SBD/October 9, 2013/People and Pop Culture

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  • Minding My Business With College Football Playoff Media Head Gina Lehe

    Lehe looks for employees who know how to carry on a conversation

    GINA LEHE wears several hats these days. She owns her own company, Dolce Sports Media, which currently has a deal with the Rose Bowl. In that capacity, Lehe is currently running media relations for the both this season's final BCS Nat'l Championship at the venue, as well as the 100th iteration of the Rose Bowl Game. In May, she also was appointed as the College Football Playoff Senior Dir of Communications & Brand Management, consulting with the organization before starting fulltime in February. She recently moved to Dallas to be close to CFP HQs. Lehe spoke recently about establishing the CFP brand, the importance of talking in a social media age and indulging in the occasional game of Candy Crush.

    First steps with the CFP...
    A lot of what I’m going to do initially is an education process. Educating not only the media, but also fans on how the College Football Playoff is going to operate, how it’s going to be managed. And then reaching out to the host communities. I have a unique vantage point being in the bowl industry for so long. There’s the fear from some that the bowl communities are going to lose some of the history they’ve worked so hard to build over the years. We're going to work together with the bowls. We want the College Football Playoff to be a standalone brand, a strong brand that can help enhance the product of the bowl games.

    BCS lessons...
    There have been a lot of complicated nuances with the BCS, and what we want to make sure of with the College Football Playoff is that we are straightforward and clear on what the mission is and how the process works. The management of the College Football Playoff, where the decision’s coming from -- all of those things that we've been getting feedback on throughout the years -- we’ll certainly take a look at. But after Jan. 7, 2014, the BCS logo, mark, name will not be utilized from a branding perspective.

    Keeping the CFP in the public eye...
    We’re not going to wait until football season next year. We’re going to work on something to have a more year-round presence to help tell the story and promote the brand.

    Digital trumps print...
    I'm somewhat of an insomniac, so I’m on my phone a lot. I probably use Twitter more than anything. I hate to say that I can’t remember the last time I touched a physical newspaper. But I’ve used Twitter mainly professionally. I follow probably over 100 professional writers and coaches.

    Technical specs...
    I am an Android user and I’m a big believer in the Android operating system. I always say that because it’s most compatible with what I do on a regular basis. I’m a PC user. In my personal life, I love Apple products. I think I have an iPad -- a regular one and a mini -- as well as an iPod. I might be one of the only people who still has an iTouch. I also have a nano. Pretty much every Apple product that’s been invented.

    Guilty pleasures...
    I really like Pinterest. I’m also fascinated by weather in general, so the Weather Channel app is probably one of my favorites. It’s always been interesting to me. I follow a list of cities. I check out the temperature where my parents are at, where my husband’s family is at, where my brother is. My biggest vice right now is (the online game) Candy Crush, and I probably don’t want to say that out loud. I’ve become a little obsessed with that. It’s the most addicting game, it’s totally ridiculous.

    Talk to me...
    I’ve never been a big fan of having set questions in a job interview. If you can’t sit down and have a conversation with someone, that’s a huge problem. I like to just sit down in job interviews and have a conversation. I want to know who you are, what you do, where you came from. I think through that process you get to learn people’s strengths and weaknesses without having to ask them directly. Especially in this day and age, a lot of younger kids coming out of college rely so heavily on social media that they’re unable to have a real conversation. I want to make sure that if there’s somebody that’s going to come work with me, that I know when I’m not around, they can go up to a stranger and welcome them, make them feel comfortable, engage them.

    Best advice...
    Rose Bowl Chief Administrative Officer KEVIN ASH tells the younger kids who come through all the time: "Don’t be afraid to admit what you’re not good at." You’d be amazed at how hard that is.

    Sports business needs more…
    As much as I love social media and and instant access, we’ve seen countless examples of it being misused, and reports that have gone out publicly that are not verified, that are not fact-checked. So just taking responsibility for what you’re saying, doing, and telling -- especially from a media standpoint.

    Top spot to dine in Pasadena…
    Parkway Grill. I’m a big foodie. One of the great things about my job is I get to travel a lot. One of my favorite apps is TV Food Maps, which outlines every show that has been featured on "DINERS, DRIVE-INS AND DIVES." When I travel, I always to try to go to the local spots. Parkway Grill is a really cool, early 20th-century brick building, and it has amazing food. A very cool, Pasadena-ish setting for a business lunch.

    To unwind…
    I love going to the spa, because it’s almost like I’m going to a foreign country. Sometimes I cheat and I’ll put my phone in my spa robe. But if I know I want to get away for an hour or so and disconnect from the world, that's probably the only place that I do it.

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  • Executive Transactions

    Speedway Benefits was launched in Charlotte, and the company headed by HUMPY WHEELER has acquired office space in the city's South End area. Wheeler will serve as Chair of the company, while his son, former GMR and Velocity Sports exec TRIP WHEELER, will be President. Former CMS attorney LAURI EBERHART will be Exec VP and General Counsel, while Carolina Speedway promoter CLINT ELKINS will be Dir of Track Relations and former SMI merchandising exec TODD ADAMS will be Dir of Tracks (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).

    EXECS: ESPN promoted ESPN Audio VP/Events & Marketing ROBYN REMICK to the newly-created position of ESPN Wide World of Sports VP/Business & Content Development. She will report to ESPN Business Divisions Senior VP/Production TRAUG KELLER (ESPN)....Billabong promoted U.S. Retail President ED LEASURE to Americas Division President. Interim President COLIN HAGGERTY "returns to his previous role" as Global Retail Operations Manager (, 10/8)....Turner Broadcasting CMO/Turner Animation BRENDA PIPER "is stepping down for personal reasons" from her spot on the Under Armour BOD on Nov. 1. She has served on the UA BOD since July '12 (, 10/8)....Univ. of Arizona Deputy AD and Senior Woman Administrator KATHLEEN LAROSE will have a "retirement celebration" on Saturday after more than 30 years with the school. She stands as the longest-serving, senior female athletics administrator in Pac-12 history (, 10/9)....Eastern Oregon Univ. named ANJI WEISSENFLUH AD (EOU).

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  • Names In The News

    Rice hopes to sell 100 shirts by early next week

    In Baltimore, Erica Green reports Ravens RB RAY RICE recently "joined a campaign to raise money for anti-bullying efforts, designing a T-shirt that encourages youth to be kind to each other." The $20 purple T-shirt that reads, "You can be a hero to someone just by being a friend," is "part of CustomInk's bullying prevention efforts, and comes during the official National Bullying Awareness month." Rice has "set a goal of selling 100 shirts by early next week," and had sold 70 as of yesterday (Baltimore SUN, 10/9).

    KING KHAN:'s Scott Brown profiles Steelers Dir of Football & Business Administration OMAR KHAN, who has "risen to the upper echelons of the Steelers' front office -- as well as the short list" of potential NFL GMs. Khan, who is the Steelers' "point man on contract negotiations, is respected by agents as tough but fair," and also is "widely regarded as a nothing less than a wizard when it comes to the dynamics of the NFL." That is "one reason why the Steelers have been able to strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and spending the kind of money that allowed them to play in three Super Bowls" from '05-10, winning two of them (, 10/8).

    SHARE PLAN: Levy Restaurants co-Founder & Chair LARRY LEVY wants to raise $150M through an IPO to "fund a new acquisition company" entitled Levy Acquisition Corp. The company in its prospectus said that no target deals "have been identified and no company has approached Levy Acquisition to date." The IPO calls for "issuing 15 million units at $10 each" (, 10/7).

    NAMES: Browns Dir of Player Personnel JON SANDUSKY "was arrested" early yesterday morning in North Dakota on suspicion of DUI (AP, 10/8)....Redskins QB ROBERT GRIFFIN III helped his alma mater, Copperas Cove High in Texas, "get outfitted in new football uniforms this season" (, 10/8)....Mets P MATT HARVEY and his girlfriend, ANNE VYALITSYNA, joined in on a dance-off on Monday in the middle of a wrap party for the second season of Oxygen's "THE FACE" (, 10/8)....Capitals C NICKLAS BACKSTROM's girlfriend, LIZA BERG, gave birth to their first child, a baby girl, yesterday morning (, 10/8).

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