April 21, 2021 – The Seattle Mariners have enlisted executive search firm Protégé Partners to assist in the search for a new president of business operations. Kevin Mather resigned from the position this past February. Managing partner Rory Verrett is leading the assignment for the recruitment firm. “John has given the search committee the opportunity to really spend the time for us to dig in, meet with a wide range of stakeholders, learn what we need to learn in order to form the leadership attributes for the president of operations and then do the search,” Jeff Raikes, a member of the Mariners’ partnership group who is overseeing the organization’s 12-person search committee, told local media last Friday. “I’m grateful that he’s taking that approach because I think it’s extremely important.”
Mr. Raikes likened the search process to a baseball game. “The first inning you establish the charter of the committee,” he said. “The second inning you assemble the search committee and the support for the search committee. In the third inning you get into the discovery process.” Mr. Raikes said the search will now feature consultations with club stakeholders, team employees from the senior to entry levels, leaders of Seattle-area business organizations, leaders of other sports franchises and more. The “third inning,” Mr. Raikes says, will last roughly five weeks.
“That brings the committee together in a way that allows us to collectively identify the attributes of the leader,” Mr. Raikes said. “What is it that we need to have in the great leader of the front office? ….Once you get to the third inning, you really then have that clarity of what are the leadership attributes that we’re looking for?”
Emphasis on Diversity
Mr. Raikes noted that the Mariners would consider a wide range of candidates inside and outside of baseball, with an emphasis on diversity. “I will guarantee you will have a diverse candidate pool,” he said.
According to Major League Baseball, Mr. Verrett worked with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on that league’s diversity initiatives. Mr. Raikes and chairman John Stanton have also consulted MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB chief people and culture officer Michele Meyer-Shipp.
The Mariners were enfranchised in 1977. In 2016, longtime majority owner, Nintendo, announced its plans to sell most of its stake to the other members of the Mariners ownership group, First Avenue Entertainment. As part of that transition, Mr. Stanton, a minority owner since 2000, became the new chairman. This marks the first time since at least 1981 that the majority of the Mariners ownership is local. In addition to a focus on youth baseball and softball and fighting homelessness, the organization has recently made commitments to take action to advance racial equity and social justice in baseball and in the community.
Protégé Search is an executive search and leadership advisory firm focused on diverse talent. The firm has recruited CEOs, communications and marketing leaders, general managers, chief diversity officers, senior legal executives, human resources leaders, CIOs, CFOs, heads of governmental affairs, and other senior executives for corporations, startups, trade associations and nonprofit organizations. Mr. Verrett and the Protégé Search team have helped clients such as The New York Times Company, Freddie Mac, Prince’s Paisley Park, Boeing, Plantronics, Seagate, Planned Parenthood, Hasbro, the NFL, and Harvard University recruit and retain senior-level diverse talent. Protégé Search operates out of Washington, D.C., Chicago and Atlanta for a global client base.
Mr. Verrett has 20 years of experience recruiting, developing and mentoring high performing executives from diverse backgrounds. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Howard University, a former leader in the diversity and public affairs practices of two global executive search firms (Spencer Stuart and Russell Reynolds Associates), and the first-ever head of talent management at the National Football League.
Mariners Using Search Firms to Fill Top Roles
The Mariners recently turned to WA-based Reffett Associates in the recruitment of Kari Escobedo as the new senior vice president of information technology. The search was led by Marshall Reffett, managing director, with assistance from Tom Young, director of operations. This is a new position for the organization and is part of a growing trend among sports franchises to integrate information technology into all aspects of their franchise management. Sports organizations have been investing heavily into experienced information technology leadership to ensure that the technology teams are playing a critical role in functions across their operations.
Reffett Associates has previously worked with the Mariners under the new ownership. At the end of 2016, the firm placed Lisa Winsby as vice president of human resources. She is still with the organization now serving as senior vice president of people and culture. “Over the years, the Mariners have been a stellar participant in building a stronger, vibrant Seattle,” said William Reffett, a managing partner at the search firm.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media