RENTON – The Seattle Seahawks and Sounders rolled out their new operating system on Thursday. The temptation was to call it: Tod Leiweke 2.0.
You might have heard of the new president of the two franchises, Peter McLoughlin, but probably not. He’s a Harvard graduate and spent most of his professional life working for a beer company.
As was the case when Leiweke joined the Seahawks in 2003, McLoughlin, 53, is coming from an NHL team, with no NFL experience but carrying the reputation as an executive who recognizes the importance of the relationship between sporting franchises and their fans.
And because the connection to the fan base may have been the very best part of Tod Leiweke’s tenure, then McLoughlin should do well following the path established by the man he considers an old friend.
When Leiweke arrived, he was questioned at length whether his background in the NHL would translate to the NFL. It clearly did, and that meant that McLoughlin didn’t even have to address that as a concern.
Throughout his Thursday introductory press conference, everybody said the things one would expect. Joy and optimism were abundant.
Part of McLoughlin’s appeal in the interview process, said Bert Kolde (chairman of Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. board), was that he reminded him of Leiweke when he interviewed.
A couple interesting angles arose, though.
McLoughlin is not the CEO, as had been Leiweke, who is leaving to take over an ownership and executive position with Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL. The Seahawks’ “football” people, GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, will report to “ownership” and not McLoughlin, who will handle budgetary and non-football administrative issues.
Leiweke said, from a practical sense, that was pretty much how things worked during his days as CEO anyway.
We may wonder whether the franchise will suffer from not having some manner of closer in-house oversight of the “football” people. We should presume that they still will have to get somebody to sign off on the big issues, even if it isn’t owner Allen himself.
At some point, somebody needs to at least ask questions like: “Are you sure we really want to pay T.J. Houshmandzadeh more than $6 million to go play for Baltimore?”
Yes, Paul Allen is wealthy. But the Forbes magazine article that listed him as the world’s 17th richest man also showed that his wealth has gone from $28.2 billion in 2001 to a mere $12.7 billion in 2010. I don’t care who you are, you drop more than $15 billion in nine years and you’re going to notice it.
McLoughlin met more than once with Allen, and they reportedly had a “shared vision” of the future of the Seahawks and Sounders. His meeting with Schneider and Carroll also revealed a shared vision. And he received their stamp of approval.
Again, time will reveal whether the franchise benefits from this widespread, mutual perspective.
Leiweke reported that McLoughlin had been a sportswriter for the Harvard newspaper. Too bad he didn’t stick with it. Think how much that has cost him over the years, going into business instead of newspaper journalism.
Leiweke said that McLoughlin’s time with Anheuser-Busch was spent developing an in-house sports marketing agency that ultimately had a budget of $0.5 billion, and in four years running the St. Louis Blues, McLoughlin helped the team double season-ticket sales.
The prime lure of Seattle to McLoughlin was the enthusiasm of the fans for both teams.
“Consider me a new member of the 12th Man,” McLoughlin said. “I’m here to be a great fan of both franchises and to work hard and serve the fans and give back to the community, and help John and Pete and the Sounders to have the resources they need to (bring) championships to the Seattle community.”
How much can you tell from a 20-minute press conference? Not much. He presented himself well and has impressive credentials.
Perhaps the most positive immediate element attendant to his hiring is that all the highest-profile positions seem to have been filled, and we should start seeing where all this shared vision will take them.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org