John Stanton explains how Mariners will structure leadership differently

Mar 10, 2021, 3:01 PM
Mariners John Stanton...
Mariners chairman John Stanton talked to the media at spring training Wednesday. (AP)

The Mariners’ search for a replacement for former team president and CEO Kevin Mather is underway.

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On Wednesday, Mariners chairman John Stanton took time out of his stop to spring training in Peoria, Ariz., to talk with the beat reporters about the process to hire a new team president. He also delivered the news that going forward, the organization’s leadership structure will be different.

“We’re going to split the role so that we’ll have a GM and a president for the Mariners that will be responsible for front office, fans and the experience generally, and have the functions of sales and marketing report to them,” Stanton said.

While in the past both the business and baseball sides of the organization reported to the president, this represents a clear split between the two sides as both general manager Jerry Dipoto and the new team president will report directly to Stanton and the ownership group.

“That’s the way that most teams do it,” Stanton pointed out. “I looked for advice and I wanted to find out what the best approach is. I think that has the virtue of giving us potentially a broader potential pool of candidates for the team.”

A search committee made up of individuals from both inside and outside the Mariners organization has been assembled, with no deadline to make a hire set. The group will be headed up by board member Jeff Raikes, who previously served as president of business operations at Microsoft, ran the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and currently is the chair of the Stanford University Board of Trustees.

“I’m excited for him to be able to do that. I think the result will be that we will have a good and thorough process and the opportunity to find the best possible candidate to lead the organization,” said Stanton, who noted the committee would cast a wide net in their search. “I would expect that by having (the next team president) deal with the front office side of the Mariners, there are good analogies in other sports, outside of sports as well as within baseball. I think I view this as reducing the limits or broadening the aperture of the kinds of candidates we can get in the pool, and I expect it to be a diverse pool.”

Stanton confirmed that internal candidates could be considered as well.

The reorganization comes at an interesting time for both the organization and Dipoto, who is in the final year of a three-year contract. When a new president is brought in, that person more often than not wants his own people. Under the new structure, while the new president will have a working relationship with the GM, the GM will not report to them. It will be Stanton and the ownership group who make decisions about the general manager.

“I should note, we’re really happy with Jerry running the baseball team, so Jerry will work for me and the other owners, partners, and the new president will also have the same reporting structure,” said Stanton.

As for the possibility of a different title for Dipoto – or more importantly and perhaps more pressing, an extension – Stanton did not reveal any changes.

“I’m excited about what Jerry’s doing, very pleased with it and I will continue to talk to Jerry,” he said, indicating that those conversations would be had with Dipoto before the media. “Jerry’s always had responsibilities for baseball operations and he’s always made the baseball decisions. I don’t think it is particularly new for him because the big decisions end up being important to ownership, when there’s a big issue he’s always involved me and some of my partners. We feel great about the leadership that Jerry’s shown and I particularly feel good about the relationship that I have with Jerry so I’m very, very comfortable with it.”

All eyes will be on the president hire, which follows the explosive comments by Mather last month to the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club that led to his resignation. In his meeting with the media, Stanton indicated that the separation between the Mariners and Mather, who held a stake in ownership, is near complete and that he would “not be a partner going forward.” Just one of many steps now necessary.

“I think that we did damage to the trust in the relationship with our front office and with our fans in the community, and we need to rebuild trust,” he said. “I don’t think the trust went away, but it eroded and I think that we need to rebuild it. And I think that you do that by being thoughtful and considerate, you do that by talking to people and more importantly listening to people, and that’s a lot of what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks. And then you have to take action, and so this is kind of a first step in our process, to talk to you and to communicate to our front office what we plan to do.”

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