CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Hornets have made a number of front-office promotions, moves intended to keep the business side of the franchise humming even as the performance on the basketball side has been inconsistent.
The team is promoting Fred Whitfield to president and vice chairman; Pete Guelli to executive vice president and chief operating officer and James Jordan to executive vice president and chief administrative officer, the Hornets will announce Wednesday morning. Vice Chairman Curtis Polk, a longtime key adviser to team owner Michael Jordan, has been promoted to managing partner of the team.
After Jordan bought the team in 2010, the Hornets have improved on nearly every marketing metric, including ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandise sales.
Growth in season-ticket sales, experts say, is the most important step in improving a franchise’s health. When Jordan bought the Hornets, the team was selling about 5,000 season tickets. Today, the team is selling around 11,000 season tickets.
Under Jordan, the marketing team lead the rebranding of the local franchise from the Charlotte Bobcats back to the Hornets, signed a multimillion-dollar sponsorship patch deal with LendingTree last year, and this week, the team confirmed it has extended its TV deal with Fox Sports Southeast. That means fans will continue to watch Hornets games on TV
The team declined to discuss terms of the deal. The Sports Business Journal reported this week that the roughly 10-year deal could be worth up to $20 million per year.
“Media rights are a critical piece of any NBA team’s business model,” Guelli said. “It’s the most important promotional conduit to your fans and it provides significant revenue certainty to your franchise.”
Prior to the promotions that will be announced this week, Whitfield served as COO; Guelli served as chief sales and marketing officer; and Jordan served as executive vice president of operations. Whitfield now reports to Polk, while Guelli and Jordan will continue to report to Whitfield.
On the basketball side of the business, Polk said the search for a general manager continues, and his hope is that it wraps up in early April.
“We’re going through an exhaustive process. We started with quite a few names that we collected and put together a spreadsheet on these people and have been narrowing it down,” he said.