Mark Pannes out as Vancouver Whitecaps CEO after five months

Sporting director Axel Schuster takes over the role.

Credit: Nathan Caddell

Mark Pannes is out as CEO of the Vancouver Whitecaps 

Sporting director Axel Schuster takes over the role

Mark Pannes’ introductory press conference as Vancouver Whitecaps CEO last winter was…different, to say the least.

The former AS Roma executive started things off by revealing that season ticket renewal numbers were down. It was a refreshing moment in the often buttoned-up, behind-closed-doors world of professional sports.

But Pannes stressed accountability, transparency and improvement that day. And he seemed to back it up early on, using his Twitter account to interact with fans and even showing up at fan events.

Today, just over five months after Pannes was appointed chief executive in January, it was announced that he’s out of the organization. Sporting director Axel Schuster will take over the CEO’s seat.

Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallett attributed the decision to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everybody was impacted significantly in the last 100 days, and we just felt we needed one clear voice for the next 100 days,” Mallett said on a Zoom call to media. “This was about one clear leader going forward….Axel, without question, was the clear choice. Mark added value in certain areas, but this was the time to get the team together, focus and move forward.”

But even though the club has been impacted economically by the pandemic, Mallett maintained that the decision wasn’t about shedding salary in any way.

“Mark did bring things, but only inside the walls do we know how decisions are made, how cultures are set, what goes on,” he said. “It’s the opposite of cost-cutting—we chose not to reduce any compensation; we didn’t furlough anybody, didn’t take any government grants. We’re losing tens of millions of dollars.”

According to reports, Pannes had a four-year contract with the team.