Rick Welts Bio
President and Chief Executive Officer
Named president and chief executive officer on April 30, 2009, Rick Welts supervises all business operations of the Phoenix Suns and oversees the club’s interests in the management of the US Airways Center and the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA). He joined the Suns in July 2002 as president and chief operating officer.
Welts previously served successful stints in professional basketball with the NBA league office and the Seattle SuperSonics. His association with the NBA office spanned from 1982-99 until he departed as the league’s executive vice president, chief marketing officer and president of NBA Properties. Welts helped guide the revitalization of the league and its image through strong marketing initiated by the NBA and he is credited with the creation of the NBA All-Star Weekend concept in 1984, now a league highlight and a standard in both the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.
He was also responsible for the 1992 Olympics “Dream Team” marketing program as the agent for USA Basketball. In 1998, Brandweek magazine named Welts “Marketer of the Year” for his role in creating and launching the WNBA. It was an honor he shared with former WNBA President Val Ackerman. In 2006, he was named the winner of the Splaver/McHugh “Tribute to Excellence” Award, given annually by the NBA Public Relations Directors’ Association to a former member of the NBA public relations family who has demonstrated an outstanding level of performance and service during his or her career.
During his tenure at the NBA office, Welts supervised league departments including corporate sponsorship and media sales, consumer products, media relations, community relations, team services, special events, creative services, and retail including the NBA Store and the “NBA City” restaurant. He was also responsible for the NBA’s international business activities, from placing preseason games in foreign countries to opening the league’s first international office in Australia to supervising six regional offices and 75 international employees in Asia, Europe, Australia, Mexico and Canada.
Recruited in 1982 by David Stern, then the NBA’s executive vice president for business and legal affairs, Welts joined the NBA as director of national promotions for NBA Properties (NBAP). He established the corporate sponsorship department for the league and in 1983 was named vice president of marketing for NBAP. When Stern became NBA commissioner in February 1984, he promoted Welts to vice president of marketing and communications. Four years later, he was promoted again to president of NBA Properties, responsible for virtually all the league’s off-court revenue businesses and marketing activities. He added the title of NBA executive vice president and chief marketing officer in 1996.
Welts entered the world of the NBA in 1969 as a ball boy for the Seattle SuperSonics. He remained with the Sonics for 10 years in several different capacities, including director of public relations during Seattle’s back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals and the club’s lone NBA Championship in 1979.
Following his stint with the Sonics he moved in 1979 to Bob Walsh & Associates, one of the first sports marketing firms in the United States. As vice president, he was involved in creating the first sports subscription cable service (Sonics SuperChannel), as well as representing athletes in the NBA, MLB and NFL.
Welts left the NBA in June 1999 to become president of Fox Sports Enterprises, a new entity that managed Fox interests in facilities and sports teams including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, STAPLES Center, the Los Angeles Kings, Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.
In June 2001 along with two partners, Casey Wasserman and Gary Stevenson, Welts became a partner in a sports consulting firm, ONSPORT. Prior to that start-up venture he served as president for one year of “First In Line,” a joint venture between USA Network’s TicketMaster & SFX.
A native of Seattle, Welts attended the University of Washington.