Meet Nadia Rawlinson, the Sky's new operating chairman and co-owner: 'I believe in the future. This isn't just a passion thing.'

Julia Poe, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO — Amid the swirling uncertainty of WNBA free agency, the Chicago Sky made a major addition this week — to their front office, not their roster.

The Sky hired Nadia Rawlinson for a newly created role of operating chairman. Rawlinson aims to establish a stronger base for the business aspects of the team as the WNBA continues to grow on and off the court.

“For so long, many WNBA teams have been just trying to survive,” Rawlinson said. “Especially from an operational standpoint, they were just trying to get through and make it. And now it’s time to thrive.”

Before Rawlinson’s hire, the Sky’s executive branch consisted of three people: CEO and President Adam Fox, chief financial officer Stephanie Hedrick and head of strategy Watchen Nyanue.

Principal owner Michael Alter and Fox began to discuss the concept of creating the operating chairman role in 2021. It wasn’t a concrete position, and the franchise never underwent an interview process. But last year when Alter met Rawlinson — who initially was interested in simply investing in the team — he quickly began to feel the Sky had found their new operating chairman.

Rawlinson brings a deep background in human resources, strategy and business development — as former chief people officer for Slack Technologies; as the former chief human resources officer for Live Nation Entertainment; and as a current consultant for venture capital firm Google Ventures. She currently serves on the board of directors for J. Crew, Vail Resorts and Save the Children and sits on the Stanford University Board of Trustees and the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors.


To Alter, the experience paired with a deep love for Chicago, basketball and the empowerment of women’s sports made Rawlinson the correct fit.

“We thought, ‘If we find the right person, it would be great to do this,’ ” Alter said. “We didn’t do any formal search. It was really just a thought that we had. She’s absolutely the perfect person to be in this role.”

Rawlinson will oversee the development of the Sky’s strategic business initiatives, which includes establishing and growing corporate partnerships and increasing the organization’s civic engagement throughout the community.

Rawlinson and Alter highlighted two areas for immediate growth. The first is sports betting, which recently became a viable revenue outlet because of laws enacted in March. The second is the establishment of a media rights deal in 2025, which Alter believes is “way undervalued” under the current agreement with the WNBA.


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