Two decades before he became president of the Carolina Panthers last month, Tom Glick was general manager of the Lansing Lugnuts minor league baseball team in Michigan in his late 20s. Glick made it his mission to lure even non-sports fans to the local ballpark.
He introduced a frankfurter-shooting cannon, for instance. Under Glick, the franchise also had belly-bumping Sumo wrestlers and medieval jousters to keep fans amused. Campy and silly, sure, but the non-baseball entertainment worked: Glick helped drive sales for the Lugnuts, who ranked in the top 10 in minor-league attendance under his watch.
“We’re in the fun business,” Glick told the Sacramento Bee in a March 2000 article. “We have to make this as much like going to a circus as going to a baseball game. We want the park to be the place to be between Easter and Labor Day.”
Now Glick, who grew up in Boston and graduated from Cornell, is charged with overseeing the day-to-day business operations as the Carolina Panthers’ new team president. His appointment marks the first step team owner David Tepper has taken to deliver on some of his most ambitious off-the-field plans for the franchise.
Carolina had been without a team president since early 2017, when Danny Morrison abruptly left. The Panthers opted not to replace Morrison and instead operated for nearly a year under an alternative leadership approach that included six executives, including former Chief Operating Officer Tina Becker, running the business side of the franchise.
From the get-go, Tepper has said that hiring a team president was a priority, especially since Tepper will remain in charge of his hedge fund, Appaloosa Management. Not only will the president spearhead “obvious business things” like marketing, Tepper has said, but also major developmental and infrastructure changes in uptown Charlotte.
Just as Morrison oversaw stadium renovations at Bank of America Stadium, Glick is expected to work with civic leaders on securing funding for Panthers facilities. Tepper has said that moving the practice fields elsewhere, for instance, makes room for other development near the stadium. Other NFL teams have added more parking or entertainment districts, and both drive revenue.
Glick’s previous experience with development upgrades for England’s Manchester City Football Club jibes with this vision of Tepper’s.
Glick, who had been the team’s chief operating officer since 2012, facilitated an overhaul of Manchester’s soccer stadium that included more seating, improvements in premium seating and improved fan amenities, according to a recent statement from the Panthers. Additionally, in 2015, Manchester opened “a new state-of-the-art training facility” built on 80 acres next to the stadium.
Early in his career, Glick oversaw the opening of two stadiums, in Lansing and Sacramento, Calif. The latter ballpark is where the River Cats minor-league baseball team in 2000 drew more fans than any team in the Pacific Coast League’s nearly century-long history, the Sacramento Bee reported at the time.
Glick and a colleague bet that if the River Cats broke the 850,000-fan mark for the season, the two would shave their heads. The deal cost Glick his hair, as the River Cats drew in 861,808.
In February 2015, Glick temporarily moved to New York to help launch New York City FC, part of Major League Soccer, as the team’s president. Glick’s MLS experience also makes sense for Tepper, who has suggested several times that he’s interested in bringing an MLS expansion team to Charlotte.
Tepper told reporters in Charlotte recently that Glick’s experience with the MLS and stadium improvements “didn’t hurt,” as he considered Glick for the president position.
Glick’s sports-entertainment focus also doesn’t hurt. Tepper has said he wants to expand the number of non-NFL events at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte to include attractions like concerts and even high school football games.
And just as Tepper wants to expand the Panthers’ fan base, Glick worked to do the same for Manchester City. Under Glick, the team recently launched a docu-series on Amazon Prime called “All or Nothing” as a way, Glick told the British trade publication Campaign, to drive fan engagement and grow the team’s global appeal.
Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield has been emailing with Glick since he was named the Panthers’ president.
Whitfield — who has helped the Hornets improve on nearly every marketing metric, including ticket sales and sponsorships — sees Glick’s appointment as a fresh way the Panthers and Hornets can collaborate in business and in the community.
“He’ll be a creative leader who will embrace Charlotte and the community,” Whitfield said of Glick. “He’ll take forward Tepper’s vision for the team.”
Glick, who has three kids along with his wife Maria, was not available for comment.
Scott O’Neill — CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, whose properties include the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils — met Glick about 15 years ago when he hired him as chief marketing and business development officer for the NBA league office.
O’Neill has been a mentor of Glick’s since then, and calls him “the right person at the right time” for the job with the Panthers, an organization in the midst of a significant turnaround since Tepper bought the franchise this summer.
“If you look at the strength of the brand ... you have a strong owner and you put a leader with the kind of vision that Tom Glick has, it’s a recipe for a great success,” O’Neill said.
Staff writer Jourdan Rodrigue contributed.