By Robert Haugh
Editor’s Note: Following are some excerpts from a San Francisco Chronicle article by Lance Williams and Ron Kroichick. It’s a major story that’s behind a paywall, but may be free to new readers. The photos are from other sources.
Francine Melendez Hughes, the San Francisco 49ers’ newly hired general manager for Levi’s Stadium, had a brief, turbulent career in the sports business in Los Angeles: She oversaw Dodger Stadium security during the worst episode of fan violence in franchise history.
Hughes was the Dodgers’ vice president for stadium operations in 2011, when Bryan Stow, a fan of the San Francisco Giants, attended Opening Day wearing a Buster Posey jersey and was savagely attacked by two Dodgers fans.
In a lawsuit, Stow’s lawyers blamed lax stadium security for the assault and singled out Hughes as “grossly unfit” to run the stadium. The highly publicized case cost the Dodgers an $18 million judgment and added to pressures on financially troubled owner Frank McCourt to sell the team.
The 49ers didn’t publicize Hughes’ hiring as executive vice president & general manager of stadium operations.
About the time Hughes was promoted, Dodger Stadium security director Ray Maytorena left. The Dodgers said he was fired, but Stow’s lawyers claimed Maytorena “quit because he did not feel (Hughes) knew anything about security.” The security director was replaced by a part-time consultant, records show.
A Chronicle review of Hughes’ trial testimony shows she had a long career in commercial real estate, but no background in stadium management or security before she joined the Dodgers. Her career with the team (2009-2013) marked the only time she worked full-time in sports, records show.
Her resumé contrasts sharply with that of the 49ers executive she replaced. Jim Mercurio was a 30-year employee who directed stadium operations at both Candlestick Park and Levi’s who also worked as a consultant to the NFL on Super Bowl security issues.
Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor, a longtime critic of the 49ers’ management of publicly owned Levi’s Stadium, expressed “concerns” about Hughes’ lack of experience in stadium management and the criticism of Dodger Stadium security in the wake of the assault on Stow.
“The outcry over the lack of security around their stadium makes me pause and ponder why she was hired for management of Levi’s Stadium,” Gillmor told The Chronicle. “One of the team’s outstanding lawsuits, against the city and stadium authority, is they’re trying to reduce public safety costs for the stadium. The combination of that and bringing in someone with that type of negative experience is concerning.”
City officials who have been critical of the 49ers said they already were worried about the shake-up in the team’s front office. The 49ers have committed to hosting World Cup soccer matches at Levi’s in June and July of 2026, and they recently acknowledged they also are bidding on hosting the Super Bowl in February 2026.
But the city says the team has given it almost no information about how the events will be paid for and managed. Given the decision to shed experienced front-office officials, “We worry about who is in charge, who can people look to,” council member Kathy Watanabe said.