SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Golden State Warriors announced that President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts will be stepping down from the organization after 10 years with the team.
Welts, who has been involved in the NBA for 46 seasons, previously serving stints with the Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns and at the NBA league office, will be leaving the Warriors at the end of the 2020-21 season.
A 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, the Seattle native also made history by being the highest ranking executive in men’s professional team sports to identify as gay after coming out in 2011.
“This has been the ride of a lifetime,” Welts said. “To have had a front row seat to the growth of the NBA from where it was in the late 1960s to its place today as one of the most respected and successful leagues in sports on a global stage has been an incredible privilege. The first day I met Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, I wanted to be a part of building what I knew could be a special organization. We have the most talented staff in the industry, and we are poised for even greater success in the future. Personally, I am excited for my own next chapter.”
Under Welts’ direction, the Warriors brand grew immensely with the franchise winning “Franchise of the Decade” among all professional sports teams by Sports Business Journal in 2019 and was the first professional team to win Sports Business Journal’s “Sports Team of the Year” award in multiple years (2014 and 2016).
Welts also oversaw the completion of the Chase Center which opening in September 2019 and was named “Sports Facility of the Year” by Sports Business Journal among other awards.
“Much like a movie needs a well-placed and perfectly-aligned star to make it successful, you need to find the right person to lead an organization to prominence,” said Peter Guber, Warriors Co-Executive Chairman. “Fortunately, we found that 10 years ago in Rick Welts. His hiring was one of the most important decisions Joe and I have made since purchasing the Warriors. The ability he demonstrated to navigate any situation with precision and grace—from building a new arena to dealing with a pandemic—is unparalleled. He wrote an incredible script and played the role to perfection. We will be indebted to him forever.”
Welts began his career as a ballboy with the SuperSonics in 1969 at the age of 16, and was part of the franchise’s lone NBA championship in 1979 as its public relations director. He went on work for the NBA league office for 17 years and rose to serve as its Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer and President of NBA Properties.
Welts was responsible for the creation of the NBA All-Star Weekend in 1984 and the marketing program for the USA Basketball’s Olympic “Dream Team” in 1992. Welts was also a strong influence in creating the WNBA in 1998 and was named “Marketer of the Year” by Brandweek for his role in establishing the league.
“Simply put, Rick Welts played a transformational role in creating the modern NBA during his more than 40 years as a pioneering league and team executive,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “His extraordinary vision, leadership and humanity have defined his Hall of Fame career, which has set the standard of excellence in the sports industry. I had the tremendous good fortune to learn about the business of the NBA and its teams directly from Rick in my early years at the league office and have always appreciated his friendship and generosity. As he transitions into his next endeavor, I have no doubt that Rick will continue to leave his mark on the game and the greater sports business.”