SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs CEO and chairman Peter Holt, whose selfless ownership is credited with helping the team win five NBA championships, is retiring after 20 years running one of sports’ elite franchises.
He will be replaced as CEO by his wife, Julianna and, at her request, Spurs president of business operations Rick Pych. The team said Wednesday that Peter Holt will remain on the team’s board of managers, but his wife will take over his role on the NBA’s Board of Governors. Peter Holt has served as chairman of that board.
Holt first joined the Spurs as a minority owner in 1993, but was named CEO and chairman in 1996 after becoming team’s largest shareholder. In two decades at the helm, Holt forged a reputation as the gold standard in sports ownership for his willingness to support the franchise financially while also giving those he empowered — coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford — the space to make their own decisions.
And in the Spurs’ typically understated fashion, the surprising announcement came late Wednesday evening on an off day for the team.
"I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the last two decades," said Holt, whose family owns Holt Cat machine and equipment company. "The championships are wonderful, bringing new sports franchises to San Antonio is important but the biggest accomplishment for me will always be the impact we’ve had in our community. The pride, support and love that our city has for the Spurs is truly amazing."
It was under Holt’s guidance that the Spurs hired Popovich as general manager in 1994. Popovich became the team’s coach on Dec. 10, 1996, and has led San Antonio to five championships and 19 straight postseason appearances, including a berth this season with the league’s second-best record at 54-10.
"For 20 years the Spurs have been a model franchise under Peter Holt, winning five NBA championships and becoming an anchor of the San Antonio community along with building a global following," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "Peter not only provided steady leadership as an NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League owner but also distinguished himself as Chairman of the NBA Board of Governors and Chairman of the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee. We thank him for his outstanding service and look forward to working with Julianna Hawn Holt in her new role as the team’s Governor."
Golden State coach Steve Kerr was surprised by the news about his former franchise when he arrived at Oracle Arena on Wednesday to face Utah.
"Wow, that will take a little time to process," Kerr said. "All I can say is that playing for the Spurs, Peter was just an incredible owner, passionate and involved without being overbearing. The perfect combination. It’s important to have that kind of leadership. … One of the reasons the Spurs have been the Spurs, everyone rightfully points to Pop and Tim Duncan, David Robinson. But it takes great ownership, and Peter Holt has been as good as there is."
Popovich has long credited Holt for the team’s success, saying the San Antonio native’s low-key approach has allowed him and Spurs general manager R.C. Buford to succeed in an era when other owners’ impatience has led to constant changes in coaching and direction.
"Peter Holt is smart enough to know he’s not a basketball coach or a manager," Popovich said during the 2014 NBA Finals. "He’s great at what he does and he’s secure enough in his own skin to allow R.C. and I to do our work."