Ilitch Sports + Entertainment Names Chris McGowan President and CEO

Ilitch Sports + Entertainment (IS+E) today named veteran sports and entertainment executive Chris McGowan president and CEO, effective Jan. 3, 2022.
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Chris McGowan today has been named president and CEO of Illitch Sports + Entertainment. // Courtesy of Illitch Sports + Entertainment
Chris McGowan today has been named president and CEO of Illitch Sports + Entertainment. // Courtesy of Illitch Sports + Entertainment

Ilitch Sports + Entertainment (IS+E) today named veteran sports and entertainment executive Chris McGowan president and CEO, effective Jan. 3, 2022.

IS+E is the business division of the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, The District Detroit, Olympia Parking, and the Ilitch joint venture interest in 313 Presents. In this role, McGowan will work closely with Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, to enhance the fan, guest, and partner experience across Ilitch-managed properties and venues.

McGowan replaces Chris Granger, who served as Ilitch Holdings’ group president for sports and entertainment since 2017. Executive vice presidents and general managers Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings and Al Avila of the Detroit Tigers will continue to report to Ilitch.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Chris and his family to Detroit and our organization,” says Ilitch. “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, IS+E will produce 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, IS+E will continue to operate Little Caesars Arena, Comerica Park, and the Fox Theatre. It also will 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 organization and to lead Ilitch Sports and Entertainment,” says 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 as president and CEO of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. In 2018, he was named to the additional role of CEO of Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, including the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. McGowan also served as VSE representative for the ownership stake in the Seattle Sounders MLS soccer team. He also oversaw the entertainment properties in the Vulcan portfolio, including the Moda Center, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and the Rose Quarter campus.

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, a graduate of the University of Delaware, also spent 16 years with Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), including a final assignment as COO of AEG Sports. He played a key role in opening the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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