The San Antonio Spurs have enjoyed a 19-year run of playoff appearances in part because of tremendous consistency and quality in management. That solidity will now face tests with the Wednesday announcement of the retirement of Spurs Sports & Entertainment chairman and CEO Peter Holt, although the franchise did not have to look far to find his successor.
Holt and the franchise announced his retirement via a press release that also included the news that his wife, Julianna Hawn Holt, will succeed him in both the chairman and CEO roles. From the release:
Spurs Sports & Entertainment today announced that Peter M. Holt has retired as the organization’s Chairman and CEO and that Julianna Hawn Holt will assume both roles. Peter has held the position since 1996 when the Holts became the largest shareholder in San Antonio Spurs, LLC. Peter will remain on the organization’s board of managers and continue as part of the ownership group while Julianna will become the team’s Governor on the NBA’s Board of Governors.
“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the last two decades,” said Peter Holt. “The championships are wonderful, bringing new sports franchises to San Antonio is important but the biggest accomplishment for me will always be the impact we’ve had in our community. The pride, support and love that our city has for the Spurs is truly amazing.” [...]
“Our ownership in the Spurs has always been a family affair,” said Julianna Hawn Holt. “For many years I’ve had the desire to take a more active role with Spurs Sports & Entertainment. We felt this was the right time to make this transition. We are very excited about the current Spurs season and the future of the organization.” [...]
“We’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful ownership group for the last two decades,” said Rick Pych, president of business operations for SS&E. “Peter has provided great leadership. His dedication, vision and management style have allowed all of us to develop, grow and succeed. We thank him for his service to the Spurs and the San Antonio community. All of us are excited about the future of SS&E under the guidance and leadership of Julianna.” [...]
The board of managers of San Antonio Spurs, LLC, per the request of Julianna, has appointed Pych as co-CEO.
It is not yet clear what inspired the 67-year-old Holt's retirement, but it is immediately apparent that he will be missed. The Holts first invested in the Spurs in 1993 and have enjoyed an incredibly successful run as primary owners, failing to make the playoffs only in the 1996-97 season and winning five championships in the last 17 full seasons. The 2015-16 team is off to a franchise-record 54-10 start and arguably stands as the best in Spurs history.
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Holt has succeeded as an owner in part because he appears to allow the basketball operations staff to do their job with minimal interference, although it's obviously easier to do so with the likes of R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich making most of the decisions. No matter the extent of his direct impact, Holt has brought stability to the franchise and not overreacted during relatively long championship droughts. Buford and Popovich were able to go seven years without a title (from 2007 to 2014) in part because Holt allowed them to. It's hard to say that all owners would have been so patient.
Holt's retirement will also matter to the league as a whole. He held several NBA-wide leaderships roles, having served as chairman of the Board of Governors from his election in October 2012 until his resignation in April 2014. For that matter, Holt regularly champions the idea that the Spurs are part of the San Antonio community and holds that the team owes as much to the city as it does to them.
The appointment of Julianna Hawn Holt as chairman and CEO should assuage most concerns that the Spurs' culture will change dramatically due to her husband's retirement. The team issued a concurrent press release detailing her background as an experienced businesswoman and Spurs owner, including her role in building the AT&T Center. The message is that her appointment brings more continuity than not, and it's hard to argue otherwise given her history with the team and the values she presumably shares with her husband.
Nevertheless, Holt's retirement stands as a major news for the Spurs and the league. It's unlikely that his absence will create serious drama, but the most stable organization in the NBA will have to deal with a little more uncertainty than usual.
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