take Sheffield’s spot as President and CEO of the company. Sheffield has served in the CEO slot since Eddy Gibbs purchased the resort property in 2010. He will continue to oversee all Shangri-La operations in his expanded role as Chairman, including the exploration of expansion opportunities for the resort as well as continued real estate development. He will also be expanding his role as Chairman and President of the Gibbs Christian Education Foundation which focuses on providing financial aid for K-12 students who otherwise would not have access to Christian educational opportunities.

Willingham has most recently served as President and CEO of Perimeter Security Group of Assa Abloy, which includes Tulsa-based Ameristar Fence Products. Assa Abloy is an $8.4 billion company which purchased Ameristar from Shangri-La Resort owner Eddy Gibbs in October, 2013. Barry has been responsible for more than 800 employees, 650 of them at the Tulsa Ameristar facility.

In 2002, Barry was hired to start a Security Division of Ameristar Fence Products, a Tulsa-based commercial and residential fence manufacturer founded by Shangri-La owner Eddy Gibbs. In 2010, he left Ameristar to accept a position as President of Smith & Wesson Security Solutions and Vice-President of Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation in Franklin, Tennessee.

“I had only been there about a year when Eddy called me and said ‘you need to come home.’ It took another year and a half to complete my commitment to Smith & Wesson. In 2012, I rejoined Ameristar as Vice President/General Manager and, ultimately, President and CEO. We came home to Ameristar, Tulsa, and back to Grand Lake.”

An in-demand public speaker and trainer, Barry said “training has been a big part of my life.” “I have a real passion for it. Growing a business and delivering excellence require very similar skill sets and execution, regardless of the product or service you are providing. It’s been very exciting to watch the Shangri-La management team do just that by creating a unique value offering with Shangri-La Resort, delivering a positive impact to Grand Lake businesses, visitors, and residents,” he says.

“Under normal circumstances, it is virtually impossible for a company the size of Shangri-La to acquire an executive of Barry’s caliber with his incredible record of success,” Sheffield said, “but ours are not normal circumstances. The relationship that Barry and I have both had with Shangri-La owner Eddy Gibbs is what made this possible. It is an incredibly fortunate alignment of the stars for Shangri-La,” he said. “Barry has traveled extensively throughout the world and hosted a variety of major conventions, meetings, and retreats throughout his career; and I’m confident the experience and talent he brings to the table will allow us to expand our resort operations and services far beyond what would normally be possible in an area like Grand Lake. I couldn’t be more excited.”

“When I returned to Ameristar in 2012, Eddy had already purchased the golf course at Shangri-La and built the club house,” Barry recalls. “After the Ameristar transaction was complete, he engaged in several new ventures, including the expansion of the amenities at Shangri-La.

“I was privileged to be included in discussions and planning of many of the expansions such as the marina and hotel,” Barry says. “Being a resident of Grand Lake, those developments were really exciting. They were the catalyst for many other businesses on the lake stepping up their game, bringing more value to everything affiliated with Grand Lake. It’s been a ton of fun to see what has happened over the last five years,” he says.

“What Eddy, Jason, and their management team have done with Shangri-La, creating not only new jobs, but an entertainment facility to enjoy Grand Lake at a level that didn’t exist before…that is something we have not seen before in our experience at Grand Lake.

“Now, the responsibility for expanding and improving the impact of that economic jewel falls on me; and I am absolutely thrilled about the future possibilities,” Willingham said.

Barry is an avid golfer and boater, and has recently become infatuated with photography. He enjoys cooking, walking, and especially golf! He and his wife Laura have owned weekend homes at Grand Lake for years, spending most of their weekends on the lake since 2005 – first at The Harbors, then at The Coves. With their new home at The Gallery at Shangri-La, and their boat now safely slipped at Shangri-La Marina, Grand Lake’s Monkey Island is now their primary and permanent home.


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Ken MacLeod

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