Fresh off their third NFC Championship Game in as many seasons, the San Francisco 49ers announced a front-office shakeup on Jan. 21, as Paraag Marathe will replace co-owner Gideon Yu as team president.
Yu, a technology investor best known for his work with Facebook and YouTube, served in the position for each of the past two seasons. He will be replaced by Marathe, a longtime 49ers executive who was previously the club's chief operating officer.
San Francisco CEO Jed York thanked Yu and Marathe for their roles in the organizational reshuffling, while also announcing Al Guido would take over as COO:
As we move closer to the opening of Levi’s® Stadium, our organization will continue to evolve and grow. Gideon, Paraag and Al have been instrumental in making the new stadium a reality, and I couldn’t be more excited about the future of our management team and the 49ers organization. Paraag and Al have developed a tremendous working relationship and I am deeply confident in their leadership.
Yu, 42, is widely credited for leading the charge for the 49ers' securing of the $850 million loan necessary to build Levi's Stadium, which is the largest such deal in NFL history. The sometimes-contentious negotiations process culminated with the 49ers completing a controversial move to nearby Santa Clara, though the organization will keep the San Francisco name. The stadium is due to open in July 2014—a year ahead of the initial time frame.
Yu also made NFL history by being the first person of color to ascend to an NFL team's presidency. In a Twitter message, he thanked York for the opportunity and confirmed that he would stay on as a co-owner:
Thanks to @JedYork for entrusting me to complete your stadium project. Looking fwd to many more years together as 49ers’ co-owners!— Gideon Yu (@gideonyu) January 21, 2014
Marathe, who has more than a decade of experience in the organization, will be the 49ers' second consecutive president of color—and second in NFL history. He previously spent time as the team's executive vice president of football and business operations.
While taking an NFL team's presidency is never easy, Marathe enters a position where widespread organizational stability is expected. The 49ers have made the conference title game in each of Jim Harbaugh's first three seasons and made Super Bowl XLVII last year before falling to the Baltimore Ravens.
General manager Trent Baalke has consistently done an excellent job of assembling talent since taking over in 2011, and there's little to indicate anything will change. Colin Kaepernick is due and extension and there could be a couple changes to other veteran offensive pieces (Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore being the most pressing), but the 2014 roster should look mostly similar to the one this past season.
That makes this a near-ideal situation for Marathe, whose expertise on the business side of things has been renowned. Should everything in the transition go smoothly, the 49ers should open Levi's Stadium with a burgeoning superstar quarterback, one of the league's best defenses and Super Bowl aspirations.
Not bad for a team that just a few years ago was hiring its fifth head coach in a decade.
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