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Friday, March 1, 2024

Charlotte Hornets president Whitfield leaving after 17 years

President Fred Whitfield is stepping down from his position at the parent of the Charlotte Hornets and departing the organization after more than 17 years leading the team’s business operations.

Whitfield, 65, joined what was then Bobcats Sports & Entertainment in July 2006, serving as president and chief operating officer for 12 years before assuming the title of president and vice chairman in 2018.

During his tenure, he oversaw the name change from Charlotte Bobcats to Charlotte Hornets in 2014 and the rebranding of Spectrum Center in 2016 after naming rights partner Time Warner Cable’s merger with Charter Communications.

He also oversaw launch of both the Greensboro Swarm in the NBA G League in 2016 and Hornets Venom GT in the NBA 2K League in 2020.

“We thank Fred for all he has done for our organization and for the role he has played in helping get our ownership group up to speed over the last several months,” said Co-Chairmen Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin in a statement.

Schnall and Plotkin led a group that acquired the Hornets from Michael Jordan in August for $3 billion.

Whitfield said that he needs to spend more time with his family and focus on his health.

“Over the last 18 months I have successfully battled a serious case of throat cancer,” he said in a statement. “I’ve also been focused on supporting my mother, who has her own health issues. As these priorities have occupied more of my time and energy, I realized that now is the right time to leave my role with the Hornets, who are on a tremendous path to success with the energy and ideas brought by our new owners, Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin.”

The Hornets have not made the playoffs since the 2015-16 season and have had a winning record once — in 2021-22 — since then.

In the 2022-23 season, the team averaged 17,123 fans per game. Through 10 games in the 2023-24 season, it’s averaging 16,814 fans per home game, which ranks 27th in the 30-team league.

Under Whitfield’s leadership, the organization secured renovations and a lease extension for Spectrum Center. In addition, Spectrum Center hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention, 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend and 2019 ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament, as well as multiple rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Before the Hornets, Whitfield was the director of business and legal affairs for the Jordan Brand at Nike, the Washington Wizards director of player personnel and assistant legal counsel, Nike basketball’s director of player development, and Falk Associates Management Enterprises’s director of Carolina’s Region for player representation.

Chris Roush
Chris Roush
Chris Roush is executive editor of Business North Carolina. He can be reached at croush@businessnc.com.

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