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Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., announced that accomplished sports and entertainment executive Chris McGowan has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of Ilitch Sports + Entertainment (IS+E), the business division of the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, The District Detroit, Olympia Parking and the Ilitch joint venture (JV) interest in 313 Presents. In this newly appointed role, McGowan will work closely with Christopher Ilitch to enhance the fan, guest and partner experience across Ilitch-managed properties and venues.

McGowan, who will begin his duties on Jan. 3, 2022, will report directly to Christopher Ilitch. He replaces Chris Granger, who served as Ilitch Holdings’ Group President for Sports and Entertainment since 2017. Detroit Red Wings EVP and GM Steve Yzerman and Detroit Tigers EVP and GM Al Avila will continue to report to Christopher Ilitch.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Chris and his family to Detroit and our organization,” said Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO, Ilitch Holdings, Inc. “He has a proven track record in professional sports and live entertainment, and a passion for creating exceptional experiences. I look forward to working with Chris and his team to deliver innovative, engaging, and inspiring programming and campaigns that will appeal to our fans, colleagues, and partners.” 

Since 2018, the business operations of the Red Wings, Tigers, The District Detroit, Olympia Parking, and the Ilitch JV interest in 313 Presents have functioned under the same umbrella, with shared services across the ticket sales and service, corporate partnership sales and activation, operations, marketing, finance, and more. Under McGowan’s leadership, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment will produce cohesive and innovative strategies with the engagement of Detroit sports and entertainment fans, partners, and employees at the forefront.

Along with serving as the sales and marketing arm of the Red Wings, Tigers, The District Detroit, and Olympia Parking, as well as maintaining a joint venture interest in 313 Presents, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment will continue to operate Little Caesars Arena, home of the Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and world-class entertainment; Comerica Park, home to the Detroit Tigers; and the iconic Fox Theatre. It will also provide facility management services at DTE Energy Music Theatre, Meadow Brook Amphitheatre, and Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to join the Ilitch oganization and to lead Ilitch Sports and Entertainment,” said McGowan. “It’s an exciting time for both the Red Wings and Tigers, and The District Detroit is a sports and entertainment epicenter unlike any other in the country. I look forward to getting started and helping bring memorable experiences to the great people of Detroit and beyond for years to come.” 

McGowan’s hire came along at the tail end of a nationwide, inclusive search process conducted by search firm TurnkeyZRG, the leading talent recruitment firm in sports, entertainment & media. He arrives in Detroit after spending the past nine years (2012-21) as President/CEO of the Portland Trail Blazers. In 2018, he was named to the additional role of CEO of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, including the Seattle Seahawks, where his responsibilities expanded further into the professional sports franchises entertainment properties in the Vulcan portfolio, including the Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Quarter campus. McGowan also served as VSE representative for the ownership stake in the Seattle Sounders (MLS).

Under McGowan’s leadership, both the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter organizations saw record-breaking growth. In 2019, the Rose Quarter hosted its highest number of shows and concerts. During the 2019-20 NBA season, the Trail Blazers set an organizational record for ticket sales revenue. McGowan was honored as one of the “Business Executives of the Year” by the Portland Business Journal in 2017.

McGowan also spent 16 years with Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), including a final assignment as Chief Operating Officer of AEG Sports. He played a key role in opening Staples Center, one of the country’s most iconic sports and entertainment venues. McGowan earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Delaware in 1996. He and his wife, Susan, have two sons, Ryan (19) and Kyle (17).

Reporting directly to McGowan will be Keith Bradford, Senior Vice President of The District Detroit Operations, Russ Borrows, Senior Vice President of Finance, Rob Carr, Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs, Chris Coffman, Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Emily Neenan, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Spencer Ambrosius, Vice President of Red Wings Ticket Sales & Service, Michele Bartos, Vice President of Human Resources, Michael Lienert, Vice President Premium Sales and Private Events, and Joe Schiavi, Vice President of Tigers Ticket Sales & Service.

More about Ilitch Sports + Entertainment

Ilitch Sports + Entertainment (IS+E) is reimagining the power and potential of providing world-class sports and entertainment experiences to fans, guests, and corporate partners. IS+E was formed as the shared business arm of the storied Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Olympia Parking, and The District Detroit, the region’s emerging epicenter of entertainment in the heart of the city. Ilitch Sports + Entertainment operates the award-winning Little Caesars Arena, Comerica Park, and the iconic Fox Theatre, all within a four-block radius in The District Detroit. It also maintains a joint venture interest in 313 Presents and provides facility management services for DTE Energy Music Theatre, Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill, and the Meadowbrook Amphitheatre.

More about Chris McGowan

Chris McGowan was named the President and Chief Executive Officer of Ilitch Sports + Entertainment on December 6, 2021. McGowan oversees business operations for the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, The District Detroit and all sports and entertainment venues managed by the Ilitch organization. He also serves on the board of directors for 313 Presents, a joint venture interest between Ilitch Sports + Entertainment and Pistons Sports & Entertainment. 

McGowan arrived in Detroit after a successful nine-year tenure (2012-21) as Chief Executive Officer of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, where he was responsible for business operations of VSE sports franchises and facilities, including the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. He also served as VSE representative for the ownership stake in the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer.

Under McGowan’s leadership, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment will produce cohesive and innovative strategies with the engagement of Detroit sports and entertainment fans, partners, and employees at the forefront.

Along with serving as the sales and marketing division of the Red Wings, Tigers, and The District Detroit, IS+E will continue to operate Little Caesars Arena, home of the Red Wings, Detroit Pistons and world-class entertainment; Comerica Park, home to the Detroit Tigers; and the iconic Fox Theatre. It will also provide facility management services at DTE Energy Music Theatre, Meadow Brook Amphitheatre, and Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill.

Prior to being named Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter President & CEO, McGowan spent 16 years with Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), including a final stint as Chief Operating Officer of AEG Sports, before becoming one of the NBA’s youngest CEOs. Prior to moving to the Pacific Northwest, McGowan was a part of a Stanley Cup Championship run for the LA Kings; an MLS Cup title for the LA Galaxy and played an important role in opening the former Staples Center, one of the country’s most iconic sports and entertainment venues.

With the help of McGowan’s leadership and vision, both the Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter organizations saw record-breaking growth. In 2019, the Rose Quarter hosted its highest number of shows and concerts. During the 2019-20 NBA season, the Trail Blazers set an organizational record for ticket sales revenue.

McGowan has a passion for making business decisions with sustainability in mind. During his tenure with VSE, Moda Center became the first-ever existing LEED O+M v.4.1 Platinum venue in 2019 – a certification that is important to the organization when making decisions around waste, energy, food, water and transportation.

After serving as President/Chief Executive Officer for the Trail Blazers from 2012-18, McGowan was elevated to the additional role of CEO of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment in 2018, where his responsibilities expanded further into the professional sports franchises and entertainment properties in the Vulcan portfolio. His new role included managing a cross-functional executive team in both Portland and Seattle in leading those business operations.

In 2017, McGowan was honored as one of the “Business Executives of the Year” by the Portland Business Journal. Locally, he was active in the Portland community and served as a board member of the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Foundation, Oregon Sports Authority, Oregon Business Council and Trail Blazers Foundation.

In August 2013, McGowan and his team negotiated a community partnership with Moda Health that included naming rights to Moda Center. Together, Moda and the Trail Blazers have energized Portland’s hub for sports and entertainment, creating an urban showcase for healthy, active living.

McGowan piloted major venue and technological improvements to the Rose Quarter campus and Trail Blazers Practice Facility during his tenure, including $16 million in capital improvements. He also led a business restructuring to self-operate Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Quarter campus in 2013.

Through a partnership with Live Nation and event ticketing systems under Ticketmaster, McGowan drove an unprecedented variety of events to the Rose Quarter, including Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, Elton John, Katy Perry, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Billy Joel, the 2019 NCAA Women’s Regional Basketball Tournament, the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and PK80 Invitational – a groundbreaking college basketball tournament featuring 16 of the country’s top teams in a double-bracket format honoring Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday in 2017.

McGowan earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Delaware in 1996, where he was captain of the soccer team. Chris, his wife Susan, and their two sons, Ryan (19) and Kyle (17), reside in Southwest Portland.