The U.S. Equestrian Federation Board of Directors has voted unanimously to appoint Chris Welton as chief executive officer effective June 1. Welton will replace John Long, who announced his decision to retire from the position a year ago.
Welton possesses a broad background in sport development and management and has acquired a deep understanding of and experience with the Olympic movement. After practicing law in Atlanta for six years, in 1991 Welton was named vice president for corporate partnerships and sponsorship for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, where he managed the domestic sponsorship program for the Atlanta Olympic Games.
Following those Olympics, Welton founded Meridian Management, and the new company became the exclusive marketing representative of the International Olympic Committee—responsible for managing all sponsorship and marketing activities for the IOC, including The Olympic Partner Program.
In 2005, after eight years as Meridian’s CEO, Welton joined the international sport marketing consultancy Helios Partners. Helios’ primary businesses included corporate sport consulting, sport property and media consulting, and representation of cities and countries bidding for the opportunity to host major sporting events. He served as Helios Partners’ CEO until early 2013.
“This is an exciting time for the [USEF],” said USEF President Chrystine Tauber. “The stage is set perfectly for Chris’ extraordinary strategic leadership skills. He is a proven leader who has consistently demonstrated the ability to build consensus, develop and implement innovative programs, and utilize his deep connections throughout the international sports movement.”
In addition to his experience at the Olympic level, Welton has a passion for horses and equestrian sport. He and his family own a horse farm, and he is a western pleasure rider, while his wife rode hunters and jumpers.
“The balance between international and national was a key focus in the eyes of the Search Committee,” said Murray Kessler, chairman of the USEF CEO Search Committee. “This balance is a key strength for Chris. He will serve the entire organization, including a clear desire to build the sport at the grassroots level.”
Tauber complemented Long for his contribution as the USEF’s first CEO and for his dynamic role in the USOC and as U.S. Secretary General in the Fédération Equestre Internationale, where he also chaired the Nominating Committee and was a member of the Strategic Planning Task Force.
“John has led a diligent, efficient and fiscally responsible USEF professional staff, integration of the sports program support, evolution of a customer care center, relocation of the Drugs & Medications Testing Lab to Kentucky, and [he] most recently inspired and implemented the new governance restructure,” she said. “Our governance structure is now in place to allow us to fulfill our responsibilities to our members and other constituent groups while also allowing us to undertake new and creative initiatives.”
Long said, “I am pleased to have such an accomplished individual as Chris Welton step into the role I have served for the past 10 years. It has been a source of great pride to have played a role supporting the bold and innovative actions by federation leadership as the vision for the future success of the USEF has been charted. The federation is well positioned for the new leadership to move the organization forward.”
Welton will join Long and Tauber in representing the United States at the upcoming FEI Sports Forum and Extraordinary General Assembly in Lausanne, Switzerland, later this month and will work from the Lexington, Ky., headquarters beginning June 1.
“The opportunity to serve as the federation’s Chief Executive Officer is tremendously exciting for me,” said Welton. “I ride because of the joy it gives me, and I look forward to working to grow participation in equestrian sport at the national level, the visibility of horse sport in media, as well as the success of our elite riders in international competition. Equestrian sport has been part of the human experience from our earliest days and is a foundational sport within the Olympic movement. I look forward to applying my experience and skills toward building upon the great foundation and standard that previous leaders have set.”