Minnesota United FC has made a major personnel decision, naming Chris Wright as its first CEO. Wright, who will assume his new role on October 6, joins the club after spending 13 seasons as president for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx and 26 years with the organization
“We welcome Chris Wright to Minnesota United and are extraordinarily excited about adding his leadership to our dynamic and passionate organization,” said managing partner Bill McGuire. “In the last year, MNUFC has moved into the MLS, the top tier of soccer in America; has begun construction of a magnificent new soccer stadium; has formed strong and growing bonds with soccer fans in all of our communities; has worked to enhance the sport for all youth throughout the region; and has partnered with leading Minnesota businesses and entities to make this great game a positive part of our lives and our home. Our accomplishments are significant and we are proud of them. The addition to our group of such experienced, tested and proven leadership — from the business, fan and sporting sides — is a tremendous and unprecedented positive for us, our fans and this community. Building on our accomplishments to date, his impact will be meaningful, obvious and positive as we further the great tradition of the world’s game here in The North.”
With the Wolves and Lynx, Wright oversaw both teams’ business operations and over 140 employees. An engaged member of the Twin Cities’ corporate community, Wright was integral to forming the organizations’ most closely integrated partnerships, including those with Target, Mayo Clinic, US Bank, Federated Insurance and Jack Link’s. Additionally, he has been heavily involved in the current renovation of Target Center, a $140 million project that began in the spring of 2016 and will be completed later in the 2017–18 season. Wright also led the 2014 sales efforts and development of Mayo Clinic Square, a state-of-the-art practice and performance facility that is widely recognized as an innovative and highly successful model for sports franchises.
For much of his tenure, Wright led the business planning and strategic direction for all business units associated with the Timberwolves and Lynx. He is recognized for establishing the Minnesota Lynx in the Twin Cities market, including helping the team realize unprecedented growth in ticket sales and corporate partnerships. These efforts have defined the Lynx as the recognized model for women’s professional sports, an undisputed leader in the WNBA both on and off the court, and an important asset to our community. A true believer that a healthy collaborative culture is a winning culture, Wright helped author the purpose statement Be A Pack: Believe, Inspire, Unite.
“Soccer — at both the professional and grass roots level — is the fastest growing sport in the United States,” said Wright. “I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to return to my own sport roots, help build an iconic stadium — Allianz Field — and help this great new franchise and team build on the legacy of soccer in our community. It is an honor to work with this incredible ownership group and staff, and to have the chance to optimize this great sport for fans, partners and all of those who are part of our vibrant, growing and diverse community.”
In his native England, Wright played and coached in various professional and semi-professional soccer leagues. When he first arrived in the United States, he served as general manager for Major Indoor Soccer League teams the Pittsburgh Spirit (1981–86) and the Minnesota Strikers (1986–87). Following that, he acted as a consultant working on bids for major national and international events, including the programming of the widely recognized National Sports Center in Blaine — which is today home of the Minnesota United Training Ground — before becoming its first director.
Wright graduated from Carnegie College of Physical Education in Headingly, Leeds, Yorkshire, England. He is very involved in and consults with many local charities and youth sports programs. He was elected to the advisory board of the Minnesota State University Sports Management Program and is an inductee into their Sports Marketing Hall of Fame.
Image courtesy Minnesota United FC.