Monday, December 6th, 2021

Portland Trail Blazers CEO Chris McGowan resigns


Portland Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan speaks to reporters.

Sam Forencich | NBAE | Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers executive Chris McGowan is resigning as CEO, the team announced on Friday. The Blazers said chief commercial officer Dewayne Hankins would take over the role of president of business operations.

Paul Allen’s estate owns the Blazers. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, died in 2018. His sister, Jody, now runs the NBA club. 

McGowan served as CEO of the Blazers since 2012, and in 2018 promoted to CEO of Vulcan Sports and Entertainment, which operates the Blazers and National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks franchise. McGowan’s final day with the team will be Nov. 26.

The Blazers’ front office reshuffling comes during a workplace misconduct investigation involving Neil Olshey, the Blazers president of basketball operations.

Last week, reports surfaced accusing Olshey of bullying and intimidating employees. As a result, the Blazers opened a workplace environment investigation and hired a prominent Los Angeles law firm to look into the matter.

Hankins will be responsible for growing the Blazers brand in what appears to be a turbulent time for the franchise, as the Blazers had a fair share of negative headlines this year.

After the NBA All-Star raised questioned the Blazers’ willingness to chase a championship last June, the status of franchise star Damian Lillard remains unclear.

The Blazers were again bounced in the first round of the NBA playoffs, the fifth time that’s happened in Lillard’s career. The team responded by dismissing head coach Terry Stotts. But the Blazers were then criticized by some for the hiring of new coach Chauncey Billups.

The former NBA point guard was named in a rape allegation in 1997 alongside former Boston Celtics teammate Ron Mercer. But Billups was never charged in the lawsuit, and settled the case in December 1999. Still, Billups’ hiring didn’t receive the best reaction locally and nationally, and the team was criticized for the handling of his introductory press conference.

So far in Billups first year,  the Blazers are 5-7 and sitting 10th in the Western Conference.

Lillard is averaging 20 points and 8.2 assists this season but shooting a career-low 38 percent from the field and 25.4 percent on three-pointers. Lillard, 31, will make a team-high $39 million this season, thanks to a four-year, $196 million extension signed in 2019. The contract keeps Lillard locked up until 2025.

Around the NBA, rival executives believe Lillard will eventually get traded. And when a team loses a superstar, it could cause a down cycle for the business.

Currently, the Blazers are worth roughly $2 billion and are estimated to bring in about $201 million for the 2021-22 season, according to Forbes. However, that projection is down compared to the $240 million the Blazers made last season and a team record of $287 million the season prior.

But despite the slow start, the Blazers rank 10th in NBA attendance, averaging roughly 17,500 fans. During McGowan’s tenure, the Blazers only finished outside the top 10 in attendance twice – during the pandemic when fans were restricted.

McGowan also landed the Blazers a new regional sports network deal with AT&T-owned Root Sports and secured a jersey patch deal with crypto platform StormX last July.

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