ATLANTA -- Sam Williams has resigned as president of the Atlanta Market Center and as an executive vice president of The Portman Cos., the parent company.

Taking over as Atlanta Market Center president is Jack M. Ryan. Ryan also holds the post of executive vice president of Portman.

Ryan, who has been with the Portman organization for 12 years, will continue as Portman's chief financial officer in addition to his new responsibilities.

Williams joined The Portman Cos. in 1973 and was responsible for the financing and development of new real estate ventures. He was appointed to the position of general manager of the Atlanta Merchandise Mart in 1977, and he became president of the Atlanta Market Center in 1979.

Williams said he was leaving to pursue "some attractive professional opportunities in Atlanta," but would not comment further.

"This seems a good time, after 21 years with the company, to get out and let new management in," Williams explained. "The depression at retail has bottomed out," he continued, "and business seems to be coming back slowly."

Williams added that John Portman Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Portman Cos., had indicated he intended to take a more hands-on approach to the apparel and other marts.

"His style is to be involved in dealing with key customers, including buyers, manufacturers and sales reps, both existing customers and prospects," he said. Portman could not be reached for comment.

The Atlanta Market Center consists of the Atlanta Merchandise Mart, Gift Mart and Apparel Mart, as well as the proposed International Sports Plaza, which is scheduled to be created within the Apparel Mart. The buildings produce more than 40 trade shows annually.

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