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Peddie Has Helped Grow MLSE's Business
Side Despite Teams' Struggles
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO RICHARD PEDDIE yesterday announced "plans to retire after helping build a multifaceted sports, entertainment and property development empire that has earned him both corporate praise and fan scorn," according to Shi Davidi of the CP. Peddie, 63, said that his departure "has been discussed regularly as part of the organization's succession planning for the past four or five years, but that given his age, Dec. 31, 2011 was the right time to step away." The MLSE BOD "has formed a search committee that will be helped by recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International in hiring a replacement, and both internal and external candidates will be considered." Peddie "will remain on for a transition period with his successor and won't be reluctant to start new projects ... or extend other employee contracts." Davidi wrote there is "no arguing that Peddie and Co. have brilliantly executed the business side of the equation, but for many fans of the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC, it's the failure to build a winner in any sport that they will most tie to his legacy." Peddie said his biggest disappointment from the job is "not winning anything yet" (CP, 11/30). In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski notes Peddie was named the inaugural President & CEO of MLSE in February '98 after the purchase of the Raptors and Air Canada Centre by Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd. Peddie "went on to lead MLSE into the digital world with the development of Leafs TV, NBA TV Canada, and Golf TV Canada" (TORONTO STAR, 12/1). Also in Toronto, Lance Hornby notes "many estimates have the company tripling its value to more than" C$1.5B under Peddie (TORONTO SUN, 12/1). Peddie said that he "isn't closing the door on another high profile executive job," but it "won't be in the sports/entertainment field." Peddie: "I have no interest in a 24/7 job that competes with MLSE. There are lots of interesting offers coming in. I suspect I will get to choose a few things that will be a lot of fun" (TORONTO SUN, 12/1).
ALL BUSINESS: YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote, "It's true that Peddie is an outstanding businessman with little feel for sports, who has boosted his company's bottom line while his teams have sunk in the standings, who has been criticized for putting profits before glory. But how is Peddie's departure going to change the Leafs' plight, having missed the playoffs five straight years now, sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference?" Peddie "isn't the problem." The problem is the "structure of Leafs ownership or at least in the philosophy that comes from that structure" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/30). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes, "Few will dispute the fact that Peddie did an exceptional job on the business side of the operation, making money hand over fist for the various groups of happy shareholders." The Maple Leafs "were always prepared to spend whatever it took to be competitive," even if it "wasn't always the right way to do business." But Duhatschek adds, "Where I'd like to see MLSE reverse course is on the matter of a second NHL team in the Toronto-area. MLSE has been quietly opposed to any infringement of their territory in order to protect that aforementioned brand -- when it doesn't really need the help. Fact is, a second Toronto team, maybe even operating right out of the ACC, would provide the sort of competition on the ice that might eventually make the Leafs better too" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/1).
Suit Claims Forstmann Bet Over
$600,000 On NCAA Tourney
A lawsuit filed in October in L.A. County Superior Court alleges that while IMG Worldwide was "representing top college coaches from 2004 to 2007," IMG Chair & CEO TED FORSTMANN was "betting hundreds of thousands of dollars on college football and the NCAA men's basketball tournament," according to Joe Drape of the N.Y. TIMES. The suit "contends that Forstmann bet more than $600,000 -- in amounts from $2,000 to $23,000 -- on the men's basketball tournament from 2004 to 2007 while IMG was representing college basketball coaches." Villanova Univ. men's basketball coach JAY WRIGHT is "listed on IMG's Web site as a client," and "one of Forstmann's many bets on the 2006 NCAA men's basketball tournament, the lawsuit asserts, was a $7,000 wager on Villanova, made on March 25, 2006." Forstmann, through a spokesperson, said that the "allegations outlined in the lawsuit were inaccurate." IMG said that Forstmann "had not been involved in the firm's representation of college coaches." Forstmann's spokesperson, MICHAEL SITRICK, said that IMG attorneys are "putting together a rigorous compliance program restricting and prohibiting wagering ... 'to avoid any concerns or perceptual issues in the future.'" Drape notes the alleged betting habits of Forstmann first came to light in October "in the lawsuit filed by Agate Printing, which alleges fraud, interference with contract and breach of contract." Among the 70 pages of exhibits in the suit are "dates, amounts and specific college and professional games wagered on, a wire transfer from Forstmann, and a transcript of a voice mail allegedly left by Forstmann on Sept. 9, 2007, confirming that he had bet $10,000 each on the Mets and the Boston Red Sox, and $20,000 on the New England Patriots." Forstmann "has acknowledged publicly that he bet through" Agate Printing Owner JIM AGATE, "including $40,000 on one of his company's clients, ROGER FEDERER, in the 2007 French Open men's final." Forstmann said that he "quit betting altogether in 2007" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1).
JIM KELLEY, "one of the most honored sportswriters in Buffalo's history," died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61, according to Milt Northrop of the BUFFALO NEWS. Kelley in '04 received the Hockey HOF's Elmer Ferguson Award, granting him entrance into the HOF. He also was inducted in '05 into the Greater Buffalo Sports HOF and also will be inducted posthumously into the Sabres HOF on Jan. 1. Kelley was elected to three terms as Professional Hockey Writers' Association President. He left the Buffalo News after 32 years in '99 and "wrote hockey columns for SI.com, Foxsports.com, ESPN.com and Sportsnet.ca" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/1). Kelley also served as a broadcaster on Toronto's The Fan 590-AM. He filed his last column to Sportsnet.ca yesterday, evaluating Maple Leafs President & GM BRIAN BURKE's two years on the job (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/30). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Adam Proteau wrote of Kelley, "The hockey writing business lost a giant." Kelley should be "remembered as one of the hockey writing fraternity's most respected and beloved members." His stature in the industry was so high The Hockey News "had no second thoughts about naming him one of our 2002-03 Top 100 People of Power And Influence In Hockey" (THEHOCKEYENWS.com, 11/30).
Schwalb Comes To NASCAR
After 14 Years With Disney
NASCAR earlier this year hired ANDREW SCHWALB to become its VP & CIO/CTO, putting him in charge of the organization's entire technology function and tasking him with carrying out technological initiatives. Schwalb comes to NASCAR after 14 years with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, with prior stops at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Labs and a 12-year stint at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where he led labs that created new technology for the space shuttle program. Schwalb at the recent SBJ/SBD FSA Sports Media & Technology conference in N.Y. took time to sit down with Assistant Managing Editor Austin Karp to discuss his new role within NASCAR, as well as technological challenges and innovations in the league's future.
Must-have tech gadget: A great mobile device. Sprint Epic and an Android. I have both and use both. Plus an iPad.
Favorite smartphone apps: On the iPad, I use GoodReader. On my mobile device, anything Google related. ESPN ScoreCenter. And NASCAR apps to help learn the sport as I go.
Favorite ride at Disney World: Mission: Space, which is at Epcot.
Best track to watch a race: Well my first race was at Bristol, and that was a special experience.
Q: As CIO of NASCAR, are you at the table making major technology decisions with BRIAN FRANCE and MIKE HELTON?
Schwalb: I think I will be. Today, I still have a lot to learn. While at Disney, I felt I had a very clear business model: improve the guest experience, make sure that operations were efficient. Those were two goals I had. Coming to NASCAR, it's a lot more complex. There are a lot more moving parts. But a main part of my position now from a NASCAR governing body perspective is to help drive the relationship with the fan. But I am still learning. Brian and Mike are very patient.
Q: Is new technology, such as the new LED videoboard going up at Charlotte Motor Speedway, going to help bring fans back to the tracks and improve the race experience?
Schwalb: There is a general premise that I have, and that is getting more data to the fan to either understand the basics of the race, or for a more experienced fan, to be able to drill down and get more detail. Looking at Charlotte, the new board is going to give fans visibility that they wouldn't have otherwise had. I think that's a great add-on. At home, we also want viewers to be able to leverage mobile devices such as an iPad while watching a race. Things are happening around the track at 200 mph, so the more data we can get to the fan, the better experience they'll have.
Q: Being somewhat of a newcomer to sports, are there any other technology execs within sports you're looking to as an example?
Schwalb: I'm just starting to build those kinds of relationships. But I think that there is a lot to learn from other leagues' CIOs as far as connecting to the fan, operational experiences, etc.
Schwalb Believes Race Broadcasts Need
Equivalent Of NFL's Yellow Line
Q: Is there something that NASCAR's broadcast partners can do, from a technological standpoint, to make race telecasts more appealing to viewers?
Schwalb: I think in general that the fans want to be more engaged. They want a more interactive experience. If a viewer watching on TV can't tell what's going on or can't pick up on some of the subtle things that are happening, that's hard. An avid fan will know all the mechanics of a race, and that's one thing. But if I'm a viewer trying to get into the sport, I think we need to give more data to the broadcasters so they can leverage that to further augment the telecast. I'll think about when the yellow first-down marker for the NFL was introduced and find myself asking, "What is the yellow line for NASCAR? What is that thing that we can put on a broadcast to help the casual fan or even the avid fan understand more of the dynamics and subtleties of the race?"
Q: What's a trend in sports technology that you'll be following in 2011?
Schwalb: Mobile devices and access to information. But also leveraging high definition and different camera angles on TV broadcasts.
Wilson Sporting Goods Co. has promoted Wilson Golf Global Marketing Dir TOM GRUGER to VP/Global Marketing (Wilson)....Tickets.com named TicketsWest VP ED GOW VP/Sales & Marketing. Gow will be based at Tickets.com HQs in Costa Mesa, Calif. (Tickets.com)....SMG named CHRISTINE PILECKAS Marketing Manager for Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. Pileckas, who previously served in the same position for Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, N.J., began her new job early last month (SMG)....The Dolphins named Delta Air Lines Virtual Sales Rep EMILY SUTTON Account Exec (THE DAILY)....The Single-A Midwest League Wisconsin Timber Rattlers promoted Group Sales Rep DAYNA BAITINGER to Dir of Community Relations. The team also hired the following: BRETT NAGAN as Corporate Marketing Manager, CHUMLEY HODGSON as Group Sales Rep and Assistant Dir of Food & Beverage and RYAN MOEDE as Box Office Manager (Timber Rattlers).
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In Connecticut, Kate King reported Yankees GM BRIAN CASHMAN will join Sunday's Heights and Lights event in Stamford, Conn., "as a celebrity guest elf, accompanying Santa Claus on a 22-floor rappel" of the city's Landmark Building (STAMFORD ADVOCATE, 11/30). Stamford Downtown President SANDY GOLDSTEIN said that Cashman, "wearing a full harness and dressed in a full elf costume," will "jump off the 22-floor building." There is "no protective netting" below. Cashman "will have a rehearsal on Friday morning that will be aired" on N.Y.'s WNYW-Fox, and on Sunday he will "jump off the ledge at 4:30 p.m. for the actual event" (ESPNNEWYORK.com, 11/30). Goldstein said that people "have been rappelling for Heights and Lights for more than a decade, but Cashman is the first celebrity participant" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/1).
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS: In L.A., T.J. Simers profiled USC student TEAGUE EGAN, the "country's first certified NFL student agent." Egan's goal is to "represent four to six of his friends, who also happen to be USC football players, in the upcoming NFL draft -- signing them as clients as soon as Sunday." Egan: "Like DREW ROSENHAUS who represented every Miami kid after going to school at Miami, I intend to represent every USC kid." But Simers wrote Egan has the "potential to destroy USC's hopes of recovering from NCAA sanctions." Under NFLPA guidelines, once Egan "became certified Oct. 1 as an agent, he could no longer have any relationship with his 'friends,' if they were underclassmen football players." Simers: "As ambitious as Egan is, the NFLPA essentially legitimized a 'runner' in certifying a USC student an [an] agent. It's a dreadful precedent at a time when officials are already talking about the need for more control over agents and runners" (L.A. TIMES, 11/30).
FX To Premiere New Boxing Series
"Lights Out" On Jan. 11
NAMES: The CP noted Canadian magazine Maclean's has chosen Penguins C SIDNEY CROSBY "as its newsmaker of the year." Crosby was "chosen for his gold medal-winning goal" for Canada against the U.S. at the '10 Vancouver Olympics. The magazine said that Crosby's overtime goal "was on a 'higher plane' than the wars, natural disasters and political upheavals of 2010" (CP, 11/30)....FX on Jan. 11 will debut "Lights Out," a new scripted series starring HOLT MCCALLANY as a "former heavyweight boxing champion trying to make a life for himself after retiring from the ring" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 11/30)....A $3M gift from the Mario Lemieux Foundation enabled the Univ. of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and Univ. of Pittsburgh Medical Center Cancer Centers "to conclude a five-year, $100 million capital campaign" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/1)....Saints FB HEATH EVANS' foundation raised more than $200,000 Monday night "at the inaugural 'Rendezvous with the Saints' event held at Harrah's Theater" in New Orleans. Saints players were "auctioned off" for charity (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 12/1)....Ryan Braun's Waterfront Grill, which opened last spring in Milwaukee, "has closed temporarily." The restaurant "plans changes to its menu, its management team and its interior" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 12/1).
IN MEMORY: In Utah, Molly Farmer reports SHERRY BLACK, the mother-in-law of Jazz CEO GREG MILLER, was "found dead Tuesday with 'obvious' stab wounds." Black was "killed at a business owned by her and her husband," B & W Billiards and Book in Salt Lake City (DESERET NEWS, 12/1).