Director of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau
Grant Johnson is Vice President, Casino Marketing and Sales, at Altira Macau. A self-proclaimed work “addict”, Johnson is also addicted to spending time with his family, which he believes is the key to a balanced and happy life. “I love my work, but the best part of my day is when I ring the doorbell and can hear my kids start screaming with excitement”. He speaks English.
Growing up in Upstate New York, in the U.S., Johnson spent his few summers in high school working at his stepfather’s marketing firm, which inspired him to pursue it as a career. In 1993, he graduated from the State University of New York College with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Economics.
His first full-time job was at an event marketing company based in Washington D.C., where he handled the Asian market. Johnson spent his first year travelling to Seoul, Hong Kong and Guangzhou in what he considers his first real experience overseas. Completely wowed by his adventures, he knew he had to return to the East soon.
In 1999, Johnson transferred within the company from Washington D.C. to Hong Kong, where he stepped into the role of Vice President of Marketing for Asia. “For our business, Hong Kong was the most accessible city. I was travelling so much to Asia before I moved that the company decided it would be more economical to base me out of Asia, and I didn’t hesitate.”
Johnson’s experiences in Hong Kong eventually started making the city feel like home. “The tipping point for when I knew I was a local was when I stopped mentally converting everything to US$ and started thinking in HKD,” he jokes. “After two years, my mother also stopped asking me when I was moving back.” Meeting his wife in 2000 gave him all the more reason to make the SAR his home.
In 2005, he changed careers, becoming Director of Marketing for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Hong Kong regional office, where he worked with big brand companies such as Coca-Cola, Lenovo and Nike. In 2007, he was working with The Venetian Macao to bring Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, among others, for an exhibition game and he captured the company’s attention.
The Venetian subsequently approached him with a proposition and Johnson immediately jumped at the opportunity. “What the Venetian was building was incredible and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Before the IRs, Macau was where we’d go once a year to visit Hac Sa beach and have lunch at Fernando’s.” As Executive Director at The Venetian for four years, Johnson was responsible for destination, MICE and events marketing. “Suddenly I was working for the world’s largest integrated resort as the market was completely booming. It was unforgettable!”
In July 2011, Johnson moved across the street to work for Melco Resorts & Entertainment as Vice President, Destination Marketing and Sales and later as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “It took me a while, but I was finally fully committed to Macau. I even convinced my Hong Kong wife to move here … not an easy task!” he laughs, explaining that for four years, he travelled back and forth between the two special administrative regions, ping-ponging between his work and his family.
In 2016, after a management restructure at Melco his focused shifted to the marketing of Studio City. Johnson’s residence looks out on Studio City. “I didn’t choose the view on purpose, but it was very convenient. So long as the lights of the hotel were on, I knew everything was probably ok,” he jokes. Like his boss, he likes to “feel the property”, so every weekend he’d stroll the alleys of Studio City.
Recently, Johnson added a new chapter to his Macau story by taking on Casino Marketing and Sales at Altira Macau. “I built my IR career on the non-gaming side so I’m incredibly excited to have an opportunity to apply my skills to the gaming segment”, says Johnson.
A decade after moving to Macau for its professional opportunities, Johnson has a lot of gratitude and praise for the city. One area where he sees room for improvement is after-school extracurricular activities for children.
As father to a seven-year-old boy and ten-year-old girl, he believes Macau’s community should provide more opportunities for children to play sports to develop socially, build confidence and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Johnson recently started the Macau Youth Basketball Club where he and a friend coach basketball every week. “We have 15 boys & girls on our 7-8-year-old team with a waiting list to join. Practice for 9-10s and 11-12s will be starting soon. We still need a lot of practice but we’ll be ready to take on Hong Kong’s team soon.”
Tall enough to be a professional basketball player, but admittedly not good enough to join the NBA “I remember in school that our names used to appear in the back of the local newspaper after games if we scored or committed fouls. I appear a lot … (silence) mostly for fouls,” he recalls laughing.