A Look At The Leader … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

Depending on the point of view, Clark Hunt is a miser, a savvy businessman or a young man feeling his way in running the Hunt Family’s most visible business.

There’s a chance he might be all three. As the Chiefs are about to begin their fifth season under his direction, the picture of Hunt remains a bit fuzzy and out of focus.

There’s no question he’s a bright young man who was part of the owners’ negotiating committee that got an agreement between the league and its players that will bring labor peace for the next 10 years. While he was not a driving force in those negotiations like New England’s Robert Kraft or Jerry Richardson of Carolina, he did play a role, especially in piecing together the league’s new supplemental revenue plan that will help keep the playing field level for the next decade.

Yet, he’s also the business leader who decided the way to handle his franchise during the owners’ lockout was to slice the paychecks of the little people working for him. Seemingly oblivious to the PR disaster outside the building and the discontent inside the building until this week, he rode in on a white horse and will return the funds that were cut, while also giving his non-contract employees a 3 percent raise retroactive to March 1. Call it a great decision, one that never should have been made in the first place.

Hunt is the same man who runs an organization that tried to charge firemen who were going to hold the American flag in pre-game ceremonies on September 11. If they wanted to stay and watch the game, pay up. It’s the same franchise that wanted to take away the ability to stay and watch the game for the tickets takers and parking lot attendants who have always had that benefit.

As the smoke cleared on those PR disasters, the Chiefs ended up doing the right thing – the employees got their money back plus, the firemen will watch the opener for free and the ticket takers and parking lot attendants will get to stay for the game.

So it would be easy to say, no harm, no foul. But the harm has come to the reputation of Hunt and the Chiefs. Some would say that’s unfair; others would say it was right on the mark. Again, the focus is fuzzy on the second of Lamar Hunt’s three sons.

It’s evidence of the growing pains that come with an inexperienced leader taking over the franchise. It’s especially obvious because Hunt cleaned house of the front offices most veteran employees, men and women who had put in decades of dedicated work for the Hunt franchise. Sent packing were employees that would have immediately known the thing not to do was charging firemen to hold a flag on the 10th anniversary of 9-11.

That’s what Clark Hunt wanted – his organization. For that, he’s had to pay the PR price with internal leaders who lack the experience you would expect to find with a business that’s been around as long and as visible as the Chiefs.

Either that, or Clark Hunt doesn’t listen to anybody. Somewhere, somebody needed to explain to him that taking 10-15-20 percent of the paychecks of the little people was not a good idea. Hunt explained on Tuesday that the league required all 32 teams to come up with a business plan for the year if there were no games and no revenue.

Only seven of those 32 teams implemented their plan; the others were waiting for a time when they franchise was actually losing money from missed games.

Hunt said Tuesday he decided on the salary cuts rather than furloughs or layoffs, the idea that 90 percent of pay was better than zero percent. It’s hard to argue with that approach, but there’s no reason it had to come in March. This past spring, the Chiefs crowed that they led the league in new season tickets sales – that’s at least some money in the bank that wasn’t there before. Bonuses for workouts were not being paid. That’s money saved there. If the Chiefs had a cash flow problem then one would really have to question the front office leadership.

The pay cut was the classic case of inexperience. It looked good in theory, but it had a negative effect on the most important part of any business – the people working there. It cost Hunt and the Chiefs respect with some of the fans, the general public and their own employees.

And, it was all necessary because they lost no revenue from games missed at Arrowhead Stadium. An important lesson for the young organization – there’s no reason to make a decision until one needs to be made.

Hunt wasn’t involved in the fire fighters case and the ticket taker and parking lot attendants black eye. But the people he’s put in charge were. Club president Mark Donovan blamed an over-eager sales employee for the fire fighters incident. There really wasn’t any reason given for the ticket takers.

Again, the mistakes were corrected. Clark Hunt and his inexperienced group learned the valuable lesson No. 1 on decision making, at least in the eyes of former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer. It was Marty’s father who told him to never be afraid to make a decision because “if you screw it up, you just get to make another decision.”

Eventually, they got it right and we can only hope that lessons were learned and valuable experience gained for those without much.

9 Responses to “A Look At The Leader … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • July 27, 2011  - Morten, Denmark says:

    Well said Bob…

    Leadership comes in many forms; but the most important leadership-skill is to recognize when you are wrong and in the same time fix the mistake and learn from it; he’ got that skill. I really believe that Clark Hunt will become one of the best franchise-leaders in the league. Wisely the league took him on board for the labour-negotiations… In 10 years it will probably be him leading these negotiations for the owners.

  • July 27, 2011  - Tracy says:

    Firemen can be a cocky bunch. Occasionally they show up at the grocery store in suspenders and waders and make a nuisance of their presence by tossing packages down the aisle to each other. And in the 1990s one of their union honchos was convicted in Federal court in a corruption case of some kind.

    But theirs is a dangerous trade and we are grateful for their skills and bravery. Which makes it all the more baffling why somebody would take the attitude of “If they want to stay, make them pay.” It’s not quite “Let them eat cake”, but it comes pretty close.

    Whose PR book do they study at Arrowhead? Eddy Stanky’s? Howard Cosell’s? Dick Cheney’s?

    Cripes, what a bunch of ham handed know-nothings.

  • July 27, 2011  - bhive01 says:

    I think a lot of managers come into a situation and want to shake things up, even when perhaps it isn’t at all necessary (Bob has suggested many times it wasn’t). By doing things differently he clearly stepped over a line that we never saw with his father, but I agree with Morten that he recovered with some grace intact.

  • July 27, 2011  - txchief says:

    Man, there’s got to be a million better topics than this, especially since football just got started! Yes, it was an unfortunate decision to cut pay during the lockout, but there was also little for many of the employees to do when there was no football business. The many journalists who write crap like this demostrate that they have no knowledge at all of how to run a business and plan for expected downturns and the long term success of an organization. The Chiefs are a privately held business, not some type of socialist/hippie commune. All losses along with huge financial obligations were going to come directly out of the Hunt’s pockets if there was no season. I’d bet it was the accounting department’s idea to trim expenses rather than Clark’s. The Hunt family has been as honorable as anyone since they became involved in football, and I’ve never been impressed that they act in a malevolent fashion. Let it go people!

  • July 27, 2011  - txchief says:

    Now how about a little Chiefs football news?

  • July 27, 2011  - go_saleaumua says:


    Valid points on Clark. As someone else as pointed out, new management tends to want to find/hire “their people” and run an organization “their way.” There are ups and downs to that strategy, as we’ve seen…

    On a side note, this is the second or third article recently where you’ve bemoaned the loss of the pre-Clark Hunt management team. Who was worth keeping out of that crew? Denny Thum…and that’s about it. Many of those leaders were close to you, Bob, and gave you insider access you don’t have anymore. Just because you’ve lost your free pass doesn’t mean the folks who issued it to you receive one.

    Other than that small gripe, I love your work and always have. Keep it up and thanks for all you do for Chief fans across the country (world?).

  • July 27, 2011  - rwh1974 says:

    Clark acted the same as all spoiled little rich kids. He screwed up so he threw some money at it to make it all better. I gurantee he lost the loyalty of many of his employees. As far as cleaning house and hiring new people goes he should have taken a lesson from Pioli and Haley. You have to have some veteren leadership on a team to be successful.

  • July 27, 2011  - Rick says:

    This is BS. Look around at the many business’ firing and laying people off. A small deduction in pay while the league is in limbo is far better than being laid off. The employee’s were reimbursed and even received a raise, bashing Hunt over this is petty.

  • July 28, 2011  - chewbone says:

    Clarks mistake was that he likely listened to the comish and what the NFL headquarters were suggesting. Most other clubs as Bob pointed out pulled together a plan, but didn’t implement it. Clark wants to be 100% supportive of the NFL rules and there is nothing wrong with that but he needs to use his own good judgement as Goodell has lots of room for improvement. In my opinion the comish is slowly ruining the NFL.

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