Words by ‘LLERO Editors
In 2020 Xavier A. Gutierrez made sports history. Admittedly a Los Angeles Dodgers fan at heart, his accomplishment was not on the mound. Not even on a field, court or athletic competition of any kind. Gutierrez history making turn came in the board room when he was appointed the first Latino CEO of an NHL franchise – the Arizona Coyotes.
Gutierrez, appointment was announced June 8, 2020. In the position he joins friend and business partner Alex Meruelo, in forming the NHL’s first Latino owner/president duo.
Xavier is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, but at five years of age moved to the United States, settling initially in Los Angeles and ultimately San Jose. The challenges of adopting to a new culture were immediately apparent, Gutierrez told NHL.com “[t]he big challenge was that you come in, you’re young, you’re leaving a large portion of your family and coming to a strange, new country with a new culture and new customs with a new language, entering public schools, initially taking English as second-language classes”.
Yet, Gutierrez credits those challenges in his formative years for where he is today “While it was challenging and certainly life-altering, it was a challenge that set the path and it was the foundation for my future academic and professional success.” The success would start well before the NHL. His first stop Harvard, then on to Stanford law, followed by a successful career in real estate and finance.
Eventually Gutierrez would become co-owner of a community bank, where he would meet Alex Meruelo and work at his company The Meruelo Group. It was there the two formed a relationship. Gutierrez telling Forbes.com “We see business very similarly, in the sense that we look at opportunities that others might have overlooked or might have dismissed. We look at the opportunity and the challenge.”
The next challenge, reinvigorating the Arizona Coyotes fan base, and attracting Latino fans in particular. “We’re going to reach out to this community and embrace them and say, ‘You are part of this organization, you are part of this team. You are part of our fan base,” Gutierrez told Forbes.
“And then finally, we’re going to be present. There’s going to be a constant presence. Whether it be via the (Hispanic) Advisory Council, whether it be through our foundation, whether it be through our media campaigns, there’s going to be a constant and intentional approach to get out there and be engaged with them.” While the Latino community are known to be passionate sports fans, sports such as soccer, baseball and boxing have long served as passion points for and dominated this demographic.
If Gutierrez can successfully bridge the gap between the Latino fanbase and the NHL, it would certainly be a monumental achievement. Given that Gutierrez has already made sports history once, we are betting he can score a repeat with the Coyotes, the NHL and the Latino community.