CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire announced that John Guppy has been named President & Chief Executive Officer of the MLS club, effective immediately. As President & CEO of the Fire, Guppy will oversee all front-office staff and business operations, including the Fire's new stadium project in Bridgeview. Peter Wilt, who has served at the helm of the organization since the team's inception in 1997, will retain the title of General Manager while overseeing all team personnel matters and assisting Guppy during the transition period.
"John Guppy is a proven and capable marketing executive who we believe will capitalize on the commercial opportunities that exist for AEG in the Chicago marketplace," said Scott Blackmun, Chief Operating Officer of AEG, parent company of the MLS club. "John has played a major role in the success of the Metrostars, looked upon by many as one of MLS' model organizations and we believe the leadership he will provide to the Fire will help the team achieve even greater success, both on and off the pitch."
Guppy, 37, arrives in Chicago having spent the last five seasons with the MetroStars. He was named Executive Vice President in 2002, having served as Vice President of Marketing & Sales during his first two years with the team. During his tenure with the MetroStars, Guppy oversaw all of the team's commercial endeavors, including Corporate Sponsorships, Ticket Sales, Marketing & Advertising, and Broadcasting.
"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."
Prior to joining the MetroStars, Guppy, a native of Winchester, England, spent more than two years as Group Director of Octagon Marketing in Connecticut, where among his chief responsibilities was the sales & marketing of U.S. Youth Soccer (USYS), USA Track & Field, and the Air Force Millrose Games. He also spent seven years (1992-1998) with API Soccer (formerly Soccer USA Partners), managing the organization's relationship with the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Guppy spent several years in the youth system of English Premiership club Southampton FC before coming to the U.S. to eventually become a 1990 graduate of New Hampshire College with a B.S. in Business Administration. The two-time All-American later received his master's degree in Sports Management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1992 while acting as the Assistant Coach for the Men's soccer program.
"With the stadium development in Bridgeview and other significant developments throughout MLS, such as the launch of the Reserve League, the best years for American soccer fans clearly lie ahead. I could not be more excited to get started on this great challenge and opportunity," said Guppy.
Wilt, 45, is currently the longest tenured general manager with the same team in MLS and the longest tenured general manager of a major league team in Chicago. He will step down from his administrative duties having served as head of the Fire since June of 1997, when he was appointed the team's first General Manager. In his first season with the MLS expansion club, Wilt guided the Fire to a fantasy year as the team captured the "Double," winning the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup in 1998. It was a feat no other expansion team in the U.S. had garnered in its first year of existence.
"Peter Wilt created the foundation of a great professional sports organization in the Chicago Fire," said Blackmun. "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."
Under Wilt's leadership, AEG-the Fire's parent company-and the Village of Bridgeview entered an agreement in 2004 to build a world-class soccer and entertainment facility that will house the Fire permanently beginning in the Spring of 2006. The 20,000-seat stadium, which will be located at 71st & Harlem, will become the first 100% publicly funded soccer and entertainment stadium in the U.S.
"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.
"I will stay on to work with the team side exactly as I have in the past. I will continue to support Dave Sarachan and his staff as I always have and will do everything in my power to help bring yet another soccer championship to Chicago this season. Once the transition is successful, I will be able to consider new challenges."
In a span of seven years, Wilt guided the club to seven domestic Cup Finals, capturing four championships (MLS Cup in 1998 and U.S. Open Cup in 1998, 2000 and 2003), three division titles (2000, 2001 and 2003) and the Supporters Shield in 2003. Wilt saw the Fire earn playoff berths for six consecutive seasons while seeing more than 2,000,000 fans enter the gates in Chicagoland.
Among other accolades, Wilt was named the MLS Executive of the Year in 1998 and was inducted into the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004 due to his undying commitment to the sport of soccer. In 2002 he was named the Naperville Person of the Year by the Daily Herald after moving the team from Chicago to suburban Naperville and gathering sold out crowds on a regular basis at its temporary home, Cardinal Stadium, while Soldier Field underwent renovations.
The team earned recognition by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in 2004 for its community efforts surrounding its move to Naperville. The Fire also became the first MLS recipient of the Sports Fans of America Association's MLS Fan Friendliest Team award in 2003 and is currently a finalist for the 2005 PRISM Award for overall excellence by a major league sports organization in the United States under Wilt's leadership.
"I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Anschutz for their dedication to soccer in the United States and for the opportunity they gave me to help build the Chicago Fire. I would also like to thank all of the Fire's current and former staff members, coaches and players for their support and great efforts, the dedicated leaders of Chicago's tremendous soccer community and the best fans in the country for their passion and undying love of the Chicago Fire, which I will continue to share."
Wilt will also continue to serve his role as President of the Fire's charitable arm, the FireWorks for Kids Foundation.