The stunning departure of Chris Granger, who resigned as Kings’ president Monday to pursue other challenges, is a major loss to both the franchise and the community.
If the Golden 1 Center is his crowning achievement – and it is – the former executive has been a soothing, stabilizing presence since he was first dispatched by former NBA Commissioner David Stern to oversee the Kings’ marketing and ticket sales divisions decimated during the Maloofs’ repeated attempts to relocate the franchise.
Granger, who headed the group of league businesses staffers who frequently joined him in Sacramento, spent weeks putting the organization back together after the failed relocations to Anaheim in 2011 and Seattle in 2013. He was so effective at his job, and so highly regarded by Stern and area business and political leaders, that incoming majority owner Vivek Ranadive hired him as team president in July 2013, two months after his purchase of the team was finalized.
His immediate task was monumental: To oversee construction of the state-of-the-art downtown arena that secured the Kings’ future in Northern California and continues to reshape the physical landscape of the region.
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While the arena was being built, Granger kept Kings fans and area residents updated on the developments, often leading several tours of the premises on the same day. Since the memorable opening-night performance by Paul McCartney in October, Granger has been a fixture in the building, routinely seen walking the concourses during Kings games, concerts, NCAA Tournament games, Disney on Ice performances and the estimated 200 events scheduled during the arena’s inaugural year.
Eminently approachable and polite, Granger mingled with patrons, fielded complaints, checked on all the details – everything from the length of the lines at restrooms and concession stands to the positioning of the bike racks outside the main entrance.
“I’m really sad Chris is leaving,” Ranadive said Monday afternoon from his cell phone, “but when I recruited him, I also knew it wasn’t going to be forever. He built the arena. He stayed a year (afterward). I told him, ‘I’d like to keep you, but I also understand you don’t want to be selling sponsorships your whole life.’ He’s a big time guy.”
Though Granger’s influence with Ranadive appeared to diminish when business operations executive Matina Kolokotronis was promoted to chief operating officer last year, the Indiana native insists that the internal restructuring did not factor in his decision. Rather, he attributed the decision to a restlessness gene; he simply needs another challenge with even more responsibilities.
“I want global,” Granger said. “I want multiple things. We all want to have an impact and do important things, right? With the arena built, this job was going to be all about selling global sponsorships and I just think there’s one more big move in me. Plus, my girls are entering middle school, so this seems like the right time.”
Kings business executive John Rinehart, one of the longest-tenured franchise employees, will take over as president of business operations.
Granger, who traveled overseas extensively while working closely with Stern at the league’s Manhattan headquarters, expressed an interest in a position with the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid, working for an ownership group with multiple teams or joining another pro sports franchise that is pursuing a new ballpark or arena.
“Things are going in the right direction here, with the arena and now the draft coming up,” he added. “That makes it hard to leave in a way. But I feel like I’m leaving things better than they were when I arrived.”
Just look around. Granger will get no argument from anyone here.