Change at the top in Vancouver as CEO Barber departs

VANCOUVER, B.C. – There's change at the top of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as the club announced on Friday that CEO Paul Barber is moving on to pursue another opportunity.

The Englishman handed in his resignation last week, but he’ll continue with the Whitecaps until Feb. 29, 2012, to help the transition.

“It’s been a wonderful two years at the club,” Barber told MLSsoccer.com on Friday at The Landing, the building in which the club’s head office is based. “I came here with some very specific goals in mind: to prepare the club for Major League Soccer, to manage the transition to Major League Soccer and to help the club move in to not just one stadium, but two.

“We’ve achieved that, and we’ve established our brand,” Barber continued. “We’ve got a fantastic season ticket base and fan base, great sponsors and a fantastic front office.”

Barber joined the ‘Caps as CEO in February 2010, leaving a role as one of English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur’s directors. The 44-year-old Londoner was considered a big reason for the club’s off-field success which saw it claim the third-highest average attendance in MLS at 20,153.

“I was the one personally responsible for meeting up with Paul and bringing him over, so of course [there’s an element of disappointment],” co-owner Jeff Mallett said. “But CEOs come and CEOs go, that’s the nature of it. Paul, from his background of being in London and being in England, expectations of him being here for five, 10, 20 [years] – no one got built on that model.

“Our current executive team and the ownership group, Greg [Kerfoot, co-owner] and myself, we might still be here 30 or 40 years from now still talking to you.”

Club president Bob Lenarduzzi and chief operating officer Rachel Lewis will take over various responsibilities which previously belonged to Barber.

“To be really clear, we’re not replacing the CEO position,” Mallett said. “Rachel Lewis, our COO, will pick up a large portion of [Barber’s responsibilities] and Bobby will pick up some additional things on the football and technical side of things, and then myself and Greg will continue to be active at the league level.”

As for Barber, he’s off to pursue another opportunity, but wasn’t giving any details.

“I can’t really talk about it at the moment, but it’s a fair assumption,” Barber responded when asked if he had another job lined up. “It’s not about a better offer, it’s about a point in time for me to move on and take a new responsibility. The key thing here is about the stability and continuity of the club – it’s in great shape and great hands.

“The ownership group are committed, they’re enthusiastic, they’re fantastic to work with, and I’m really looking forward to see how the club continues in the years ahead.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.