January 27, 2023
Chicago Sky name Nadia Rawlinson operating chairman of franchise
Rawlinson to be integrated as co-owner in the future
The Chicago Sky have named former Slack Technologies chief people officer Nadia Rawlinson as their next operating chairman of the franchise.
According to a team representative, Rawlinson will eventually come into the fold as the co-owner of the Sky but won’t hold that title until a formal process is completed. The Chicago Sun-Times first reported last night the organization was planning on announcing a new member of its ownership group today. The team won’t be making a formal announcement at this time after holding a private press conference with local media yesterday afternoon introducing Rawlinson as the Sky’s next co-owner. Rawlinson was listed as operating chairman and co-owner on the team’s website yesterday night but, as of this morning, no longer appears on the staff directory page in any capacity.
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“Once she completes the formal process, the title will be changed,” a team representative said in a statement to The Next. “We do not know exact timing on when that process will be completed or what the ‘formal process’ entails for her to officially become a co-owner of the team.”
The Sky declined to comment on if Rawlinson would assume a majority ownership stake in the future but a source close to the situation said principal owner Michael Alter and owner John Rogers’ involvement in the team from an ownership perspective will not change.
Rawlinson was full of energy during the press conference yesterday, citing a hands-on approach to her future dual role with the Sky. She will assume the responsibility of planning strategic initiatives, partnerships and civic engagement with the city, and some of the “longer-term strategic plays” that the team is trying to go after. She mentioned sports betting and the WNBA’s impending media rights deal in 2025 as ways to grow the team and league’s financial standing.
From giving the team a financial cushion to investing in women in sport, Rawlinson is all-in on the Sky.
“I believe in the future of the team,” Rawlinson said. “This isn’t just a passion thing. This is a true financial asset for my family. You just don’t randomly invest in asset classes that you don’t think are going to give you returns, right? I believe in the future focus on the team. I think it’s a great bet.”
According to Alter, the Sky were doing an informal search to add another owner, emphasizing the importance of “adding to the momentum” the team has had since winning a championship in 2021. He met Rawlinson after she had left Slack and talks of her becoming a part of ownership evolved.
Alter also didn’t rule out the Sky adding to the ownership group in the future. The Chicago Tribune reported Alter had preliminary talks with Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts at one point but those talks did not progress. In the interim Alter believes he found the right person for the job after creating this new role for Rawlinson.
“John and I have been talking about for the last year and a half or so saying — we thought if we find the right person, it would be great to do this,” Alter said. “We didn’t do a formal search but it was really a thought we had and if we found someone, we will know who it is, kind of thing. She’s absolutely the perfect person to be in this type of role.”
Rawlinson grew up in Lake Forest and has lived in the Chicagoland area for 25 years. In true Chicago fashion, she referenced the Willis Tower as the “Sears Tower,” the previous and more welcomed name of the current building on South Wacker Drive. Towards the end of the news conference, Rawlinson described how electrifying it was to watch the 1990s Chicago Bulls dynasty when she was growing up and how she would sneak out of the house to take the Metra Train to the city to be in the area where one of the greatest NBA franchises reigned supreme.
Just days before free agents can sign with any team, Rawlinson is coming in with the business savvy and energy to turn the Sky into one of the best franchises in the WNBA.
“For so long, many WNBA teams have been just trying to survive,” Rawlinson said. “Especially from an operational standpoint, they were just trying to get through and make it. And now it’s time to thrive.”
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