Longtime Hornets executive Fred Whitfield is stepping down from his position with the team and leaving the organization, the club announced today in a press release.
Whitfield isn’t on the basketball operations side of the organization, but has been the head of business operations for 17 years and is the president and vice chairman of Hornets Sports & Entertainment, the team’s ownership group. He has also long held a minority stake in the franchise.
Whitfield’s departure from the Hornets comes just a few months after new co-owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin took control of the franchise, having purchased majority control from former owner and chairman Michael Jordan.
A North Carolina native, Whitfield worked closely with Jordan through several different stages of his career, having held positions at David Falk’s player representation agency, in the Wizards’ front office, and with Nike and Jordan Brand.
“We thank Fred for all he has done for our organization and for the role he has played in helping get our ownership group up to speed over the last several months,” Schnall and Plotkin said in a statement. “His experience, knowledge and relationships in this industry, league and community have been invaluable to our franchise. We appreciate his hard work and dedication and wish him all the best.”
Whitfield cited health and family reasons in his statement confirming his departure from the Hornets.
“Over the last 18 months I have successfully battled a serious case of throat cancer,” Whitfield said. “I’ve also been focused on supporting my mother, who has her own health issues. As these priorities have occupied more of my time and energy, I realized that now is the right time to leave my role with the Hornets, who are on a tremendous path to success with the energy and ideas brought by our new owners, Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin.
“I’m grateful to them for their support during this challenging time, and I also want to thank the prior ownership groups under the leadership of Bob Johnson and Michael Jordan for giving me such a tremendous opportunity.”
Whitfield first joined the franchise in 2006, just two years after Charlotte had returned to the NBA as an expansion franchise. He oversaw the name change from the Bobcats to the Hornets in 2014.
Neither the Hornets’ announcement nor Whitfield’s statement says anything about divesting his shares in the team, so it’s not clear whether he’ll hang onto that minority stake or whether he’s selling it to Schnall and Plotkin (or another minority shareholder).