Former Bradford City executive James Mason to replace Gary Verity as Welcome to Yorkshire boss

Troubled tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire has announced today its new chief executive will be former Bradford City chief operating officer James Mason.

James Mason is Welcome to Yorkshire's new chief executive.

Mr Mason, aged 41, will take up the role early next year and said today he "can't wait to get started". His appointment comes almost nine months after Sir Gary Verity resigned on health grounds as chief executive at Welcome to Yorkshire amidst bullying and expense spending allegations.

The private company, which receives around half its funding from the public sector, has struggled to deal with the fallout from Sir Gary's departure and would have run out of money and been unable to pay staff in September if it had not taken out a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council.

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A Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson said Mr Mason will be paid £130,000 per year in his new role - over £100,000 less than Sir Gary's £243,000 salary.

Gary Verity left Welcome to Yorkshire in March.

Mr Mason previously worked as a BBC sports journalist and was chief operating officer at his hometown football club of Bradford City between 2014 and 2018. In his role at Bradford, he helped season ticket sales increase from 11,000 to 19,000. He went on to become consultant chief executive at Rochdale Football Club for a brief spell between October 2018 and January 2019.

Mr Mason, who lives in Guiseley with his wife and two children, has been chief operating officer of First Point USA, a global sports agency which helps talented athletes secure scholarships to American universities. He is also a partner in the Five Nine Sports Agency and Consultancy, which provides business and marketing advice to sports clubs.

He said today: “I have been fortunate during my career to fulfil so many of my childhood dreams, from broadcasting on national radio and television, to running my beloved Bradford City Football Club.

“To lead an organisation responsible for putting Yorkshire on the world map is an honour. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am enormously proud of my Yorkshire roots and I have continued to live in the county even when work has taken me around the globe.

“I’m looking forward to working with the team at Welcome to Yorkshire to continue to build this country’s reputation as the best place in the world to visit, live and work. I know the organisation has been through a challenging period and I understand the need for transparency going forward.

“I have every confidence that by working together, and with the support of our partners and stakeholders, we can regain trust and rebuild relationships. Looking forward there are opportunities for digital growth and to engage with the Yorkshire community across the world to really showcase the county’s modern-day diversity. Welcome to Yorkshire, and Yorkshire as a whole, has a hugely exciting future.

"I really can’t wait to get started.”

The appointment has been welcomed by Peter Box, the former Wakefield Council leader who became chairman of Welcome to Yorkshire in October. Mr Box's appointment was made after council leaders ousted interim chairman Keith Stewart as part of an agreement to provide a further £1m in funding to the crisis-hit agency.

Mr Box said he believes Mr Mason's appointment represents a "new start" for the tourism agency.

"James is a passionate and proud Yorkshireman. He’ll be a hands-on CEO with strong values and integrity who brings with him a wealth of experience in business, marketing and public relations and will be a huge advocate not only for the organisation but for the county.

“This is a new start for Welcome to Yorkshire, and as Chair, I’m very much looking forward to working with James to build on the organisation’s fantastic foundations and together, with the team, lead us into a new and exciting future."