Departing Seattle Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke was gracious and accommodating as usual in answering questions about his departure in taking a job of CEO and minority owner with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
Leiweke said he will lead the search process, and that it will definitely take months, not weeks to find his replacement.
Leiweke served as CEO of the Minnesota Wild before joining the Seahawks in 2003, playing an important role in turning that NHL franchise into a fan-friendly experience. Leiweke said he grew up playing hockey (he still plays in a beer league here) and looks forward to returning to the sport of his youth.
“As much of an incredible opportunity this is, it’s one that I do with a little bit of a heavy heart,” Leiweke said.
Leiweke said after mulling over the decision he ultimately decided to move on because he was a lifelong fan of hockey and wanted to return to his roots, with the added enticement of being a minority owner. However, Leiweke became emotional at times during the conversation, and overall seemed torn over his decision.
“I think that Paul Allen is a dream owner in ultimately he wants to do right by the fans, and ultimately he is a fan,” Leiweke said. “So I would say there’s a lot I’m proud of here. I’m proud of this building (VMAC). I’m proud of the Sounders. … I’m very proud of the 12th Man, and I’m very proud that this organization is now bigger than any one person. And when I came I felt this enormous responsibility to get this turn around.
“And I look around today, and I see a really strong organization with values. A culture and momentum that isn’t going to change, specifically if we transition properly. And I plan on doing that.”
Leiweke helped revive the 12th Man and re-energized the fan base to the point where there are sell outs at Qwest Field for every game.
Similar to what the team did with the head coach and general manager positions, Leiweke said the organization will take a hard look at how the job is set up to see if the model is still working, and look to see if they have candidates with similar skill sets that match the position.
Leiweke said the organization will open up the job to in-house candidates, so COO John Rizzardini and senior vice president/general counsel Lance Lopes remain possibilities.
Leiweke said he plans to stay on the job until the team finds a replacement. He’ll fly to Tampa Bay for a few days to check out the lay of the land. Asked to give a specific time frame to find a candidate, Leiweke said definitely months, not weeks.
“I’m going to be here until we get it right,” Leiweke said.
Leiweke said head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider will have some input in the process.