SBD/Issue 36/Sports Industrialists

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  • Influential NASCAR Exec Jim Hunter Passes Away At Age Of 71

    Jim Hunter Seen As A Link
    To NASCAR's Past, Future

    NASCAR Chair & CEO BRIAN FRANCE Saturday described late NASCAR VP/Corporate Communications JIM HUNTER as "one of NASCAR's giants." Hunter passed away Friday in Daytona Beach at the age of 71 after a 12-month battle with lung cancer. France said, "For more than 40 years Jim was part of NASCAR and its history. He loved the sport, but loved the people even more." NASCAR President MIKE HELTON: "He was a great friend and mentor to so many in the sport." Hunter previously worked as a sports editor for the Columbia Record, and as a columnist for Stock Car Racing magazine. He broke into PR in the '60s, and he was named to his first executive position with NASCAR in '83 (NASCAR). In Charlotte, Jim Utter noted Hunter was "often the NASCAR spokesman assigned to explain the sanctioning body's rule changes and penalties in news conferences." Team owner RICK HENDRICK said Hunter "always handled things with class." Utter noted Hunter was a "close friend and confidant" to former NASCAR Chair BILL FRANCE JR., and he "played a large -- if sometimes hidden -- role in many of NASCAR's biggest moments." His "influence will probably be felt for years." Former SMI President & CEO HUMPY WHEELER: "Jim Hunter will be sorely missed because he knew more about pure media relations and particularly how it relates to the fan than anyone in motor racing." Donations in Hunter's honor may be made to the NASCAR Foundation (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/31).

    MAN OF THE PEOPLE: In Daytona Beach, Godwin Kelly wrote Hunter's "people skills and relationship-building was the mortar that helped hold the NASCAR community together through good and bad times." As NASCAR's popularity "soared in the 1980s and '90s, Hunter's role changed on a regular basis." He "not only vacillated between" NASCAR and ISC, but "had the ear of car owners, sponsors, drivers and the media." Despite "near-crippling chemotherapy treatments, Hunter continued to work the garage area, keep office hours and stay in touch with his base." He was "one of the last links to the 'old NASCAR' and Bill France Jr.'s roster of executives" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 10/31). In Jacksonville, Don Coble noted Hunter "not only served as the sanctioning body's spokesman, he helped bridge the generations that make up NASCAR's 62-year history." Driver and team co-Owner TONY STEWART: "I lost a good friend but the whole sport lost a great mentor" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 10/31). Driver DALE EARNHARDT JR. said Hunter was "one of the good guys." Earnhardt: "There's a lot of toughness in this sport and ruthlessness and he was one of the genuine good people that looked out for everybody" (SCENEDAILY.com, 10/30). USA TODAY's Nate Ryan wrote Hunter "helped guide the careers of many drivers and steer NASCAR through controversies." Mixing "sage advice, spin that often seemed like straight talk and deft but disarming storytelling, Hunter became a favorite among NASCAR drivers, teams and media" (USATODAY.com, 10/30).

    Teams Ran Decals On Their Cars
    Yesterday To Honor Hunter

    CHANGING HOW NASCAR COMMUNICATES: ESPN.com's Marty Smith wrote Hunter "changed the way NASCAR communicates," as today's execs are "far more accessible than they were before he moved in at NASCAR HQ in Daytona." Hunter was the "lynchpin between good ol' boy coverage and what we have today" (ESPN.com, 10/30). ESPN.com's Ed Hinton wrote the "last bastion of the real NASCAR is gone." Hunter was France Jr.'s "chief troubleshooter." Hinton: "First. Foremost. Always. When the going got tough, really tough, the second czar of NASCAR always sent for Hunter" (ESPN.com, 10/30). Talladega Superspeedway Chair GRANT LYNCH: “He was just a larger than life figure in our sport. It wasn't because he sought the spotlight either, but because he was genuine and real. He was someone that people wanted to gravitate to, even if for only a moment” (ESPN.com, 10/30). ESPN.com’s Terry Blount wrote, “NASCAR lost a giant Friday night, a man who was a dedicated historian of its cherished past and an unapologetic believer in its future” (ESPN.com, 10/30). The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Utter wrote with Hunter “goes an irreplaceable resource of NASCAR history and old-fashioned common sense.” Utter: “NASCAR is a little worse off today” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/31).

    FITTING TRIBUTE: Talladega announced yesterday that the track's press box will be named in honor of Hunter (SCENEDAILY.com, 10/31).

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  • Executive Transactions

    The LPGA has hired BRIAN CARROLL for the newly created position of VP/TV & Emerging Media. Carroll joins the LPGA from the PGA Tour, where he had been the Dir of Broadcasting & Programming. At the LPGA, Carroll will manage the relationship with Golf Channel and work with the international broadcasters as well. The LPGA is in the first year of a 10-year agreement with Golf Channel. Carroll had been at the PGA Tour since '01 and previously worked at ESPN (Michael Smith, SportsBusiness Journal).

    EXECS: Sports Illustrated has named CHRIS TROPEANO Associate Dir of Communications. Tropeano previously held similar positions with the NBA, MLB and the Mets (THE DAILY)....The LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship has promoted Business Manager GABE CODDING to Tournament Dir (Kraft Nabisco Championship)....FARRAH KELLY has been named New Era Tickets Quality Assurance Agent (THE DAILY).

    Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to editorial@sportsbusinessdaily.com.

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  • Names In The News

    In N.Y., Peter Applebome writes WWE's Fan Appreciation Day Saturday at XL Center in Hartford was "yet another sideshow to the Senate race in Connecticut between" Republican candidate and former WWE CEO LINDA MCMAHON and Democratic candidate DICK BLUMENTHAL. Applebome: "The main question is this: Did the McMahon campaign really want the last two weeks of the campaign to seem like all-wrestling-all-the-time?" The event, which was "scheduled a month ago, instead of the year or so common for planning most WWE events, was only the most recent of a blur of wrestling-related issues, initiated by one side or the other" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/1).

    O'Hara Says Working For Topps Is A Good Fit
    Because Of His Passion For Baseball Cards

    TOP DOGS: In Baltimore, Jay Hancock profiled Under Armour Chair & CEO Kevin Plank, noting Plank is "worth half a billion dollars." But "unlike many others in the capitalist aristocracy, he deserves every dime" because he "built a business from scratch." Hancock: "He had a brilliant idea. He risked his own money. You can feel, wear and stack his products. There's no fine print. He hasn't been bailed out by anybody. His equity in Under Armour really did come from sweat" (Baltimore SUN, 10/31)....Topps CEO RYAN O'HARA was profiled as part of the N.Y. Times' "The Boss" feature. O'Hara said working for Topps "seemed like a good fit because of my passion for baseball cards, my background with Nestle candy and an interest in media." He added the idea of working with Topps parent company Tornante Co. Founder Michael Eisner was "very appealing." O'Hara: "The real fun of this job is making products that are thrilling to kids" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/31).

    HORSE SENSE: Thoroughbred ZENYATTA was profiled on CBS' "60 Minutes" last night, where CBS' Bob Simon said next Saturday at the Breeders' Cup Classic Zenyatta "could become the first great American athlete to retire undefeated in more than a half a century." Simon: "The stakes are extremely high and not just in millions of dollars. Zenyatta is so adored by horse lovers that if she doesn't beat the boys and win one last time, hearts will be broken everywhere." If Zenyatta wins Saturday, she will “for the second year in a row … take home another $3 million.” Jockey MIKE SMITH said Zenyatta "could arguably go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, horse of all-time" ("60 Minutes," CBS, 10/31).

    POLITICAL BEAT: In a special to the ORLANDO SENTINEL, Magic Owner RICH DEVOS wrote the federal government for decades "has spent money it did not have for projects it did not need." DeVos: "Stop spending what we do not have. Stop creating programs we do not want or need. Stop destroying this country we have built" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/31)....NASCAR and IndyCar team owner CHIP GANASSI gave $10,000 to Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate TOM CORBETT (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/30).

    names: In N.Y., Bob Raissman named MLB Commissioner BUD SELIG his "Dude Of The Week" for "paying for the funeral and burial of" late Mets and Yankees senior official scorer BILL SHANNON, who passed away Tuesday (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/31)....Yankees security guard GONZALO NOY is "facing the ax" after he "hawked his 2009 championship ring for $2,400 to an unidentified sports collector." A Yankees official said, "Nobody is allowed to sell their rings" (N.Y. POST, 11/1)....Nets Owner MIKHAIL PROKHOROV sat in his luxury box with EPL club Chelsea Owner ROMAN ABRAMOVICH during last night's Heat-Nets game at Prudential Center (N.Y. POST, 11/1)....Former NBAer DIKEMBE MUTOMBO recently was "honored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which presented him with the Steve Patterson Award for Sports Philanthropy" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/31)....The Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Saturday included a piece about tolerance by Basketball HOFer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In addition, Stewart awarded Tigers P Armando Galarraga a “Medal of Reasonableness” for his behavior following umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call that cost him a perfect game (OKLAHOMA DAILY, 10/31)....Magic C DWIGHT HOWARD is "planning to cut another album, perhaps this summer." Howard "also is looking for another movie role" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/31)....Maple Leafs President & GM BRIAN BURKE and Bruins GM PETER CHIARELLI were "supposed to go pheasant hunting" prior to Thursday's Maple Leafs-Bruins game at TD Garden, but Chiarelli "pulled out at the last minute." Instead, Burke and his son, Flyers scout PATRICK BURKE, "bagged a bunch of birds in Eastern Connecticut" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/31). 

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