Chicago Fire: Julian Posada
DALLAS -- The Chicago Fire have a new president.
Julian Posada, an American with Colombian heritage who enjoys soccer and even though he does not consider himself a fan, assumed his new position on September 16th, the same day that the Hispanic Heritage Month festivities start in the United States.
Posada honestly admits he has no previous experience leading a soccer franchise, but he also didn’t have any previous experience before he became a top executive at Hoy newspaper in Chicago, a job in which he excelled before being an integral part in developing an L.A. edition of the newspaper, which is owned by the Tribune Company.
In his own words, assuming control of the Fire will be a challenge, but nothing out of the ordinary.
“It’s basic stuff”, said Posada regarding the chores he’ll have to take care of as the Fire’s top executive.
"It’s going to be tough and we’ll have to maximize our limited resources,” he admits.
First thing's first
For starters, he is still trying to learn how to get to the office without getting lost in the stadium, said Posada, in one of the first media interviews he gave as an MLS executive.
Posada said he is not going to make any big changes when he speaks about the short-term future of the franchise for which Mexican star Nery Castillo plays.
But Posada’s confidence is based on a solid foundation.
Beyond his activities in the Hoy newspaper, his impresive credentials also include being Chief of Staff of the nonprofit organization Public Allies in Chicago, under the supervision of present First Lady Michelle Obama. He was also a top executive at Citibank in his parent’s native Colombia, as well as business development director for Querico.com, a sister company of Ethnicgrocer.com.
Posada was born in Michigan, but his career took him to Bogota and Chicago.
As someone who knows soccer, Posada said that as head of the franchise he will have to take control on the field, but things will also have to be smoothed out in the front office.
He is now focused in exploring Chicago’s big soccer market, a very diverse group, he said, because beyond the big Latin community -- led by the Mexican nationals --- there’s also a big Polish neighborhood.
“It’s a multicultural market,” he said, and now Americans are paying more and more attention to “[this] other soccer.”
Posada also targets what he defines as one of the most elementary tasks in his new position: “Find what is relevant for our consumers.”
Posada expects to have a very effective connection with Carlos de los Cobos, the Mexican national who formerly coached El Salvador’s National Team, and said that de los Cobos will have a very big role in the team’s success.
However, for him, winning will go beyond the final score.
"For me, winning is about giving people what they want to see… they need to leave the stadium feeling that they had a better experience than watching the game on TV.”
Posada refuses to admit that MLS play level is worse than other top leagues in Latin America and said that it shows the parity among the squads that play in the American tournament. He likes the fact that any team can win and that there is not one team that can make at large million dollars signings.
However, he acknowledges the impact that players like Cuauhtémoc Blanco (Chicago) and David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy) brought to the league, specially the Mexican star, due to his relevance with the Fire. Posada could not witness Blanco’s performance first hand, but he’ll have the chance to do it with Castillo and other major acquisitions.
With all this challenges ahead, learning his way around the office shouldn’t be that hard.
The Chicago Fire announced the addition of Posada as team president on Thursday as he takes over the role previously held by Dave Greeley. Two things stand out in Posada's background -- his knowledge and involvement within the Hispanic community (founder of Cafe Media, general manager for Hoy), and his passion for the game of soccer.
"I love to play," Posada said. "I'm actually recovering from an ACL tear I got from playing soccer. Hopefully I'll get better and start doing exhibitions and play in the media game next year."
Posada enters the role with an open mind, but also a focus on trying to tailor the Fire to a wide array of audiences.
"The Hispanic community is obviously one of many communities in Chicago that are very, very interested in soccer," Posada said. "I think that how that works, it's kind of by default that I've done a lot of stuff in the Hispanic community. I hope that we can engage that audience base to come and feel that the experience they get at a Fire game makes them feel this is their home team because they live in the city of Chicago."
During the Fire's search for a new president, Posada actually played the role of advisor and suggested various search firms to find some candidates. But in his conversations with Andell Sports Group managing director Javier Leon and Fire owner Andrew Hauptman, Posada's name turned into the answer to what the Fire were looking for.
"Javier and I had conversations really about the market and what I saw, how do you do it, how do you engage," Posada said. "And they started bringing in Andrew and other folks from Andell. I think just one thing led to another -- it was just a very gradual and open dialogue.
"I was very open about it and told them that if you're interested in me, I may be non-traditional, but I'll give it the same rigor that I've given everything else that I've done," he said. "It was really a very mutual conversation that led to, 'hey, would you be interested in coming to run the Chicago Fire and maybe some of the entrepreneurial stuff you've done there? You can come and do it.'"
A big priority to Posada is continually building a fan base that regularly enjoys the Fire experience first-hand, versus staying at home watching on the television. Obviously generating revenue is a must, and building the team brand both on the field and in the community are high-level standards in Posada's eyes.
Posada knows his job will have its challenges, but it is a task that resonates with his passion and previous work.
"There have been plenty of predecessors before me, and it hasn't been easy," Posada said. "But to have a shot at it, to have an opportunity and having Andrew really be supportive, I really wanted to make sure the ownership group was investing in this club, which they are."