SBD/August 23, 2013/People and Pop Culture

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  • Time Warner Cable Exec Melinda Witmer Profiled, Known As "Lightning Rod" In Industry

    Industry execs view Witmer as a tough negotiator for TV rights

    Time Warner Cable Exec VP and Chief Video & Content Officer MELINDA WITMER is profiled by Shalini Ramachandran of the WALL STREET JOURNAL, who writes Witmer has "become a lightning rod for criticism within the industry." TWC since '10 has been "in more blackout disputes with broadcasters than any other cable operator." Execs who have done business with Witmer said that she "stands out from many of her counterparts at other pay TV operators, negotiating like a courtroom trial prosecutor, quick to identify loopholes and potential snags." Witmer contends that her "adversaries aren't 'a bunch of dummies sitting across the table from us who are fresh off the rhubarb truck who don't understand what they're doing.'" But she added she "unfortunately" spends a lot of time with programmers "who agree to things" but later "they spend a lot of time trying to backpedal out of it." Witmer: "We go out of our way…to resolve things amicably." Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations JEANIE BUSS said, "She's tough, there's no doubt about it," but "she knows how to get a deal done and she's creative." Ramachandran writes, What "particularly rankles media executives now is that ... Witmer is interpreting Time Warner Cable's digital rights in aggressive ways, sometimes finding clauses in old contracts to justify her positions." CBS President of Television Networks Distribution RAY HOPKINS, who is in negotiations with Witmer in the ongoing TWC/CBS carriage dispute, "has had dealings with her at the YES Network," where he served as COO for nine years. Industry execs said that Witmer "is known for scouring old contracts when deals are coming up in search of points that can be used as leverage." A former TWC exec said, "She's got a litigator's mind, always looking for the hook. When people are tired, she can outpace them. People are afraid of her" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/23).

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  • Weekend Plans With Pac-12 Networks' Lydia Murphy-Stephans: New House And Pets

    Murphy-Stephans and her son enjoy some zip-lining in the backyard of their new home

    With the start of the college football season right around the corner, Pac-12 Networks President LYDIA MURPHY-STEPHANS is taking the next week off to get organized and enjoy some uninterrupted family time. It took nearly 18 months to find the perfect spot, but her family just moved into a new home in the Oakland Hills neighborhood of Oakland, Calif., which means there is still plenty to unpack. And no home is complete without a family pet, even if it is an unconventional one.

    UP IN THE HILLS: We moved last week into a new house, and so we are surrounded by hundreds of boxes. I am looking forward to unpacking so I can actually find my stuff before going to work every morning and not go through the fire drill that I’ve experienced over the past week and a half. I’ll get out of the office probably around 4:00 or 5:00 this Friday and I’m taking the next week as vacation with family, or really "staycation" with my family. It’s the last week before the kids go back to school and before the football season starts. I have two kids, a 9-year-old daughter whose name is BELLA and an 11-year-old son whose name is JESSE. Where we live is where most people fly or drive to for vacation. We are up in the Oakland Hills and we are surrounded by forests and rolling hills and mountains. It’s spectacular. There are miles upon miles of trails for mountain biking and great trails for walking and hiking.

    BONDING TIME: At least once a week we do take-out (for dinner). We’re more inclined to do take-out and hang out as a family rather than sit in a restaurant. We love to either take out and sit outside to eat if the weather permits, or we do -- it’s kind of old fashioned -- but we do family movie night either Friday night or Saturday night. So we pick a movie and do take out and eat and maybe play a board game. We’ll watch comedies or dramas but it’s got to be G or PG for us. PG is as far as we’ll push it. We haven’t gotten to PG-13 yet.

    EMPTY-NEST SYNDROME: We’re about to get chickens. And notice how I said plural -- chickens. The house we bought has a chicken coop and one cannot have a house with a chicken coop without having chickens. We’re looking forward to organic eggs and my children have learned in their school how to take care of chickens. Now we’re figuring out, do we rescue a chicken or do we get chicks and grow them to be our own? We’re getting four -- one for each family member.

    DAY OF REST: I’m going to come across as a slacker, but we are as a family so scheduled Monday through Friday, and so regimented, that by the time we get to Saturday, it is hang out day. So unless there is a soccer game or an event that we have to be at, the kids stay in their pajamas as long as they possibly can. ... It’s truly time to do stuff around the house and not be scheduled and hang out and read the newspaper. I tend to wake up early, whether it’s the weekend or a weekday, and usually while the family is still asleep I’ll spend an hour or two really early Saturday morning meditating and then catching up on work e-mails.

    PLAY DATES: My daughter does horseback riding and she aspires to be a cheerleader and she’s a great swimmer, but she doesn’t swim competitively. My son plays flag football, he plays soccer, he does the skateboard. Both of them bike. One of our favorite family activities is ice skating and both kids have been on skates since age three. Both of them are active in all sports but neither of them focuses on one sport in particular, and I’m encouraging them to not focus on one sport until they get a little older.

    SUNDAY FUNDAY: Sunday is family and friends day. After church we tend to hang out for a while and then do something as a family. It could be come back to our house, go for a family bike ride, go swimming, go hiking or have friends over that would be a whole family. We love hosting at our house regardless of where we are. I’m so excited about our home because we now, in fact last Sunday family day, we went to church and on our way home from church finally, finally after 18 months we picked out a grill and ... we did a cookout Sunday night. So we’re all set up now.

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  • Executive Transactions

    Sources said that Mariners GM JACK ZDURIENCIK "will be under contract for 2014, having received a one-year extension." When that extension was "agreed upon is not known, but it is not a recent development." It previously had been "believed that Zduriencik's two-year extension, which he received in 2011, was up after this season" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 8/22).

    EXECS: ISC named Motor Racing Network Business Development Dir CHIP WILE Darlington Raceway President, effective immediately. Current track President CHRIS BROWNING resigned to pursue other opportunities (ISC)....The Trail Blazers named JIM TAYLOR head of the newly created basketball communications department, and MICHAEL LEWELLEN head of the newly created corporate communications & public engagement department (Trail Blazers)....Wolverine Worldwide's Merrell division named former Under Armour Senior VP/Footwear GENE MCCARTHY President (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/22)....The NWSL Reign FC gave GM & coach LAURA HARVEY a four-year extension (SEATTLETIMES.com, 8/22)....Olivet College named Marygrove College Athletics & Wellness Dir DAVID SICHTERMAN AD (FREEP.com, 8/22)....New Mexico State Univ. named DAVID MCCOLLUM Deputy AD. McCollum in the newly-created position will oversee business affairs for the department (KRWG.org, 8/21).

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

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  • Names In The News

    MLB gave Sessions' campaign twice the amount allowed by law

    The Federal Election Commission said that MLB "contributed too much to the campaign of Sen. JEFF SESSIONS." In DC, Emily Heil reported MLB's PAC "gave $5,000 to the Alabama Republican last year, and then in May, pitched it another five grand." But election law says that such PACs "can only give a total of $5,000 per candidate per election." The FEC in a letter "ordered baseball to get a refund" from Sessions' campaign. An MLB attorney said that it was "a technical error" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/22).

    GREAT SCOTT: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Eriq Gardner reported the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday "affirmed the dismissal" of basketball HOFer SCOTTIE PIPPEN's complaint against NBCUniversal and other media outlets. His lawsuit "failed because as a public figure, Pippen couldn't make the case that the media acted with 'actual malice' when reporting about his financial state" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/22).

    FEELING THE HEAT: In Columbus, Kathy Lynn Gray reports attorney ANDREW FINE on Thursday said that HAIDER ZAFAR, "charged with swindling a businessman out of $10 million in a real-estate scheme also ripped off" Heat players. Fine said former Heat F MIKE MILLER and "other Florida residents had invested" $8M with Zafar (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/23).

    WARDROBE MALFUNCTION: Redskins QB ROBERT GRIFFIN III has been fined $10,000 by the NFL "for wearing unauthorized apparel during pregame warmups" prior to Monday night's game against the Steelers. It is "at least the second such fine" for Griffin, who endorses adidas. He was fined $10,000 by the league last December for wearing adidas apparel to a postgame news conference (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/22).

    NAMES: Former TCU AD FRANK WINDEGGER is "one of nine new members" in the Class of '13 for the Texas Sports HOF. He spent "45 years as a TCU athlete, coach and athletic director" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 8/22)....PHIT America, a non-profit organization designed to combat the nation's obesity epidemic, named former NFLer HERSCHEL WALKER and former tennis players MIKE and BOB BRYAN as its first celebrity ambassadors (PHIT America)....Former NFLer BERNIE KOSAR is "entering the premium steakhouse game." He will "lend his name" to Kosar's Wood-Fired Grill at the new Hard Rock Rocksino at Northfield Park in Ohio. The restaurant will "include memorabilia on display from Kosar's playing days" (OHIO.com, 8/22)....A’s broadcaster KEN KORACH interviewed "approximately 60 people” for his upcoming book “HOLY TOLEDO -- LESSONS FROM BILL KING: RENAISSANCE MAN OF THE MIC.” The late Warriors, Raiders and A’s broadcaster, King was “a fixture in Bay Area broadcasting for more than four decades” (SFGATE.com, 8/22)….Int’l Tennis HOFer ANDRE AGASSI “was fined $15,000 on Thursday by the Nevada Gaming Commission for failing to report several ownership changes” in Flamingo Investments (REVIEWJOURNAL.com, 8/22)...Patriots QB TOM BRADY on Thursday “took the opportunity to visit” the Univ. of Michigan football team. Brady “spent time” with coach BRADY HOKE and addressed the team (BOSTON.com, 8/22)….Red Sox P JAKE PEAVY was seen “buying a Gibson guitar at the Guitar Center” near Fenway Park (BOSTON HERALD, 8/23).

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