A fan first

Peter McLoughlin, the new president of the Seahawks and Sounders FC, made it clear during his introductory press conference on Thursday that “I’m all about the fans.”

Like a lot of married couples with children, Peter and Kelly McLoughlin have spent the occasional moment the past couple of years wondering what life would be like when their last kid left the nest.

The McLoughlins aren’t just movin’ on out; they’re movin’ on up.

Peter McLoughlin was named president of the Seattle Seahawks, Sounders FC and First & Goal Inc. on Thursday during a news conference at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

McLoughlin, 53, has spent the past six seasons as CEO of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. But the chance to head a multi-headed sports entity has been a destination job for McLoughlin since he left Harvard in 1979 and began working for NBC Sports at the ripe old age of 22.

“This is a dream come true,” McLoughlin said. “I’ve worked my entire career for this opportunity and I couldn’t be happier to be here, and I’m glad my wife, Kelly, is here with me to share this moment.

“It’s a really special day for us and our family.”

McLoughlin’s new title is almost as long as the list of children his wife rattled off after the press conference: Rachel Hirshberg, who is 26, married and also a Harvard grad; Elizabeth McLoughlin, 23, who lives in Boston; Margot Danis, 21, who is a junior at Vanderbilt but studying in Denmark this semester; Sarah McLoughlin, 19, who is a sophomore at Emory University; and Christopher Danis, 19, a freshman at Oberlin College and that last child to leave the nest.

The McLoughlins just added to their extended family, with Peter taking on the role of fan as well as overseer for the Seahawks and Sounders FC.

“I’m all about the fans,” said McLoughlin, who lavished praise on the fans of the Seahawks and Sounders FC several times during the press conference.

“Ultimately what brought me here to Seattle are the unbelievable fans for both the Seahawks and Sounders. Consider me a new member of the 12th Man. I’m here to be a great fan of both teams.”

McLoughlin is replacing a man – Tod Leiweke – who is very much like him. Enthusiastic. Energetic. Attention to the most-minute detail. In fact, when Leiweke announced in late July that he was leaving to become CEO and part owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, it was with the stipulation that he would stay around as long as it took to find not only his successor but someone who was the right fit for the situation.

“We saw a lot of things in the recruiting process (with McLoughlin) that reminded us of Tod in that recruiting process seven years ago,” said Bert Kolde, who is on the Seahawks board of directors and also was a member of the search committee.

“I saw a lot of similar traits. John (Schneider, Seahawks GM) mentioned the forward thinking. Great at connecting with people. Great leadership skills. It feels like he’s serving the fans, putting the fans first. And connecting to the community is very important to him, too.”

The search process took almost two months and included candidates from “all over the country,” as Leiweke put it. In the end, McLoughlin was not only the choice, but the right choice.

“We had superb candidates – not just from the sports business, but a wide variety of businesses,” Leiweke said. “We took our time. We shook that list down. And at the end of the day, we landed at just the right guy.”

Another key was the chemistry McLoughlin developed in his meetings with Schneider and coach Pete Carroll; Sounders FC general manager and minority owner Adrian Hanauer; and especially owner Paul Allen.

“Peter is a bright, proven leader who believes as I do that the fans always come first and understands the importance of community,” Allen said in the statement. “He is experienced in all aspects of the business side of sports.

“Peter joins a very capable leadership team with general manager John Schneider and executive vice president of football operations and head coach Pete Carroll. He is the best fit for the job to continue the growth of the Seahawks and Sounders FC.”

McLoughlin already is aware of what the fans and community mean to the Seahawks and Sounders FC, and vice versa. He attended the Seahawks’ season opener two weeks ago and also attended the MLS Championship game at Qwest Field last season.

“I got the walk around the stadium a little bit with Tod,” McLoughlin said of attending the opener against the 49ers. “He was high-fiving fans and the next thing I knew, I was high-fiving fans. And I said, ‘Boy, this feels right.’

“And I can’t wait for my first Sounders game at home.” 
 
McLoughlin has been a sports fan – no, fanatic – since he was a kid. In college, he was a sportswriter for the Harvard Crimson. So, how would the former sportswriter lead the story on his new job?

“Another great day in the history of the Seahawks and Sounders,” he said.

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