Mike Dee, the Dolphins CEO since 2009, will leave the team within the next month to become President and CEO of the San Diego Padres.
The Dolphins and Padres are expected to announce the move today. Dee will replace Tom Garfinkel, who resigned his San Diego post last week.
[Update: Both teams have announced the hiring.]
"It's a chance to return to my roots," said Dee, who worked previously for the Padres (1995-2002) as well as the Boston Red Sox before joining the Dolphins. "This is a great opportunity to run a team and a facility. It's a chance to sail a ship I helped construct."
Dee will wield unquestioned power in San Diego, where he will oversee the business side of the team and also have baseball operations under his control. The Padres general manager will answer to Dee.
The Dolphins' business model is to split the franchise into a football operations side run by General Manager Jeff Ireland and a business side that is run by the CEO. Both answer to owner Stephen Ross but not each other.
A club source with knowledge Ross's thinking said the club will continue that model going forward. The club has already hired New Jersey based Turnkey Sports as a headhunter to help in the search for Miami's next CEO.
That search has already taken its initial steps and the Dolphins source said while there is no official timetable for filling Dee's vacancy, the club hopes to have a new CEO in place sometime before the end of the 2013 season if not by the time it begins. Dee said he would stay on the next 2-4 weeks to help the Dolphins transition to the next CEO.
Dee met with Dolphins staff at 11 a.m. to tell them of his departure.
While he is excited about returning to major league baseball and a team he was previously connected to, Dee leaves with fond memories about the football team he's always rooted for.
"I love this franchise," he said of the Dolphins. "I have great respect and love for the history of this franchise -- coach [Don] Shula and the alumni. It's been a wonderful four years for me. I got a chance to meet a lot of great men I grew up idolizing and I found out they're great players and better people."
During his tenure, the Dolphins continued their tradition of celebrating their history while also stepping up their participation in community activities and philanthropy. The Dolphins Cycling Challenge raised over $1 million for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center the past two years. Dee also initiated an annual blood drive that was very successful.
Dee was the local eyes and ears for Ross, who spends his time primarily in New York. Although Ross was not a fan of the Dolphins fight song and initially shelved it, Dee forged a compromise to return it to Sun Life after he listened to complaints from fans.
But it hasn't been all success.
Although he negotiated a stadium naming rights deal with Sun Life, Dee met stiff political opposition when he spearheaded the club's attempt to seek partial public financing to upgrade the 25-year-old stadium. The most recent effort to strike a public-private partnership to upgrade Sun Life Stadium failed in March.
The new CEO will have to pick up that torch because the issue has not gone away. Although the Dolphins may not seek public funding again in 2013 -- a decision not yet cemented -- they definitely will seek it again in the future. The new CEO will also have to try to increase the season ticket base that currently stands at about 40,000. It'll be a challenge unless the Dolphins change course on the field after four consecutive losing seasons.
The new CEO, like Dee, will have nothing to do with Miami's football success. Yet, like Dee, the new hire will have to try and translate whatever success football operations has into business success.
Turnkey's search is expected to focus first on people with NFL experience.
In 2009, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell informed NFL clubs that the mandatory Rooney Rule interview requirements currently in place for the head coach position had been extended to the senior football operations position at each club.
This policy specifically requires clubs to interview at least one minority candidate as part of the hiring process for a club's senior football operations position, whether described as general manager, executive vice president of football operations, or otherwise.
The requirement does not apply in cases where the position is held or filled by the owner or a member of his family, or where a club has a pre-existing contractual commitment filed with the league office to promote a current member of its staff if the senior football operations position becomes vacant.
Although it is not required, Goodell strongly urged clubs in today’s memo to interview a broad and diverse slate of candidates for a wide range of football operations roles, including scouting, player personnel, and contract and cap management positions. "The more thorough the search, the more likely clubs are to find the right candidates, and to be able to groom future leaders from within their organizations," the commissioner said.
Ross released a statement through the team. It reads:
"I want to thank Mike Dee for his leadership over the past four years to the Miami Dolphins and wish him the best in his new position with the San Diego Padres. Under Mike, we have broadened our role in the community, improved our technology footprint within the organization and enhanced our customer service to our fans. As a result of Mike’s leadership and combined with the hard work of our football operations department, I feel that the organization is well positioned for future success both on and off the field. We will begin the process immediately to bring in a new CEO and I have retained Turnkey Sports and Entertainment to lead this search. Mike will be in the office over the next several weeks as he makes the transition to his new position. We wish him and his family the very best in this new chapter of his life."