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 didn’t just lose an Arizona-based team — it also lost its only active Latino chief executive.

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Xavier Gutierrez became the Arizona team’s CEO in 2019 after Alex Meruelo, a Cuban-American billionaire, bought the Coyotes a year earlier. Gutierrez had previously been a managing director at private equity firm Clearlake Capital Group and knew Meruelo for about a decade before becoming the NHL’s first-ever 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 U.S. and Canada across the NHL, the National Football League, the 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 non-owner Latino CEO. Jorge Mas, co-owner of the MLS’ Inter Miami CF who is also CEO, makes for two Latino CEOs, according to Gutierrez.

That is something Gutierrez vows to change. He is part of the founding group behind LiS: 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 speaks for themselves that you don’t have that leadership today,” Gutierrez said. “You look at the commissioners and their offices that are relying on Latino consumers to be the viewers, the ticket buyers, the jersey 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. That’s not it at all. It’s because maybe you haven’t met the cohorts that exist.'”

Gutierrez and Pedro Antonio Guerrero, the CEO of executive advancement 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 firm focused on Latinos in the U.S., are also involved with the platform.

The four executives share a goal to increase U.S. Hispanic representation throughout leadership roles in sports. José Feliciano, the co-founder of Clearlake Capital and co-owner of the Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club, also spoke at last week’s Miami event to promote more Latino ownership in sports.

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

Slaven Vlasic | Getty Images

“My fervent hope is that we make more progress on the ownership front,” Feliciano said. “Decision-makers in seats of influence are starting to recognize 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 place to foster a culture of Hispanic advancement in the industry of sports, Gutierrez said. The executives hope to turn the platform into a business that focuses on investment in Hispanic-founded startups, conducting research on U.S. Hispanic trends and bringing together both Latino and non-Latino sports leaders for networking.

“You do deals with people you know,” Gutierrez said. “It’s really going to be a place for commerce, for talent acquisition, for conversation, data and insights.”

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

Warner Bros. Discovery 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 have the Spanish-language broadcast rights.

Having more Latino executives making content decisions can help draw in audiences that have largely been ignored, said Luis Silberwasser, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.

“It was a good example of what we’re striving to do in terms of diversifying content,” said Silberwasser. “You need diversity of voice in the production group to come up with this.”

It is essential for Latinos in Sports to connect Latinos with non-Latinos, Gutierrez said, because non-Latinos are overwhelmingly in positions of leadership today.

The organization’s next event will be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in September during the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Gutierrez and Guerrero chose that event specifically because it traditionally appeals to white Americans.

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

“Latinos need to connect with each other to build partnerships like this one in an effort to build our table,” Guerrero said. “At the end of the day, it’s the priority of a lot of Latinos in positions of power like Xavier [Gutierrez]. The key for us is to grow our population size.”

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