Bobcats Executive Staff Bios
An NBA legend, Michael Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2009. As a player, Jordan virtually rewrote the record book. He played 13 seasons for the Chicago Bulls, leading the league in scoring a record 10 times. His 30.1 points per game average is the highest in NBA history and, with 32,292 points, he ranks third on the all-time scoring list. Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championship titles and was named NBA Finals MVP during each of those series. A five-time regular season MVP, in 1991 and 1992, he became the only player to win back-to-back regular season and Finals MVP awards.
In March 2010, Jordan became the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, after four years as part of the team’s ownership group and its Managing Member of Basketball Operations. Jordan is the first former player to become the majority owner of an NBA franchise.
Jordan burst onto the national stage as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, leading his team to the NCAA Championship with a dramatic game-winning shot. Following a stellar college career during which he was a two-time College Player of the Year and first team All-America, Jordan was chosen with the third pick of the 1984 NBA Draft. Jordan is a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner, most famously as a member of the 1992’s “Dream Team.”
After a brief stint as an owner and executive with the Washington Wizards in 2000-01, Jordan returned to the court as a player for the team for the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons before retiring.
Off the court, Michael Jordan has also proven to be a successful businessman. Since its creation, his Jordan Brand (a division of NIKE) has been an innovator of athletic shoes and apparel. The Jordan Brand has grown to become a market leader under Jordan’s creative design input. As one of the world’s most popular and recognizable figures, Jordan’s endorsement portfolio includes Gatorade, Upper Deck and Hanes, among others. In 2004, Jordan formed Michael Jordan Motorsports as a result of his passion for motorcycle racing. Among Jordan’s other Jordan’s business ventures are several thriving restaurants.
Jordan serves as the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Chief Wish Ambassador and supports many other charitable causes including the James R. Jordan Boys and Girls Club in Chicago and the Jordan Institute for Families at the University of North Carolina, among others. His annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational golf tournament has raised almost $7 million for several worthy charities since its inception.
Jordan and his wife, Yvette, were married in April 2013.
In May 1998, FAME merged with SFX Entertainment, the country’s leading producer, promoter and presenter of live entertainment events. Polk was involved in the integration and consolidation of all the sports properties under the SFX Entertainment umbrella into a single business entity.
During the summer of 1996, Polk negotiated four of the five highest contracts in NBA history. He negotiated Alonzo Mourning’s $105 million contract with the Miami Heat and Dikembe Mutombo’s $56 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks. Polk was the key player in asserting Juwan Howard’s rights during the contract dispute between the NBA and the Miami Heat; he subsequently negotiated Howard’s $105 million deal with the Washington Bullets. He assisted David Falk in negotiating Jordan’s record-setting contracts in 1996 and 1997.
Polk served as Co-Producer of Space Jam, starring Jordan and the Looney Tunes. Space Jam, Warner Bros. first full-length film featuring the Looney Tunes, grossed a record-setting $29.3 million during its opening weekend. Polk also was an Executive Producer of Michael Jordan to the Max, an IMAX format movie released in May 2000.
A 1981 graduate of the University of Maryland, Polk earned his law degree at the National Law Center at George Washington University in 1988 and served on the Center’s Law Review. Polk was named to the Sporting News’ “100 Most Powerful People in Sports” list in 1997 and 1998. He was also selected to the Sports Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” in 1999.
The 53-year-old Polk began his career as a Certified Public Accountant for Touche Ross and Co. in Washington, DC in 1983.
Polk and his wife, Amanda, are involved in many Washington charities including Johns Hopkins affiliate, Suburban Hospital, Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) and DC Humane Society.
President, Chief Operating Officer & Alternate Governor
Since coming to Charlotte, Whitfield has overseen the most dramatic growth in both franchise and arena history. From simultaneously signing an arena naming rights deal with Time Warner Cable and a television broadcast rights deal with Fox Sports, to doubling the number of corporate partners and launching the Cats Care community initiative with the largest donation ever made to Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools by a professional sports franchise, Whitfield has presided over a significant increase in every business metric the company keeps. He is also responsible for positioning Time Warner Cable Arena as the premiere destination for sports and entertainment in the Carolinas, attracting the CIAA, ACC and NCAA Tournaments, global concert tours like Paul McCartney, who made Charlotte one of just 11 stops in North America, and the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, Whitfield brings a portfolio that includes the Jordan Brand, a division of Nike, Inc.; the Washington Wizards; Nike Basketball; Falk Associates Management Enterprises (F.A.M.E.); and a private law practice.
Before joining the Bobcats, Whitfield most recently served as Director of Business and Legal Affairs for Jordan Brand, where he managed endorsements and sports marketing strategy. Jordan Brand’s clients include some of the top athletes in professional sports, including Ray Allen, Carmelo Anthony, Derek Jeter, Joe Johnson, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade. From 2000-03, Whitfield served as Director of Player Personnel and Assistant Legal Counsel for the Washington Wizards. While there, he was responsible for the team’s salary cap administration, contractual issues and player scouting. He is widely credited with facilitating the methods to correct the team’s troubled salary cap situation, enabling that franchise to rebuild through trades and free agency.
Whitfield served as Director of Player Development for Nike Basketball prior to joining the Wizards. At Nike Basketball, he was responsible for scouting new potential endorsers, negotiating endorsement contracts and overseeing business relationships for more than 150 NBA players. His career in sports began as a player agent representing professional athletes with F.A.M.E. as Director of the Carolinas Region, based in Greensboro. Before joining F.A.M.E., Whitfield established and managed a successful law practice in Greensboro.
A graduate of Campbell University, Whitfield was an all-south, team MVP and captain basketball player and was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. He earned a BBA degree in economics and then completed his MBA at Campbell in marketing while serving as assistant basketball coach for the Camels. From there, he earned a Juris Doctorate degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law where he served as Student Bar Association President.
Whitfield also formed HoopTee Charities, Inc, a North Carolina based non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide scholarships for disadvantaged youngsters to attend camps and other educational youth based programs throughout the Carolinas. In addition, for the past 29 years he has run the Achievements Unlimited Basketball School in Greensboro and Charlotte serving more than 9,000 kids, including many who attend on need-based scholarships. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Charlotte Sports Foundation and Charlotte Center City Partners. In recent years, Whitfield has received the prestigious Thurgood Marshall Award of Excellence (2011) and YMCA George Williams Award (Volunteer of the Year 2012).
Whitfield and his wife Mary reside in Charlotte.
President of Basketball Operations
Before joining the Bobcats, Higgins spent three seasons as General Manager of the Golden State Warriors. Prior to that, he spent three seasons as Assistant General Manager for the Washington Wizards, where he worked with Bobcats Chairman & CEO Michael Jordan, his one-time teammate with the Bulls. His responsibilities there included collaborating on all basketball decisions, including transactions and trades, and working with player personnel and scouting. Before moving to the front office with the Wizards, Higgins was an assistant coach from 1994-2000 with the Warriors.
In 13 seasons as an NBA player, Higgins averaged 9.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 779 games spread between Golden State, Chicago, Seattle, San Antonio, New Jersey, Sacramento and Cleveland. Originally selected by the Bulls in the second round of the 1982 NBA Draft, Higgins appeared in 33 playoff games, averaging 7.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He spent seven seasons with the Warriors, including playing the first five games of the 1994-95 campaign for the team before moving to the bench as an assistant coach on November 19, 1994. Higgins still ranks among the Warriors all-time leaders in free throw percentage (seventh), three-point field goals (eighth) and three-point field goal attempts (ninth), as well as among the franchise playoff leaders in three-point field goal attempts (fifth), three-point field goals (tied for sixth), free throw percentage (seventh), blocked shots (eighth) and steals (tenth).
Higgins played four years at Fresno State University (1978-82), where he led the Bulldogs in scoring in each of his last three seasons and guided the team to two PCAA Championships. A First Team All-Conference selection as both a junior and senior, he earned Honorable Mention All-America honors from both the Associated Press and The Sporting News as a senior.
Higgins and his wife, Concetta, have two sons, Rick and Cory. Rick works for the Bobcats as a basketball operations assistant and Cory was a three-time All-Big 12 guard at the University of Colorado before graduating in May 2011.
A native of Burma who immigrated to the United States with his family in 1968 when he was three years old, Cho became the first Asian-American general manager in American major league sports when he served as General Manager of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2010-11.
Prior to his stint in Portland, Cho spent the previous 10 seasons as Assistant General Manager of the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder. Cho entered the NBA as an intern with the SuperSonics in 1995 while earning a law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law. After serving as a part-time consultant for the SuperSonics in 1997, Cho was hired as the team’s Director of Basketball Affairs in 1998 before being promoted to Assistant General Manager in 2000. A member of the Washington State Bar, Cho also served as Vice President of Legal for the SuperSonics from 2005-07 in addition to his duties as Assistant GM. In that role, he was responsible for all legal work involved with sponsorship agreements, licensing issues, employment contracts and immigration issues. Following the team’s move to Oklahoma City, Cho also oversaw the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, and their run to the championship game in 2009-10.
Cho earned an engineering degree from Washington State University and worked as an engineer at Boeing in Seattle from 1989-94 before leaving to enroll at Pepperdine University School of Law in order to pursue his passion in professional sports. His law degree from Pepperdine includes an emphasis in sports law, contract negotiations and dispute resolution.
During his internship with the SuperSonics, Cho, along with two Microsoft programmers, helped design and implement one of the NBA’s most advanced and comprehensive college and professional player-evaluation systems that integrates player statistics, scouting information and contract details.
An avid explorer of restaurants and cuisine, Cho enjoys staying active by playing basketball, tennis, ping-pong and softball in his spare time. He and his wife, Julie, have two daughters, Miranda and Annika.
Executive Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer
Guelli has more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience, including 11 years with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. He initially joined the Bills in July 1999 as Senior Manager of Rochester Operations and was promoted to Executive Director in 2003 and Vice President in 2006 before being named Senior Vice President of Business Ventures in 2008. While with the Bills, Guelli developed the business plan surrounding the relocation of the team’s training camp to Rochester in 2000 and spearheaded the development and execution of the team’s business model in Toronto, which included a joint venture with Rogers Communications to play eight games over five seasons in Toronto. In addition to overseeing the regionalization of the club’s business strategies, Guelli was also responsible for business-to-business sales operations, including sponsorships, advertising and luxury suites, as well as the sales of team-controlled inventory for television, radio and Internet.
Guelli began his career with Giltspur Inc., a division of the fortune 500 Viad Corp.
A native of Rochester and a graduate of SUNY Brockport, Guelli and his wife, Patty, reside in South Charlotte and have two sons, Gunner and Grayson.
JAMES R. JORDAN
Executive Vice President of Operations
James R. Jordan was named Executive Vice President of Operations for Bobcats Sports & Entertainment in November 2013 after serving as an advisor to the Chairman’s support team since March 2010. Prior to coming to the organization, Jordan was Director of Operations and Administration for the EPS Corporation, Field Service Company located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, since 2006.
Jordan retired from the United States Army in September 2006 after 31 years of service as an outstanding soldier, leader and manager with documented success. He served as the 35th Signal Brigade Airborne Command Sergeants Major from February 2002-April 2006 as a part of 18th Airborne Corps Task Force supporting Combat Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. While deployed he was the Senior Signal Enlisted Manager of a Signal Task Force that at times reached over of 3,600 soldiers and Contractors spanning throughout both countries.
Jordan also served at Fort Bragg from August 1993-February 2002 as the 327th Airborne Signal Battalion Command Sergeants Major and as Bravo Company 327th First Sergeant within the 35th Signal Brigade Airborne, where he was responsible for planning, coordinating and directing the activities of all personnel assigned while in both positions. He was selected to lead an Airborne Signal Task Force that supported a 1,500-person Task Force of soldiers and contractors during Operations Restore Hope in Haiti.
As a member of the United States Army he received numerous awards, including the Legion of Merit Award; The Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (4th Oak Leaf Cluster); Army Commendation Medal (10th award); Army Achievement Medal (5th award); Humanitarian Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraqi Campaign Medal; Good Conduct Medal (10th award); and The Signal Corps’ Silver and Bronze Order of Mercury Medals.
Jordan and his wife, Blanca, have three kids and they presently reside in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he is actively engaged in supporting the community.
Senior Vice President of Marketing, Entertainment & Interactive Media
Since joining the Bobcats in September 2006, Bennett has overseen several major initiatives, such as the move from Time Warner Cable to Fox Sports for TV game broadcasts, a brand refresh in 2012 that included changing the team’s color scheme, the increased regionalization of the club’s preseason games and the revamping of the organization’s game day presentation to a more family friendly experience. In addition, he presided over the redesign of the team store, as well as the introduction of exclusive Jordan Brand Bobcats apparel into the store’s inventory.
Bennett has more than 25 years of experience in a variety of areas across sports and entertainment. As owner and founding principal of The Event Authority, he produced over 400 live events for various college and high school athletic programs and entertainment entities. That list includes nine HBCU Football Classics, the Jordan Brand Classic high school basketball all-star game and the HoopTee Celebrity Golf Classic, as well as the corporate entertainment for the PGA Tour FBR Open in Phoenix. He also spent eight years working in intercollegiate athletics.
Bennett earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations in 1993 from North Carolina A&T State University, where he played football for the Aggies. He and his wife, Michelle, have one son, Seth Michael.
Senior Vice President of Partnership Marketing & Ticketing
Prior to joining the Bobcats, Hampsten served as a Director of Team Marketing & Business Operations at the NBA office, where he was responsible for analyzing the business operations and identifying areas of strengths and opportunities for a select number of NBA, WNBA and NBA D-League teams. In doing this, he was able to provide assistance in maximizing all areas of the business, including ticket sales and retention.
Hampsten has also served as the Vice President of Sales & Service for the Phoenix Coyotes and Jobing.com Arena. During his tenure with the Coyotes, he oversaw a department that set every franchise record in ticket sales including season tickets, renewal rates, luxury suites, group tickets and individual tickets sold.
A graduate of Mount Union College, he also earned an MBA in marketing from Arizona State University. Hampsten currently resides in Charlotte with his wife Ashlee, his four-year-old daughter Brooklyn and son CJ, who was born in February 2012.
Senior Vice President of Arena & Event Operations for Bobcats Sports & Entertainment and the General Manager of Time Warner Cable Arena
Prior to joining Bobcats Sports & Entertainment, Julian spent 15 years as General Manager of 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore. She assumed management of 1st Mariner Arena after serving in a number of roles in sales, marketing and event administration for Centre Management, the operating company for the Capital Centre (later USAir Arena), home of the Washington Bullets and Washington Capitals. In 2002, she was named to the Baltimore Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 list, honoring her achievements as a leading Baltimore executive.
Julian received her bachelor’s degree in athletics administration from Ohio University, where she was a four-year letter winner and co-captain of the tennis team as a senior. She and her husband, David, have two sons, Griffin and Donovan.
Vice President of Communications
Mike Cristaldi is in his first season as Vice President of Communications for Bobcats Sports & Entertainment. He comes to Charlotte after 13 years with the Minnesota Timberwolves, including the last six as director of public relations and community relations. Cristaldi oversees the organization’s basketball and business media and public relations efforts, serving as the primary liaison between the team and the local, national and international media. He is also responsible for strategic planning, as well as day-to-day media operations, including coordinating press conferences and interviews for the team’s executives, coaches and players.
Cristaldi initially joined the Timberwolves organization in 2000 as public relations manager for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, before transitioning to public relations manager for the Timberwolves in 2003. He was promoted to director of public relations in 2005 and added leadership of the organization’s community relations and publications departments in 2006.
Before going to Minnesota, Cristaldi served as director of public relations and radio announcer for the Continental Basketball Association’s Rockford Lightning from 1998-2000. He also spent the summer of 1998 working in the public relations and marketing departments for the Las Vegas Stars of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
A native of Dedham, Massachusetts, Cristaldi earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and English from Marquette University. He and his wife, Heidi, have two daughters, Bella and Mia.
Vice President of Human Resources
Curry brings over 16 years of experience in consumer product and service organizations to the organization. She most recently served as Director of Human Relations with Bimbo Bakeries USA, joining that company in November 2011 when it acquired Sara Lee. Curry, who had been with Sara Lee as Director of Human Resources since November 2007, played an integral role in the transition of Sara Lee’s employees following the acquisition.
Prior to joining Sara Lee, Curry spent eight years with Pepsi Bottling Group. After starting with the company as Manager of Human Resources in 2000, she was promoted to Senior Manager of Diversity & Staffing in 2002 and later to Senior Manager of Human Resources in 2005.
Curry is a 1996 graduate of Ohio University with bachelor’s degrees in management and organizational communication. She earned a master’s in human resource management from Widener University in 2003.
Vice President of Community Affairs and Executive Director of the Cats Care Foundation
Henderson joined the organization from Presbyterian Hospital/Novant Health, where she most recently served as Senior Director of Corporate Relations & Sponsorships. In that role, Henderson built and managed Novant’s partnership with the Bobcats beginning with the team’s inaugural season in 2004.
Henderson serves on the Discovery Place Board of Trustees, Allegro Foundation Board of Directors, American Heart Association Go Red Executive Team, Autism Speaks Board of Directors, Johnson C. Smith University Board of Visitors and is a member of Women Executives. She has also served on the boards of directors for the Arts and Science Council, United Way of the Central Carolinas and WTVI.
A graduate of Western Michigan University, Henderson earned her MBA from Queens University of Charlotte, completed the Harvard Business School Program for Management Development and acquired her Project Management certificate from the University of North Carolina Charlotte. She also received the Charlotte Business Women of the Year Fellowship in 2011. Henderson is married to Patrick McLoughlin and has a daughter, Evelyn Megan.
Vice President of Guest Services & Event Staffing
Marlene Hendricks is in her ninth year as the Vice President of Guest Services & Event Staffing for Bobcats Sports & Entertainment and Time Warner Cable Arena. Hendricks, who has over 16 years of management experience in various cross-functional areas of facility operations, human resources and training skills, is responsible for managing over 300 part-time employees, as well as overseeing all event staff operations and employee relations issues.
Hendricks used her formal training with the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center to create and develop a guest services philosophy called the “WOW Experience,” which is designed to provide every guest with a memorable experience by greeting them with a smile, offering assistance and delivering exceptional customer service during all events at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Prior to joining Bobcats Sports & Entertainment, Hendricks spent six years at The Heat Group, the parent company of the Miami Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena, as a Director of Training & Development and Director of Guest Services. Her work experience also included stints with Kemper National Services, Pro Player Stadium and Norwegian Cruise Lines in various human resources roles.
Hendricks received her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and human resources certification from Florida International University. She has a daughter, Brittany, who is a senior at the University of North Carolina majoring in journalism and communications.
Vice President & General Counsel
Joe Pierce is in his first season as Bobcats Sports & Entertainment’s Vice President & General Counsel after joining the organization in October 2013. As the company’s lead attorney, he is responsible for providing legal counsel and advice to its various departments, in addition to handling the organization’s risk management functions, including insurance and litigation matters. He also oversees the negotiating, drafting and reviewing of many of the company’s legal agreements in areas throughout the scope of its business.
Pierce joins the Bobcats from Bank of America, where he spent the last five years as Senior Vice President & Associate General Counsel for Global Marketing & Corporate Affairs. In this role, his responsibilities included acting as lead counsel in negotiating and drafting sponsorship and licensing agreements related to the company’s sponsorship of sports properties such as the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour and NASCAR. Prior to that, Pierce spent four years as Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs for Comcast Sports Group, where he negotiated and drafted television rights agreements, affiliate distribution agreements and on-air talent contracts.
Pierce began his career in sports with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he served as Associate General Counsel from 2002-05, after spending four years as a corporate lawyer at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, California.
Pierce is a 1991 graduate of Georgetown University, where he received a bachelor’s in business administration and was captain of the track & field team. He earned dual Juris Doctor and MBA degrees in 1998 from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Wharton School of Business. Pierce and his wife, Kama, have three children, Marco, Julian and Jasmine.
Vice President of Ticket Operations
In October 2010, Shure was promoted to Senior Director of Ticket Operations after serving the three previous years as a Director in the department. In his current role, he is responsible for all inventory management and ticket production for Bobcats season tickets and for overseeing the relationship with Ticketmaster to develop marketing strategies for current and future events.
Shure got his start in professional sports in the New York Mets ticket office in August 1999, serving as Computer Operations Coordinator from 1999-2004 and then Manager of Ticket Operations from 2004-05.
A 1992 graduate of Boston University, Shure earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics before earning his Juris Doctor degree in 1996 from Northeastern University School of Law. He and his wife, Susan, have two children, Alexa and Ian.