Suns president to leave organization - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Suns president to leave organization

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Posted: Friday, September 9, 2011 1:56 pm | Updated: 9:07 pm, Fri Sep 9, 2011.

(AP) — Phoenix Suns president and chief executive Rick Welts is leaving the team for personal reasons four months after he became the first senior sports executive to openly acknowledge he was gay.

Welts said in an interview Friday night that he plans to relocate to northern California to be with his partner.

"It's an opportunity probably for the first time for me to align my personal and professional lives," he said.

Welts will end his work with the Suns on Sept. 15 with nine months remaining on his contract.

He said he is entertaining several suggestions that he write a book.

"I certainly have a lot of interesting offers on that front," Welts said. "That certainly is something that's on the agenda."

The 58-year-old former NBA front office executive also would like to return to work for a professional sports franchise somewhere in the area where he makes his new home.

"I'm not ready to go play golf or go on a speaking tour," Welts said. "I definitely feel I have a lot left to give to the professional sports industry."

He wanted to shoot down any notion that he was being pushed out the door by the Suns, praising the support he has received from team owner Robert Sarver.

"I think amicable is probably an understatement," Welts said of his leaving the franchise.

He said both he and Sarver were concerned that some might have a misperception that, because of the timing, the Suns wanted him to leave.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Welts said. "From the time I made my announcement in May, the Suns, and Robert in particular, have been unbelievably supportive."

He said that he and Sarver had just spoke again by telephone to thank each other.

Sarver said in a news release that the business side of the organization will report to general counsel Jason Rowley as the team searches for a new president. Sarver thanked Welts for "his tireless work on behalf of the Suns."

Lon Babby remains the Suns' president of basketball operations.

Welts joined the Suns in 2002 as president and had the additional title of CEO the past two seasons. He announced in May that he was gay.

He said his life since then has been "fascinating" and that he intended to do more work to promote the cause of "treating everyone equally.".

Welts began his NBA career as a ball kid for the Seattle SuperSonics in 1967. He worked for 17 years in the NBA front office, rising to the position of executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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