John Schuerholz, a 50-year veteran of baseball front offices, is stepping aside as president of the Atlanta Braves.
Terry McGuirk, the Braves’ chairman and CEO, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive interview that Schuerholz, 75, will move into a new position as the team’s vice chairman. The position entails more of an advisory role.
Rather than naming one person to succeed Schuerholz as team president, McGuirk said two Braves executives will be promoted to presidencies: Derek Schiller to president of business and Mike Plant to president of development.
McGuirk said the changes mean Schuerholz is taking a “step back” from day-to-day duties, but will continue to provide “consultation and guidance,” serving as an adviser to Schiller and Plant on business issues and working with Braves president of baseball operations John Hart on player-personnel matters.
The changes come as the Braves prepare for their final season in Turner Field and their 2017 move to a new stadium in Cobb County, SunTrust Park.
Schuerholz has been one of Atlanta’s highest-profile sports executives for a quarter-century. He joined the Braves as general manager in October 1990 and became team president in October 2007.
He is scheduled for induction into the Braves Hall of Fame in August.
With the changes, Plant and Schiller, both of whom previously reported to Schuerholz, will report directly to McGuirk. Hart, who also had reported to Schuerholz, will “dual report” to McGuirk and Schuerholz, McGuirk said.
The Braves plan to announce the moves Thursday. Schuerholz, Plant and Schiller are scheduled to discuss the changes, which will be effective immediately, at a morning news conference.
McGuirk said Schuerholz concurs with the changes.
“He is very much a part of this decision,” McGuirk said. “I intend … to be picking his brain on a continual basis going forward.”
Asked if the changes represent retirement for Schuerholz, McGuirk said: “Heck no.”
Schuerholz will continue to lead the Braves’ search for a new spring-training home in Florida, McGuirk said. The Braves are in serious talks with officials in Palm Beach County and Sarasota County and hope to reach a deal in the coming months for a facility to be built by spring 2018.
McGuirk said he also expects Hart and Braves General Manager John Coppolella to benefit from continued consultation with Schuerholz about player personnel.
As the Braves’ general manager for 17 years, from the 1991 through 2007 seasons, Schuerholz helped guide the organization to 14 consecutive division titles (1991-2005), five National League pennants in the 1990s and the World Series championship in 1995.
In one of Schuerholz’s bigger moves as team president, he fired Frank Wren, who succeeded him as general manager, after the 2014 season and persuaded Hart to become president of baseball operations.
Now having Hart, Plant and Schiller as presidents over specific areas provides an executive structure that reflects the increased complexity of the team’s operations, McGuirk said.
“The Atlanta Braves in 2007 were a much simpler organization,” he said. “In the last five years, as we have developed the new stadium, The Battery Atlanta (the planned mixed-use complex adjacent to SunTrust Park) and all of the business activities that go along with this, it’s gotten to be a very complicated machine.
“The symmetry of having three presidents of three different areas just shows how incredibly big and complicated our little organization has become.”
Plant and Schiller, both of whom previously held the title of executive vice president, have been with the Braves since November 2003, when they joined the front office from Turner Sports and the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team, respectively. In recent years, both have had key roles in the new stadium project.
As president of development, Plant, 56, will lead the SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta construction and development teams and will oversee stadium and administrative operations, special events and operations of the Braves’ minor-league clubs.
As president of business, Schiller, 45, will lead ticket and corporate sponsorship sales, marketing, branding and the team’s broadcasting partnerships.
McGuirk said the work done in recent years by Plant and Schiller make the promotions a natural evolution that give them titles better matching their responsibilities.
“They are among the most highly regarded executives in baseball in their respective areas,” McGuirk said.