The U.S. National Whitewater Center, Charlotte

Arts, Entertainment & Sports

Entertainment through arts, athletics, motorsports and many other cultural activities has a big collective financial impact in North Carolina. Leaders in the sector include perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time and the only person inducted in both the NASCAR and Pro Football halls of fame.

GARY BUETE

CEO | North Carolina FC Youth

Raleigh

An All-American soccer player at Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., before getting his master’s degree in sports management from East Tennessee State University, Buete joined NCFC Youth in 2014. With more than 13,000 players, it’s the country’s largest youth-to-professional club.

MARK BRAZIL

tournament director | Wyndham Championship

Greensboro

In his 20 years working on the men’s professional golf tournament, Brazil’s toughest challenge came last year, when COVID-19 kept spectators away. But he persevered, preserving its spot on the PGA Tour’s abbreviated schedule and retaining its biggest sponsors, Wyndham and Truist. Born and raised in Asheville, he is a graduate of Baylor University and received the J.R. “Digger” Smith Award in 2019, junior golf’s highest honor.

RICHARD CHILDRESS

owner | Richard Childress Racing

Welcome

Childress, 75, founded his stock-car racing team in 1969. The Winston-Salem native did it all, including driving, the first 12 years. While Ricky Rudd gave the team its first NASCAR win in 1983, it was Dale Earnhardt, upon returning to the team in 1984 after driving for Childress in a few races in 1981, who brought the most success, including six championships. The team has 400 members and fields three cars, two in NASCAR’s Cup series and one in its XFINITY series. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017. In 2004, he started Childress Vineyards near Lexington. It has become one of the state’s biggest wineries.

BOO CORRIGAN

athletic director | N.C. State University

Raleigh

Corrigan was hired in 2009 after holding the same title at the U.S. Military Academy. The Notre Dame and Virginia Commonwealth University graduate leads a 23-team program that has about $90 million in annual revenue and more than 200 full-time employees.

BUBBA CUNNINGHAM

athletic director | UNC Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill

Since the Notre Dame graduate arrived in 2011, UNC Chapel Hill Tar Heels have won 13 national titles. Cunningham joined the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee last year, and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics named him its 2019-20 AD of the Year. Before the pandemic, UNC athletics had annual revenue of more than $107 million.

TOM GABBARD

CEO | Blumenthal Performing Arts

Charlotte

Named CEO in 2003, Gabbard manages 110 employees and six Queen City theaters, which host more than 1,000 performances most years. Closed since May 2020 because of the pandemic, the organization is promoting its 2021-22 PNC Broadway Lights Series. He earned an MBA in arts management from Golden Gate University and was invited to join the COVID-19 Theatre Think Tank last year, helping the industry meet the challenges spawned by the pandemic.

JOE GIBBS

owner | Joe Gibbs Racing

Huntersville

Gibbs, 80, is the only person to be inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and NASCAR Hall of Fame. He coached the NFL’s Washington Redskins from 1981 to 1992 and 2004 to 2007 and won three Super Bowls. He started his racing team in 1992. It currently fields four Cup Series teams and four XFINITY Series teams. Gibbs’ drivers have won five Cup Series championships.

TOM GLICK

president | Carolina Panthers

Charlotte

Since being hired in 2018, Glick has been busy, updating Bank of America Stadium, starting a team headquarters in Rock Hill, S.C., and organizing Charlotte’s new Major League soccer team. The Cornell University graduate was an executive for top U.S. and English soccer teams from 2008-18.

RICK HENDRICK

chairman, CEO | Hendrick Automotive Group
owner | Hendrick Motorsports

Charlotte

His company is the country’s largest privately held automotive retail organization with 93 dealerships and 21 collision centers in 13 states.  He’s also a legendary racing leader with more than 260 NASCAR Cup Series wins and 13 championships to his teams’ credit since 1984. Hendrick, 71, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017 and Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2020.  The Warrenton native also co-owns JR Motorsports with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelly Earnhardt Miller.

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VALERIE HILLINGS

director | North Carolina Museum of Art

Raleigh

Hillings, 49, joined the museum in 2018 after 14 years with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation in New York City. She is a graduate of Duke University and earned a Ph.D. from New York University.

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MICHAEL JORDAN

chairman | Charlotte Hornets

Jupiter, Fla., and Charlotte

The basketball star and team owner won a national championship at UNC Chapel Hill and six as a Chicago Bull in the NBA. Jordan, 58, this year donated $10 million to Novant Health to help open two clinics in Wilmington, where he grew up. In 2010, he became the first former NBA player to own a majority stake in a team.

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STEVE O’DONNELL

executive vice president | NASCAR

Charlotte

O’Donnell, 52, worked his way up from the marketing department, where he started almost 25 years ago. He learned about NASCAR while studying at Rollins College, not far from the racing organization’s Daytona, Fla., headquarters. NASCAR’s 2021 Cup schedule features the most new tracks since the 1960s.

JIM PHILLIPS

commissioner | Atlantic Coast Conference

Greensboro

In February the former Northwestern athletic director succeeded John Swofford, who led the league for 24 years as it expanded to 15 teams from nine. The University of Illinois graduate has a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Tennessee. The conference had revenue of $455 million in 2019, including TV contracts of $288 million.

BEN SUTTON

chairman | Teall Capital

Winston-Salem

Sutton, 63, founded ISP Sports in 1993, then he sold the company to IMG College in 2010. Seven years later, he started Teall Investments, a private-equity firm that works with various businesses including Dyehard Fan Supply, an events merchandising company, and Sunshine Beverage, an energy drink maker.

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DAVID TEPPER

owner | Carolina Panthers

Charlotte

Tepper, 63, expanded into sports ownership after earning billions at his Appaloosa Management hedge fund based in Miami Beach, Fla. He bought the NFL team in 2018 and paid $325 million for a pro soccer team. With an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, he has a net worth of $14.5 billion, Forbes says.

BILL VASSAR

executive vice president | EUE/Screen Gems Studios

Wilmington

After decades in television and radio, Vassar joined EUE/Screen Gems Studios about 15 years ago. Its 23 stages help make it among the East Coast’s largest full-service television and film production companies. Shooting has resumed after a pandemic-induced stoppage last year.

DON WADDELL

president, general manager | Carolina Hurricanes

Raleigh

Waddell is a Northern Michigan University graduate who played one game in the NHL. He started with the Hurricanes  as president of team operator Gale Force Sports & Entertainment in 2014. He added general manager to his title in 2018.

FRED WHITFIELD

president, vice chairman | Hornets Sports & Entertainment

Charlotte

Since joining the NBA team in 2006, Whitfield, 62, has led major changes, including rebranding as the Charlotte Hornets and hosting major tournaments and concerts at Spectrum Center. He is a Greensboro native and Campbell University graduate. 

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JEFF WISE

president, CEO | U.S. National Whitewater Center

Charlotte

Wise, 57, has been a key force in building one of the state’s top tourist attractions since 2001. The Emory University School of Law graduate has worked as an attorney and for various startup companies.

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