GLENDALE, Ariz. — Alex Meruelo made history last year by becoming the first Latino controlling owner in the NHL when he purchased the Arizona Coyotes.
He made another bit of history Monday, naming Xavier Gutierrez as the first Latino team president and CEO in NHL history.
“I have known Xavier for many years, and he is a great person, an incredible leader, who has had a very successful business career,” Meruelo said. “I have the utmost trust in Xavier to lead us forward and help us to become a world-class organization on and off the ice.”
Their relationship goes back to Gutierrez’s days as chief investment officer for the Meruelo Group, a multifaceted company involved in casinos, financial services, construction and media.
Gutierrez has more than 20 years of experience as a business executive and investor specializing in investment management, corporate strategy, finance and business development. He comes to the Coyotes after serving as managing director at Southern California-based Clearlake Capital Group.
Gutierrez replaces Ahron Cohen, who parted ways with the Coyotes last month after serving as CEO and president since 2017.
“Mr. Meruelo and I share a very compelling vision for this franchise,” Gutierrez said. “We both want to win. We want the Coyotes to be a winning team on the ice and a winning business organization off this ice. We want to build a world-class organization with elite players and the best management team in the front office.”
Among Gutierrez’s priorities in the desert will be expanding the Coyotes’ fan base and finding a permanent home for the franchise.
Arizona has annually ranked among the NHL’s worst teams in attendance. The Coyotes have played at Gila River Arena on a temporary basis since the city of Glendale, Arizona, voted to terminate a 15-year, $225 million lease agreement.
Meruelo said the franchise has received interest from Glendale to stay in the arena but also has offers from the east side of Phoenix, where a larger portion of the area’s population lives.
Meruelo reiterated Monday that he wants to keep the franchise in the Valley of the Sun.
“Clearly, this is home, and we want to find the right solution, but everything is on the table in terms of what makes sense for our team, our fans and our community,” Gutierrez said. “Clearly, there have been conversations predating me about what is the best option. I’m very new, I’m going to look at everything and take the lead on this, but clearly Mr. Meruelo has his perspective that we would like to pursue that is long term and financially stable.”