Gillian Zucker replaces Andy Roeser

LOS ANGELES -- Steve Ballmer introduced his first major hire as owner of the Clippers on Saturday, with new president of business operations Gillian Zucker joining Jeanie Buss of the Lakers as two of the few female chief executives or presidents in major U.S. pro sports.

Zucker spent the last nine years as president of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, the West Coast's largest racetrack. The 45-year-old Zucker replaces Andy Roeser, who took an indefinite leave of absence last spring during the scandal involving former owner Donald Sterling.

Ballmer said he met 25 to 30 people in searching for the right person, and described Zucker as "someone with enough intensity, enthusiasm and wisdom to really do this job well."

Zucker said when Ballmer bought the Clippers in August, she thought running the team's business side would be a job she would love.

"I'm so excited about what the future holds for the Clippers," she said.

Zucker said she's busy learning about the team, adding, "I'm drinking from the fire hose."

"Even though he owns the team, it really belongs to the fans," she said.

Zucker said she'd focus on providing ticketholders with added perks and boosting sponsors and media partnerships.

Zucker joins Buss, the 53-year-old co-owner and president of the Lakers; Rita Benson LeBlanc, owner/vice chairwoman of the board of the NFL's New Orleans Saints and NBA's New Orleans Pelicans; and Irina Pavlova, who serves on the board of the Brooklyn Nets as some of the women in executive roles among the major pro sports. Zucker and Buss' teams share the same arena, too.

"I'm very humbled to be in a role that could inspire someone," Zucker said.

At Auto Club Speedway, she oversaw operations, ticketing, finance, communications and marketing since 2005. She previously was Daytona International Speedway's vice president of business and development. She once worked in minor league baseball as the assistant general manager of the Durham Bulls in North Carolina.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers endorsed Zucker's hiring, relieved that he will no longer get calls about things he said he wasn't qualified to handle.

"She's been in sports and dealt with big venues," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.