President and CEO, Portland Trail Blazers
// Photo by Joseph Eastburn
Upon arriving in Portland last fall to take over as president of the Portland Trail Blazers, 39-year-old Chris McGowan realized something was a little different here.
“This isn’t normal,” he says. What he’s talking about isn’t Portland as a city or the Blazers as an organization, but the level of support the team garners from fans. “I’d say in 90% of the markets, team performance impacts that greatly,” says McGowan, who came to Portland after heading up business operations for AEG Sports and its Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Galaxy teams. “The fan and sponsorship support is unbelievable here, win or lose. It’s astonishing.”
McGowan is one of three new leaders who’ve joined the organization over the past year, along with general manager Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts. The trio is focused on boosting the Blazers, both as a team and as a business.
Joining the team in October didn’t give McGowan time to develop a full-on business plan for this season, but he’s already restructured for efficiency, cutting 10 positions. McGowan has also found success in landing new sponsorships from the likes of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon.
He also plans to bring more focus to sales and service, and by next season he’s hoping to have secured a naming rights deal for the Rose Garden.
“Professional sports teams should be about winning, but winning in the right way,” McGowan says. “To me, [that means] building a sustainable business model and being a successful, fan-focused organization.”
"[General manager] Neil Olshey and I view ourselves as one team with a unified vision of how we run things. I don't make decisions without talking to him, and he doesn't make decisions without talking to me."