Chief Executive Officer/Vice Chair Bob Vander Weide Retires

By John Denton
December 6, 2011

ORLANDO – For the Orlando Magic, Tuesday was a day of mixed emotions as Bob Vander Weide retired from his duties as Chief Executive Officer and Alex Martins was promoted from team president to CEO. But soothing those somewhat raw emotions is the seamless transition in power that will allow the Magic to continue their drive to be champions on and off the court.

  Vander Weide, 53, was highly successful during his time running the team, leading the Magic to seven 50-win seasons, five division titles, two Eastern Conference crowns and 13 playoff berths. He left the Magic to pursue other business interests and spend more time with his wife and five children, but will remain with the team in a consulting role.

  ``Having 20 years at this and the way I feel about the Magic and the Orlando community, it’s been a difficult decision. But this started for me about the time that we finished the (Amway Center). I’ve been doing this going on 20 years and missing opportunities with my kids,’’ Vander Weide said. ``It’s most disappointing that we got to The Finals twice and didn’t win it, but I felt like over the last four years with our record and having produced as many playoff wins as anybody but Boston and L.A., I just felt like it was time for me to focus on other things.

  ``I’ve been pushing this for 20 years and I just thought it was time for me to focus on a change,’’ Vander Weide continued. ``Some might question the timing of it, but we started these talks nine months ago. I think it’s the right time for me and the family. I’m very comfortable with Alex, Otis (Smith) and Dan (DeVos) will make the transition work well.’’

  Owner Rich DeVos will serve as the Magic’s Senior Chairman, while Dan DeVos will take on the role as team chairman. Dan DeVos, who has an extensive background in business and sports ownership, will be responsible for the Magic’s long-term strategic planning for new business initiatives. Dan will also serve as the Magic’s lead representative on the NBA’s Board of Governors.

  Martins, who played key roles in the Magic securing the state-of-the-art Amway Center and doubling the team’s season ticket base, will move into the role of team CEO. It’s a position he’s been preparing to fill for more than a year and one he learned from his close partnership with Vander Weide through the years.

  ``This is something that Bob has been discussing for more than a year now. He’s discussed it with me, so it is something that we’ve been planning for,’’ Martins said. ``I’ve had the great fortune of working with Bob for the better part of 20 years and so from my standpoint it is a seamless transition. It will allow the organization to keep moving forward in the manner in which we have building a championship contender and being a model for sports franchise businesses in the matter that we have for more than 20 years.’’

  Under Vander Weide’s direction, the Magic have enjoyed their finest level of success in franchise history. The team has won at least 50 games each of the past four seasons – the longest such run in franchise history – and has the third-most playoff wins in the NBA over the past four seasons. The team also has 120 consecutive sellouts, while boosting the season-ticket base to more than 14,000.

  In addition to his success in building the Magic into one of the NBA’s best teams on the floor, Vander Weide also oversaw the creation of the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, which has distributed more than $16 million to the local community through the years. The Magic’s community relations programs impact 100,000 kids each year while the front office staff has committed 6,000 volunteer hours in the community.

  ``There are very few teams in the league that can show the kind of 20-year performance both on and off the court that we have. I’m very proud of that and the culture that we established here,’’ Vander Weide said. ``The only disappointment is getting to the Finals and not getting the gold trophy. But the 50-win seasons, the five division championships and 13 playoff berths – I can tell everybody that I put my best foot forward every day that I stepped into that office as the president and CEO. And what we did in the community, making sure that the disadvantaged youth in our community were better off, I’m very proud of it all.’’

  Martins has increasingly become the face of the Magic franchise from his work with team that dates back to the 1989 inaugural season. Through the years, he’s risen from his original role as director of media relations to team president last July to CEO now. He said he felt both sadness and joy this week because of Vander Weide’s departure and his own promotion.

  ``Today, I have mixed emotions because Bob has been a mentor to me and a friend. We have worked hand-in-hand with what we’ve done with the Magic these last six years in particular,’’ Martins said. ``It’s a day of mixed emotions in that regard for me. But in the same manner, I grew up in this organization and if anybody does, I bleed Magic blue. I’ve learned the business from the ground up and I’ve virtually worked in every corner of this business – be it public relations, marketing or sales or in the development. It’s been a great period of 20 years in working with this family and this organization. I look forward to doing it several more years as well.’’

  Martins said the biggest change in his role will be that Smith, the Magic’s President of Basketball Operations/GM will now report directly to him. The two have developed a close working relationship over the years and because of their massive success both were promoted last July – Martins to team president and Smith to the role as the President of Basketball Operations.

  Dan DeVos is the chairman and CEO of DP Fox Ventures LLC, a business development and management company based out of Grand Rapids, Mich. He also is the co-owner of the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. The team has won five division titles over the past 12 years.

  ``Dan is no stranger to sports. He owns a hockey team and he’s owned the Arena Football team in Grand Rapids, and he knows the sports world very well,’’ Martins said.

``He continues to be involved in his businesses in Grand Rapids. So for him it’s a seamless transition as our chairman because he knows what professional sports are all about and he knows the intricacies of our business. So having him as our chairman, that will be a seamless transition.’’

  DeVos agreed that the continuity in the Magic front office will allow the team to continue its commitment of excellence on and off the court. DeVos was highly complimentary of the work done by Martins and he knows that the Magic’s new CEO is the right man to lead the franchise.

  ``With Alex continuing to run the day-to-day operations and our trust and faith in the work that Alex and Otis are doing we feel like the organization will continue to roll along nicely,’’ DeVos said.  ``I’ve been involved with sports for a long time. … We’ll continue to work with Alex on the strategic direction of the (Magic) franchise from the business side and the operational side. And we’ll continue to provide direction between the (DeVos) family and Alex.’’  

  Vander Weide’s final act with the Magic was working with the NBA’s Board of Directors to craft a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that ended the league’s five-month lockout. The regular season will start on Dec. 25 – the Magic play at Oklahoma City – after Vander Weide worked to created a CBA that provides more revenue sharing and competitive balance for all teams.

  Vander Weide said he’ll most miss the day-to-day interaction with players, sponsors and fans and getting ready for big games. But he plans to continue to support the team from his courtside seat, and he said he now enjoys a new freedom as an unadulterated fan.

  ``I’ll miss it a ton. Some of the most animated activity lately has happened in the wee hours of the night with labor issues. My relationship with David Stern, Joel Litvin and Adam (Silver), I’ll miss all of them. And I’ll miss the day-to-day activities late in the afternoons getting ready for games and working with sponsors,’’ Vander Weide said.

``(Wife) Cheri and I originally committed to three years of doing this, and now 20 years later it’s time for a change. Orlando was my first home for 12 years and my second home for the last eight. You’ll definitely see me at games. You’ll see me acting less like an executive and more like a fan. I think that’ll be a good thing for me.’’

  John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com.