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Volume 22 No. 14
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Panthers, Tepper make another progressive front-office move

The Carolina Panthers continued their front-office transformation last week.

The Panthers announced the hiring of T-Mobile marketer Meredith Starkey as the team’s first chief marketing officer, the latest in a string of female executive hires and new positions as the team refocuses under new owner David Tepper. That comes after founding owner Jerry Richardson’s sexual harassment scandal spurred the franchise’s sale to Tepper for $2.275 billion last summer.

Marketing veteran Meredith Starkey becomes the Panthers’ first CMO.
Photo: ackerman & gruber

Starkey, a former SBJ Forty Under 40 honoree, will start with the Panthers at the end of March after a 10-year run in marketing at T-Mobile, where she’s risen to vice president of marketing, sponsorships and events. At the Panthers, she’ll report to team president Tom Glick, another recent hire.

“This was an opportunity to go someplace that offered organizational leadership, the opportunity to help build a new culture, and with new ownership, you could already see that there’s a big vision for the future,” she said.

Meredith Starkey

2015 SBJ Forty Under 40

■ Current company/title: T-Mobile / Vice President, Marketing, Sponsorships and Events
■ New company/title: Carolina Panthers / Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer
■ Hometown: Edenton, N.C.
■ Education: Clemson University (B.S., marketing)

Officially vice president and chief marketing officer, Starkey’s hiring is the latest move toward improved gender diversity in the team’s front office, following Kristi Coleman being named chief financial officer last month. The Panthers also recently named Dr. Nancy Gritter lead internist, the first woman to serve in that role for an NFL team, according to the Panthers, and hired Tish Guerin as director of player wellness, the team’s first in-house psychological clinician.

“The Panthers are laser focused on gender equity and overall diversity,” said Len Perna, CEO of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, parent company of Turnkey Search, which handled the search. “We need more teams like the Panthers. Female stars like Meredith won’t jump to the team side unless they know ownership is serious about empowering these roles. This ownership gets it.”

 Starkey has deep Carolina roots. She’s an Edenton, N.C., native and went to Clemson in South Carolina. Accordingly, “the bonus is that I get to return home, which is special. My first NFL game was the Panthers’ first game in 1995, played at Clemson, so now I feel like it’s full circle,” she said.

Starkey described her new responsibilities as building the marketing capabilities of the team, in order to burnish the brand, and develop deeper community ties.

“One of the big early opportunities I see is igniting excitement around the Panthers brand in both Carolinas,” she said.

The Panthers will be Starkey’s first property-side job since she worked for MLS’s D.C. United after college. After that, she held marketing posts at Genesco Sports Enterprises and Motorola before joining T-Mobile in 2009.