The Chicago Fire announced Monday that John Guppy has been hired as the club's new President and Chief Executive Officer, while Peter Wilt will stay on board as General Manager. Guppy arrives in Chicago after five seasons with the MetroStars where he most recently held the role of Executive Vice President.
In his new role, Guppy will be responsible for all Fire front-office staff and business operations, including the Fire's new stadium project in Bridgeview, Ill. Wilt will continue overseeing all team personnel matters and will assist Guppy during the transfer of power.
"I am very proud and honored to be given the opportunity to lead the Chicago Fire organization in the future," said Guppy. "Peter has done a fantastic job as GM for the past seven years and has built one of the most successful and respected teams in MLS. Just as Peter has helped shape a successful past, I hope to shape a successful future."
A native of Winchester, England, Guppy originally joined the MetroStars as their Vice President of Marketing and Sales. After serving in that position for two years he was promoted to Senior Vice President. During his tenure at the MetroStars, Guppy oversaw all of the team's commercial endeavors, including corporate sponsorships, ticket sales, marketing, advertising and broadcasting.
Prior to his involvement in MLS, Guppy spent more than two years as Group Director of Octagon Marketing in Connecticut, where one of his top responsibilities was the sales and marketing of U.S. Youth Soccer, USA Track and Field and the Millrose Games. Guppy was successful on the field as well, coming up through the youth system of English Premier League club Southampton FC before coming to the U.S. He went on to play at New Hampshire College and was twice named an All-America.
Wilt, who is currently the longest standing general manager with the same team in MLS and the longest standing general manager of a major league team in Chicago, will cut back his administrative duties for the first time since joining the Fire in June 1997. It was under his guidance that the Fire captured the "Double" in their inaugural season of 1998, capturing the MLS Cup trophy as well as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Fire have been one of the most successful clubs in MLS since their inclusion in the league, again winning U.S. Open Cup titles in 2000 and 2003.
"It is emotional to transfer leadership of an organization that one helped create, nurture and grow," said Wilt. "At the same time, I understand that I was simply a custodian for Chicago's professional soccer team and now I have an opportunity to assist with the transition of leadership to assure continued success."
Wilt cited a number of reasons for the move to come at this time.
"We have accomplished most of what we set out to do in 1997," he said. "We have won four championships, developed one of the most identified and respected brands in American soccer, grown our average attendance to more than 17,000 per game ... [and] developed the most respected youth development program and charitable foundation in Major League Soccer."
Wilt will continue to work closely with head coach Dave Sarachan and the coaching staff, while he will also remain President of the FireWorks For Kids Foundation's Board of Directors. However, he did leave the door open to explore other opportunities in the future.
"I will stay on to work with the team side exactly as I have in the past," said Wilt. "Once the transition is successful, I will be able to consider new challenges."
Wilt was named the MLS Executive of the Year in 1998 and was inducted into the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004. He has been an instrumental part of the club's ongoing stadium project in Bridgeview, set to open to the public for the 2006 season.
"Peter Wilt created the foundation of a great professional sports organization in the Chicago Fire," said Scott Blackmun, Chief Executive Officer of AEG, parent company of the Fire. "He was truly the leader of the effort to create the stadium opportunity, and his success in the community relations realm is unparalleled. The Chicago Fire will continue to build on Peter's success under John's leadership."
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.