SBD/Issue 52/Sports Industrialists

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  • Arsenal Hires MLS Deputy Commissioner Ivan Gazidis As CEO

    Gazidis Will Help Arsenal With Player
    Contracts And Negotiations
    English Premier League (EPL) club Arsenal has hired MLS Deputy Commissioner IVAN GAZIDIS as CEO, effective in January. Gazidis currently oversees all aspects of MLS competition, including player contracts and transfer negotiations. Gazidis from '02-06 also oversaw Soccer United Marketing's int'l division (Arsenal). The PA reports Gazidis is "expected to take over many of the duties previously handled" by former Arsenal Vice Chair DAVID DEIN, who left the club last year, including player contracts and negotiations. Gazidis reportedly "turned down a seven-figure package" to become EPL club Manchester City CEO because he "did not want to relocate to England" (PA, 11/26). In London, Jeremy Wilson notes Gazidis' appointment comes "after a recruitment process of more than six months following the departure" of Arsenal Managing Dir KEITH EDELMAN in April. Arsenal manager ARSENE WENGER had "wanted someone who could work more closely with him on transfers and football issues," and Gazidis will assume his role in January, when the int'l transfer window opens (London TELEGRAPH, 11/26).

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  • Michael Phelps Among Athletes Featured As GQ's Men Of Year

    Phelps Said Interest From Paparazzi Is The
    "Most Surreal" Part Of Beijing Games Success
    U.S. Olympic Swimmer MICHAEL PHELPS, who this summer won a record eight Gold Medals at the Beijing Games, is profiled as one of GQ's "Men of the Year." GQ's Michael Paterniti notes since the Olympics, Phelps has appeared on "Oprah," MTV's "Video Music Awards," NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and in Visa commercials. However, Phelps is "still the same guy who starred for nine days in the epic summer miniseries of Olympic triumph." Phelps said of his post-Olympic fame, "The most surreal thing about all this? The paparazzi waiting for you, at every hour, everywhere. I mean, there's some part of your life you have to keep just for you" (GQ, 12/ '08 issue).

    HEAD OF THE CLASS: GQ features several other athletes in the issue. GQ's Nate Penn profiles MLB Rangers CF JOSH HAMILTON, who has overcome drug addictions, as the "Comeback Kid" and writes, "Three times a week, in season and out, the pee testers find him. But you'd be mistaken if you supposed that Hamilton requires monitoring twenty-four-seven." Also, GQ's Mark Kirby spotlights ATPer RAFAEL NADAL as the "Court King," writing, "You could see it on his face: the moment Rafael Nadal knew that after 160 weeks as the second-best tennis player in the world, he was about to become number one." The Celtics are honored in the "Champions" category, and former Celtics player JOJO WHITE, in a special to GQ, writes, "When we got RAY ALLEN to pair with PAUL PIERCE in the offseason, you thought, Well, that's good. ... But when we got [KEVIN] GARNETT on top of Paul and Ray? You knew something special could happen." Meanwhile, Hornets G CHRIS PAUL modeled for an extensive spread in the magazine, and GQ's Beth Altschull writes, "While Chris Paul may not have carried his team as far as Allen, Pierce, Garnett and company, 2008 was the year he officially stole the title of most dazzling point guard in the league" from Suns G STEVE NASH (GQ, 12/ '08 issue).

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  • Catching Up With NBA Global Marketing Head Heidi Ueberroth

    Heidi Ueberroth
    The NBA increasingly is looking overseas to grow its business, particularly in China. President of Global Marketing Partnerships & Int'l Business Operations HEIDI UEBERROTH recently spoke with SportsBusiness Journal staff writer John Lombardo about those efforts.

    Q: The U.S. men’s basketball team, made up of NBA players, won the Gold Medal in the Beijing Games, and the league recently completed yet another round of preseason games in China. What can we expect next from the NBA in China?

    Ueberroth: We will continue to grow the game and engage our fans in China in every way they consume the game. We have a new digital media marketing partner and a number of other ventures, whether it’s our new deal with the Harlem Globetrotters or our partnership with AEG with new arena projects.

    Q: What is the biggest challenge in doing business in China?

    Ueberroth: It’s being able to keep pace while building our staff, our operations and training our people. We have 140 people in four offices in China and already there is a plan to expand our base in southern China. Part of the strategy is to build and hire more people locally. We have projected a 30-40% growth rate in China and we are trying to grow our business efficiently and effectively. That’s a challenge.

    Q: You recently announced a partnership with AEG to operate arenas in China. What type of activities will we begin to see?

    Ueberroth: Our partnership targets an initial stage of 12 arenas and we have the flexibility to make decisions on a project-by-project basis. Right now we are working on an 18,000-seat arena in Shanghai with a grand opening for the World Expo there in May 2010. There is just a great deal of demand in cities throughout China.

    Q: But there is also a deepening global recession. Has there been any impact to your international strategy?

    Ueberroth: We are mindful of everything that is going on as it relates to the economy, but we have not had any change in plans. What we have seen is that interest has remained high.

    NBA, CBA Partnering On
    Grassroot Activities In China
    Q: The NBA has had ongoing negotiations with the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). When do you expect to have a NBA-run league in China?

    Ueberroth: We already have a marketing partnership with the CBA on grassroots activities ranging from clinics to special events. What we haven’t had is a partnership to-date on the professional league. We are in the early stages of discussions, and, in the aftermath of the Olympics, those talks have been accelerated.

    Q: Other than China, where is the NBA’s next international opportunity?

    Ueberroth: India has been a focus for us. We are working on getting more customized NBA programming there. We did our first-ever Basketball Without Borders there this year and we had the most partner activity in that program to date. We are encouraged by the strong interest from our marketing partners and media outlets.

    Q: When and where do you think there will be an international NBA team?

    Ueberroth: What we do is look around the world and see where the game is growing, but it's very difficult to put a time frame on it. In the past, the arena investment wasn’t there. Now with new arenas in Berlin and London, it makes the opportunities more attainable.

    Q: Are you seeking any further investors in NBA China or creating other spinoffs like NBA Europe?

    Ueberroth: We have seen things starting to evolve in China where we have different partners involved in different activities. For example, we have a new partner in China with the Tom Group. They are partnering with us in NBA.com within China and they have enormous resources so there is opportunity. We have been exploring opportunities in Europe for a long time and we now have five different NBA [European] offices in London, Paris, Milan, Istanbul and Madrid. There is real growth there. One new initiative is a broadband NBA League Pass in Europe.

    Q: Back on the domestic front, do you see the NBA creating new partnership inventory by selling, say, a presenting partnership deal in the All-Star Game or by putting logos on the hardwood? How about logos on uniforms?

    Ueberroth: We look at everything on a global basis, so we are looking to add value to our marketing and media partners on a global scale. For now, while we remain open, there hasn’t been a focus on putting ads on the floor or on uniforms. Our new partnerships have a lot of content experience and include new advances with technology. 

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  • Executive Transactions

    Conlisk Promoted To Big Ten Network
    VP/Communications & Univ. Relations
    Big Ten Network (BTN) promoted VP/Communications ELIZABETH CONLISK to VP/Communications & University Relations and Consumer Marketing Manager RENEE COHEN to Manager of University Development (BTN)....The USGA Women's Committee appointed Vice-Chair BARBARA DOUGLAS as Chair. Douglas, who succeeds ROBERTA BOLDUC, will serve a one-year term (USGA)....The NBA Kings Tuesday officially announced the hiring of agent JASON LEVIEN as Assistant GM & General Counsel (SACRAMENTO BEE, 11/26)....The Brewers Tuesday promoted scouts COREY RODRIGUEZ to West Coast Crosschecker and DOUG REYNOLDS to East Coast Crosschecker. Rodriguez replaces BRUCE SEID, who was promoted to Dir of Amateur Scouting after JACK ZDURIENCIK left to become Mariners GM. Reynolds replaces TOM MCNAMARA, who also left to join the Mariners (JSONLINE.com, 11/25).

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  • Names In The News

    Vick, In Hopes Of Returning To The NFL, Has
    Been Working Out And Is In "Great Shape"
    Suspended QB MICHAEL VICK Tuesday plead guilty to a state dogfighting charge in Virginia, and under a plea deal, Vick received a "three-year suspended prison term and a $2,500 fine." Vick's agent JOEL SEGAL said of his client's prospects of returning to the NFL, "Mike is working out and staying in great shape." But in Atlanta, D. Orlando Ledbetter notes there will be "controversy surrounding any team that acquires Vick." Chiefs President & GM CARL PETERSON: "I hope they're prepared to face the dog lovers of America" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/26).

    CHARITY STRIPE: The NBA D-League, in conjunction with the start of the season on November 28, will launch "Season of Cheering," a league-wide effort to support fans and give back to the D-League communities. During the effort, which runs through the end of the year, D-League players and coaches will participate in over 150 charitable events throughout the 16 team cities (NBA)....Former tennis player ANDRE AGASSI's foundation received a $2.25M grant from Fiji Natural Water Founder & Chair DAVID GILMOUR and his wife, JILLIAN, to "research early childhood education in a state where public funding for pre-kindergarten programs is scarce" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 11/25).

    OWNERS IN THE NEWS: Dodgers Owner FRANK MCCOURT is part of an effort to "begin a long-term campaign to remodel or build" 42 baseball fields throughout Boyle Heights, California, and L.A. County. It is unknown how much money McCourt will contribute, but a rep from L.A.-based Friedman Charitable Foundation said that it would "match the Dodgers' efforts" up to $5M (L.A. TIMES, 11/26)....Celtics CEO & Managing Partner WYC GROUSBECK and President RICH GOTHAM, and Bruins Exec VP CHARLIE JACOBS and VP CAM NEELY Tuesday helped serve Thanksgiving dinner to 500 people at the TD Banknorth Garden (BOSTON HERALD, 11/26).

    PASS BACK: Former NFLers Jerry Rice and Steve Young Tuesday appeared on NBC’s “THE BIGGEST LOSER: FAMILIES.” The players put the contestants, who were wearing Young and Rice 49ers jerseys, through some of the drills football players go through while training to get ready for the season. The winning team received $5,000 from NFL Play 60 to donate to the school of their choice, with Young and Rice adding another $5,000. Throughout the show, the contestants wore various NFL players jerseys and the NFL shield was visible on banners (“The Biggest Loser: Families,” NBC, 11/25).

    NAMES: ESPN/ABC NBA analyst MARK JACKSON has put his five-bedroom mansion in Calabasas, California, on the market for $4,995,000, less than 18 months after purchasing it for $4.7M. The 10,000-square-foot house has a theater, gym, steam room and poker room (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/25)....Retired golfer ANNIKA SORENSTAM will deliver the commencement address at the Univ. of Arizona, her alma mater, on December 20 (MIAMI HERALD, 11/26)....In Dallas, Rick Gosselin reviewed "MY DIRTY, LITTLE SECRETS," a new book by former NFLer TONY MANDARICH, and noted it is a "quick and compelling read." In the "fascinating book," Mandarich paints himself as a "con artist -- someone who cheated his school, the NCAA, the NFL and himself" (DALLASNEWS.com, 11/25).

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