SEATTLE -- The Mariners are taking a metaphorical nine-inning approach in their search for a new president of business operations. Jeff Raikes, a member of the Mariners’ partnership group who is overseeing the 12-person search committee for the position, outlined that tactic on Friday at T-Mobile Park.
“The first inning, you establish the charter of the committee. The second inning, you assemble the search committee and the support for the search committee,” said Raikes, who implemented a similar strategy when anchoring a presidential search at Stanford University in 2012. “In the third inning, you get into a discovery process.”
That’s where the Mariners currently stand -- the third inning -- which Raikes said will feature consultations with club stakeholders, team employees from the senior to entry levels, leaders of Seattle-area business organizations, leaders of other sports franchises and more. This “third inning” will last roughly five weeks, per Raikes.
“That brings the committee together in a way that allows us to collectively identify the attributes of the leader,” Raikes said. “What is it that we need to have in the great leader of the front office? … Once you get to the third inning, you really then have that clarity of what are the leadership attributes that we're looking for?”
After that, the Mariners will begin interviews. Raikes said Friday that they have received external interest in the position, but that the club has not yet formally begun interviews. Spearheading these efforts now indicates that the Mariners likely won’t wait until the offseason to make their hire, when more candidates currently in jobs across Major League Baseball would be available. Raikes echoed what John Stanton said last month -- that the Mariners would consider a wide range of candidates in and outside of baseball, with an emphasis on diversity.
“Absolutely,” Raikes said. “I will guarantee you will have a diverse candidate pool.”
This vacant position was created after former president and CEO Kevin Mather resigned in February. But this new position will not have the same function or title. The Mariners are following the mold that many other clubs have established by separating their business and baseball operations, the latter of which will continue to be overseen by general manager Jerry Dipoto. In the previous regime, Dipoto reported to Mather, who reported to Stanton. Dipoto has reported to Stanton since Mather resigned, and he will continue to do so after the new hire is made.
Mariners’ presidential search committee
• John Stanton, Mariners chairman and managing partner
• Jeff Raikes, Mariners partnership group co-founder; co-founder, Raikes Foundation
• Martha Choe, community member
• Charles Johnson, Mariners vice present of corporate partnerships
• Betsy Pepper Larson, Mariners partnership group
• Monica Marmolejo, Mariners controller
• Kevin Martinez, Mariners senior vice president of marketing and communications
• Eric Pettigrew, Seattle Kraken vice president of government relations and outreach
• Eddie Poplawski, Seattle community member
• Devon Pritchard, Nintendo of America Inc. executive vice president of business affairs
• Juan Rodriguez, Mariners director of ballpark services
• Dan Wilson, Mariners hall of famer
Four of the committee members are Mariners employees -- Johnson, Marmolejo, Martinez and Rodriguez -- and three are members of the partnership group, including Stanton, Raikes and Larson. Choe worked with Raikes at the Gates Foundation as its chief administration officer and was described as a “stalwart leader in our community on many dimensions.” Pettigrew is a former state legislator. Poplawski is a business leader in the Seattle area. Pritchard has ties to the Mariners through Nintendo, which is one of the club’s partners. Wilson brings an on-field alumni voice.
“The approach is to start with super fans,” Raikes said. “Every one of the people on this committee is a super fan of the Seattle Mariners. … Those are the kinds of people I wanted on the committee, people who love the Mariners, because this organization is a community asset. And it's very important that we have that spirit in the committee.”
The committee isn’t just comprised of eclectic backgrounds in government, community and business, in and away from sports, it also features diverse voices and diversity.
“They bring multiple perspectives,” Raikes said. “But when we're in the room together, we're one Mariners, we're about finding the best president of business operations for the organization, not the best for a given stakeholder.”
The committee will drive the process, but the Mariners have also enlisted an external search firm, Protégé Partners and its managing partner, Rory Verrett, to help facilitate. Barrett worked with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on that league’s diversity initiatives. Raikes and Stanton have also consulted MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB chief people and culture officer Michele Meyer-Shipp.
Raikes was the president of Microsoft’s business division, then was CEO for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and now oversees the Raikes Foundation, which supports innovative work in education, youth homelessness and expanded learning programs, according to its website, along with his wife, Tricia.
Raikes has been a Mariners partner since 1992, when he and his wife invested in ownership stake when the team was teetering on possibly leaving Seattle. Keeping the Mariners here was vital to him back then, and shaping the future of the Mariners’ leadership is nearly as important.
“I love baseball, but what I really love is this community,” Raikes said. “I've been here now 40 years, and this community deserves championships on the field and the very best in sports in terms of the front office.”