The Houston Dynamo and Dash named veteran sports business executive John Walker as the club’s President of Business Operations, the club announced today. Dynamo and Dash majority owner Gabriel Brener introduced Walker at a news conference this afternoon at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Walker brings more than 30 years of experience in the sports industry to the role, including the last three as Executive Vice President for Business Operations with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. He also brings experience in Major League Baseball, college athletics and with third-party ticketing companies.
As President of Business Operations, Walker will oversee all aspects of the club’s business operations and all of its entities, including the Dynamo and Dash as well as BBVA Compass Stadium and Houston Sports Park. He will also be responsible for maintaining strong business relationships with the Dynamo-Dash Youth Club, Rio Grande Valley FC and the Brazos Valley Cavalry.
“I’m proud to welcome John Walker to the Houston Dynamo and Dash. He is a highly respected leader in the sports industry whose breadth and depth of experience in multiple sports, leagues, and areas of the business will help our club continue to grow,” Brener said. “He has proven the ability to not only generate tremendous financial results, but to build a team-focused culture that leads to success across an organization. His energy, enthusiasm and ideas will help drive our club forward, and I am excited to begin this new chapter in our club’s history.”
Throughout his career, Walker has progressively taken on larger leadership roles in professional sports and entertainment with an emphasis on identifying new revenue streams and growing existing ones, introducing new technology and creating a winning culture.
With the Grizzlies, Walker held many of the same responsibilities, overseeing all aspects of the team’s business, including ticket sales, service and operations; sponsorship sales and activation; arena operations; marketing and communications; human resources; finance; analytics and customer relationship management; and community relations.
Under Walker’s leadership, the Grizzlies business operations unit set franchise records in ticket sales and total revenue, and he helped the club sell its first-ever jersey partnership along with other key partnerships. He also led the effort to acquire a new G-League franchise in 2017 and the launch of an NBA2K e-sports franchise.
"I'm humbled to have the opportunity to build upon the legacy that Oliver Luck started and Chris Canetti developed with the Dynamo and Dash organization. The club has made an incredible impact on the soccer community locally, nationally and internationally and has developed a loyal and passionate fan base,” Walker said. “Mr. Brener and the ownership group are committed to building a winning team, growing the fanbase and continuing that legacy. The future is promising on all fronts and I'm excited to get started."
A data-focused leader, Walker led the Grizzlies’ implementation of a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to streamline the team’s ticketing, sponsorship and marketing efforts with a focus toward return on investment. He also worked closely with the team president to cultivate and manage key relationships with team ownership, basketball operations leadership, local elected officials and other key stakeholders within the Memphis community.
"I'm extremely grateful to the staff and ownership at the Memphis Grizzlies for the opportunity over the last three seasons,” Walker continued. “At the same time, my family and I are very excited to be relocating to Houston, becoming active in the community and taking advantage of all that the region has to offer."
A native of Morgantown, West Virginia, Walker earned his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and a Master’s of Sports Management from the University of Oklahoma. He started his career in sports at OU, working as a ticket manager in the Sooners’ athletic department from 1990-95 before joining the Kansas City Royals’ ticket office as Director of Ticket and Revenue Operations.
Walker made his first move into the NBA with the Phoenix Suns in 2000 as the team’s Vice President of Business Development and was promoted to Sr. Vice President in 2005. In those roles, he oversaw sponsorship, led the efforts to create new revenue streams and created the Suns Sixth Man program, a holistic season ticket service initiative designed to increase fan engagement and affinity.
After a decade in the Valley of the Sun, Walker transitioned into a different aspect of the sports industry in 2010, venturing into third-party ticketing efforts as the President and CEO of Tickets.com. Under his leadership, the company increased revenues three consecutive years and signed groundbreaking contracts with five Major League Baseball clubs along with the America’s Cup and Southampton FC of the English Premier League. He served as the President of PrimeSport for six months in 2014 before being recruited to the Grizzlies, and in that time he improved the company’s e-commerce efforts, initiated a dynamic ticket pricing model and negotiated new contracts with two MLB clubs.
While with the Grizzlies, Walker served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish’s Mid-South Chapter. He and his wife Lisa have four daughters: Brandi, Brooke, Audrey and Dakota.