DETROIT — Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., announced on Monday 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 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.
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.