SBD/Issue 94/Sports IndustrialistsPrint All
Maximum Sports Management To Handle
Contract Negotiations For Suh
The IRL's search for a CEO has narrowed to RANDY BERNARD, who is currently PBR CEO. Sources close to the search said Bernard is considering an offer to run the IRL for a salary in the high six figures annually. Bernard has not committed to the IRL but is believed to be close to a decision. He has been the PBR's CEO since '95 and was integral in the '07 sale of the organization to Spire Capital Partners, a private equity firm. IMS Corp. President & CEO JEFF BELSKUS has been searching for someone to run the racing league since the departure of TONY GEORGE, and other candidates have included Just Marketing Founder & CEO ZAK BROWN and Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee Chair MARK MILES (Michael Smith, SportsBusiness Journal). SPEEDTV.com's Robin Miller noted Bernard "met with IRL/IMS officials and members of the Hulman-George family last week," though a source indicated that "nothing had been officially signed" (SPEEDTV.com, 1/27).
Favorite vacation spot: Tanzania. I spent a couple months living in Moshi
Must-visit Web sites: WNBA.com, ESPN.com
Favorite sport to follow besides WNBA: Football -- especially college football
Most memorable sporting event you've attended: '09 WNBA Finals
Q: What will your primary responsibilities be with the WNBA?
Godleski: I'm going to focus on the day-to-day league operations, executing the key league events -- which would be things like the WNBA All-Star Game, the WNBA Draft and the Inspiration Award -- and then just supporting the league and the teams in all of the revenue-generating opportunities. The details of that will still remain to be seen, because I've been here a day and a half.
Q: Are you taking on these responsibilities from someone else, or are these needs that weren't being met already?
Godleski: As I understand, the last COO was here in 2005, so this is a newly created role at this point in time for the league.
Q: What are the biggest growth areas you see for the league?
Godleski: The league certainly has come off a great season. They have had attendance and viewership increases, so we would look to continue to use that success model for growth in that perspective. And then just the popularity of the sport -- there are so many passionate fans out there and also youth that play basketball, so to continue to tap into that and really bring the best product we can to those fans.
Q: What inspired you to join a property like the WNBA after spending much of your career in media?
Godleski: Since they've had such a great success and track record, and obviously being at ESPN and having had exposure to the NBA and as of late the WNBA, just watching that success. It's certainly looking at it from a different angle, but still tied to that passionate sports fan.
Q: You spent several years after leaving ESPN as a consultant. What did that work consist of mainly?
Godleski: It was a variety of companies that I serviced, really just focusing on their revenue-generating or business efficiency. Pretty similar to what I'll be doing here for the WNBA. I did that for a number of clients, everything from small projects to large projects, including clients like the Wall Street Journal and some post-production houses, etc.
Q: What were the biggest challenges you faced leading ESPN Outdoors, one of the network's less familiar properties?
Godleski: Well, on an average day if someone had a choice to spend time selling an NFL spot or a fishing and hunting spot, guess where they spent their time? (Laughs) We certainly had a lot of management support. ... There was a lot of passion, a lot of support, and we really saw television hours increase. But our goal was continuing to get everyone excited about that passion, so we would do things like bringing them out to an event and letting them experience it. From a sales side, a lot of New Yorkers weren't as familiar with those sports, so they were excited to get out and see what it was like. But just keeping it top-of-radar when we were fighting against some big sports like NBA and NFL.
Q: Tell me about your experience summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Godleski: I took the Machame route. There are several routes, and it's not the Coca-Cola route, which is the quickest one up the mountain. It's typically a six-day climb. There were certainly days where you think, "This is never going to happen," as you look up and you see the peak of the mountain. And then as you get cold and tired and cranky, someone is there to literally push you along if you need, and you start to see the top and you see people getting up there, so you think, you know what, I'm not coming back for a long time so I can do this.
Q: And were you already in Tanzania at this point?
Godleski: I was. I spent about five or six weeks volunteering at a preschool, working with six- and seven-year-olds and getting them ready for their primary school education. And trying my best Swahili, which was not good! (Laughs)
Q: Did your climbing interest stem from your ESPN Outdoors work, or vice versa?
Godleski: I would say my climbing interest stemmed from looking up the mountain every day and saying, "Wouldn't that be great to go up there," because where I lived I could see it. And I've just always had a passion for challenges and adventure, and this was something that seemed to be a great challenge and adventure. ESPN Outdoors certainly helped me work and enjoy my challenges and passions at the same time, so they probably led to each other.
Q: Do you plan any additional climbs in the future?
Godleski: I don't have any on the radar, because I'm going to be spending a lot of time with the WNBA getting up to speed on everything. I have a lot of learning to do, it's only day two. ... So not in the immediate future, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out.
Q: Are there any big stories or trends in other sports that you're keeping an eye on?
Godleski: Obviously, I'm excited about the NBA All-Star Game in Dallas this year. I think we'll also just be taking a look around to see what other leagues, how they're doing and what experiences they've had and how that may play into some of the work we're doing here at the WNBA.
FiLife.com President & GM EZRA KUCHARZ was named CBS President of Local Digital Media, where he will oversee local online media strategy for the 36 CBS Radio news, talk and sports stations, as well as CBS' 29 television stations. Kucharz founded online sports media company Total Sports in '95 (RADIOINK.com, 1/26)….Disney named RICHARD BATES Senior VP/U.S. Government Relations (CABLE FAX DAILY, 1/27)….MSG appointed ROBERT POLLICHINO Exec VP & CFO, LAWRENCE BURIAN Exec VP, General Counsel & Secretary and JOSEPH LHOTA to the newly created position of Exec VP/Administration. Each one will report to President & CEO HANK RATNER (MSG)….FS South and SportSouth named Cox Enterprises Media Marketing Manager JACKIE WARNER Account Exec (FSN).
EXECS: The Browns named Packers Dir of Football Administration & Communications MARK SCHIEFELBEIN VP/Football Operations (Browns)….Illitch Holdings announced KAREN CULLEN will move from her current role as VP/Corporate Communications to a "senior advisory role with the Illitch companies," effective February 1. THOMAS PYDEN will succeed Cullen as VP/Corporate Communications (Illitch Holdings)….Ogio, a manufacturer of performance gear bags and packs, announced TONY PALMA will serve as CEO. Previously, Palma was CEO of Easton Sports for 14 years (Ogio)….CONNECT announced Pro Basketball HOFer BILL WALTON will serve as Exec Chair of the company's new Sports and Entertainment Innovation initiative (CONNECT)….Learfield Sports named CHRIS HAND Account Exec for its Univ. of Alabama Crimson Tide Sports Marketing. Most recently, Hand was at Nashville-based Citadel Broadcasting where he served as General Sales Manager and then Dir of Sales (Learfield)….Fordham Univ. named KRISTIN DUFFY Assistant SID (SPORTINGNEWSTODAY.com, 1/27).
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U.S. District Court Judge RICHARD SULLIVAN Tuesday rejected "all claims" made by former MSG and MSG Network President BOB GUTKOWSKI that he gave Yankees Chair GEORGE STEINBRENNER the "idea for the YES Network." Gutkowski, who was seeking "at least $23[M] in damages," said that in "meetings held over the course of several years, he suggested that Steinbrenner start his own television network and that Steinbrenner promised Gutkowski he would run the network or be part of it." Sullivan "focused on the vagueness of the oral agreement that Gutkowski said he had with Steinbrenner," and he also ruled that Gutkowski "'alleges no plausible facts' to support his claim that Steinbrenner never intended to deliver on his promises." Gutkowski's attorney, NEAL BRICKMAN, said that he is "analyzing whether to appeal the decision" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/28).
Dumars Says That He Has No
Plans To Run For Public Office
LEGAL PROCESS CONTINUES: In Toronto, Morgan Campbell reports Univ. of Kentucky (UK) P JAMES PAXTON yesterday filed an appeal in Kentucky court, "drawing out a lawsuit against the school his lawyer says is extorting him." UK in October ruled that Paxton "couldn't play until he agreed to speak to an NCAA investigator" about an investigation stemming from the NCAA's "uncertainty regarding Paxton's amateur status because of his relationship with" MLB player agent SCOTT BORAS. But Paxton "refused to sit down with the NCAA and sued the school for the right to return to the field." Paxton "argued that forcing him to talk to the NCAA violated his rights under the school's student code and Kentucky's state Constitution." The appeal "means a new set of judges will review" the decision to deny Paxton a temporary injunction to play this season, and Paxton's attorney, RICK JOHNSON, is "confident they'll have an answer before UK's baseball season begins" on February 19 (TORONTO STAR, 1/28).
Gill's Five-Year, $10M Deal With Kansas
Makes Him Fifth Highest-Paid Coach In Big 12