NHL CEO and different Latino executives discovered Latinos in Sports activities 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 their franchise to Utah last month, the league not only lost an Arizona-based team but also its only active Latino leader.

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

It took 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 in the NHL, National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer.

Gutierrez, who is technically still CEO of the Arizona Coyotes even though the franchise is inactive, says he is the only Latino CEO without an owner. Gutierrez said Jorge Mas, co-owner of MLS's Inter Miami CF and CEO, is ensuring two Latino CEOs.

Gutierrez promises to change that. He is part of the founding group of 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 that you don’t have that leadership today,” Gutierrez said. “Look at the commissioners and their offices who rely on Latino consumers to be spectators, ticket buyers and jersey buyers. I think you have to have Latino talent in these places. Our goal is simply to say, 'Listen, this isn't because you're bad people. It's not at all because you haven't gotten to know the cohorts that exist.

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

Vianni Lubus, head of audience and engagement at Guerrero Media, and Mike Valdes-Fauli, chief operating officer at Chemistry Cultura, a digital advertising company focused on Latinos in the US, are also involved in the platform.

The four executives share the goal of increasing the representation of U.S. Hispanics in leadership positions in sports. José Feliciano, co-founder of Clearlake Capital and co-owner of the Premier League's Chelsea Football Club, also spoke at the event in Miami last week to encourage more Latino ownership in sports.

Jose E. Feliciano speaks onstage during the 2021 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala in New York City on December 9, 2021.

Slaven Vlasic | Getty Images

“My big hope is that we continue to make progress on the property front,” Feliciano said. “Policymakers in influential seats are beginning to realize that Latinos can and should be owners in every sense of the word.”

The goal of Latinos in Sports is to be the go-to resource for promoting a culture of Hispanic advancement in the sports industry, Gutierrez said. Executives hope to transform the platform into a company focused on investing in Hispanic-founded startups, conducting research on Hispanic trends in the U.S. and bringing together both Latino and non-Latino sports leaders for networking.

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

The organization also hopes to encourage Latino sports managers to make more conscious decisions to appeal to Latino audiences.

Warner Bros. Discovery released an alternative show called “Peloteros” during the MLB playoffs last year, which featured former and current Latino baseball players speaking to a Hispanic audience. It had to be broadcast in English because Warner Bros. Discovery does not have the Spanish-language broadcast rights.

Having more Latino leaders make content decisions can help attract an audience that has been largely ignored, said Luis Silberwasser, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.

“It was a good example of what we’re striving for in terms of content diversification,” Silberwasser said. “Achieving this requires a diversity of voices in the production group.”

For Latinos in sports, bringing Latinos together with non-Latinos is important, Gutierrez said, since non-Latinos now overwhelmingly hold leadership positions.

The organization's next event will take place in September at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, during the US Open tennis tournament. Gutierrez and Guerrero chose this event because it traditionally appeals to white Americans.

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

“Latinos need to connect with each other to build partnerships like this to build our table,” Guerrero said. “Ultimately, it is the priority of many Latinos in positions of power like Xavier [Gutierrez]. The key for us is to increase our population.”

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