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A diverse mix of league, media and labor execs makes up the '11 class of The Champions: Pioneers & Innovators in Sports Business, an award from SportsBusiness Journal/Daily recognizing the architects and builders of sports. Each of these individuals will be honored during a special ceremony at the IMG World Congress of Sports, March 30-31 in Miami. This year's recipients are women's basketball trailblazer VAL ACKERMAN, former PGA Tour Commissioner DEANE BEMAN, IMG Media's BARRY FRANK, influential baseball labor leader MARVIN MILLER, ESPN founder BILL RASMUSSEN and longtime sports exec ALAN ROTHENBERG. Each was selected for having an accomplished body of work throughout his or her career.
* A pioneer of women's sports, Ackerman was a special assistant to DAVID STERN when she was named the inaugural president of the WNBA in '96, and she led the league's growth over her eight-year term. An attorney with a love of basketball, she was a four-year starter at the Univ. of Virginia, helped create the USA Basketball women's national team that won gold in Atlanta in '96 and was the first female president of USA Basketball.
* A visionary who improved the financial health and television presentation of golf, Beman was commissioner of the PGA Tour for 20 years and was clearly the most influential and powerful exec in the game. He created such benchmarks as the Champions and Nationwide tours, The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass and its Stadium Course. His tenure forever changed the financial landscape of the tour, and he is credited with spearheading the tour's emphasis on charitable giving.
* As a rights negotiator, event creator and talent agent, Frank has devoted more than 40 years of his life to sports television. Outspoken but known as a fair negotiator and top dealmaker, Frank has seen the ever-changing media landscape from the perch of ABC Sports, CBS Sports and IMG. He has negotiated rights fees for multiple Olympic Games, created popular programming ranging from "Superstars" to "The Skins Game," and has helped nurture the careers of such television talent as JIM NANTZ, GREG GUMBEL and MIKE TIRICO.
* Miller single-handedly changed the relationship between players and management during his 16-year leadership of the MLBPA, turning baseball players into one of the country's strongest unions with uncanny solidarity among its members. During his tenure, Miller fought for the end of the reserve clause, the start of free agency and salary arbitration, and guided the players through strikes in '72, '80 and '81, as well as lockouts in '73 and '76.
* When you have a championship trophy named after you, chances are you have left a legacy. Rothenberg is largely known for developing soccer in the United States, which includes leading the '94 World Cup and '99 Women's World Cup, both in the U.S. He was the founding chairman of MLS, which named its title trophy after him. Outside of soccer, he was a key executive in JACK KENT COOKE's sports business with the Lakers and NHL Kings and the L.A. Forum, as well as serving as CEO of the Clippers. He currently is chairman of the sports and entertainment firm Premier Partnerships.
* The entrepreneurial Rasmussen was the man behind one of the most significant innovations in sports. Fired by the AHL's New England Whalers in '78, he followed his dream by leading a group of investors toward his vision of an all-sports network. He incorporated the idea in '78, and 14 months later, on Sept. 7, 1979, he successfully launched ESPN. From "SportsCenter" to a deal with Anheuser-Busch that marked the largest cable TV ad contract, Rasmussen's creativity forever changed sports and pop culture.
These six Champions will be honored at the World Congress of Sports during a luncheon and subsequent panel discussion, where they will discuss their careers and their views on the business of sports, including how it has changed over the years.
MARK DOWLEY is leaving the agency world to join the client side as Under Armour Exec VP/Global Brand and President of International. Sources said that Dowley will start next month and report directly to company founder and Chair & CEO KEVIN PLANK. Not that Dowley will not keep a hand in the agency world -- sources said Dowley is also in the midst of completing a management buyout of Endeavor Marketing, a joint venture of William Morris Entertainment, now owned by Interpublic Group. It is unclear if Endeavor will retain its name. William Morris has been consulting for Under Armour for around 18 months and the brand lags behind some of its competitors in overseas sales. Around 10% of Under Armour's business is overseas. Dowley has been CEO of William Morris Endeavor Marketing. While Dowley has consulted with some of the worlds biggest brands and is renowned for his connections and prescience across the marketing landscape, this is his first job directly with a client-side marketer. Like rival Nike, Under Armour has a complex and sometimes insular corporate culture, which can be challenging for outsiders. In July, DAVID MCCREIGHT, formerly a Lands End marketer, resigned after two years as Under Armour President. Last February, Senior VP/Apparel SUZANNE KARKUS resigned 27 months after leaving Izod. It will also be interesting to see how this impacts Senior VP/Brand STEVE BATTISTA, a 10-year employee who joined the company when it had less than 20 employees.
Maloof Could Remain
Operator Of Palms
Leonard Green & Partners LP and TPG Capital are “in talks to take a controlling stake in the Palms Casino Resort” in Las Vegas, as owner GEORGE MALOOF “seeks to restructure the property’s debt,” according to sources cited by Jinks & Keehner of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Sources said that the firms “acquired most of a loan backed by the casino and its hotel towers at a discount last year, and may take an equity stake in the first quarter as part of the restructuring.” The sources added that Maloof, a co-Owner of the NBA Kings, "may partner with Los Angeles-based Leonard Green and TPG to remain the operator" of the resort with a "reduced ownership stake" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/6). In Sacramento, Kasler & Bizjak in a front-page piece wrote the debt restructuring is a “possible sign of fresh financial turmoil” for the Maloof family. The Kings are “contending with another weak year at the box office and will have to find another naming-rights sponsor for the arena when the NBA season ends,” as Arco is “ending its $700,000-a-year sponsorship after 25 years.” But the Kings' “finances are strong enough to make payments on the $69 million the team owes the city” on a '97 loan. Sacramento City Treasurer RUSS FEHR said that the Kings have “made all their payments on time and 'their projected year budgets (show they) have the capacity to make the payments.'" The Maloofs last year sold their beer distributorship in New Mexico. Maloof said that the family “wasn't under pressure to sell, but he added that some of the $100 million-plus proceeds were used in the restructuring of the Palms' debt” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/8).
ANAHEIM-BOUND? In California, Randy Youngman writes the Maloofs' “significant financial problems” provide a “greater sense of urgency to move the franchise to a market with better demographics, more potential corporate sponsors and an NBA-ready arena.” If the Maloofs “decide to move the Kings -- or are forced to sell a team struggling on the court and struggling at the gate -- Anaheim and San Jose are believed to be the most likely destinations because they both have NBA-quality arenas and waiting billionaires to help them overcome financial obstacles.” Ducks CEO and Anaheim Arena Management Chair MICHAEL SCHULMAN yesterday said that Ducks Owner HENRY SAMUELI “remains interested in bringing an NBA franchise to Honda Center” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 1/10).
The N.Y. Road Runners club, which organizes the ING N.Y. Marathon and more than 50 other regional running races, has promoted senior staffers ANN WELLS CRANDALL and PETER CIACCIA. Crandall, formerly Senior VP/Business Development & Strategy, has been promoted to Exec VP/Business Development & Strategy. Ciaccia is now Senior VP/Event Development & Production. Crandall started with the organization in '01 as VP/Marketing and has helped the organization attract corporate support for the marathon. Ciaccia started with the organization in '01 in the membership division and switched to events in '04, where he grew the department from seven to 25 full-time employees. He had been VP/Event Development & Production.
Battle Hopes To Continue Working
In Sports After IMG College Departure
SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Michael Smith reports IMG College Chair PAT BATTLE, who has led the division since its launch in '07, "will leave the company in June when his contract expires." Battle said that he is "not sure what's next for him, but he hopes it will be something that keeps him in sports" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/10 issue)....SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's John Lombardo reports MSG Sports has hired GREG ECONOMOU to the newly created position of Exec VP/Revenue Performance. He will be responsible for "revenue generation and performance across all MSG Sports properties," which include the Knicks, NHL Rangers and WNBA Liberty. Economou is "expected to join MSG Sports this month and report to MSG Sports President SCOTT O'NEIL." Economou most recently served as Managing Dir & CEO for Charlotte-based sports marketing consultancy BrandThink. He previously worked for the Bobcats as Exec VP & CMO, and he also has served as NBA Senior VP/Marketing & Communications (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/10 issue).
EXECS: The Univ. of Kansas has named Chiefs Dir of Ticket Operations DOUG HOPKINS to the same position. Hopkins "will take over the KU ticket office in the aftermath of the $2 million ticket scandal that involved at least five former members of the ticket office." Hopkins has served as Dir of Ticket Operations for the Chiefs since '94 (K.C. STAR, 1/8)....The MLB Cardinals have promoted Dir of Baseball Development MICHAEL GIRSCH to Assistant GM, replacing JOHN ABBAMONDI, who recently joined the Padres as VP/Strategy & Business Analysis. The Cardinals also promoted Senior Quantitative Analyst for Baseball Operations SIG MEJDAL to the newly created position of Dir of Amateur Draft Analysis (Cardinals)....The Univ. of Texas-Arlington has promoted Associate AD GREGG ELKIN to Senior Associate AD for External Affairs (THE DAILY)....Fox Soccer Channel hired JASON WORMSER from NFL Network to serve as VP/Production, reporting to Senior VP/Production DERMOT MCQUARRIE. Wormser previously worked as a producer with Fox from '96-'03. For the past seven years, he has been a senior producer at NFL Network (John Ourand, THE DAILY)....The MLS Crew have hired TRISHA MCCARTHY as Fan Development Coordinator, BRANDIE PIFER as Season Ticket Account Exec and LEEANA RUSSELL as Group Sales Account Exec (Crew)....The AFL has hired Mid-American Conference Officials Supervisor CARL PAGANELLI as Supervisor of Officials (AFL).
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CHRISTINA TAYLOR GREEN, the daughter of Dodgers scout JOHN GREEN, was "among the six people killed in the Saturday shooting in which Arizona Rep. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS was critically injured." Green also was the granddaughter of former Phillies manager DALLAS GREEN (LATIMES.com, 1/9). In N.Y., Pete Thamel reports a "moment of silence will be held" before tonight's Tostitos BCS National Championship Game "in honor of the victims of Saturday's shooting" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10).
Robert Kraft Gave $20M Gift
To Partners Healthcare
GIVING BACK: In Boston, Liz Kowalczyk in a front-page piece reported Partners Healthcare is "launching a program to attract doctors and nurses to Massachusetts community health centers" with a $20M gift from Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT and his wife, MYRA. The program is the "cornerstone of the push to reduce health costs and care for newly insured patients." Kraft said that he "intends the donation to serve as seed money that will inspire other philanthropists as well as states to support similar programs to increase the number of internists, family practitioners, pediatricians, psychiatrists, and obstetrician/gynecologists dedicating their careers to community medicine rather than to higher-paying, more glamorous specialties and private practices." Partners President & CEO DR. GARY GOTTLIEB estimated that "over the next five years ... the Kraft donation will support more than 100 physicians, nurse practitioners, and other providers caring for about 200,000 patients." The gift "will create the Kraft Family National Center for Leadership and Training in Community Health to oversee the programs" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/9).
GREAT SCOTT: The N.Y. TIMES' Pete Thamel profiled Pac-10 Commissioner LARRY SCOTT, who has overseen a "swift and stunning transformation of the conference." Scott has "shaken up college athletics and forced the other major conferences to rethink their futures." There have been "critical behind-the-scenes changes." The presidents of Pac-10 Conference schools "now meet three times a year for five hours, instead of once a year for two hours." Scott also "has aggressively marketed the conference and has said he is exploring the idea of playing a preseason basketball tournament in China." Univ. of Oregon AD ROB MULLENS: "There's a new direction. It's energizing and exciting where we're heading." Scott "knows he will ultimately be judged by the television contracts the conference signs in the next few months." The Pac-10's current deals with Fox and ESPN/ABC are worth $53M annually, and sources close to Scott said that $170M a year is a "good benchmark for the new contract" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/8).
POWER PLAYER: In Boston, Greg Bedard profiled Professional Sports Representation Inc. Owner BOB LAMONTE, who "could make a strong case for being the most powerful person" in the NFL. LaMonte reps six current or former GMs and 14 current or former head coaches, as well as Browns President MIKE HOLMGREN. He "prepares for the craziness" of offseason hirings and firings "during the season by setting up a board with potential openings on one side and the top candidates on the other." LaMonte "doesn't recruit," as his business is 100% "referral." And "not everyone gets accepted" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/9).
NAMES: Former NBA referee TIM DONAGHY said that he "hasn't seen a penny" from his tell-all book, "PERSONAL FOUL." A Las Vegas casino "asked him to be its NBA handicapper for $10,000 a month," and it "even offered to pay him $7,500 just to use his image and reputation." But Donaghy's probation officer "forbade him from accepting the gig" (N.Y. TIMES MAGAZINE, 1/9 issue)....Haier, one of the NBA's "biggest corporate sponsors," called on Basketball HOFer BILL WALTON "for some promotional help" last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/7)....MLB Rangers P C.J. WILSON “visited patients at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital during his vacation” to Cape Town, South Africa. Wilson, who reportedly “has an interest in haemophilia,” was a guest of the Haemophilia Foundation (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/8)....Golfers DUSTIN JOHNSON and NATALIE GULBIS “are an item,” with the LPGAer traveling to see Johnson play in this past weekend’s PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/10)....Vice President JOE BIDEN attended Friday’s Eastern Washington-Delaware FCS title game at Pizza Hut Park and Saturday’s Devils-Flyers game at Wells Fargo Center (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/9)....Patriots QB TOM BRADY on Saturday attended the Broadway production “LOMBARDI” and went backstage after the show to meet the lead actor, DAN LAURIA (ESPNNEWYORK.com, 1/9)....NHL Rangers G HENRIK LUNDQVIST is profiled as part of the N.Y. TIMES’ “Sunday Routine” feature, and he noted he “dresses down, relaxing at the movies or playing his guitar” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/9).
BEST WISHES: Cavaliers radio announcer JOE TAIT is "recovering after double bypass heart surgery and an aortic valve replacement Friday at the Cleveland Clinic." Tait "will be in the cardiac intensive care unit for a few days" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/8).