SBD/December 17, 2012/Franchises

Blazers President & CEO McGowan Discusses Staff Culture, Plan For Team In Profile

McGowan during a meeting warned Blazers employees more layoffs could be ahead
Trail Blazers President & CEO Chris McGowan “knows there might as well be eggshells scattered around the Rose Garden these days, with the way some are gingerly walking about, trying to avoid becoming the next Trail Blazers employee fired by the boy-faced president,” according to Jason Quick of the Portland OREGONIAN. After McGowan called a staff meeting to announce the firing of three longtime execs, he “asked if there were any comments or questions.” It was “crickets and tumbleweeds,” as “nobody spoke." It “didn't help that he mispronounced the last name of one of the fired employees, who had been there nearly 20 years.” It also “didn't help that in his speech, he warned that more layoffs could be ahead.” McGowan said of the meeting, "Weird. That was weird. To go into a room with 170 people, and it's only the second time I've addressed the staff in an all-staff fashion, and I'm delivering that unfortunate news to them. And you want to be available to answer questions, but nobody wants to ask in a group setting. ... So, yeah, that wasn't a very good day." McGowan is “motivated by numbers and ideas” and “driven by order and efficiency.” He is also “confident that the business of the Blazers is about to change.”

TIGHTER SHIP: McGowan said that he is “under no directives" from Trail Blazers parent company Vulcan Sports & Entertainment. McGowan said his orders are "to simply run a better organization and improve the results.” McGowan: "I'm a real active president. I'm an operator. I will have more direct reports than previous leaders had, that's just my style.” To improve the results, McGowan has “ambitious goals.” If things “go right, by the start of next basketball season, a sponsor will have purchased seven-figure-a-year naming rights for the Rose Garden.” Boxing, tennis and a wider variety of concerts “will fill the Rose Garden more often.” And the four contracts “that expire this summer -- the arena management company, food and beverage, ticketing and radio rights -- will be negotiated to benefit both the Blazers and their customers, not simply renewed on good faith.” McGowan has “inherited a staff that is not accustomed to his competitive focus on numbers and goals.” The team had “become a happy and comfortable place to work in recent years, a calculated result by former president Larry Miller, who resigned in July after five years.” Some staffers “wondered if McGowan was stripping the Blazers of their family-oriented culture and replacing it with a robotic, corporate approach.” McGowan: “I want morale to be based on accomplishing things together, not because we are letting people come to work whenever they want, or wear whatever they want, or because they do a bunch of staff get-togethers” (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/16).

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