The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced the departure of its long-serving chief executive, Xavier Gonzalez, two years earlier than originally planned.
The 59-year-old Catalan joined the IPC as Paralympic Games liaison director in 2002, and soon after became the interim chief operating officer. In 2004 he was appointed chief executive, and has been credited with overseeing the IPC’s transformation into a thriving commercial entity.
Replacing Gonzalez as interim chief executive will be Mike Peters, who joined the IPC in 2015 as chief of staff before becoming chief operating officer in 2018. Gonzalez said: “To see the evolution of Para sport and the development and growth in global recognition of Para athletes around the world has been amazing; Para athletes really are now seen as sport stars who deliver mind-blowing performances few thought possible years ago.
“The level of media and broadcast coverage they now secure, as well as the commercial support within the Movement, really is a far cry from what it used to be. It’s also amazing to see the size and global reach of the IPC and Paralympic Games now compared to when I joined – when we had no money and employed just a handful of people.
“I was working towards stepping down from the IPC in 2021. However, after discussions with the board in January and having achieved pretty much everything I wanted to with the organisation, it became clear that now is the right time for a change of leadership. This summer the IPC Governing Board will embark on a new strategic direction and look to maximise the established opportunities out there.”
When Gonzalez joined the IPC, the Bonn-based organisation was on the brink of bankruptcy and employed less than 10 people. He will now leave an organisation that employs 115 people across all departments and regularly turns over more than €20m ($22.7m) each year.
The Athens 2004 Paralympics were his first at the IPC and they were a Games that attracted 850,000 fans and drew a cumulative global television audience of 1.8 billion in 25 countries. In comparison, Rio 2016 saw 2.15 million tickets sold and smashed all broadcast records, drawing a cumulative television audience of 4.1 billion in more than 150 countries.
Gonzalez has also fostered relations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since the 2003 agreement which addressed the financial and marketing relationship between the two organisations. He was instrumental in negotiating the latest IOC-IPC Agreement which was signed 12 months ago and runs through to 2032.
Andrew Parsons, IPC president, said: “Under his leadership, he has done an outstanding job, effectively building the IPC from a start-up to a globally well-respected sports organisation.
“The IPC Governing Board will always be grateful to his contribution in progressing the Paralympic Movement. Xavier will continue to support the IPC with the delivery of the Paralympic Games until 2020 and we are working on the best ways of facilitating this.
“Following Xavier’s departure, we will soon be appointing a recruitment firm to lead the search for a new CEO as the IPC embarks on a new and exciting phase in its evolution.”