After months of due-diligence and negotiations, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik has hired Tod Leiweke as Chief Executive Officer of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment, and CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Leiweke had been CEO of the Pacific Northwest based Vulcan Inc, billionaire Paul Allen's company, which oversees the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders FC, adn Portland Trail Blazers.
TOD LEIWEKE BECOMES CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF LIGHTNING, ST. PETE TIMES FORUMProminent Sports and Entertainment Executive Also to Become Part-Owner
TAMPA BAY -Tod Leiweke has been named Chief Executive Officer of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment and its subsidiaries, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum, Chairman and Governor Jeff Vinik announced this afternoon. Leiweke will also become an Alternate Governor to the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors for the Lightning and, subject to approval by the NHL, will acquire an ownership stake in Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment.
Leiweke comes to Tampa Bay from Seattle, where he has served the past seven years as CEO of the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks and President of Vulcan Sports, providing oversight of the National Basketball Association’s Portland Trail Blazers and Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders.
"I am thrilled to welcome Tod to the Lightning organization as CEO and as my partner," Vinik said upon making the announcement. "Tod has the vision, the passion and the experience to lead the franchise towards my goal of being world class on and off the ice. He is an inspirational leader and I am delighted he has shown the confidence in the entire Tampa Bay community to join the Lightning."
Leiweke has extensive experience in the NHL, having served as Executive Vice President of the Vancouver Canucks and President of the then-expansion Minnesota Wild. Tod is a devoted hockey fan and has been recently competing in a Seattle-based recreational league.
"Jeff Vinik is a fantastic person and clearly committed to building a championship franchise," said Leiweke. "I am thrilled to become a part of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. It is a dream come true to partner with Jeff and work alongside Steve Yzerman, who I regard as one of the modern-day greats of our game.
"Jeff, Steve and I all believe that we can build a Lightning organization that will bring back the winning and pride to the entire Tampa Bay community. I envision a day when the Lightning will regularly play in front of sold-out crowds at the St. Pete Times Forum and be recognized as one of the leading corporate citizens in Tampa Bay."
Known for his passionate approach to the fan experience and strong community connections, Leiweke was recognized this past year as the Puget Sound Business Journal's top corporate executive and he was a finalist for the Sports Business Journal's Sports Executive of the Year. In 2009, Tod led the Seattle United Way campaign, which generated more than $100 million in donations, thereby becoming the largest UW effort in the United States. He capped the campaign by climbing Mt. Rainier with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Under Leiweke's leadership the Seahawks have sold out 56 consecutive games and their "12th Man" has become a symbol of fan passion in the NFL. The Sounders FC are in their second season playing in front of sellout crowds and have become the model of professional soccer in America, averaging more than 36,000 fans per game. The Portland Trail Blazers have again become a premier team in the NBA, currently maintaining a sellout streak of 120 consecutive games.
"I want to thank Paul Allen for giving me the opportunity to be part of such a special organization and giving me the chance to work with the extraordinary people on the Vulcan team," Leiweke said. "We created excellence in our communities, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity Paul gave me to provide leadership these past seven years".
Before joining the Seahawks, Leiweke served as President of the Wild and Chief Operating Officer of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment. Under Leiweke's leadership, the Sports Fans of America Association, Inc. awarded its 2003 NHL Sports Fan's Quality Award to the Wild as the league's "Fan Friendliest" team. In an ESPN survey conducted in 2003, the team ranked number one for stadium experience and number two for fan relationships among 123 national sports franchises. The Wild played to sellouts for every game in each of its first four seasons and that sellout streak continues today.
Leiweke will assume day-to day-leadership of the business operations of TBSE, including the Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum. He will work in tandem with Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman, who leads the Lightning’s hockey operations. Both executives will report directly to the TBSE Chairman, Jeff Vinik.