|Chief Executive Keith Pelley is to leave the European Tour group after eight and a half years in the role to join Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd (MLSE) in his native Toronto.
Canadian Pelley became only the fourth Chief Executive since the European Tour’s formation in 1972 when he joined on August 3, 2015, from his previous position as President of Rogers Media.
Since then, he has overseen a transformative period of significant evolution, innovation and growth across the European Tour group.
He will return to Toronto to become the fifth President & CEO in the 25-year history of MLSE, one of the world’s premier sports and entertainment organisations, whose brands include the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), Toronto Raptors (NBA), Toronto Argonauts (Canadian Football League) and Toronto FC (MLS), as well as the Scotiabank Arena, regarded as one of the top sports and entertainment venues in the world.
Guy Kinnings, the current Deputy CEO and Executive Director – Ryder Cup, will become the European Tour group’s new Chief Executive effective Tuesday April 2, 2024, ensuring a seamless transition.
Pelley said: “It has been an incredible honour to be the Chief Executive of this wonderful institution for the past eight and a half years.
“When I came over from Canada back in 2015, I set out to create a culture of innovation and to grow our prize funds and our Tour for our members by ensuring that we appealed to new, younger and more diverse audiences.
“We have done that and so much more because our players, staff, partners, broadcasters and fans have all fundamentally bought into that philosophy that we are in the entertainment industry. I would therefore like to thank everyone for their support and commitment to innovation and evolution in our sport.
“This role with MLSE, and the chance to be involved with my hometown sports teams in Toronto, was the one opportunity that I simply could not resist. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do at some point in my career and I’m very grateful to be given that chance.
“Similarly, I’m eternally grateful for the incredible experiences my family and I have had with the Tour over the last eight and a half years. I am also fortunate to be able to pass the baton on to someone immensely experienced and respected in Guy who I have no doubt will ensure the Tour continues to prosper for many years to come.”
Pelley’s philosophy of ‘transforming global golf’ saw the European Tour group pioneer new formats and technologies, as well as become industry leaders in content production, enabling the Tour to broaden its appeal to new and existing fans and commercial partners and drive record prize funds for members.
That subsequently led to the Tour’s brand refresh in 2019, underpinned by the new strapline Driving Golf Further and the guiding principles of being innovative, inclusive and global.
Under Pelley’s leadership, the European Tour group introduced the Rolex Series, DP World’s title partnership of the group’s main Tour, the G4D Tour for Golfers with a Disability, mixed events with the LET and LPGA, and staged the two most successful Ryder Cups to be played on European soil, in Paris in 2018 and Rome in 2023.
He also guided the Tour through the global Covid 19 pandemic, negotiated the full acquisition of European Tour Productions from IMG, and formed Strategic Alliances with the PGA TOUR, the Sunshine Tour and the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia, as well as established pathways for other Tours onto the DP World Tour, as part of the ongoing efforts to make global golf more aligned. Since December 2022, he has also been the Chairman of the International Golf Federation.
Eric Nicoli, Chairman of the European Tour group, said: “Keith has been a truly transformative leader, both for our Tour and for global golf. So many of the changes we continue to see in the game today are either directly or indirectly because of his commitment to innovation and growth over the past eight and a half years.
“His impact should not be underestimated, and our strong succession planning means we have fully prepared for this, and he hands over to Guy, another figure who commands huge respect across our industry, with the Tour positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of us. We therefore thank Keith for all that he has done for the European Tour group and the game of golf since 2015 and we look forward to a seamless transition when Guy takes over in April.”
Kinnings joined the European Tour group in 2018 and alongside his position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer, he is also the group’s Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Director – Ryder Cup. In that latter role, he oversaw the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome – the most successful ever to be staged in Europe. He also has a wealth of experience in a large number of capacities across all aspects of golf, including in his previous role as Global Head of IMG’s Golf Division.
Kinnings said: “It has been a privilege to work closely with Keith since I joined the Tour in 2018. He set out to transform the European Tour group, and unquestionably he has done that.
“It will be a huge honour to take on this role in April and I am immensely proud to have been given this responsibility. I will continue to work closely with Keith, Eric and the Board over the next three months to ensure a seamless transition.
“I look forward to working with our players, staff and partners in the game, as well as our very impressive Executive Leadership and Senior Management Teams, to continue to build upon everything our Tour has achieved in recent years.”