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The PGA Championship that teed off this morning will be JOE STERANKA's last as CEO of the PGA of America. In seven years in the CEO post, Steranka oversaw a golf industry that experienced significant travails as it rode in and out of the recession. More and more, he found himself in the role of spokesperson for the entire golf industry and not just the PGA. That suited Steranka just fine. One of his goals when he took this job was to give golf, as an industry, a stronger and more unified voice. As he leaves at the end of this year, Steranka looks forward to his next challenge, but said he has no idea what that will be. He talked this morning at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island about the last seven years, the Olympics and what's next.
Q: How has the CEO job changed or evolved since 2005 when you took over?
Steranka: In 2005, when I took this job, I had several friends tell me “You’re going to be surprised at how much of a job this is to help the industry, not just the PGA of America." ... I also was in the office for two distinctly different times. In 2005, our economy was a rocket ship. Our championships, our sponsorships, all of the association’s ancillary revenue, what people spend on golf over the course of a year, from vacations to custom fit clubs and outings with big buffet lines and gift packages, were truly at all-time highs. Then you go through the recession -- the biggest business challenge that any of us have seen in our lifetime. Those were two distinct periods. To protect and manage our assets and protect the revenue streams for the association was very important, if we were going to help golf in the present and the future. ... It also served to bring the CEOs from other organizations closer together. Our working relationship with the USGA is the best it’s ever been. There’s a whole new level of collaboration that’s never been seen before. That investment has helped hold the industry together.
Q: You’ve also been very visible in establishing a presence for the PGA in Washington, DC. Is that something you foresee continuing, or what it just a necessity of the times?
Steranka: (Golf is) a big industry. We’re bigger than the motion picture industry. We’re bigger than the recording arts industry. Major industries have to have a presence in Washington, have to have relationships with key people in state capitals. Regardless of how you feel politically about government regulations, it’s there. To have a presence in Washington give us a chance to articulate that golf is the epitome of small business. America’s golf courses are 16,000 small businesses and they need a voice in Washington. That’s the power of the PGA brand. I feel very confident National Golf Day will continue and more importantly, that we’ll continue to speak to the industry’s effectiveness with regard to economic and environmental impact.
Q: What does the next CEO need to know that he or she doesn’t know right now?
Steranka: (pause) I’m going to wait and tell that person privately. I got a lot of great advice when I was named CEO. DAVID FAY from the USGA was a great help. There was a saying: “The water is a lot swifter in this chair than any of the others.” There’s a lot coming at you. After 25 years, I’ve got a lot of insights and I’ll be there to help the next person.
Q: Was there anything that you wanted to get done that you didn’t get done.
Steranka: I’d have to honestly say no. This was a really difficult decision to step down from something that makes me excited to get up every morning. But when I presented the “Decade of Excellence” plan to the board of directors in Chicago in October 2005, I painted this vision that the PGA would be a lot more relevant to the grassroots golf professional. What we’re doing with Golf 2.0 is one of the most relevant things we’ve done -- I will say THE most relevant thing we’ve done in our history. We’re connecting people with the game through PGA golf professionals. The second leg was to elevate the stature of golf, whether in Washington, DC, or in state capitals or the global view. We have much higher regard than we did. The final thing was to protect and grow the revenue-producing assets of the association with arguably the most recognized brand in sports. To come out on the other side of the recession just as strong or stronger than how we went into it, I’m very proud of that.
Q: What is the budget now?
Steranka: We’re in a domestic Ryder Cup year, so we’ll go over $200M ($227M]) this year, and then we go down to the $130s to $140s range in non-Ryder Cup years. It can go up or down based on revenues from a particular championship or a big advance on media rights. We can have anywhere from a $60M to $100M swing in a given year. ... Our all-time budget was probably 2005, at maybe $240M. That was when everything was at its peak, and we were coming off a Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills and the first PGA Championship at Whistling Straits [in 2004], which was a blockbuster.
Q: What is your next challenge?
Steranka: I can’t imagine this was my last job. I haven’t taken two weeks off, much less two months off. But I am going to take the next few months and work on my short game. I look forward to joining a private club, play some member-guests, take some special trips with JOANNE, all of the things you give up when you’re traveling 180 days a year and working 24/7 to lead an industry.
Q: You spent a few days in London at the Olympics. What stood out to you?
Steranka: [PGA President] ALLEN WRONOWSKI and I were guests of NBC and went with their first wave of guests. I really enjoyed the pageantry of the opening ceremonies, we saw (RYAN) LOCHTE's dominating performance in the 400 IM, went out to Wimbledon one day, saw beach volleyball and finished up with men’s gymnastics. That was the one where Japan protested the results of the pommel horse and moved up from fourth to second. I was unaware that you could file a protest and have a routine re-scored. You learn something new at every sporting event. ... We were thoroughly impressed with London and its preparation and the level of hospitality they showed to the world. It’s clear they had great buy-in, in terms of the tourism opportunity it presented. They certainly delivered.
Coincidentally, we were there at the same time as MIKE DAVIS and GLEN NAGER from the USGA, and [PGA Tour Commissioner] TIM FINCHEM. We’re all excited about what 2016 has in store for golf in Rio. Omega House brought in GREG NORMAN and MICHELLE WIE to talk about the Olympics, and it’s clear that it will have a significant impact on the game.
General Motors Global CMO JOEL EWANICK was "fired last week for not properly disclosing as much as a third of the cost of a $559 million sponsorship deal with" EPL club Manchester United, according to sources cited by Klayman & Lienert of REUTERS. Ewanick was ousted after a whistleblower in the company's marketing department "questioned some aspects of the deal." Sources said that there are "no signs Ewanick profited personally from the deal, but GM continues to investigate not only this deal but other contracts he had agreed to." ManU said that the seven-year sponsorship deal "would bring in $559 million." GM will "pay fees of $18.6 million in this year's and next year's season, before paying $70 million" in the '14-15 season. GM's payments will rise 2.1% "each season thereafter," through the '20-21 season (REUTERS, 8/8). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Higgins & Green cited sources as saying Ewanick "was spreading the price" of the ManU deal "among several different marketing budgets to avoid his boss' spending limits." Sources said that "when confronted, Ewanick denied it" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 8/8).
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas Exec Dir TINA KUNZER-MURPHY "ended her reign Wednesday, resigning after a long and successful run." Kunzer-Murphy said, "It's the perfect time. I'm happy with the decision. I loved what I did. I loved working with ESPN. I never took anything for granted." She added, "It's time to move on. There's really nothing more to do with the game" (LVRJ.com, 8/8). Kunzer-Murphy oversaw the bowl since '01. She previously worked "in the athletic departments at UNLV, Pacific and the Western Athletic Conference" (LASVEGASSUN.com, 8/8).
EXECS: Alli Sports named Gatorade Sports Marketing Dir KENNY MITCHELL Dew Tour VP & GM. Alli also promoted CHRIS PRYBYLO to VP/Events, where he will oversee event management and development of properties across Alli Sports. Prybylo will continue to lead all aspects of event management for the Dew Tour (Alli)....The MLS Rapids named AHL Houston Aeros President DAVID BURKE Chief Revenue Officer (Rapids)….New Era Cap Co. promoted EVAN JONES to VP/Global Marketing & CMO, JOHN BEHLING to North American Marketing Dir and BEN EWY to Creative Dir. The company also named ARLENE KAY Global Merchandising Lifestyle Dir, JOSH CHERIN Business Unit Dir/Accessories, WAYNE BEST Global Dir of Consumer Marketing, PAUL GILS VP/EMEA, MATTHEW GRIFFITHS Marketing Dir/EMEA and DAVID PADILLA Country Manager/Mexico (New Era)….Niagara Univ. named Univ. of New Orleans Compliance Coordinator and Senior Woman Administrator SHERI DOOLEY Assistant AD/Compliance (Niagara)….The Univ. of North Carolina-Greensboro named Virginia Tech Marketing & Promotions Dir BRENT DIGIACOMO Assistant AD/Marketing & Promotions (UNCG)….Sam Houston State Univ. promoted Media Services Coordinator JASON BARFIELD to Assistant AD/Media Relations (Sam Houston State)….High Point Univ. named NATE BURTON Assistant Dir of External Relations (High Point).
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Sources cited by the N.Y. POST said that Eagles owner JEFFREY LURIE and his wife of 20 years, CHRISTINA, have “quietly settled their divorce,” with Lurie having “agreed to hand her a sizable chunk of the team, which they bought in 1994 and is currently worth more than $1 billion.” Sources said that the final court papers "could be filed as early as next week." (N.Y. POST, 8/9).
MAGIC BOYCOTTED: The DEVOS FAMILY's $500,000 donation to the National Organization for Marriage in ’09 through the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation "became a public issue this week when FRED KARGER, president of the LGBT advocacy group, Rights Equal Rights foundation, cited the DeVos Foundation contribution in calling for a boycott of Amway and its affiliates," which includes the Magic. Team Owner RICH DEVOS is an Amway co-founder. NOM is “on the front lines of the anti-gay marriage movement, leading initiatives on same-sex marriage bans in eight states" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/9).
PREDATORS SUED: Nashville radio station WRVW-FM announcer ADAM DAVIS is suing the Predators after “breaking his ankle in a ‘human hockey puck’ stunt.” Davis filed the lawsuit this week and is “asking for damages in excess of $25,000” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 8/9).
RULING OVERTURNED: The Minnesota Supreme Court has “overturned a $1 million jury award” to would-be Univ. of Minnesota assistant men's basketball coach JIMMY WILLIAMS over a “rescinded job offer, ruling that Williams was not entitled to protections from ‘negligent misrepresentation.’” The ruling “reverses the jury award and a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that upheld the award last fall” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/9).
FUND RAISING: Running shoe company Skora Founder DAVID SYPNIEWSKI is “recruiting investors for his start-up.” Skora has “two running shoe styles in the ‘minimal’ category that went to market in February.” Skora “seeks to raise $1.5 million to $3 million by Dec. 15.” Sypniewski said, “We have several investors we’re speaking with and engaging with. We’re looking at adding more.” SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said Skora has “premium, well-thought products” (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/9).
NAMES: U.S. women’s soccer national team F ABBY WAMBACH “bought a house in Portland.” She paid $705,000 for the two-story, four-bedroom, 3,900-square-foot house in the Northwest Heights neighborhood (OREGONLIVE.com, 8/8)….Former NFLer CRAIG HANNEMAN became the “first former North American professional athlete” to climb Mt. Everest (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 8/9)….Former Boston Globe college sports writer MARK BLAUDSCHUN launched a new blog called AJerseyguy.com (SHERMANREPORT.com, 8/7)….Former UFL Mountain Lions coach DENNIS GREEN filed suit against the team and league “about a week after Green says he received his last paycheck.” Green, who previously coached the NFL's Vikings and Cardinals, "was supposed to get $1.5 million last year." However, he "received a total of $435,000 through the end of last September" (SACBEE.com, 8/8)….Patriots QB TOM BRADY, wife GISELE BUNDCHEN, and his sons JACK and BENJAMIN, yesterday spent time with Saints QB DREW BREES after the teams’ joint practice. Brees later “treated his linemen, receivers, and running backs" to part of the Rangers-Red Sox game from the right field terrace at Fenway Park (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/9)….Mavericks F DIRK NOWITZKI married JESSICA OLSON on July 20 at Nowitzki’s home (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/9)....Pocono Raceway has established a memorial fund to benefit the victims of the lighting storm that killed one NASCAR fan and injured nine others after Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400. Donations will be accepted at any PNC bank branch (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/8).