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MLSE President & CEO TIM LEIWEKE today announced that he will leave the organization on June 30, 2015, or until a successor is appointed. Leiweke plans to pursue his goal of owning and operating his own business following his departure. MLSE has begun its search for a new CEO and will continue to operate with its current executive management structure (MLSE). In Toronto, Mark Zwolinksi notes Leiweke "flatly denied reports he was leaving the past two days," a position he "reaffirmed" yesterday during an event at the Air Canada Centre. However, he has maintained he “wouldn’t be staying on forever” at MLSE. Leiweke joined the organization in April '13 and is reportedly "under contract for five years" (THESTAR.com, 8/21).
LOSS FOR MLS: Leiweke this morning wrote in an e-mail that he is "not interested" in running Chivas USA, which is in the process of being sold, and added that he "doesn't plan on doing anything for a while." SI.com's Grant Wahl writes if Leiweke "is on his way out" of MLS, that is a "huge blow to the league." No single person "has signed more big names for MLS teams over the years than Leiweke." He "just gets things done ... and his vision for what MLS can be has been a driving force for the league's growth" (SI.com, 8/21). NBCSPORTS.com's Joe Prince-Wright writes Leiweke’s "strong links with the soccer world has helped turn Toronto FC into one of the most talked about franchises in MLS," as the club has acquired MF MICHAEL BRADLEY and F JERMAIN DEFOE over the past six months. But losing Leiweke will be a "big blow" for the club. Under Leiweke's watch, MLSE "pumped plenty of money into TFC and now only time will tell if the new man in charge is set to do the same" (NBCSPORTS.com, 8/21).
NASCAR today announced that it has elevated the responsibilities of STEVE PHELPS and STEVE O'DONNELL with both assuming leadership roles in NASCAR's Charlotte-region offices effective immediately. Phelps, who will maintain his title of Exec VP & CMO, now will lead the company's operations at NASCAR Plaza in Uptown Charlotte. He will continue to report to NASCAR COO BRENT DEWAR and retains all current responsibilities. He also will assume oversight of licensing, as well as entertainment marketing to bolster integration between the L.A.-based division and the other marketing and content disciplines operating primarily out of Charlotte. O'Donnell, who has been named Exec VP & Chief Racing Development Officer, assumes leadership of NASCAR's Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C. He maintains oversight of racing operations, industry services, green innovation, touring/weekly series and membership services in addition to his new responsibilities. Phelps and O'Donnell had been based in NASCAR's Daytona Beach HQs. Also, NASCAR VP/Innovation & Racing Development GENE STEFANYSHYN and VP/Competition ROBIN PEMBERTON have been promoted to Senior VP, reporting to O'Donnell. NASCAR Dir of Racing Operations TOM SWINDELL also has been assigned to Concord, where he will work closely with O'Donnell on short- and long-term development projects (NASCAR).
JAMIE DAVIS has resigned as President of Business Management & Development for online retailer Fanatics. His responsibilities now will be handled by both CMO CHRIS ORTON, who was hired in June, and Exec VP/Business Affairs GARY GERTZOG, who was hired from the NFL last September. Davis' move comes after the company hired several execs -- including CEO DOUG MACK, who was brought on board in April -- and has made several high-profile hires like Orton and Chief Technology Officer MATT MADRIGAL, who was hired this month. Davis, the former head of Versus, said he has tired of commuting and is looking for work in the Northeast. For the past two years, he has commuted every week from his Philadelphia home to Fanatics' HQ in Jacksonville (John Ourand, Staff Writer). RECODE.net's Jason Del Rey noted Fanatics also hired Amazon veteran LONNIE PHILLIPS as VP/Operations "to help oversee the company’s fulfillment centers." With the moves, Fanatics President of Technology KEVIN BATES "will slide over into a general manager role on the business side of the company while current COO BRENT TRAGER has decided to leave the company." The new hires come as Mack "sets out to build brand awareness and technology prowess at Fanatics, which was profitable" in '13 on revenue of around $1B, but which is "still far from a household name." Mack believes that the company "has plenty of room for improvement, from how it uses data to attract new customers, market its own properties and promote its partners’ online shops, to how efficiently its warehouses operate during peak seasons." As such, Fanatics plans to "dramatically expand its technology staff, most notably in its small" S.F. office. The company also plans to "invest aggressively in marketing" (RECODE.net, 8/20).
The Blues named Jaguars Consultant JEFF AJLUNI Group VP/Corporate Partnerships & Community Development and NHL Kings Senior Director of Ticket Sales & Service JOSH BENDER Group VP/Ticketing & Guest Experience. The Blues also promoted PHIL SIDDLE to Group VP & CFO and JAY ROBERTS to Group VP/Building Operations & Booking (Blues).
FLYING THE COOP: Stats co-COO STEVE BYRD has left the company after 17 years. Byrd is the second senior exec to leave the Chicago-based sports data and analytics company in the last week, following Senior VP/Sports Solutions BRIAN KOPP. The departures continue a period of marked transition for the company following its sale earlier this year to S.F.-based private equity firm Vista Equity Partners. Byrd has not yet determined his next career move, but wrote in an e-mail to business associates it will be in the sports industry. "It was an incredible run at Stats and I'm very proud of what we built there," Byrd wrote (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
EXECS: ESPN promoted VP/College Networks Production STEPHANIE DRULEY to Senior VP/College Networks Production, overseeing the SEC Network and the Longhorn Network (ESPN)....The Sabres "have shifted KEVIN DEVINE's role" to Dir of Player Personnel, after most recently serving as Assistant GM (AP, 8/20)....The Citadel named former Univ. of Colorado Senior Associate AD/External Operations JIM SENTER AD (DENVERPOST.com, 8/20)....Iona College promoted Academics Coordinator CHRIS MERCE to Assistant AD/Academic Services (Iona)....The Univ. of Waterloo named Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Associate Dir/Alumni Relations ROLY WEBSTER AD (Waterloo).
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Three high school football teams from the Ferguson-Florissant School District in Ferguson, Mo., "were able to practice in the Rams' indoor facility and also watch the Rams practice outside in the VIP section of bleachers at Rams Park" yesterday after the Rams invited the teams. Rams coach JEFF FISHER said of the outreach in light of the ongoing unrest in Ferguson surrounding the death of teenager MIKE BROWN, "We wanted to do something" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/21).CHARITY STRIPE: About 300 guests attended last night's Bill Belichick Foundation HOF Huddle at the Boston Harbor Hotel. The foundation "presented two sports grants to Metro Lacrosse and Fields of Growth, and Warrior and Nike also donated gear to both programs." About $200,000 was raised for the foundation through the event (BOSTON HERALD, 8/21)....MLB Exec VP/Baseball Operations JOE TORRE and MLB Commissioner-elect ROB MANFRED yesterday "joined the 'ALS Ice Bucket Challenge' ... outside MLB's Park Avenue offices, raising $16,700 for ALS research as the two men and 165 MLB employees dumped buckets of ice cold water over their heads" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/21)....Golfer RICKIE FOWLER participated in the ice bucket challenge with seven members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team (THE DAILY).
ON THE DOCKET: ESPN's LINDA COHN in July "quietly filed" a Manhattan federal-court negligence lawsuit against the operators of Brewster Ice Arena in Brewster, New York, after a "bunch of rowdy kids pushed a heavy coin machine on top of her before an event there -- leaving her with a gash" on her right arm that took 25 stitches to close. She "blames the Brewster arena's management for not preventing it" (N.Y. POST, 8/21).
AWARDS & HONORS: The Sports Broadcasting HOF on Dec. 16 will induct CBS Sports Exec VP/Engineering, Operations & Production KEN AAGAARD, NFL Exec VP/Media STEVE BORNSTEIN, NBC Olympics Sound Design & Communication Dir BOB DIXON, Fox Sports Media Group CEO DAVID HILL, F&F Productions Founder, President & CEO GEORGE ORGERA, late ABC sportscaster CHRIS SCHENKEL and former NBA Commissioner DAVID STERN during a ceremony at the N.Y. Hilton Hotel (Sports Broadcasting HOF).
NAMES: NASCAR driver JIMMIE JOHNSON and members of his Hendrick Motorsports pit crew yesterday “surprised” the Charlotte Independence High School football team as part of the Gatorade “Beat the Heat” campaign (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/21)….U.S. Gold medal-winning swimmer MICHAEL PHELPS' coach BOB BOWMAN will be the keynote speaker for the ’14 USA Triathlon Art & Science of Triathlon Int’l Coaching Symposium at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas (USA Triathlon)….Members of congress, congressional staff and lobbyists will “square off on the court in a Sept. 8 charity event designed to benefit at-risk youth in DC.” The event will be held at the Smith Center at George Washington Univ. (POLITICO.com, 8/20).