NWSL expansion side Bay FC has hired former Levi Strauss & Co. executive Brady Stewart to be the organization’s first CEO.
Bay FC was announced as the NWSL’s 14th team in early April 2023 and is preparing for its inaugural 2024 season.
The club recently launched its organization with more than 5,000 people at a fan festival in The Presidio of San Francisco.
“I think for me, when I looked at it and thought about it, it’s one of those literal, once in a lifetime opportunities to create something and build something and leave a legacy,” Stewart said in an exclusive interview with ESPN.
“We all spend so much time working and so much time in our careers. How often do you really get a chance to say, ”I’m going to leave a mark with what I’ve done and how I’ve been part of a team and part of building something bigger than what I am and who I am?’
“And to me, it’s a legacy for the Bay Area to build another iconic sports team. It’s a legacy for women’s sports to be part of the women’s soccer revolution. It’s a legacy to build a global sports brand.”
She joins an organization headed by the “Founding Four” of former U.S. internationals Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner.
Bay FC is also backed by the financial heft of investment firm Sixth Street Partners, and its co-founder and CEO Alan Waxman, who is also co-chair of Bay FC.
“Brady is a world-class leader with a proven instinct for innovating and accelerating growth in changing markets, and she’s going to drive our founding vision of building Bay FC into a franchise that represents more than just a soccer team,” Waxman said in a prepared statement.
“She has a deep love and appreciation for both the game and the Bay Area, and she knows how to galvanize passionate people towards a common goal.
“Our entire investor group is here to support her, and we’re excited for where she’s going to take Bay FC.”
Stewart devoted much of her 14-year career with Levi’s building up its ecommerce business, with the last 14 months spent leading the company’s direct-to-consumer efforts.
Bay FC would be Stewart’s first foray into the sports world, though she feels there will be some overlap in terms of what she accomplished at Levi’s and what she’ll attempt with Bay FC.
“It’s all about building consumer connections, building connections with fans,” she said. “What I built at Levi’s is all about continuing the legacy of 165-year-old iconic global brand.
“And so you think about what is the DNA that you build into a brand to make it beloved for the long term? And what we’re trying to do with BFC is we’re trying to build a multi-generational fan base.
“We want the story to be: I was there with my mom and dad on opening day for BFC, and now I come with my grandkids and they love this team as much as I loved this team also.
“So it, it’s about creating that long term love and passion for our brand and turning it into an icon.”
Stewart added that she grew up playing youth soccer through to her high school years, and the passion she had for the game then still remains.
“I had so many deep friendships and leadership experiences come to me through sport and soccer,” she said.
“I still follow the sport today. My family’s very engaged in soccer, so I have a lot of personal connections, but that brings my passion to the table for the sport.”
According to Stewart, the recruiting process started about two months ago, and in addition to Waxman she was able to meet the entire leadership team, including former Meta executive Sheryl Sandberg, her husband,Tom Bernthal, former Golden State Warriors president as well as COO Rick Welts and former San Francisco Giants VP of communications Staci Slaughter.
“It felt really inspirational,” she said.
Stewart admitted she’ll have to get up to speed quickly, given that the team is scheduled to begin play in 2024.
“We’ve got a tight timeline. We’re trying to play next year, which is fast, and we need to execute against it immediately,” she said.
“We’re very lucky that there’s already been a bunch of passionate people on board moving things forward, but we need to continue executing fast against that.”
NWSL expansion team Bay FC hires new CEO Brady Stewart