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BULLETS & CAPS PRESIDENT SUSAN O'MALLEY PROFILED
Published January 14, 1997
Bullets & Caps President Susan O'Malley is the cover story in an extensive feature by Michael Abramowitz in the WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE under the header, "Hard Sell." The sub-head notes at 35, O'Malley "has risen to the top of the pro sports business. She has turned her success into a public fable, a motivational speech. But how much credit has she really earned?" Abramowitz writes O'Malley is "arguably the most accomplished woman in her field. She has much praise and criticism heaped upon her by others, but the only real claim she makes for herself in public ... is that she has helped raise the Bullets from the dregs of the NBA to box office success, building a platform for (still anticipated) on-court success as well." Bullets & Caps Owner Abe Pollin: "She is very, very tough, but very fair, and that's the way I like it." Abramowitz adds that O'Malley's critics "range from those who have clashed with her in office struggles or been forced out during reorganizations to colleagues in the NBA who have nothing personal against her but who question whether O'Malley's business achievements are all that they seem. ... Does O'Malley threaten some people in the pro basketball and hockey worlds because she is a woman in a position of power? Definitely. Does she deserve either as much credit as she gives herself or as much criticism as her enemies hurl at her? Very much debatable -- and very actively debated." FORCED SELLOUTS? Abramowitz notes that O'Malley "brought to the Bullets a definite philosophy about marketing the team: that the best way to create demand was to create the perception that Bullets tickets were scarce." O'Malley says she set about "forcing sellouts," abandoning a plan that allowed partial season ticket holders to pick any ten games they wanted and, instead, picking the games for them. Abramowitz notes the move "immediately ensured a sizable base of fans for at least a quarter of the home games." Bullets attendance rose "impressively ... but soon the whispers started that her numbers were inflated, that the Bullets were giving tickets away to sponsors -- or at least discounting many so heavily that the turnstile numbers were meaningless. ... Such criticism is buttressed by sources who have seen confidential NBA financial data that show the Bullets' gate receipts remained among the lowest in the league, even as their reported attendance rose during O'Malley's tenure" (WASHINGTON POST MAGAZINE, 1/12).