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SBJ/SBD Name Newest Class Of Champions: Pioneers & Innovators
Published January 10, 2011
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.