December 3, 2010: Donna Orender, who has been president of the WNBA for six seasons, said she would be stepping down from her position effective Dec. 31 to focus on her next endeavor, the formation of Orender Unlimited, an independent marketing, media, and strategy company. She also plans to spend more time with her family.
Orender said she would continue to serve as a consultant for the 12-team league. The WNBA said a "search for her permanent successor [would] begin immediately." Until a new president is named, Chris Granger, NBA svp-team marketing and business operations, would handle Orender's duties on an interim basis beginning Jan. 1, 2011.
“You see, there comes a time, when it's time. The time when you know that your efforts have made a difference and the time to apply them elsewhere has arrived. That time for me is now," Orender wrote in a letter posted at the WNBA Web site. "My work on behalf of women and girls around the world will only deepen as will my ongoing engagement in sports. I am pleased to be able to continue my involvement with the WNBA as I move ahead with my new venture.” (Full letter here.)
Orender replaced Val Ackerman, the WNBA’s president for its first eight seasons, in April 2005. Although the league has lost three franchises over the past four seasons (Houston, Charlotte, Sacramento) she has overseen both fan and marketing growth during her tenure, including the controversial but financially resourceful tactic of placing company logos on jersey fronts. The league currently has four such deals — Phoenix Mercury (Lifelock), Los Angeles Sparks (Farmer's Insurance), Seattle Storm (Bing) and New York Liberty (Foxwoods) — with more being planned.
The WNBA also features such nationally known players as Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Swin Cash. The 2011 season is scheduled to begin in June.
Prior to joining the WNBA, Orender spent 17 years with the PGA Tour, most recently as svp-strategic development in the Office of the Commissioner. Orender was an All-American basketball player at Queens College, NY, and played professionally for three seasons as an all-star point guard in the Women's Basketball League. Among her other honors, she was named in 2007 a Woman of the Year by WISE (Women in Sports and Events).
According to David Stern, NBA commissioner, “Donna’s contributions to the WNBA and women’s sports have been extraordinary. “Under her leadership, the WNBA has continued its growth and further solidified its position as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. We are grateful for her passion and dedication and look forward to her continuing counsel as we build upon the success she helped sustain.”
"I am pleased to be able to continue my involvement with the WNBA as I move ahead with my new venture."
“I am extraordinarily proud to have served as WNBA president and to be a part of this league and all that it stands for,” Orender said. “While delivering a major-league experience on the court, the WNBA is truly a beacon for global, social, and cultural change off the court. The opportunity to play a role in growing this league, building its business and leveraging the power of sports to truly help change people’s lives has been extraordinary.”