Nicklaus Companies names new CEO

Nicklaus Companies names new CEO

Sports and entertainment executive Phil Cotton will succeed John Reese.


The Nicklaus Companies board announced the appointment of Phil Cotton as CEO. An experienced sports industry business leader, Cotton will succeed John Reese, who is transitioning to vice chairman after more than 10 years as CEO.

Reporting to executive chairman Howard Milstein, Cotton will oversee the existing businesses and teams of Nicklaus Brands, Nicklaus Design, and all corporate relationships and new business opportunities. He will work closely with Nicklaus Brands president Andy O’Brien and Nicklaus Design president Paul Stringer.

An experienced senior executive in the sports and entertainment industry, Cotton has worked for some of the world’s top athletes, brands and agencies. His career highlights include spearheading SAP’s golf sponsorship portfolio for their agency and leading the business interests of four-time major winner Ernie Els for more than a decade.

“The team has had first-hand experience working with Phil over a number of years and we are excited to be bringing him in-house to lead the business into a new era, building on the excellent foundations that John has laid,” Milstein said. “Phil’s breadth and depth of knowledge within the global golf industry is second to none and this, coupled with his demonstrable commitment to innovation and excellence, makes him the perfect fit to drive forward the Nicklaus business.”

Cotton described his new position as “a huge honor. … Jack (Nicklaus) has matched his on-course achievements with both his business and philanthropic endeavors and I am excited to have the opportunity to harness the great talent that we have within the business to continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, and to ensure that the Nicklaus name remains synonymous with quality, excellence and innovation. 

Cotton added that he is also looking forward to working closely with the 8AM Golf group, “a network of industry-leading companies that provides us with a truly unique platform to help clients directly access a huge, highly-engaged global golf audience.”

The Nicklaus Companies’ businesses include golf-course design, the development of golf and real estate communities, and the marketing and licensing of lifestyle products worldwide under the iconic Jack Nicklaus and Golden Bear brands. Nicklaus Design, recognized as the world leader in golf course design, has created more than 430 courses worldwide, open for play in 45 countries and 40 U.S states.