WPT hires a new COO

The World Poker Tour is always moving forward with new innovations, but a recent hiring may place the WPT onto a new level. The WPT announced yesterday that it has hired Peter Hughes, the former executive vice president of SFX Sports Group, as its chief operating officer.

Hughes will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of World Poker Tour Enterprises and will strive to increase the reach of the WPT internationally. Hughes will also be leading some business affairs, such as marketing and sponsorship, domestically and internationally.

"WPT Enterprises is one of the most exciting and dynamic ventures in the sports and entertainment business today," Hughes said in a statement released by the WPT. "Its explosive growth and worldwide impact is only now beginning to be truly felt. WPTE presents an enormous opportunity for me to help coalesce its various divisions and provide the kind of direction that will lay groundwork for its long-term business expansion, and the global growth of poker as a sport."

Steve Lipscomb, Founder and CEO of WPT Enterprises, Inc., was excited in announcing the hiring.

"We are very excited to have a leader of his proven talents in both sports and business join our management team," Lipscomb said in the statement. "Peter's coming on board will inspire our entire company and free me up to focus on fulfilling our strategic vision for WPTE, the World Poker Tour, WPTonline.com, the Professional Poker Tour and other future properties. Peter will help guide us, the players and the poker community as we continue evolving poker into a global sport."

As EVP at SFX Sports, a global leader in sports marketing, talent representation, special events and television, Hughes acted in a COO capacity, working with the various divisions of SFX Sports: basketball, baseball, football, soccer, hockey, golf, tennis, events, marketing, media, financial services and Australian operations. He was also involved in numerous international sports programs while at the company. Hughes was tapped for his role after SFX/Clear Channel acquired Integrated Sports International, a highly respected sports marketing company based in East Rutherford, N.J., that he helped to establish in 1993.

At ISI, Hughes served as vice president of business development, creating licensing programs for top brands including Cadillac, Notre Dame, Wheaties and the Association of Professional Volleyball Players. He also led or worked on teams that provided strategic consulting for such clients as AOL, Burger King, FootAction, Disney Attractions, the Anaheim Angels, the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers. Hughes also created premium merchandise for such companies as Little Caesars, Burger King and Sara Lee. Additionally, he was involved with the career development and marketing strategy for players on the SFX talent roster.

Before joining ISI, Hughes got his start in the sports business with the National Football League. After a two-year stint working for Dell Publishing as financial manager from 1983-85, he was called upon by the NFL to be financial manager for its publishing division. But Hughes' talents were spotted early and he was soon directed to a position as senior director of the NFL's retail licensing program, responsible for maximizing profits in publishing, collectibles, trading card and player categories. In 1990, he played a key role in the formation of the NFL Quarterback Club, which packaged the game's top quarterbacks as a marketing powerhouse. He helped this start-up venture generate significant licensing and endorsement revenue for each player involved. The program he designed lasted a dozen years and attracted marquee sponsors like Domino's, Upper Deck, and DirecTV, under his watch.