NHL CEO, other Latino executives found Latinos in Sports platform

Xavier Gutierrez, CEO of the Arizona Coyotes and CEO of ImpactX Sports Group (L), and Pedro Guerrero, CEO of Guerrero Media.

Courtesy: Guerrero Media

When the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes sold its franchise to Utah last month, the league not only lost an Arizona-based team, but also its only active Latino CEO.

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Xavier Gutierrez became CEO of the Arizona team in 2019 after Alex Meruelo, a Cuban-American billionaire, bought the Coyotes the previous year. Gutierrez was previously a managing director at private equity firm Clearlake Capital Group and knew Meruelo for about a decade before he became the NHL’s first-ever Latino CEO.

It takes a Latino owner to hire a Latino CEO, Gutierrez explained in an interview, because Hispanics are not well represented in leadership positions in professional sports.

There are 153 major professional sports franchises in the United States and Canada across the NHL, National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer.

He is the only Latino CEO who is not an owner, says Gutierrez, who is still technically CEO of the Arizona Coyotes even though the franchise is inactive. Jorge Mas, co-owner of MLS club Inter Miami CF who also serves as CEO, is hiring two Latino executives, according to Gutierrez.

This is something Gutierrez vows to change. He is part of the founding group behind Latinos in Sports, a platform dedicated to bringing together Latinos and non-Latinos in professional sports, media and marketing to showcase Latino talent in leadership positions. CNBC is the official media partner of Latinos in sports.

“The results speak for themselves, you don’t have that leadership today,” Gutierrez said. “You look at the commissioners and their offices that rely on Latino consumers to be the viewers, the ticket buyers, the T-shirt buyers. I think you need to have Latino talent in those seats. Our goal is just to say, ‘Listen, this isn’t because you’re bad people, this isn’t it.’ Not at all, but because you may not have met existing groups.

Gutierrez and Pedro Antonio Guerrero, CEO of executive development firm Guerrero Media, introduced Latinos in sports at an event in Miami last week.

Also participating on the platform are Vianney Lobos, Head of Audience and Engagement at Guerrero Media, and Mike Valdes Foley, Chief Operating Officer of Chemistry Cultura, a digital advertising company focused on Latinos in the US.

The four executives share the goal of increasing Hispanic representation in all leadership roles in sports. Jose Feliciano, co-founder of Clearlake Capital and co-owner of English Premier League soccer club Chelsea, also spoke at the Miami event last week to promote more Latino ownership in sports.

Jose E. Feliciano speaks on stage during the 2021 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Ceremony in New York City on December 9, 2021.

Slaven Vlasic | Getty Images

“I very much hope that we will make more progress on the ownership front,” Feliciano said. “Decision-makers in positions of power are beginning to realize that Latinos can and should be owners in every sense of the word.”

Gutierrez said the goal of Latinos in Sports is to be the place to be to promote the culture of Hispanic progress in the sports industry. Executives hope to turn the platform into a business focused on investing in Hispanic-founded startups, conducting research on Hispanic trends in the United States and bringing together Latino and non-Latino sports leaders for networking.

“You make deals with people you know,” Gutierrez said. “It will truly be a place for commerce, talent acquisition, conversations, data and ideas.”

The organization also hopes to push Latino sports executives to make more conscious decisions about attracting Latino audiences.

Warner Bros. Discovery She debuted an alternative broadcast during last year’s MLB playoffs called “Peloteros,” which featured former and current Latino baseball players speaking to a Hispanic audience. The broadcast had to be in English because Warner Bros. Discovery does not own the rights to broadcast in Spanish.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Louis Silberwasser, Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports, having more Latino executives making content decisions could help attract audiences that have been largely overlooked.

“It was a good example of what we strive to do in terms of diversifying content,” Silbrowasser said. “You need a diversity of voices in the production group to come up with this.”

Gutierrez said it is essential for Latinos in sports to connect Latinos and non-Latinos, because non-Latinos overwhelmingly hold leadership positions today.

The organization’s next event will be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in September during the US Open. Gutierrez and Guerrero chose this event specifically because it traditionally attracts white Americans.

“It’s important to have non-Hispanic decision makers in the room,” Gutierrez said.

“Latinos need to reach out to each other to build partnerships like this to try to build our table,” Guerrero said. “At the end of the day, it’s the priority of many Latinos in positions of power like Xavier [Gutierrez]. The key for us is to increase the size of our population.”

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