- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2011

When Laurel J. Richie was asked to give a keynote address on leadership at an awards ceremony in Seattle, her speech on rebranding brought rave reviews. What Richie didn’t expect was that it would set into motion a rebranding of her life and career.

The WNBA will begin its 15th season June 4 and it will do so with Richie as its new president. Unlike the league’s two previous presidents, Val Ackerman and Donna Orender, Richie has no background in basketball.

“We found somebody who was adept with respect to sports,” said NBA commissioner David Stern in a press conference to announce Richie’s hiring. “She’s culturally adept at understanding what impact the game and the players could have on the global community.”

Richie comes to the WNBA from the Girl Scouts of America, where she served as the senior vice president of marketing. Before that, she worked for the international advertising and marketing firm Ogilvy and Mather.

“From a professional standpoint, [I bring] sort of a track record of re-energizing and revitalizing iconic brands. That has been a passion of mine,” Richie said. “I love to wrap my head around complex businesses. I would characterize the WNBA as that. My eyes are wide open to the challenges ahead. I see tremendous opportunity to grow the game by building on what I believe is a very strong foundation.”

Richie admits to being on a “learning curve,” since she’s watched WNBA games on television but hasn’t attended any.

“I have been a viewer of games, not necessarily an attender of games,” Richie said. “As I take on the marketing portion of this work, we’re going to need to address converting the interested to the actively engaged. I want to think about how we reach out to people and engage them, versus putting the burden on them to come and grab us.”

New Mystics president and general manager Trudi Lacey believes Richie’s marketing experience will help enrich the WNBA brand.

“She has a legacy of building character, confidence and courage in all the young people she touched while working with the Girl Scouts,” Lacey said. “She understands having a sense of community, and she is committed to leading with excellence and integrity. She is a role model that we are profoundly proud to have as president of our league.”

Mystics chief operating officer Greg Bibb called Richie’s hiring an asset.

“Her track record as a successful businesswoman who has held leadership positions with blue-chip brands, as well as female-oriented organizations, will be a tremendous asset to not only the Washington Mystics, but all of the WNBA’s member clubs,” Bibb said.

Richie said her first order of business is to hit the road.

“A priority for me is to really get into the market, to get to a game so that I can wipe that off of my record, to meet with players, owners, fans, sponsors, and the media,” Richie said. “I start on the 16th and my bags are already packed.”

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