SBD/December 3, 2013/People and Pop Culture

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  • Peter Luukko Surprises Comcast-Spectacor With Resignation; Was He Forced Out?

    Luukko's resignation comes just before the Wells Fargo Center hosts the '14 NHL Draft

    PETER LUUKKO officially resigned yesterday as President & CEO of Comcast-Spectacor, but industry colleagues who know him well question whether he was forced out by Comcast Corp. officials demanding stronger returns from the firm’s facility management business. Luukko was also Flyers President, but the pressure exerted at the corporate level for improving the bottom line for Global Spectrum, Comcast-Spectacor’s arena and stadium operations division, may have influenced his decision, sources said. Luukko, reached by phone this morning, said it was a mutual decision he made with Comcast-Spectacor Chair ED SNIDER to leave the company and they parted on good terms. “I’m actually very happy,” Luukko said. “It’s a good opportunity for me to cash out of some of the businesses I started along with others. At my age (54), I have a nest egg and can make one more run at something new and exciting.” Snider’s relationship with Luukko dates to '85 when Luukko managed the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for SMG, the firm Snider owned at the time. Snider said Luukko’s resignation did not come from Comcast Corp., Snider’s business partner in Comcast-Spectacor. “It came as a surprise to me,” Snider said, echoing the statements he made to local reporters yesterday. That same feeling was true for the industry in general, as the sudden move was reminiscent of TIM LEIWEKE's shocking departure in March as AEG President & CEO. In Philly, though, it was not the proposed sale of a competitor that fell through that led to changes at the top of the organization.

    MOTIVES FOR DEPARTURE UNKNOWN: The motives behind Luukko’s abrupt departure remain unclear, but there were signs in the release announcing his resignation that driving better returns for Comcast Corp. played a role in his leaving the company. The release stated Comcast-Spectacor appointed two finance officials to help lead the firm in Luukko’s absence, including DAVE SCOTT, a retired Comcast Cable CFO, now acting President of the company. In addition, GARY ROSTICK is now Comcast-Spectacor CFO after moving over from Comcast Business Services, where he held the same position. There was no mention in the release of RUSS CHANDLER, Comcast-Spectacor’s former CFO who left the firm about a month ago, company officials said. “It’s not something I want to talk about,” Snider said when asked why Chandler left Comcast-Spectacor. Luukko said there was no connection between his resignation and Chandler’s exit, but others reading between the lines say bringing two execs from outside Comcast-Spectacor to head the firm raises questions over the timing of those two moves. “It’s so unusual because Ed would never appoint a finance guy from outside the Spectacor family to lead the company,” one source said. “Ed would have named someone from within to take over, whether it was (Global Spectrum COO) JOHN PAGE, (Comcast-Spectacor Vice Chair) FRED SHABEL or (Comcast-Spectacor Senior VP/Business Development) MICH SAUERS. This was clearly a corporate decision. Ed and Peter were like father and son. It didn’t reference the CFO leaving, which is not a good sign.” It also comes at an awkward time for Global Spectrum, considering the Vikings, breaking ground today on their new $975M stadium project, plan to issue a request for proposal next month to manage the facility. Global Spectrum, along with AEG and SMG, its two main competitors in that space, are expected to compete for running the multi-purpose venue targeted to open in '17. Luukko, who was also Global Spectrum Chair, would have been principally involved in pursuing the contract.

    FUTURE WIDE OPEN: Luukko considers himself an entrepreneur and said there are opportunities elsewhere to make his mark, including the music business. He has close ties with IRVING AZOFF, longtime manager of THE EAGLES, who has formed a joint venture with MSG that includes managing live music venues, such as the Forum in L.A. Some have mentioned AEG as a landing point for Luukko, who mentioned during the call that he loved living in L.A. during his tenure running the Coliseum. Considering Luukko’s passion for hockey and his two sons playing the sport, others say he would be a perfect candidate to take over as president of an NHL team in a struggling market. There could be opportunities with the Blue Jackets, Panthers or Coyotes, with whom Luukko played a key role in Global Spectrum signing a deal with the team's new owners to run Jobing.com arena, said Greensboro Coliseum Exec Dir MATT BROWN. “I think his real love would be to own a hockey team,” said Brown, who has known Luukko for 28 years.

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  • Executive Transactions

    Univ. of Missouri-K.C. interim AD CARLA WILSON has been named to position full-time, becoming the only D-I African-American female AD “who doesn’t work at a historically black college or university.” Wilson is one of 33 female ADs among 346 D-I programs (K.C. STAR, 12/3)….The PGA European Tour named Duke Street Capital Chair of the Operating Partners DAVID WILLIAMS BOD Chair, effective Jan. 1 (European Tour)….Consulting and exec search firm Sucherman Consulting Group named ERIK SORENSON CEO, replacing STUART SUCHERMAN, who will continue with the company as Chair (Sucherman Consulting Group)….The CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers named Hamilton Tiger-Cats Head U.S. Scout DANNY MCMANUS Assistant GM & Dir of U.S. Scouting and Toronto Argonauts Dir of Player Personnel TED GOVEIA Assistant GM & Dir of Player Personnel (Blue Bombers)….Fox-owned sales firm Home Team Sports named Telemundo Dir of Pricing & Planning/Local Stations DIANE LEE Dir of Business Analytics & Insights (HTS).

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

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  • Names In The News

    Pele will be featured during the telecast of the '14 FIFA World Cup draw

    The AP's Tales Azzoni reported PELE is scheduled to appear Friday at the draw for the '14 FIFA World Cup, but "his role is being kept secret." Organizers yesterday confirmed Pele "will be part of the broadcast to about 250 million viewers in more than 190 countries." FIFA Dir of TV Globo Luiz Gleiser said, "He will be the 'wow' moment of the show" (AP, 12/2).

    ON THE SLATE: VARIETY's Dave McNary reported the life of Pro Football HOFer VINCE LOMBARDI is "headed for the big screen," with Legendary Pictures tapping director J.C. CHANDOR "to write and possibly direct" the film. Legendary CEO and Steelers investor THOMAS TULL will produce the film alongside MARY PARENT, while TONY PONTURO and FRAN KIRMSER "will exec produce." Legendary has "acquired the movie rights via deals with the Lombardi estate and producers of the Broadway play 'LOMBARDI,' based on the DAVID MARANNIS book 'WHEN PRIDE STILL MATTERED'" (VARIETY.com, 12/2).

    ON THE BLOCK: SCP Auctions is auctioning online one of late U.S. Olympian JESSE OWENS' gold medals from the '36 Berlin Games. The medal "comes from the estate" of the widow of BILL "BOJANGLES" ROBINSON, who received the medal from Owens. The Robinson family declined to comment on the sale. SCP Auctions Partner DAN IMLER said that the family plans to "use the proceeds to pay college tuition and contribute to charity." The auction closes on Saturday (AP, 12/2).

    NAMES: CINDY CURLEY, BILL GUERIN, PETER KARMANOS, JR., RON MASON and DOUG WEIGHT were formally enshrined in the U.S. Hockey HOF yesterday (USA Hockey). USA Today hockey writer KEVIN ALLEN also was honored at the ceremony with the Lester Patrick Award "recognizing outstanding service to U.S. hockey" (FREEP.com, 12/2)....Former Blues Owner BILL LAURIE and his wife, NANCY, are donating $10M to the Univ. of Memphis athletic department, the "largest contribution ever given to the department, and the second largest ever given to the school." Bill Laurie was a starting guard on the men's basketball team that played in the '73 NCAA National Championship game (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/2)....MLB Giants 3B coach TIM FLANNERY is "continuing his help for injured Giants fan BRYAN STOW by giving all the proceeds" from his new album, "OUTSIDE LANDS," to Stow's "continued recovery from a brutal beating" in '11 (SFGATE.com, 12/2)....The IRS yesterday said that MICHAEL STERN, who orchestrated a scam that "defrauded" Chargers LB DWIGHT FREENEY out of $3M from '10-11, was sentenced in October "to five years in prison and ordered to pay" nearly $2.6M in restitution to Freeney (UTSANDIEGO.com, 12/2)....Two suspects “are in custody and two more on the run in connection with the robbery” of Heat G ROGER MASON JR. and his sister at a Biscayne Boulevard restaurant (MIAMI HERALD, 12/3)....The Legacy Agency has signed Blue Jays LF MELKY CABRERA for representation. Agents PETER GREENBERG, ED GREENBERG and CHRIS LEIBLE will represent Cabrera, who was formerly represented by ACES (Liz Mullen, Staff Writer)....Former NFLer JOE ANDRUZZI and his wife JEN “joined a few other familiar faces Monday to raise money for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation’s financial assistance program for cancer patients and their families." Former NFLer SCOTT ZOLAK “emceed the event at the Putnam Club at Gillette Stadium, and the guest list included several other” former Patriots players (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3)....Former 76ers President PAT CROCE’s home in the Main Line neighborhood of Philadelphia “just hit the market” for $7.5M (PHILLY.com, 12/2).

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