Xavier A. Gutierrez has always embraced the opportunity to make a difference. A seasoned executive with experience across business, finance, and real estate, he’s always spoken his mind about the importance of impact—specifically about advancing the equity and prosperity of the Latino community.
And now he faces arguably his biggest challenge yet. Two years ago, Gutierrez was named the president and CEO of the Arizona Coyotes, which made him the first Latino to lead a team in the history of the National Hockey League and one of the few to have ever done so in a major American sport. Rather than ignore his unique vantage point, Gutierrez plans to double down in his new role and capitalize on the enormous economic power of the Latino community.
The Arizona Coyotes have launched a robust marketing campaign across all media and advertising channels, but for Gutierrez, the work is about more than selling jerseys and driving profits. He’s spent his entire career applying his unique skill set to create opportunities for Latinos and other diverse communities. And now, he sees the chance to do just that. “Sports has a unique voice, platform, and power unlike anything else, and I have the responsibility to use this position to make a difference in peoples’ lives,” he says.
To understand Gutierrez’s strategy, you have to understand his story. He was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, but was raised in San Jose, California, just as the city was blossoming into the capital of Silicon Valley. Although his father was a mechanic and his mother stayed home to raise a family, they found a way to send Gutierrez to a prestigious all-boys college preparatory school, where he became friends with the sons of venture capitalists and powerful CEOs. “My academic experience showed me I could succeed in challenging environments and that I had a duty to achieve and give back with the opportunities that were given to me,” Gutierrez says.
Sports teams are economic engines in our communities, and Latinos have immense power. Every company in the US needs Latinos, and we are the bridge to prosperity and unlocking economic growth.”Xavier A. Gutierrez
From there, Gutierrez went to Harvard, where he met Fidel Vargas, who—at just twenty-three—became mayor of Baldwin Park, California. The two became friends, and Gutierrez spent one summer as Vargas’s intern. His main projects included convincing In-N-Out Burger to move their headquarters to the region and researching the disparities and lack of representation for Latinos in the city.
The internship was foundational, but when Gutierrez asked Vargas to help him land a job in politics, the mayor refused. Instead, he got Gutierrez a high-profile job on Wall Street. Gutierrez, who hadn’t studied finance and knew nothing about the job, resisted. Vargas, however, was certain.
“He said we needed people in the Latino community who understood how to unlock capital and lead conversations about empowerment, equity, and community investment,” Gutierrez recalls. He agreed to take the job, and suddenly, his life had a new mission. Gutierrez started a long and distinguished career in finance, through which he has raised and managed billions of dollars in institutional capital, led hundreds of investments, and started companies—all while focusing on economic development and opportunities for diverse communities.
Before coming to the Arizona Coyotes, Gutierrez held positions with Latham & Watkins and Lehman Brothers. He also served as a financial analyst for the NFL. As principal and managing director at Phoenix Realty Group, he created unique investment funds backed by public pensions and raised over $1 billion to create some of the nation’s first affordable workforce housing projects in communities of color.
Later, Gutierrez helped friend and entrepreneur Alex Meruelo manage a portfolio of more than forty large companies in banking, hospitality and gaming, media, real estate, and retail. Meruelo owns casinos, TV stations, and the largest Latino-owned bank in California. In 2019, Meruelo made history as the first Latino owner in the NHL when he bought the Arizona Coyotes.
Now, Gutierrez is on a mission to replicate what the NBA did to bring a more diverse audience to its sport. The Coyotes are hosting hockey clinics in Latino neighborhoods, changing its menu to include more Latino favorites, and partnering with women and diverse-owned businesses.He believes the relationship between Latinos and the NHL yields opportunities for everyone involved.
“Sports teams are economic engines in our communities, and Latinos have immense buying power,” he says. “Every company in the US needs Latinos, and we are the bridge to prosperity and unlocking economic growth.”
When Gutierrez thinks back on his career, he’s reminded of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who famously said he succeeded by learning to “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Gutierrez has tried to make an impact by noticing emerging needs and pivoting his strategy in response. He encourages aspiring Latino leaders to take the same approach.
“Identify solutions, look for the people who will open unexpected doors for you, and be agile,” he says. “And always find a way to use your influence to positively Impact others.”