IS+E onboards Chris McGowan as CEO



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Ilitch welcomes Chris McGowan Image: Ilitch Companies

Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., announced on December 6th that accomplished sports and entertainment executive Chris McGowan has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of Ilitch Sports + Entertainment (IS+E), the business division of the National Hockey League (NHL) team Detroit Red Wings, the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Detroit Tigers, the District Detroit (world-class sports and entertainment development), Olympia Parking, and the Ilitch joint venture (JV) interest in 313 Presents. In this newly appointed role, McGowan will work closely with Christopher Ilitch to enhance the fan, guest and partner experience across Ilitch-managed properties and venues.

The ‘Ilitch Companies’ stated that McGowan, who will begin his duties on January 3rd, 2022, will report directly to Christopher Ilitch. He replaces Chris Granger, who served as Ilitch Holdings’ Group President for Sports and Entertainment since 2017. Detroit Red Wings Executive Vice-President and General Manager Steve Yzerman and Detroit Tigers Executive Vice-President and General Manager Al Avila will continue to report to Christopher Ilitch.

Ilitch Sports + Entertainment (IS+E) is reimagining the power and potential of providing world-class sports and entertainment experiences to fans, guests and corporate partners. IS+E was formed as the shared business arm of the storied Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Olympia Parking, and The District Detroit, the region’s emerging epicenter of entertainment in the heart of the city. Ilitch Sports + Entertainment operate the award-winning Little Caesars Arena, Comerica Park, and the iconic Fox Theatre, all within a four-block radius in The District Detroit.

Said Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO, Ilitch Holdings, Inc., “We are incredibly excited to welcome Chris and his family to Detroit and our organization. He has a proven track record in professional sports and live entertainment, and a passion for creating exceptional experiences. I look forward to working with Chris and his team to deliver innovative, engaging and inspiring programing and campaigns that will appeal to our fans, colleagues and partners.”

Since 2018, the business operations of the Red Wings, Tigers, the District Detroit, Olympia Parking, and the Ilitch JV interest in 313 Presents have functioned under the same umbrella, with shared services across the ticket sales and service, corporate partnership sales and activation, operations, marketing, finance, and more. Under McGowan’s leadership, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment will produce cohesive and innovative strategies with the engagement of Detroit sports and entertainment fans, partners and employees at the forefront.

Along with serving as the Sales and Marketing arm of the Red Wings, Tigers, The District Detroit, and Olympia Parking, as well as maintaining a joint venture interest in 313 Presents, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment will continue to operate the Little Caesars Arena, home of the Red Wings, the National Basketball Association (NBA team Detroit Pistons and world-class entertainment, the 41,083-capacity Comerica Park in Detroit (US), home to the Detroit Tigers, and the iconic 4,665-capacity Fox Theatre in Atlanta (US). It will also provide facility management services at the 15,274-capacity DTE Energy Music Theatre in Michigan, the 7,700-capacity Meadow Brook Amphitheatre in Michigan, and Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill in Michigan.

Said McGowan, “I’m thrilled about the opportunity to join the Ilitch organization and to lead Ilitch Sports and Entertainment. It’s an exciting time for the Red Wings and Tigers, and The District Detroit as a sports and entertainment epicenter unlike any other in the country. I look forward to getting started and helping bring memorable experiences to the great people of Detroit and beyond for years to come.”

The ‘Ilitch Companies’ further stated that McGowan’s hire came along at the tail end of a nationwide, inclusive search process conducted by search firm TurnkeyZRG, the leading talent recruitment firm in sports, entertainment and media. He arrives in Detroit after spending the past nine years (2012-2021) as President/CEO of the NBA team Portland Trail Blazers. In 2018, he was named to the additional role of CEO of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, including the National Football League (NFL) team Seattle Seahawks, where his responsibilities expanded further into the professional sports franchises entertainment properties in the Vulcan portfolio, including the 19,980-capacity Moda Center in Portland, the 12,888-capacity Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland and the Rose Quarter campus (30-acre sports and entertainment district in Portland). McGowan also served as VSE representative for the ownership stake in the Major League Soccer (MLS) team Seattle Sounders.

Under McGowan’s leadership, both the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter organizations saw record-breaking growth. In 2019, the Rose Quarter hosted its highest number of shows and concerts. During the 2019-2020 NBA seasons, the Trail Blazers set an organizational record for ticket sales revenue. McGowan was honored as one of the ‘Business Executives of the Year’ by the ‘Portland Business Journal’ in 2017.

McGowan also spent 16 years with Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), including a final assignment as the Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of AEG Sports. He played a key role in opening Staples Center in Los Angeles, one of the country’s most iconic sports and entertainment venues. McGowan earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Delaware in 1996.

Reporting directly to McGowan will be Keith Bradford, Senior Vice-President of The District Detroit Operations, Russ Borrows, Senior Vice- President of Finance, Rob Carr, Senior Vice- President of Legal Affairs, Chris Coffman, Senior Vice-President of Corporate Partnerships, Emily Neenan, Chief Marketing Officer and several other top-notch executives.

Under McGowan’s leadership, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment will produce cohesive and innovative strategies with the engagement of Detroit sports and entertainment fans, partners and employees at the forefront.

McGowan piloted major venue and technological improvements to the Rose Quarter campus and Trail Blazers Practice Facility during his tenure, including $16 million in capital improvements. He also led a business restructuring to self-operate Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Quarter campus in 2013.

In his stint in Rose Quarter, he got into a partnership with Live Nation and event ticketing systems under Ticketmaster.

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