Business

Hornets president earns top honor from Charlotte’s largest business group

Charlotte Hornets President and Vice Chairman Fred Whitfield has been named the 2019 Citizen of the Carolinas, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s top honor.
Charlotte Hornets President and Vice Chairman Fred Whitfield has been named the 2019 Citizen of the Carolinas, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s top honor. dfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Hornets President and Vice Chairman Fred Whitfield has been named the 2019 Citizen of the Carolinas, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s top honor, the business group said during a visit to Pittsburgh Thursday morning.

Whitfield joined Hornets Sports & Entertainment in July 2006 and manages all business operations for the Charlotte Hornets and the Spectrum Center, from NBA games to concerts to musical performances.

Over the years, Whitfield has also helped Charlotte land a number of high-profile events, including the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament and 2020 Republican National Convention.

Whitfield is credited with helping to broker a deal to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial law that limited legal protections for the LGBTQ community in North Carolina. The NBA had originally awarded Charlotte with the 2017 NBA All-Star Game but opted to relocate it to New Orleans once HB2 was passed in 2016 because it opposed the measure.

The Hornets executive made so many trips to Raleigh in the months after the bill was passed, the Observer has reported, that he started carpooling with other city business leaders seeking to work out a compromise. The NBA awarded the 2019 game to Charlotte after the bill was repealed.

Whitfield has overseen a number of other off-the-court initiatives. They include securing over $30 million in renovations for the Spectrum Center that included adding a massive new scoreboard, hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention and signing a naming rights deal with the Hornets’ home arena, which changed from Time Warner Cable Arena to Spectrum Center following Charter Communications’ purchase in 2016 of Time Warner Cable.

Prior to being named president of the Hornets last March, Whitfield was the team’s chief operating officer.

The Citizen of the Carolinas award will be presented at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s annual meeting Dec. 3, the group said. Past winners have included Leon and Sandra Levine, Hornets owner Michael Jordan, Dean Smith, Hugh McColl and Johnny Harris.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized alongside some of the most important people ever to live in our region,” Whitfield said in a statement.

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As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
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