Dawn Trudeau Is a Game Changer

With no college degree, Dawn Trudeau became a millionaire and a philanthropist. Now she leads a WNBA team of champions

by Julie Halpert
dawn trudeau game changer image
Photograph: John Clark

Trudeau and her co-owners decided to plow more money into the team, at considerable personal risk. That season the Storm racked up 20 wins and 14 losses. The following year, the women won 28 games and lost six—and ended with the big win in Atlanta. Financially, the team was also on a roll. From 2008 to 2010, its gross revenue rose 63 percent. “I hope the team will be profitable by 2013, but 2015 is more likely,” Trudeau says.

Today, Trudeau attends all 17 home games and the playoffs during the May-to-September season and at least a quarter of the away games, driven as much by her love of the sport as by her desire to win. “I feel the same sense of competition the players feel, the sense of participating in something bigger than you,” she says. “Sports is an entertainment business, and winning is what entertains people.” When Trudeau, her management team and the coach decided the Storm needed an infusion of young talent, they traded two of their veteran players for a couple of less expensive draft picks, hoping their talent and flash would electrify the audience. “People like high-wheeling athleticism, so the more athletic our players are—and the more athletic the game is perceived to be—the more likely we are to get support,” she says.

Her efforts have paid off. During the 2010 season, “there was a buzz in the city about the Storm,” says Trudeau. She recalls sitting in a restaurant in a small town 25 miles outside Seattle, where she overheard two men in their sixties—not typical WNBA fans—discussing the team. “These guys were excited about the Storm,” she says. “Their interest showed that the community was expanding.” With seven sold-out games in the 2011 season and a coach who has the most wins of any professional women’s-basketball coach, Trudeau seems entitled to be confident.

But while her career as a sports- team owner was taking off, Trudeau and her husband, who is retired and 14 years her senior, realized they were moving in different directions. They recently made a mutual decision to split, she says. Trudeau still puts in 10 to 15 hours a week working with nonprofits, mainly Social Venture Partners Seattle, and she’s also on the boards of several organizations. But at least for now, the Seattle Storm remains the focus of her days. Owning the team “has enriched my life in ways I would never have predicted,” she says. “It’s expanded my world. I was feeling like a vagabond, and this has given me a strong sense of community. It’s enormously fulfilling to have a place where you belong.”

JULIE HALPERT, a Michigan-based journalist, is coauthor of Making Up with Mom.

Next: Madeleine Stowe's Second Act

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