SBJ/January 28-February 3, 2013/Franchises

Klein makes transition from pitch to president

Less than three years after he retired as a player with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Chris Klein has been named the team’s president.

Chris Klein (right) moved into management after retiring as a player in 2010.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
“Chris has earned this,” said Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, which owns the Galaxy. “He has the work ethic, the passion to succeed and, most important to us, he is driven to make an impact on MLS and on the Galaxy.”

Klein was scheduled to be introduced as president to Galaxy staff late last week. A formal announcement of the promotion was slated for today.

The Galaxy has not had a team president since Tom Payne left the club early last year.

Klein, 36, had held the title of vice president for the last 11 months after a two-year stint as senior director of the club’s training academy. He said he’s had his eye on a managerial career since becoming a member of the Galaxy in 2007.
In 2010, he was on the executive committee of the MLS Players Union when a new collective-bargaining agreement was reached with the owners.

“When I retired as a player, my goal was to make a difference in MLS as an executive,” Klein said. “I learned a lot from Tim, and he gave me a chance.”

Chris Klein

Age: 36
College: Indiana
Playing career: Kansas City Wizards (1998-2005), Real Salt Lake (2006-07), Los Angeles Galaxy (2007-10)
Achievements: Four-time MLS all-star, MLS Cup title in 2000, 22 appearances with the U.S. national team
Executive career: Senior director of Los Angeles Galaxy Academy (2010-12); team vice president (2012-13)
Personal: Married, with three children

With Klein as Galaxy president and Luc Robitaille as president of business operations for the Los Angeles Kings, also owned by AEG, the company now has two former athletes heading the corporate staffs of its teams. “My belief is that the best stewards of the game are those who played the game,” Leiweke said.

Klein will work closely with new AEG Sports COO Kelly Cheeseman, who was named to that post earlier this month after 4 1/2 years as vice president of tickets sales and service for the Kings and AEG Sports. Klein also will support the efforts of Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who has led the team to MLS Cup titles the last two seasons.

“I’ll be the day-to-day face of the business operations of the Galaxy,” Klein said. “I want us to be as successful in business as Bruce has led our team to be.”

Leiweke said he has three goals in mind for Klein.

“One: Stay relevant in a 12-team town in Los Angeles,” Leiweke said. “Two: Stay relevant in L.A. while breaking even. And three: Stay relevant in L.A. while breaking even and with an eye where MLS is going — development from within.”

According to Leiweke, the Galaxy has lost money in recent years because of its signing of designated players — MLS’s maximum-three salary cap exemptions, so stars can be signed — such as David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.

“We’ll continue to sign great players as DPs,” Leiweke said, “but under Chris, you will also see more player development.”

Off the pitch, one of Klein’s biggest challenges is to increase season-ticket sales. According to Cheeseman, one of the club’s primary offseason goals is to increase full-season sales 30 percent from the current 7,500.

“He’ll get us there,” Cheeseman said of Klein. “He’s calm, insightful and brings the perspective of a player. His promotion makes complete sense because it improves and streamlines AEG Sports.”

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