SBD/Issue 204/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • LPGA Names Marty Evans Acting Commish; Search Committee Named

    Evans To Serve As
    LPGA Acting Commissioner
    The LPGA named BOD member Marty Evans as the tour’s acting commissioner, replacing Carolyn Bivens, who formally resigned her post after a tumultuous week that began with a group of players asking Bivens to step down. Evans, a retired Naval officer, is in her first year on the BOD and will hold the acting title while a formal search is conducted by executive search firm Spencer Stuart and the LPGA’s newly formed Executive Search Committee. The committee will be led by BOD member Leslie Greis and includes BOD member Bill Morton and player directors Juli Inkster and Helen Alfredsson. Inkster yesterday told multiple media outlets that the formal search could take three to five months to complete. The LPGA also announced some changes to its executive ranks and BOD. Former LPGA CMO Bill Susetka, whose job was eliminated this past January as part of a restructuring, will take Evans’ place on the BOD. LPGA Senior VP/Worldwide Sales Zayra Calderon has been promoted to Exec VP/Tournament Development & Worldwide Sales, and will expand her sales focus from LPGA-owned events to the entire LPGA calendar. She will retain her title as CEO of the Duramed Futures Tour. Retired golfer Annika Sorenstam will also play a role in the coming months as an advisor to the BOD, though her late term pregnancy is expected to limit her involvement (Jon Show, SportsBusiness Journal). In N.Y., Hine & Dorman cited a source as saying that Bivens “originally planned to fight efforts to force her out through the LPGA board of directors … but changed her mind when presented" with the letter requesting her resignation (N.Y. TIMES, 7/11).

    CRUCIAL TIME FOR NEW LEADER: Golfer Suzann Pettersen, one of 15 players who earlier this month signed and submitted a letter calling for Bivens to resign, said, “This is probably a very crucial time for a new commissioner to step in. There’s a big job to do, so it’s got to be a pretty qualified person who steps into that position. ... This is a time when the commissioner, or whoever steps in, needs to make some adjustments for the tour for us to survive. We can’t keep going like we have been.” Pettersen added of Bivens being “unwilling to negotiate with sponsors to lower their costs” of putting on tournaments, “Maybe the biggest kind of loss has been we haven’t adjusted to what the world’s kind of facing. … Maybe we’ve been playing too tough and kind of cutting too many out instead of dropping down on the price and making everybody happy” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/13). Inkster yesterday said of the search for a permanent replacement for Bivens, "We want to take our time and find the right person to fill this job, and you can’t do that on a whim” (THEGOLFCHANNEL.com, 7/12). Golf Channel's Charlie Rymer said, "It’s a tough business environment out there. They’ve got to get moving quickly to get this taken care of so the LPGA can move forward" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 7/12).

    Orender Seen As Potential
    Candidate For LPGA Post
    NEXT ON THE TEE: Sports industry execs last week offered their ideas on potential candidates to replace Bivens. Some suggestions, in alphabetical order, were: former MillerCoors Dir of Sports & Entertainment Marketing Dockery Clark; Nike Golf President Cindy Davis; CAA Sports Media Ventures partner Alan Gold; Octagon Golf Co-Managing Dir Chris Higgs; USGA CMO Barry Hyde; WNBA President Donna Orender; Univ. of Texas women’s AD Chris Plonsky; PGA Tour Senior VP/Business Development Jon Podany; former Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management Senior VP Paula Polito; and NBA President of Global Marketing Partnerships & Int’l Business Operations Heidi Ueberroth (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/13 issue). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits noted Orender is “on the top of the list” to replace Bivens. Orender worked with the LPGA for 17 years, and golfer Mark McCumber said, “She’d be great. She knows the golf industry from being with the Tour all those years, and for the last five years, she’s been running a professional women’s sports league, which obviously gives her an advantage over other candidates.” Smits notes other candidates could include former players Nancy Lopez, Judy Rankin and Jan Stephenson (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/11). Golf World's Ron Sirak said of replacing Bivens with a former player, "If they do go that route, they’re going to need to bring in a strong deputy who’s got a business background because the player will sort of be functioning as a glad-hander in a lot of ways, somebody to go out and do the schmoozing that you need to do with the sponsors. But, you also need somebody who knows how to get those contracts done” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 7/10).

    POLARIZING FIGURE: In N.Y., Hank Gola wrote Bivens, a “marketing person at heart, has certainly been a polarizing figure since she took over from Ty Votaw in the fall of 2005 and instituted a bold business plan called ‘Vision 2010.’” But even though it is “too late, Bivens still has her supporters -- Christina Kim thinks the Commissioner did everything ‘in the best interests of the LPGA Tour,’ while former U.S. Open champ Hollis Stacy flew in from Denver to try to talk young players into their senses.” Stacy “feels that without Bivens’ aggressive approach, LPGA players will forever be second class citizens” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/12). However, YAHOO SPORTS’ Brian Murphy wrote, “I’d prefer to think the players are making the right move. If the right commissioner negotiates smaller purses and keeps more golf on the schedule, they will be seen as visionaries who saved their sport” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/12).

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  • New WTA Tour Head Stacey Allaster Planning No Major Changes

    Allaster Taking Over As
    WTA Tour Chair & CEO
    New Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster plans no major shakeups at the women's tour, saying her ascension "was a vote of confidence in the senior management team" at the group. The former head of Tennis Canada, Allaster was WTA President since '06 but became the odds on favorite for the top job once Larry Scott announced he would resign earlier this year. Allaster conceded the process went on longer than perhaps she would have liked, but said she learned from it. In an interview this morning, Allaster outlined no major initiatives, unsurprising given the hectic pace of change over the last few years at the tour. She said tweaks would come to the recently instituted calendar changes, and said discussions would begin soon with title sponsor Sony Ericsson, whose contract expires at the end of next year. Allaster defended the much criticized on-court state of the women's game, but conceded there were ebbs and flows in the allure of the game. She was notified last Thursday by the board that she had been selected, and negotiated a contract over the weekend that was finalized at 11:00pm ET last night. For more on the interview with Allaster, read next week's SportsBusiness Journal.

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  • Bud Selig Says MLB Successfully Weathering Economic Downturn

    Selig Discusses Financial State Of MLB During
    Appearance On "Mike & Mike In The Morning"
    MLB Commissioner Bud Selig this morning said MLB is “doing okay” from a financial standpoint this year despite being the first league to begin its season during the current economic recession. Appearing on the set of ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” live from St. Louis, Selig said, “It's tough, there's no question about it. Clubs are working very hard, doing a lot of discounting, but overall I'm quite satisfied.” Selig added the ’09 season could be the "greatest year we've had, and we've had six or seven just remarkable years in a row.” Selig: “I'm not sure how it's going to turn out. We are at numbers right now that are a lot better than I would have thought back on April 6 when this started." Selig also discussed the impending departure of MLBPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr and said he told Fehr to remember the current stretch of “16 years of labor peace.” Selig: “No one ever thought that possible. No one ever believed it possible. … While we've had a lot of disagreements over some very tough issues, we at least produced labor peace, and he should be proud of that." Selig added the “primary reason why baseball's attendance has gone up so dramatically, the sport’s revenues have gone up so dramatically -- which everybody has benefited from -- is from labor peace” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN2, 7/13).

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  • Tony George Says Family Remains Financially Committed To IRL

    George Says Family's Commitment
    To Racing Remains Unchanged
    Former IRL and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) CEO Tony George Friday said that the Hulman-George family "remains financially committed to the sport," according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. George, commenting publicly for the first time since he stepped down from his positions on June 30, said that he has received assurances from his mother, IMS Chair Mari Hulman George, that the "family's commitment to racing remains unchanged." George in a statement said, "No such reduction of support or commitment is intended or anticipated. I can assure teams, sponsors, media and fans that our family is sincere in its commitment to the Indianapolis 500, the (IRL) and the sport." New IMS Corp. CEO Jeff Belskus, who replaced George, also said that "no major changes are anticipated." Belskus, who will oversee all aspects of the IRL, IMS and IMS Productions, said that he has a "lot of catching up to do in a short period." Also "still to be resolved" is George's next contract with IMS Corp., which will "retain him as an adviser to many of the family businesses" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/11). George in the statement also said, "I have served at the pleasure of the board and, in doing so, I enthusiastically agreed to commit myself to stewardship of a great institution. While my service as CEO has now ended, I consider my stewardship to be a life-long appointment" (Vision Racing). George's statement also included a "section about his intent to propose a restructuring" of the IMS Corp. BOD. George in the statement said a restructuring would "provide a structure for better governance for generations to come." The INDY STAR's Cavin noted one objective of the restructuring could be to "lessen the control of his three sisters who voted him out of power" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/12).

    OFF TO THE RACES: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Pappone notes there were "empty seats in the sparse grandstands" at yesterday's Honda Indy Toronto, but organizers "stressed that 2009 is only the first in a five-year plan to rebuild the event." Organizers did not release official attendance numbers, but estimates "put the grandstand seats at about 15,000," and a "glance across the track toward the pit lane during the race showed grandstands with large blocks of empty seats." Andretti Green Racing co-Owner, President & COO Kevin Savoree, whose organization operates the race, said, "Would we like to have sold more tickets in these areas? Absolutely. But we did have a successful day. I think already we've looked at areas where we can add more seats and move seats to enhance the fan experience overall" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/13). More Savoree: "We have a five-year plan to rebuild this car race. We'll reflect on the event, and make it bigger and better next year" (TORONTO STAR, 7/13).

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  • F1 Official Denies Meeting Concerning Ecclestone's Future

    CVC Capital Denies Wanting To Move
    Ecclestone Into Honorary Position
    CVC Capital Partners Managing Partner Donald MacKenzie, whose company is the majority owner of F1, has "denied that a meeting took place last week" in which F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone's "future in the sport was discussed," according to Tom Cary of the London TELEGRAPH. MacKenzie "speaking out in support of Ecclestone would appear to suggest that a line has been drawn under the episode and his position is secure for now." But sources said that senior CVC BOD members "discussed moving" Ecclestone "into an honorary role" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 7/13). In London, Edward Gorman cited sources as saying that the CVC BOD "met in London on Tuesday to discuss a plan of action to remove Ecclestone in the wake of his ill-judged praise of Adolf Hitler in an interview" earlier this month. The "suggestion was that CVC had decided enough was enough" and that Ecclestone, "who has run the sport for the past 30 years, should be 'moved upstairs.'" Gorman notes Ecclestone denied the reports and took the "unusual course of action of phoning ... the normally media-shy" MacKenzie to "set the record straight" (LONDON TIMES, 7/13). In his original report, the TELEGRAPH's Cary reports WPP CEO Martin Sorrell and Nestle Chair Peter Brabeck-Letmathe were among the CVC BOD members who "met in London on Tuesday to decide a plan of action." Sorrell also "advised Ecclestone not to attend" yesterday's Santander German Grand Prix, "advice which the latter ignored" (London TELEGRAPH, 7/13).

    MINUS TWO? In London, Edward Gorman reported FIA President Max Mosley "will not stand for election again." Ecclestone: "I have no doubt in my mind, as long as I've known Max, he's always done what he said he would do" (LONDON TIMES, 7/11). In Manchester, Paul Hayward wrote the question is not whether removing Ecclestone and Mosley "will restore F1's identity but whether F1 has an identity to restore." F1 has "treated its audience with contempt for so long that one wonders whether it can ever learn how to behave, post-Max and Bernie" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 7/12).

    ACTING QUICKLY: In London, Sylt & Reid reported Ecclestone "began preparations for a new series called GP1," as Ecclestone's company Epsilon Ltd. filed "trademark applications for logos to 'GP1 Series' and 'GP1.'" Epsilon also "bid for trademark ownership of the words 'Formula Grand Prix' and 'Formula GP.'" Sylt & Reid noted the applications, which "cover sporting events, broadcasting and clothing," were "made on June 19, the same day that the top eight F1 teams announced they would set up their own rival series" (London SUNDAY EXPRESS, 7/12).

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  • League Notes

    FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez cited a source as saying that the NFL Alumni Association (NFLA) has "started its search for an executive director." N.Y.-based exec-search firm Spencer Stuart Consultant Jed Hughes "will head the project." The NFLA "would like to hire a former NFL player for the position and fill the vacancy by early September" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/10).

    ON THIN ICE? The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek wrote of the NHL's salary cap for the '10-11 season, "The early indications are that the drop may not be as dramatic as some had feared." The general thought had been that the cap would remain flat for 2009-10 and "then drop -- some estimates put it as high as 20[%] -- for next year," which would "put most teams, operating at or near the cap for the coming year, at a competitive disadvantage." However, there is a "new emerging sense that the NHL has been spared the larger effects of the slumping economy and that next year's cap -- if it shrinks at all -- won't be nearly as bad as originally thought" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/11). However, SI.com's Allan Muir wrote, "We don't know the actual damage until late next June. ... But judging by the rumbles, things could get very ugly" (SI.com, 7/10).

    LEAD BY EXAMPLE: In Cleveland, Brian Windhorst wrote of the NBA's salary cap, "The current CBA does work, and what is going on now is showing that. The salary cap is flexible depending on the league-wide revenue -- which is decreasing -- helping to protect the owners. So is another aspect of the CBA." A source indicated that the NBA "will send a $6.5[M] check to every team this month as part of the current agreement" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/12).

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