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It seems that every big sports property has a Harvard lawyer in a position of prominence.
At the NFL, it's executive vice president and chief legal counsel Jeff Pash (Harvard Law class of '80). The NBA has deputy commissioner Russ Granik (Harvard Law '73). Sandy Alderson (Harvard Law '76) has been a member of MLB's kitchen cabinet as the league's executive vice president of baseball operations since 1998, and the NHL boasts a Harvard barrister who played pro hockey, Brian Burke (class of '81), the league's former senior vice president/director of hockey operations, who's now president and GM of the Vancouver Canucks.
At Nike, it's Adam Helfant, vice president of U.S. sports marketing. He's yet another Harvard-educated barrister, but also the only executive we know operating at the top levels of the sports industry who's an MIT engineer. Now, sports marketing ain't rocket science, so what gives?
"I will admit it wasn't quite a linear path," from an applied material science and engineering degree at MIT to heading U.S. sports marketing at what is arguably the world's top sports brand, Helfant said.
When he went off to college, Helfant didn't think he was going to be a lawyer. He ended up at a New York law firm after his Harvard stint, got recruited to the NHL after four years and joined Nike's legal department in the mid-1990s.
Having distinguished himself as one of the sharper legal minds in Beaverton, Ore., at a time when Nike was experiencing unprecedented growth, he was elevated to vice president of U.S. sports marketing earlier this year.
While Helfant holds one of the most powerful jobs in sports marketing, getting him to talk about himself is nearly impossible. Helfant has told some close friends that while MIT undergrad studies really were intellectually challenging, the work load at Harvard Law was the tough part. So, when you ask sports executives who worked with Helfant to describe him, their recollections all start with the same word: smart.
"He is as thorough and as attentive to detail as any person I have worked with in this industry," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business, who most recently worked with Helfant on MLB's new apparel licensing deal. "When you negotiate for Nike, you don't have to trump anybody. It's all about getting value, and he does that well."
Perhaps it is Helfant's aversion to the spotlight that allows him to succeed in a job that is subject to intense scrutiny, both inside and outside Nike.
"Adam's style is completely the opposite of the constant one-upmanship you see in this industry," said NHL group vice president of consumer products marketing Brian Jennings, who worked with Helfant at the league and after Helfant left in crafting Nike's NHL licensing deals. "He lets everyone else talk a lot, then he just goes out and cuts a better deal."
This year, those deals included some of the biggest in sports: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony — oh, and Kobe Bryant, both coming in and going out.
Helfant is reluctant to discuss any of these deals in detail, the combination of which Nike chairman Phil Knight termed "the perfect storm of sports marketing." He will only admit that "it made for an interesting summer."
Helfant gets accolades from competitors, co-workers and business partners for an unwavering ability to focus, a knack for quickly grasping the essentials in even the most unfamiliar scenarios, valuing the input of co-workers when preparing a new deal, along with a negotiating style that's also atypical.
"There's no hard edge to Adam," said Steve Solomon, an independent sports consultant, who was the NHL's COO when Helfant worked there. "He listens and doesn't feel the need to be tough just because he is negotiating. That sets him apart from most people in the business right there."
With the exception of being allowed to take a sabbatical to pursue one of her dream jobs of becoming a Broadway star or a professional photographer, Bea Perez sees herself as a "lifer" at the Coca-Cola Co.Bea Perez
Coca-Cola North America
Shes a people person and she approaches things with a sense of humility. She doesnt come in with the arrogance of her position and she doesnt come in in a threatening way. Shes able to get people to work together, and if she feels that were not gaining traction or not moving something, shell stop the process and shell make sure that everybody understands the end game, the end goal. Bottom line: Shes great. Shes awesome. Dick Sullivan, executive vice president
of marketing, Atlanta Falcons
When you say Bea, I think style. Shes got the most incredible style in this sport. Its never about the deal when you talk to Bea. Its never about the rights fees or the deal points. We always end every conversation, every negotiation, with her saying, Brett, is this good for NASCAR? If its good for NASCAR, its good for Coke. Its the most amazing thing. We dont discuss money on the front end. If its good for NASCAR and good for Coke, well find a way to make it work [financially]. Shes the consummate professional. Everyone loves her. Brett Yormark, vice president of corporate marketing, NASCAR Shes moved through the Coke organization because of her talent and ability. From a client side she understands the brand, understands the business and is very focused on delivering against the objectives. Shes very fair but also very demanding not in a pejorative sense but in a good sense. Chris Weil, chairman and CEO, Momentum Worldwide
In the meantime, Perez wants to continue to leave her mark working for one of the top brands in the country.
"I think it's really important to create legacies," Perez said. "I really feel that a sign of true leadership is when you move onto a new role and you leave something behind, that [that something] stays just as successful or becomes more successful because of the foundation you created."
In under 10 years, Perez has jumped from working on Coke's Hispanic Initiatives, to motorsports marketing, and now to overseeing all of the company's North American sports properties.
She has left her mark on programs such as Coca-Cola Football Town USA, an interactive fan festival designed to further connect fans to football and Coke products, and the Coca-Cola Racing Family, an integrated program that features some of NASCAR's most popular drivers and has grown every year since its inception in February 1998. The Coca-Cola Racing Family, in fact, is one of the company's longest-standing marketing platforms for sports.
Earlier this year, Perez began her next legacy-in-the-making when she spearheaded the company's deal with LeBron James and its Sprite and Powerade brands, in what was one of the first times the company has used an athlete in a multiple-brand platform.
"Bea, because of her knowledge of the intricacies of brand strategies and the way we go to market and her understanding of LeBron and the wealth of things he had to offer, was again able to structure a deal that made so much sense," said Katie Bayne, senior vice president for integrated marketing at Coke. "It's a business enhancement and enlargement deal versus a swap of money for a set of associations."
According to those she works with, Perez's success lies with her ability to create programs that make sense for all sides.
"She wants to build our brand as much as she does her own, and that's unique," said Brett Yormark, vice president of corporate marketing for NASCAR. "She starts off a negotiation with that. 'How can I help you build your brand?' It's a refreshing approach, and I think she gets more as a result of it. You really get that true sense of partnership."
In fact, Perez has such a good grasp on the business that earlier this year she was put in charge of a new and secretive initiative dubbed Access.
Access programs will be new marketing platforms that find ways to use the strengths and assets of the company in programs that ultimately benefit the consumers and give them one-of-a-kind access, via Coke brands, Perez said.
"It's about how you bring more value to the consumer and create more value for partners and wire it all together to give the consumer more," she said.
The fact that Perez has intuitively grasped the concept of Access "in every deal she approaches" was why she was tapped to oversee that effort, Bayne said.
Pilot programs for Access are under way in undisclosed locations and are expected to be unveiled sometime next year.
More than likely those Access programs will be more to add to Perez's legacy at Coke.
"What I really hope is that as I leave my mark, on the Coca-Cola Racing Family and eventually on the LeBron program, that everyone looks back and says, 'Wow, that's an incredible success,'" Perez said. "I don't really care if they remember that Bea Perez was involved. I really care that they remember that Sprite and LeBron and Powerade had a connection, that the Coca-Cola Racing Family existed because it was able to bring something unique to consumers.
"That to me is what I look forward to, continuing to find those areas where I can add value based on the experiences I've had in the company."
As general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, Billy King has mastered the basketball operations side of running an NBA franchise. Now, King will have to do the same on the business end of the Sixers organization after adding team president to his title.
King, 37, was promoted this year to Sixers president and general manager as part of a front-office shakeup by Ed Snider, chief executive of Comcast, which owns the franchise. Since taking over his new job, King hasn't wasted a minute putting his own blueprint on the franchise.
His first move was to hire the unproven Randy Ayers to replace Larry Brown, who resigned as head coach. King then signed Allen Iverson to a $76 million extension and traded for forward Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. While King spent the summer bolstering the Sixers' roster, he also was taking a crash course on the sales and marketing responsibilities of his new job.
"I'm focusing more on the business side," King said. "But being the general manager has prepared me to be in the spotlight, only now there are more decisions that I have to make."
King's ascension to the top spot in the Sixers organization began when he joined the team as vice president of basketball operations in 1997 after working as an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers under then-coach Larry Brown. When Brown joined the Sixers in 1997, he brought King with him, and in 1998 King was promoted to general manager. It didn't take long for King to learn not only talent evaluation but also the finer points of the salary cap and other intricacies of the collective-bargaining agreement.
"Billy is a quick study," said Donnie Walsh, president of the Indiana Pacers and an early mentor for King. "One of the things we would talk about is whether Billy would go into coaching or administration, and I told him he could do both. He's a very even-keel guy and has always been mature for his age. You can be an up-and-down guy if you are a coach, but not when you are running a business."
On the business side, the Sixers are in good shape. Last year, the Sixers had the second-highest average paid attendance at 19,419, trailing only the Detroit Pistons, who had an average attendance of 20,470. It's up to King to maintain the team's strong fan base while building a contender on the court.
"We have to get our players out into the community more than they were last year," he said. "The focus is on customer service and finding new ways to reach our fans."
To accomplish both jobs, King is learning to lean heavily on his front office, allowing his employees to take on more responsibility. The former Duke basketball standout is also trying to make the Sixers' front office a more enjoyable place to work.
"My approach is more laid back," King said. "I am trying to create more of a family atmosphere. I'm trying to break down the walls between the basketball and business operations to make sure those on the business side feel as important as those on the basketball side. At the end of the day, we all have 76ers on our chest, so you have to delegate. No one can do it all."
Running the Sixers comes with a high profile, but don't look for King to shun the spotlight. He doesn't mind the public nature of his job. In fact, it may prove to be good training for a political career that may be in King's future.
King, who grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and holds a political science degree from Duke, has been approached by members of the Democratic Party to run for the U.S. Senate against Arlen Specter.
"I was approached by some of the leaders of the Democratic community and I looked at it," he said. " I felt the timing wasn't right, but I'm not ruling it out. I'm intrigued by politics."
His industry peers are torn: Is MasterCard's Bob Cramer to be envied? Or pitied?Bob Cramer
“The key to Bob’s success is that he has never been impressed by the business [of sports]. His singular focus has been the brand. … He is not wowed by meeting an athlete, or by a ticket to a game. He’s never been a jock sniffer. Bob doesn’t care how many tickets you have, or whatever. He’s not impressed. … He has a good sense of having no wasted assets in a sponsorship agreement.”— Woody Thompson, senior vice president,
consulting division, Octagon
“It’s his sports marketing background, but also his keen intellect. Look at how they’ve lined up these NFL teams. Bob saw an opportunity to build MasterCard’s business and brand through … alignment with these teams in key cities and key banking markets. He acted on it much quicker than his competitor did. … When he comes to the point [of decision], Bob doesn’t sit around.”— John Tatum, partner/co-founder,
Genesco Sports Enterprises
That's the good, and also the unsettling, news. Cramer now has to figure out how to keep the encores coming. But he is less worried about personal legacies than the constant drumbeat of demand to generate tangible outcomes through sponsorship. The stakes are considerable. For one, MasterCard's acclaimed 2002 "Memorable Moments" promotion with Major League Baseball was a $75 million investment.
It's enough to make even a thirtysomething perpetually leery.
"I keep harping on the value proposition," said Cramer, whose growing roster of relationships includes MasterCard's long-term deals with FIFA, Major League Baseball, the NHL, the Alamo Bowl and Universal Studios, among others. "We do a lot of great things for the leagues, and we have for quite a while. And I believe we've got to get credit for that. We are always getting more pressure to demonstrate return-on-investment, and so we'll ask the leagues for more, too."
To juggle it all, those who've worked around Cramer say he brings Type-A intensity to the table veiled in a congenial, even-keeled personality.
"He's got the Opie Taylor look," said Sam Kennedy, vice president of sales and corporate partnerships with the Boston Red Sox. "But he definitely knows what he's doing."
Except for occasional attention lapses owed to being a closet Cincinnati Reds fan, the former Ohio State soccer player immerses himself in perpetual analysis. If sponsorship is a metaphoric rubber band, Cramer wants to know how far, and wide, he can stretch it before needing to ratchet up his investment. For example, he intends to talk to people behind some of the properties MasterCard sponsors about holding upfront rights fees steady but adding "bonus" payments on the back end. He believes league or other partners should have incentives to work as hard as he and his colleagues inside the company's Purchase, N.Y., headquarters.
"You are seeing it come to a head in this day and age of property owners [leagues and events] under the gun to drive more revenues, and sponsors more challenged to make sure the same dollar is working hard enough for them," Cramer said.
He pressed for more identity campaigns in 17 major league markets, including Boston, New York, St. Louis and San Diego, and signed star endorsers to give the American game of baseball global reach for his brand. MasterCard signed deals with power hitter Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs to reach the Caribbean/Latin American fan base; and Chin-Feng Chen (Taiwan), a rising talent in the Los Angeles Dodgers' farm system, and Byung-Hyun Kim (South Korea) of the Red Sox, to touch baseball's extensive following across Asia.
When he went day-to-day on NHL-specific strategies, Cramer adapted the brand to a "Bring the Cup Home" Stanley Cup promotion coordinated on a rushed time frame last season to target the four playoff semifinalist cities.
"Fortunately, we are in a position to go into a national [sponsorship] and drive it locally," Cramer said. "I see some things changing, and we are forcing some of the change."
In Boston, Cramer challenged the status quo when MasterCard expanded its "preferred card" signage presence, in place since 1998, into the sizzling secondary ticket market through which season-ticket holders can sell back their tickets to selected games throughout the season. "He doesn't close a deal and then go away until it's renewal time," Kennedy said.
MasterCard's NHL deal, renewed for five years in 2002, was re-energized when Cramer pushed to narrow its focus and involve another brand — Sears and its retail power — and the NHL's charity, Hockey Fights Cancer.
"Bob came in and quickly re-inserted himself into the relationship," said Andrew Judelson, NHL group vice president of corporate marketing, who first encountered Cramer during the 1994 FIFA World Cup when both had agency clients sponsoring soccer.
Using "Priceless" as part of a consumer promotion was a departure for MasterCard, Judelson said, but an effective means of driving fans to Sears and its inventory of NHL apparel. Fans paying with the card were entered into a sweepstakes toward a chance to spend part of a day "with the Stanley Cup."
"Our ability to roll this out with Sears was a testament to Bob being involved," Judelson said. "He always took into account the league's needs, Sears' needs and, ultimately, MasterCard probably got more out of it, too."
Cramer finally squeezed in a family vacation this year, perhaps just in time. MasterCard management has asked him to work on the brand's fledgling marketing alliance with Universal Studios, and he is tackling what he calls a "work in progress" to keep signing more NFL teams poised to do MasterCard preferred programs in a "decentralizing" category within pro football. MasterCard has new deals with 10 NFL teams already.
Pushing MLB to find creative ways to nurture younger fans is also a Cramer priority, and he is young enough himself to know that this is a major challenge for baseball.
"If kids aren't growing up watching, playing and consuming baseball, that is a problem," he said. "If fan bases deteriorate, we [sponsors] go away."
Steve Woodward is a writer in Illinois.
Last December, Brett Yormark, NASCAR's vice president of corporate marketing, got a call from his boss. It was a quick discussion of a few opportunities, as bosses invariably describe tough assignments, which would soon become Yormark's focus.
The biggest was a doozy: Searching for a new corporate name to put on the stock car league's top tier, known for three decades as the Winston Cup.
Yormark's boss, NASCAR chief operating officer George Pyne, described the plight of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., as well as the company's desire to leave its five-year sponsor agreement as soon as a new corporate backer could be enlisted.
No problem, right? RJR was only spending an estimated $50 million to $60 million a year at a time when every form of sports sponsorship was being slowed or halted by a sliding economy and uncertainty over a potential war in Iraq. Yormark's task was made even more difficult by the charge to win a higher annual investment from the new corporate partnership.
With typical bravado, Yormark went to work. As head of NASCAR's 40-person corporate marketing offices in New York, Yormark sets the tone — and brutal pace — for the sport's relentless growth. The new task, arriving at the same time a new gasoline sponsor was being sought, put Yormark's discipline to the test.
Staffers divvied up corporate categories and sifted trade publications, sports-advertising spending and industry analysis to get a better grip on prospective targets.
All along, Pyne and Yormark preached the mantra of finding companies capable, and willing, to invest in a marketing tie-in viewed as what they called "a game-changer." That is, a marketing relationship capable of putting an ascending company in front of a mainstream audience.
"We ultimately got it done," Yormark said, several months after the late-June announcement that cellular phone firm Nextel Communications had agreed to a 10-year, $750 million deal transforming the Winston Cup Series into the Nextel Cup starting next year. "It was challenging. I certainly spent a lot of nights awake, thinking, 'How the hell are we going to get this done?'"
Less than eight weeks later, Yormark and NASCAR put the lid on a deal with Sunoco to become the sport's official gasoline supplier. That deal, also for 10 years, is worth a combined $8 million to $10 million a year in barter and cash and includes all three main NASCAR circuits.
The deals are the latest in a long line of accomplishments for Yormark. He came to NASCAR five years ago from the New Jersey Nets. Since then, armed with stock car racing's zooming popularity, growing TV audience and enviable fan loyalty, Yormark has helped push the sport into bigger and broader corporate sponsorship deals.
Nextel, he said, was an atypical deal in size and scope, but typical in methodology. The corporate sales staff in New York used Yormark's strategy of comprehensive analysis and aggressive courting.
"They were very responsive to making it happen and to getting us everything we needed," said Michael Robichaud, Nextel senior director of sports and entertainment marketing. "Not just on the sales side, but in competition, licensing, promotion — all the facets of their business."
In fact, the entire courtship of Nextel took a mere 15 weeks from start to finish. At the same time, Yormark met and negotiated with a number of other prospects for the deal. "The last thing I wanted to do was go through 80 days or whatever and come away empty-handed," he said. "I couldn't have lived with that."
Yormark is not given to disappointment. His main hobby is work. He rises at 4 a.m. most days, getting ready in a specially built dressing room at his house separate from the master bedroom so he won't wake his wife. After catching the 4:50 bus, Yormark is at his desk by 5:30 a.m. He heads home, most nights, at 8:20 p.m.
That pace, per Pyne's orders, will have to be lessened. Yormark is willing to cut back a bit and focus more on long-term strategy, but he harbors few regrets.
"I don't want this pace for the rest of my life," he said. "At the same time, though, we started with three people in 1998. We had to build a business, and I think we're building a pretty good one."
Which leaves one tantalizing question: What's next? "I'm not sure," Yormark said, "but it will be exciting."
Erik Spanberg writes for The Business Journal in Charlotte.
In his 14 years with HOK Sport, Bruce Miller has been primarily responsible for the architecture firm becoming an industry leader in designing minor league and spring training baseball facilities.
One of his first projects involved renovating Scottsdale (Ariz.) Stadium, Cactus League home of the San Francisco Giants. HoHoKam Park in Mesa (Chicago Cubs) and Tempe Diablo Stadium (Anaheim Angels) followed. Then he started specializing in minor league ballparks.
Four years ago, the 39-year-old Miller took leadership of the firm's Minor League Baseball Group. The last two years he has helped secure 16 new minor league facility contracts totaling $85 million in construction costs. Two of those venues opened in 2003: Isotopes Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, Fla.
Earl Santee, HOK senior principal, said, "Bruce has found a niche in the minor league market and has been a godsend to the firm. When he first started, we were doing one minor league or spring training project a year. Ultimately, we're averaging at least five to six a year now.
"Bruce is really good with clients because he is focused on the market. He is extremely motivated about his work and has seen every issue there is to be seen. The last five to six years, we've made money and our clients are happy. All those factors weigh in on our success, and Bruce has played a big role."
Miller said his passion for sports and physical fitness ultimately led him on the path to becoming a sports architect. He competed in football and track at Marysville (Ohio) High School. He was a linebacker and offensive guard, ran the 400-meter dash and threw the discus.
"I continued my participation in sports with intramurals in college," he said. "I always ran and took up biking, so I started doing biathlons."
Miller competed in about a half-dozen biathlons, a combination of running and biking, in addition to entering bike races.
"That was before [having] children," he said with a laugh. "I have always wanted to do a triathlon, but I swim like a stone. I have worked up to 20 laps. I have actually swam the required distance in a pool but rested between laps. It's not like swimming in a lake."
Miller started his professional career early, combining secondary education with on-the-job training through a co-op program at the University of Cincinnati. He lived and worked in London as part of an international exchange.
"The first two years I went to school," he said. "After the second year, I alternated quarters with work, six months in school, six months at work. Back then, it was a six-year program at Cincinnati."
His senior thesis was titled "A Triathlon Training Center." The topic was "how to capture motion and spirit of the event through architecture. It was a design project followed by a big critique," Miller explained.
After completing internships in Baltimore and Panama City, Fla., he interned at HOK in 1987-88. Miller can indirectly thank his wife, Kerry, for that good fortune. "She got a degree in psychology from Cincinnati and then went to the University of Kansas for a degree in graphic design," he said.
Miller, self-employed at the time, decided to get a job in Kansas City, 30 minutes from the KU campus in Lawrence. "At that point, HOK Sport as a whole had only 45 people. I have seen the whole evolution of the firm. There are now about 220 people in Kansas City, 75 in London and 40 in Brisbane, Australia."
He considers it a blessing to blend outside interests with his occupation. "I'm still a big sports fan and really love what I'm doing. It's a melding of personal passions and professional aspirations."
Miller said he is proud that his work goes beyond the realm of organized sports. "It's become a way of revitalizing downtown areas of cities," he said. "A catalyst-type project can go a long way toward re-invigorating a downtown environment."
People who know Casey Wasserman say he doesn't act his age. xxxxxx "Casey is a young guy of about 28 going on 65," said Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker. "I have never met a guy with a better network. ... He carries the connections of someone who has been in the business for a while."
Baker said that since Wasserman bought the Los Angeles Avengers in 1998, he has gained the trust of other AFL team owners, who include Jerry Jones, Pat Bowlen and Jerry Colangelo, to the point that he has been elected vice chairman of the league and is slated to be elevated to chairman next year. Wasserman took a lead role in negotiating the AFL's current labor and television contracts, Baker said.
Ken Schanzer, president of NBC Sports, who negotiated the network's deal to broadcast AFL games with Wasserman as one of the league's two top negotiators, said, "He's got a maturity and an approach that is well beyond his years."
Schanzer remembers sitting directly across the table from Wasserman while negotiating the AFL deal last year. "I would look him in the eye and he in mine," Schanzer said. "I was impressed that someone as young as Casey was as knowledgeable and professional and competent as he was."
While many men grow up with their father as their primary role model, Casey Wasserman's grandfather, Lew Wasserman, was his. "For all practical purposes, my grandfather raised me," Wasserman said.
Lew Wasserman was widely remembered as the last of the old-time movie moguls when he died last year at the age of 89. Wasserman was chairman and CEO of MCA, agent to such stars as Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis and Ronald Reagan, and confidant to world leaders such as Lyndon B. Johnson.
Casey Wasserman had breakfast with his grandfather every Saturday and Sunday "my whole life," he said. He traveled the world with his grandfather and sat in on business meetings. "He exposed me to his world, and it was the greatest education you could get."
Wasserman got a different view of sports than most boys get growing up. His family went to Super Bowls with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and to Wimbledon with IMG founder Mark McCormack.
Wasserman, in fact, met one of his mentors in the sports business, NFL executive vice president Roger Goodell, during those Super Bowl trips, as Goodell was then part of Rozelle's staff.
Wasserman's other mentor in the sports business is Anschutz Entertainment Group President and CEO Tim Leiweke, and they met in the late 1990s, shortly after Leiweke moved to Los Angeles to build Staples Center. "I met Tim at a political fund-raiser at my grandfather's house for President Clinton," Wasserman said.
Leiweke and Wasserman joined last year in an effort to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles in a new stadium to be built privately in downtown Los Angeles, but shelved the plans when a number of political obstacles cropped up.
Leiweke said when and if the NFL returns to Los Angeles, he expects Wasserman to be involved in some way. "Anyone doing football here without Casey would be making a mistake," he said.
Now, however, Wasserman has been concentrating on building his Wasserman Media Group, which this year acquired sports marketing and naming-rights company Envision and action sports marketing and representation firm The Familie.
Wasserman is reluctant to provide details on his plans for Wasserman Media Group, but he says he wants to build a company that represents athletes in sports that affect lifestyles.
"Action sports, in the broadest sense, is a lifestyle," Wasserman said. "Basketball, golf and tennis are much more lifestyle sports than baseball and hockey."
Wasserman said that with companies being sold and experiencing financial difficulties, there are a lot of opportunities now to acquire companies and build an agency. "A lot of what was done in the 1990s will be undone in the next five years," he said.
Wasserman said he does not aspire to build a company as large as IMG. But, he said, "Clearly, IMG is the model company" of what he is striving to do.
Meanwhile, Wasserman's mentor Leiweke predicts, "In the next five to 10 years, Casey's company will be one of the leading sports property and sports representation companies."
The only thing Chris Weil wants to do more than be chairman and CEO of Momentum Worldwide is to demonstrate his sailing acumen.
The voyages Weil took during a year off after college included a 2,800-mile boat delivery from Hawaii to Alaska. His first jobs in sports were in and around sailing. Someday, he said, he'd like to run an America's Cup syndicate.
For now, however, he's happy charting the course of one of the largest sponsorship/marketing/activation agencies. IPG's Momentum seems to be one of those exceptions that proves the rule. While the many roll-ups of the late '90s are struggling, Momentum has grown from 57 people to around 1,500, with $1 billion in billings and $150 million in revenue, during the past six years.
At a time when the squeeze on marketing budgets has cut into every agency's performance, Momentum is standing tall and has four of the biggest and most demanding brands in the world as its core clients: American Express (U.S. Open, NBA, Tiger Woods), Anheuser-Busch (varied retail activation), Coke (NASCAR, NCAA) and General Motors (Buick's many golf tourneys and Tiger Woods).
For years, ad agencies had the upper hand when it came to creative ideas. Now that clients the size and scope of Coke have come to the conclusion that ideas should take precedence over an agency's reputation, Momentum has been in a good position to prosper.
Madison Avenue has been talking about the value of full-service shops for years. Momentum is one of very few shops that could negotiate talent deals and plan retail activation for Coke, along with producing some spots for its "Football Town" thematic.
For a man who works with some of the biggest sports properties in the world, Weil is much more intrigued by music. The agency has done huge concerts linking clients such as AOL with the Dave Matthews Band in Central Park, or Sting with the recent launch of an American Express product in Chicago's Grant Park.
"Sports is very expensive and crowded, and it is really hard to recommend it right now," Weil said. "There's a lot more room for creativity with music."
Momentum's clients have such strong in-house marketing and sports marketing expertise, its ideas better be good. His advice for dealing with clients of that size and scope?
"It's a balancing act," said Weil, who was brought in to run Momentum's New York office in 1997, left on a mission to unite the company's 28 European offices in 2000 and returned as chairman early this year. "You have to listen and at the same time not be afraid to pitch new ideas that activate brands that are often independent of any particular medium."
Accordingly, Momentum has 192 "creatives" in North America. Sponsorship marketing, event marketing, promotional marketing and retail marketing are Momentum's core services. Still, there are two things that really make Weil happy.
One is seeing an idea grow from an inspiration to a sponsorship and a full-fledged retail program. The other is watching an agency crafted by more than 30 acquisitions work together.
So, yeah, the fact that Momentum will be the master licensee for next year's UEFA Cup in Portugal is nice, but for Weil, the really intriguing part is who's behind it.
"We've got an Israeli office and a German office working on a pan-European project," Weil said. "It doesn't get much better."
With 62 offices around the globe, that ever-elusive synergy is Weil's top priority. Those who know him say he's the right man for a task that every agency finds difficult to accomplish.
"He's a hands-on manager with an ability to take the pulse of a lot of cultures simultaneously," said Mark Dowley, the former chairman of Interpublic Sports & Entertainment Group, who hired Weil to run Momentum's New York office. "Chris has a good touch with people; they want to follow him and succeed with him — that's what makes a good leader."
Dan Beckerman recalls a day back in early August when he was one of a handful of top Anschutz Entertainment Group executives who were walking the grounds at the company's new Home Depot Center, the $140 million, 85-acre sports complex in Carson, Calif. Taking place simultaneously at the complex that afternoon were a Los Angeles Galaxy soccer match, a San Diego Chargers summer training camp practice and the WTA Tour's JP Morgan Chase tennis tournament.
The scene was an affirmation of the Home Depot Center's raison d'être. "Accommodating a wide array of major sporting events — this was exactly what we had in mind," said Beckerman, AEG's executive vice president and chief financial officer.
The 34-year-old Beckerman, who manages a staff of nearly 40 people, was in charge of creating the financial blueprint for the Home Depot Center, which opened in June.
The complex, 100 percent owned by AEG, includes a 27,000-seat stadium for the Galaxy, an 8,000-seat tennis facility and a track and field stadium. In its short existence, the Home Depot Center has been the site of some major sporting events, including the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup final. It is the training center for the U.S. Soccer Federation's men's and women's national teams, and this month will be home to the 2003 MLS Cup. According to Beckerman, the sports complex will generate more than $20 million in revenue next year.
Including the Home Depot Center, Beckerman has played a key role in the investment of nearly $1 billion since August 1997 that has helped build AEG into a major player in the sports industry. Among its sports holdings are the Staples Center, the HealthSouth Training Center in nearby El Segundo, the Los Angeles Kings, five MLS franchises (the Galaxy, D.C. United, Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars), two minor league hockey franchises in the Kings' organization, and various European properties, including several hockey teams and one soccer franchise.
"I play a role in the growth and acquisition side of the business," Beckerman said. "I work very closely with the other members of our executive committee, working on the team that guides the future of the company." That team is led by AEG President Tim Leiweke.
Said Beckerman, "It's safe to assume based on the holdings we have at the Home Depot Center that we're actively involved in [seeking] soccer, tennis, cycling and track and field [events]."
Beckerman is an instrumental player in AEG's efforts to build soccer-specific stadiums for the MetroStars and D.C. United. His primary involvement is developing the economic models for those planned projects.
Overall, Beckerman's responsibilities include fiscal planning and overseeing the day-to-day financial operations for AEG and its holdings. "I'm a pretty hands-on manager," he said. "I get involved in a lot of the details in the day-to-day operations for our various businesses."
Overseas, AEG has two major development projects in the planning stages, one in London and one in Berlin. The London project, which entails creating an entire entertainment district, would include a 20,000-seat arena that could play host to sports events — though its primary offerings would be concerts. A hockey team that AEG owns, the Berlin Eisbaren, would be the anchor tenant of the arena in Berlin. Beckerman would not disclose the amount of money that AEG would be investing in the projects, but industry sources estimated that it would be at least $500 million.
"I also look for ways to raise capital for our development projects," said Beckerman, who joined AEG in August 1997 as chief financial officer for the Kings. In fact, he had a lead role in efforts to secure the $315 million asset-backed private placement that led to the creation of the Staples Center.
Beckerman also played an integral role in negotiating several major Staples Center lease deals, including ones with such anchor tenants as the NBA Los Angeles Clippers, the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks and the Arena Football League Los Angeles Avengers.
In discussions over what fueled the tremendous growth in the sports business over the last decade, the answers one usually hears are lucrative sponsorships and TV contracts. True enough.
But if sports leagues and teams did not have access to debt on good terms to finance stadiums, acquisitions and even to fund payrolls, the gains in these other areas of the sports business would have been muted.
Given Wall Street's historic bias against sports, Dan Champeau's role in helping to propel the business into the 21st century is particularly magnified.
While obscure to many in the world of sports, Champeau and his employer, Fitch Ratings, have been indispensable in rating sports loans and bonds. The lenders, who put up the bucks to teams and leagues, frequently want to ensure that they are making good decisions, so they turn to rating agencies to grade the credits.
Because the other two main rating agencies, Moody's and S&P, have largely begged off sports, much of the sports landscape could be different today had Fitch and Champeau not focused in a positive way on the sector.
"Without Champeau's work getting Fitch's group started," a lot of the finance progress in the business may have been impeded, said Sal Galatioto, head of Lehman Bros.' sports practice. "He really was one of the first ones to get up the learning curve. He has probably looked at as many if not more sports financings than anyone."
Many of the debt investors that lend the dollars to finance sports projects are Fitch clients. So, for Fitch to give the debt a thumbs up has been a huge development in sports' quest to borrow money at low rates.
"There has always been some negative bias against sports as a business," Champeau said. "It was a lot more prevalent in the early days. ... A lot of it has been eliminated."
Those early days started in 1995 when Champeau, newly arrived at Fitch, began rating stadium debt sold to build such facilities as Joe Robbie Stadium and the Fleet Center. He convinced his managers to let him focus more on the burgeoning area.
The big breakthrough came in 2001, when Fitch rated the NFL loan pool, or credit facility, "A+", a grade many top corporations would love to snare. That has allowed the NFL to borrow billions of dollars for its teams at low rates.
Still, the Wall Street bias that sports is not a sound business is not entirely stamped out. Champeau recently had to visit the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a self-regulatory agency that graded two NFL loans subpar, to argue the financial merits of football.
Building the heretofore nonexistent business of grading sports debt was not easy for Champeau. While creating the practice, he moved to San Francisco from New York to help open Fitch's office in that city, and then, five years later, moved back to the Big Apple. All the while he was getting his M.B.A. at night. It would take him eight years and two colleges on two coasts before he picked up his diploma.
Perseverance is not new for Champeau. Born into a large family, he was a top baseball player in high school. But in order to pay the bills, Champeau had to give up any hope of playing college ball.
"With six [other] siblings, everybody is on their own," he explained of funding school. He worked his way through the University of Maryland waiting tables at the Mexican restaurant chain Torito's. In the summer he interned at a bond insurance company.
Today, Champeau is far removed from that earlier struggle. He sits comfortably in his office with its dazzling view of New York harbor. His wife is due to give birth later this month to their first child. The eager, expectant father has been reading the children's book "One Hungry Monster" to his unborn child.
As for his other baby, Champeau expects the business of rating sports bonds and loans to continue to grow strong and thrive and win the complete respect on Wall Street it deserves.
The president of the Minnesota Twins is about to point to the obvious — the world championship that the Twins won in 1991— as the greatest achievement in a career that has taken him to heights he never envisioned.
Then Dave St. Peter catches himself.
"You'd think that's what it would be, but, you know, maybe it's not," said St. Peter, who joined the Twins out of college as manager of one of the team's retail stores. "I think even more rewarding would be our front office going to hell and back, from talks of contraction in November 2001 to defeating Oakland in the postseason last year.
"I don't know if people understand how special that was to our organization. That was probably the most remarkable time in my Twins career."
That off-season after the 2001 campaign threatened to tear the Twins organization to shreds. In a move that some had predicted, but few truly expected, MLB owners voted to contract two teams, one of which was presumed to be the Twins.
After the news of the vote was reported, St. Peter, former COO Kevin Catoor and general manager Terry Ryan led meetings with Twins employees, hoping to steady their nerves by allowing them to ask questions and vent their frustrations.
Most were bewildered. Many felt betrayed.
To maintain stability, the organization announced that if the franchise were shut down, it would pay employees who had stayed to the end a bonus of three months' salary on top of any severance package offered by MLB. It also went into crisis-control mode with its sponsors, sending letters to update them on the status of the franchise.
SBJ200311105401-01.gifThe Twins not only navigated that uncertainty without taking on water, but moved forward on all fronts. St. Peter said the franchise didn't lose any employees as a result of the contraction threat and sponsorship revenue increased. On the field, the Twins won their division for the first time since 1991 and beat the Oakland A's in the Division Series before losing to the Anaheim Angels in the League Championship Series.
"I don't know if people understand how special that was to our organization," St. Peter said. "To see the look on people's faces when we accomplished what we did after all that we'd been through, that's something that I'll never forget and will always treasure."
St. Peter says he never aspired to rise to president of the Twins, or even to make it to senior management with the club. His goal while studying at the University of North Dakota was to become a college sports information director, a gig that still sounds appealing to him.
An internship with the Minnesota North Stars brought St. Peter to the Twin Cities. That led to a job managing one of the Twins' retail stores. When the opportunity arose to put his public relations degree to work as the Twins' manager of communications, a job that meshed marketing with PR, St. Peter jumped at it.
His rise from there was steady. St. Peter was senior vice president of communications three years ago when then-president Jerry Bell tapped him to move beyond the PR realm and into the job as senior vice president of business affairs, a role in which he would be charged with maximizing revenue. He held that office until last November, when he succeeded Bell, who became president of the Twins' parent company.
St. Peter's communications background is rare among team presidents. He said he believes it has served him well.
"We operate in a fish bowl," he said. "I think that my public relations background comes in handy every day, and virtually every hour of every day. Every decision that we make, certainly we make them based on dollars and cents, but at the same time we have to understand that there's a reaction for all of our actions. I think it's beneficial for me to have my eye on how the public is going to react.
"I'm here because I was enamored with the idea of getting up in the morning and going to work every day around something that I love. I never take a day of it for granted. The thought of working in pro sports — for a day or a week, let alone 14 years — is still something that I'm in awe of."
David Baxter is too young to remember much about the 1960s, but as president of Reebok's sports licensed division, he can certainly appreciate that era. Especially since his company is making millions off the white-hot, retro fashion trend in sports apparel.
Consider that Reebok's net income increased 19 percent in the company's third quarter to $63 million, due in part to the company's licensed merchandise deals with the NBA and the NFL. The company's basketball business grew 22 percent, while its total U.S. apparel sales increased by 37 percent as the retro fashion craze drove sales. The company did not disclose its NFL sales figures.
Baxter implemented much of the strategy that has boosted sales. He joined Reebok in March 2001 when the Canton, Mass.-based industry giant acquired Logo Athletic, which had filed for bankruptcy protection in 2000. Baxter was president of Logo.
Reebok had signed long-term licensed merchandise deals with the NFL and NBA, giving Baxter a direct hand in shaping the company's sports merchandise market.
This year Baxter helped Reebok sign another deal with the NBA, a five-year exclusive agreement to develop and market licensed sports apparel in Asia. In addition, Reebok has signed an apparel and shoe deal with Yao Ming, giving the company another opportunity to tap into the potentially profitable China market.
Add the deals up and they make for a far more profitable business for Reebok than in the late 1990s, when the apparel market was slumping. Now Reebok sees the NBA and NFL as business partners as it works with each league to design, develop and more effectively market the business in order to retain the recent sales volumes.
"The relationships with the leagues has changed dramatically than with the earlier models," Baxter said. "Today we work very closely with the leagues, teams and retailers. It's a partnership that will drive the business and continue to bring new initiatives to the market."
The sporting goods business has been a way of life for Baxter far beyond his career with Reebok. The 37-year-old Baxter grew up in the Chicago area, where his father was chief financial officer of Wilson Sporting Goods. Baxter began his own career in the sporting goods industry working for Hibbett Sporting Goods while he was in college.
A talented three-sport athlete in high school, Baxter attended the University of South Alabama majoring in marketing and finance. He was a miler on the track team and trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1985.
The combination of business experience and practical knowledge has helped Baxter develop Reebok's marketing strategies to leverage their league deals.
"When we purchased Logo, he had to put a team together and strategize how to go to market, and he was a key person in putting that together," said Jay Margolis, Reebok chief operating officer and Baxter's boss. "David had to have an open and creative mind to find new ways to do that, and after two years, he has done a good job of rolling the business forward. He is challenging, opinionated and smart."
In 2004, the stakes get higher for Reebok when the company becomes the exclusive apparel licensee for all NBA teams as the league's agreement with Nike ends.
So far, business has been strong for Reebok, but it will be up to Baxter to continue to capitalize on the double-digit growth.
"We've invested a lot of money and resources to improve our long-term growth," Baxter said. "Retailers have bought into the validity of our program compared to the past when everyone was going through the motions."
When his stepfather bought a failing Major League Baseball franchise and tapped him to run it, David Samson had his first job in sports.
Nothing on his résumé guaranteed, or even hinted, that he was prepared for it. Samson had been through law school, funded a company that provided same-day-delivery of The New York Times in Europe and worked for a Wall Street investment bank.
But the closest thing he had to previous work experience in sports was a recurring stint as an honorary assistant to legendary New York Knicks coach Red Holzman during charity games, a perk he landed because said stepfather, Jeffrey Loria, was a well-connected fan.
Now, Loria was coming to him with an offer to run the business operations of the Montreal Expos, a franchise that was bleeding money, with little chance of getting public funding for the stadium that would solve its ills.
Intrigued by an opportunity to turn his passion for sports into a career, Samson jumped at the offer.
"I wasn't sure how it would go in Montreal, but I was excited by the challenge," said Samson, who got his feet wet working on the investment banking side of Loria's purchase of the Expos. "I knew that there would be pressure on me to perform, because, even though we are family, this is not a family business.
"There's too much at stake for this to be a family business. Too much money. I had an employment contract identical to that of the other senior executives. I wasn't sure how Jeffrey would view my performance, or how long he'd keep me around, but I wanted to see what I could do."
As it turned out, not enough. Samson and Loria were unable to land funding for a new ballpark. An already ailing franchise landed on the critical list.
But an interesting thing happened on the way to financial flat line. John Henry, then the owner of the Florida Marlins, decided to buy the Boston Red Sox. That meant an opportunity for Loria to buy the Marlins, a franchise that, while also imperiled, was not facing nearly as dire a situation as Montreal. And if that could happen, it meant that MLB could set into motion the unprecedented contraction of the Expos.
It was Samson who was at the center of the complex, three-way transaction that got Loria out from under the Expos and into the owner's suite in Miami.
On his best day, Nostradamus couldn't have predicted what was to follow.
Less than two years later, the Marlins shocked the sporting world, putting up the best record in baseball for the latter three quarters of the season, then beating the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs to set the stage for an upset of the New York Yankees in the World Series. Along the way, the Marlins increased regular-season attendance by 62 percent, expanded their sponsor roster from 25 to more than 80 and turned formerly sedate Pro Player Stadium into a madhouse that regularly drew more than 65,000 during the postseason.
Next up: a push to turn the franchise's sudden popularity into funding for a new ballpark that would secure the franchise's financial future.
"It's been enormously satisfying to have the success that we've had after a very difficult first year down here," Samson said. "My greatest day in sports will be the day when Jeffrey is on the podium announcing that the Florida Marlins franchise has been permanently saved. That's what I work toward every day. Everything else is just part of trying to get there."
Samson believes that his background outside of sports paved the way for him to succeed in sports.
"I'm a much better executive than I would have been if I started right after law school," Samson said. "I sowed my oats working on Wall Street and starting a business. I use that experience every day running the Marlins. I'm sure I've made some mistakes, like anyone, but I think the experiences that I had before I got into baseball have served me well."
It was the summer of 1998, and David Sternberg and a colleague had just finished a meeting in downtown Buenos Aires. They walked through the streets of an eerily deserted downtown. Then, in a flash, people started streaming out of every door, jumping on cars and rejoicing. Argentina had just beaten arch-rival England in overtime in the World Cup.
Sternberg found himself smack in the middle of a borderline riot, and boy did he stand out from the crowd.
"We certainly looked like a couple of gringos," Sternberg said. "I wouldn't say we feared for our lives, but it was a long walk back to the hotel."
Looks aside, Sternberg can hold his own in Latin America, or, for that matter, the Middle East, or right here in the sometimes equally chaotic U.S. of A. Fluent in Spanish and a student of the culture, business dynamics and economies of the many countries in which Fox Sports has a presence, Sternberg brings both a global and hometown perspective to Fox's vast international business.
As senior vice president of emerging networks at Fox Sports, Sternberg directly oversees the international Fox Sports business that reaches more than 120 million homes around the world, as well as Fox Sports World, Fox Sports En Español and the new action sports channel Fuel in the United States.
Fox Sports En Español and Fox Sports World are both profitable, as is Fox Sports in the Middle East.
Latin America has been a challenge, because of the economic free fall of the region and competition from an overzealous, overspending Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst venture PSN that eventually merged with Fox Sports.
But Sternberg thinks Latin America will be profitable for Fox within the next two years.
"We've come a long way since we launched in Latin America," he said. It started in 1998 with a single feed from Los Angeles, mostly showing American sports such as the NFL. "Very quickly we realized no one cared and acquired a lot of local rights and broke off different feeds in different countries."
What helped Sternberg get a better handle on the region was his command of the language.
"If you have language skills and understand the different cultures you're working with, you're going to come up with much more successful product than if you're just trying to superimpose things from the outside," he said.
Although he fits the mold of an American corporate executive in that he is sharp, articulate and driven, Sternberg also has a personable demeanor that goes a long way in any country, and especially south of the border when speaking the same language as the local cable operators.
"Latin American business is very relationship-based," he said. "If you can connect with someone on that level [by speaking Spanish], it opens up a whole new level of comfort."
When doing business in the United States, Sternberg wins allies by earning trust.
"David's a very straightforward kind of a guy," said Paul Archey, senior vice president of MLB International, which has several deals with Fox Sports. "The best part of doing business with him is that you always know where he's coming from."
Sternberg grew up around Latino culture because his grandmother was Mexican-American. He studied several languages as an undergraduate at Princeton, studying comparative literature, which involved reading texts in several languages.
Fox Sports En Español now reaches about 2.6 million Spanish-language homes and averages a respectable 0.5 Nielsen prime-time rating within that universe. For events like the Latin American soccer tournament the Copa Libertadores or the MLB World Series, ratings can hit a 5.0 or more.
Sternberg also oversees Fox Sports World, which is the primary U.S. television outlet for British Premier League soccer, which has a following in the United States.
And he's been handed the reins for Fuel, a start-up action sports channel that launched in June. For that, Sternberg has tried to learn a whole new language, one with words like "groms" and "keel flips."
"It's a lot harder than Spanish," he said with a laugh. "I make no pretense of understanding it. It makes me feel older than I am."
Everybody needs a big break to become a big deal. Doug Perlman's break came when nobody thought the project the new 26-year-old lawyer had been assigned to was much of a big deal at all.
In 1995, Perlman was lured to join the NHL's in-house legal team from Proskauer Rose, the same law firm in which Gary Bettman and David Stern cut their teeth. A few months later, the NHL began discussions with IBM about a joint venture to form an nhl.com Web site. To hear Perlman tell it, he was only involved in the deal because the synergies between pro sports and the new media sector were in their infancy.
"Otherwise they never would have let me work on it," he said. "But because nobody did realize how significant it was going to be, I was able to work on that, which was a great opportunity for me."
Through that project Perlman came into contact with senior management in the NHL, and from that point forward his star was on the rise. After immersing himself in a number of television and Web deals and moving rapidly through a variety of management positions, Perlman was named NHL senior vice president, television and media ventures early in 2001, at the ripe old age of 32.
While Perlman is also a major player in the league's national television contracts — he wouldn't comment on the status of talks to renew ABC/ESPN's deal, set to expire after this season — he spends most of his time figuring out ways for the NHL to capitalize on the digital world and developing technologies.
The balance sheet speaks to how important Perlman's sector has become for the NHL's bottom line. The league's digital business has grown by 450 percent over the past four years. Five years ago it made up 8 percent of the NHL's non-broadcast revenue. In the year just completed, the figure was 36 percent.
"These digital businesses — and by that I mean digital television and online and all the different things we're doing with wireless — have been incredibly strong businesses for us, and we think will continue to be," Perlman said.
He is bullish for a number of reasons, all of them revolving around the fact that the NHL's fan base, while not as widespread as the other major pro sports in the United States, anyway, is incredibly passionate. Because of that, anything that gives fans more control over when and how they can consume NHL hockey is bound to be a success in Perlman's eyes. The NHL fan is also more affluent and tech savvy than other sports; the league has the highest percentage of fans who own a computer and have broadband Internet access, for example. When you also consider the U.S. hockey fan has traditionally been under-served by conventional media, new technologies are a logical winner.
But at least some of the NHL's digital success is no doubt due to Perlman's vision and integrity, which have colleagues and business partners alike singing his praises.
"He's a wonderfully talented young man, very, very bright, great sense of business, terrific personal style," said Steve Solomon, the former NHL chief operating officer who served as Perlman's early mentor. "He's a true young superstar."
"When you work with him," said Philip Garvin, chief operating officer of HDNet, a high-definition network expected to broadcast some 300 NHL games this season, "you feel like there's a personal rapport, and I bet you everybody feels that way. It's business, but it's business with a personal touch. Although he's very tough, you never think he's going to take advantage of you."
Perlman says the NHL's deal with HDNet already has brought new fans to the league. He has heard from people who bought a high-definition set, stumbled across NHL games and became enthralled with the game. High definition gives a huge benefit to the NHL, he says, because the clarity of the picture and the aspect ratio allow viewers to see the play develop in a way conventional television can't match.
Where Perlman is involved, clarity seems to come with the package.
Mark Brender is a writer in Ontario.
After helping Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder in a debt restructuring billed as the largest in the domestic sports market last year, all Elliott McCabe could do for an encore was help Snyder sell one-fifth of the NFL franchise while pushing its value over the billion-dollar mark.
McCabe, managing director of the sports finance and advisory group at Banc of America Securities LLC, has become a blue-chip banker in NFL circles. In addition to handling Snyder's financial strategy, McCabe leads the way on Banc of America's leaguewide, $1.6 billion stadium fund.
The Redskins, though, took center stage this year. McCabe and Snyder worked together on a deal that brought Federal Express Corp. founder Fred Smith, insurance mogul Robert Rothman and real estate executive Dwight Schar in as franchise partners. The three men paid a combined $225 million to join Snyder, who remains the principal owner.
The deal closed in August, winning unanimous approval from the NFL's financing committee. The Redskins and FedEx Field, the team's stadium, were valued at up to $1.5 billion by Banc of America as part of the minority-share sale.
McCabe's role involved valuation of the franchise as well as targeting and negotiating with prospective investors, structuring the financial terms, ensuring the deal met league policies and would win approval, and advising Snyder and the Redskins on the overall debt refinancing.
Paired with last year's Redskins recapitalization, McCabe has worked with Snyder on two blockbuster deals in a row. Contrary to public perception, McCabe says, the Redskins' young owner is an ideal client.
The partnership has been valuable for both men. Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999 for $800 million. At the time, the Redskins, despite enormous popularity, didn't rank among the league's top revenue producers. Now the franchise is a cash cow, generating more than $200 million a year.
At the same time, McCabe has worked with Snyder constantly to improve the team's debt structure and develop creative ways to improve Washington's portfolio.
"Elliott is among the best in the business," Snyder said. "He is a diligent, professional investment banker with extremely good communication and analytical skills."
The strong partnership with Snyder stems from mutual trust. McCabe says sports work is no different than any other form of investment banking: Build solid relationships, be creative and success will follow.
"I've spent a lot of time over the years educating myself about our sector," he said. "That means I can be proactive; I can take deals to people. We're not just reacting."
A former walk-on football player at North Carolina State, McCabe started his career at Wachovia Bank before moving to BofA predecessor NCNB Corp. Two years after his arrival, McCabe joined Jim Nash as a founder in a fledgling division dedicated to sports finance. Nash and McCabe have worked together ever since.
Starting with early clients such as the then-expansion Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McCabe helped build a soaring franchise in the sports-finance world. The focus has expanded beyond simple loans for buying teams and building stadiums.
Now the practice provides consulting services, franchise valuation and often helps put buyers and sellers together for various teams. The sports group structures debt through syndicated loans, asset-backed loans, private equity and more.
During the past 18 months, McCabe's group has arranged more than $4 billion worth of capital for a variety of projects.
McCabe points to the NFL stadium fund as evidence of how sports-finance work has evolved. It has been funded, of late, through long-term private placement totaling $635 million over the past two-plus years.
"That's one of the things I'm most proud of," McCabe said. "It shows that we have been pioneers helping this industry grow. That's a very good feeling."
Erik Spanberg writes for The Business Journal in Charlotte.
Ethan Orlinsky was working in the London office of a U.S. law firm when he heard that a position had come open in the legal department at Major League Baseball.
A rabid baseball fan since childhood, he quickly crafted a cover letter and then phoned to see if he might land an interview. Told that the position had been filled, Orlinsky explained that he would be in New York the following week and would like to drop by to meet with MLB's general counsel, Tom Ostertag, in the hope that it might help him when another opportunity arose.
Ostertag's secretary told him that her boss didn't have time to spend with applicants for phantom jobs. But she knew of need for a lawyer at Major League Baseball Properties and asked Orlinsky if he might be interested in that.
Orlinsky hadn't a clue what a Major League Baseball property was at the time, but he knew it was baseball, so he sent a résumé. Seven weeks later, he had an offer.
"For those who know me well, it was a no-brainer," said Orlinsky, an avowed seamhead who wrote his way into Stanford with an essay on Roberto Clemente. "My only real concern was about my avocation becoming my career. I feared that my passion for baseball would be negatively affected by working in baseball.
"Clearly, that has not been the case."
Orlinsky says he had no idea what to expect from a career in baseball. His job at MLB Properties, a division that since has been rolled into a consolidated MLB, was his first experience with trademarks and copyrights, the area of law in which he would spend most of his time. His background was in mergers and acquisitions and securities offerings.
"I was highly unqualified for my career choice at the time," Orlinsky said. "As I've said to others who have interviewed here, if I were interviewing me for my position, I would not have hired me. I knew little about intellectual property law. I had worked on some contracts and very few litigation matters at Simpson Thacher.
"All that I brought was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and willingness to do whatever it took to get the job done."
Orlinsky's work habits — 14-hour days and seven-day weeks by his own admission, but considerably longer according to his boss and his peers — got the attention of others at MLB. He was named vice president and general counsel, business affairs at MLB in 1997 and played a key role in shepherding the league through the complex process of launching MLB Advanced Media, a free-standing Internet start-up. He was promoted to senior vice president last year.
"Ethan is involved in almost everything that we touch," said Bob DuPuy, president of MLB. "His role has grown into much more of a business counseling and club advisory role, as opposed to just the legal piece of it. He's the bridge between so many people. Ethan is invaluable."
In his current role, Orlinsky serves as the point person and liaison on the agency agreements that govern the use of all MLB trademarks and images and other intellectual property. That includes working with teams on their own local trademark issues as they arise, as well as working on complex internal negotiations between teams, the league and MLBAM.
"When you consider what my experience was before I arrived here, the learning curve was quite steep," Orlinsky said. "The sign of a good lawyer is somebody who is a quick study and who applies all of their efforts to try to learn the subject matter as quickly as possible. Litigators in an asbestos suit may not know anything about asbestos before they become involved in the case.
2003 HALL OF FAMERSBob
Pyne2002 HALL OF FAMERSWayne
Ueberroth2001 HALL OF FAMERSBrian
"He'll be loyal to NASCAR. He'll be loyal to Brian France. You can talk all you want about attributes, and he's got great attributes, but that's what you look for in the end: that the guy comes in to work every day wearing the same color jersey as you."— Fred Wagenhals, CEO, Action Performance Cos. "He's been a great lieutenant to the France family. He's been able to help shape their leadership and give really good insight to where the business world is headed and to make some of those key things, like moving from cable to network and bringing in Nextel, happen."— Bea Perez, vice president of sports marketing and access, Coca-Cola North America "If I was an owner of a franchise or commissioner of a league and I had to have one guy who can make a difference, one guy who can change everything, it would be George Pyne, more than anybody I've met. And I've been around a lot of people." —Brett Yormark, vice president of corporate marketing, NASCAR
Since taking over as chief operating officer last year, Pyne has been involved in decisions involving aerodynamics and tire science.
"If you look back at what I've done, I've never really been qualified to do any of it," Pyne said, tracing back through a career path that included stops in his family's real estate business and with a group that studied Atlanta's public schools. "What I tell people is that I know how to ask questions and I'm good at details. I may not be an expert in any area, but I know how to study things and I know how to plan and how to execute. Those are the skills I've relied on the whole way."
Pyne's chameleon-like ability to deftly cross disciplines and succeed in areas that are new to him strikes many who have worked with him.
When he headed licensing, he reined in a fragmented NASCAR merchandise business, pushing it grudgingly toward the models used by the other major sports properties.
As vice president of marketing, he put an emphasis on developing a better understanding of the NASCAR fan base and identifying the attributes of NASCAR as a brand.
As chief operating officer, with a seat on the family-owned company's board of directors, he has put his stamp across NASCAR's management structure, requiring that department heads submit business plans that identify tangible objectives, rather than simply budgets that identify expenses and projected revenue.
"In the sports business, and in all businesses, really, you find a lot of people who do one thing well," said Brett Yormark, NASCAR's vice president of corporate marketing. "George has the ability to do it all well. And it amazes me."
Pyne traces his versatility back to his job at the Portman Cos., a major real estate developer that had its fingers in a wide array of businesses.
Pyne's first job at Portman was in strategic planning, analyzing businesses and writing plans, most of them about industries in which he had no background. He also worked on the company's debt restructuring, which involved 42 lenders and at the time was the second-largest debt restructure in the world.
Pyne points to that restructuring and a time of crisis in his family's real estate business as two experiences that shaped him as an executive.
"I think I've always had the ability to think things through," he said. "When I worked for my father and we were faced with significant business challenges, I learned at a very young age how to prioritize and distill what was important and figure out how to solve problems. When you're challenged in the midst of real estate depression and you're overleveraged, you learn a lot of lessons about things that never change.
"You learn to look at a situation, understand the fundamentals and focus on what needs to be done."
That's how NASCAR approached the negotiation of its title sponsorship this year. A landmark, $750 million deal with Nextel came together after extensive scouting and study. Yormark said that was emblematic of Pyne's dedication to detail and planning.
"We role-play a lot," Yormark said. "If there's three different perspectives on something, we might role-play on all three. We'll go as far as we can with each scenario, and ultimately that helps us come up with the right solution."
In his current role, Pyne hopes to have a greater impact on all segments of NASCAR, even though he has less opportunity to touch any one. In a 30-day span that began midway through October, Pyne was scheduled to lead 52 hours of planning meetings with various departments.
"The great part about what I do is that the subjects are so wide ranging," he said. "One minute you can be talking about downforce and aerodynamics and the next minute you can be talking about a broadcasting issue, a marketing issue or a legal issue.
"You have to deal with people that range from Johnson City, Tenn., to Madison Avenue. That's a pretty wide spectrum of people. To me, that's almost an invigorating thing. You have to change up your game. You can't just throw fastballs. And you always have to be ready to adjust."
Howard Nuchow's family and friends thought he was crazy when he decided in 1997 to leave his position as director of business development for the New Jersey Nets to get involved in minor league baseball.
They envisioned him running shoestring operations in one-stoplight towns, selling ads by day, scooping popcorn during games and helping clean the ballpark afterward. It hardly seemed like the right career move for a 27-year-old who was quickly climbing the NBA corporate ladder.
After his first day on the job, Nuchow feared they were right. He collapsed in his $29-a-night hotel room and pondered the $8,000 in damage to his car incurred when he failed to notice a speed bump while driving backroads near Lake Elsinore, Calif.
That's been about the only bump in the road Nuchow has encountered during a six-year stint building Mandalay Sports Entertainment into a major player in minor league baseball. These days he oversees a five-team empire that's quickly earned a reputation for bringing big-league sponsorship, financing and stadium development to the minors.
As executive vice president of business operations, Nuchow manages 750 full- and part-time employees. Mandalay's franchises in Frisco, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, play in sparkling new ballparks and though the company doesn't release financials, it claims the clubs are the highest-revenue-generating teams in Class AA and Class A history, respectively.
"Our philosophy has always been that we're going to run these clubs like major league operations," said Nuchow, 33. "People tended to think of the minors as mom-and-pop operations. But there's no reason why you can't bring those same marketing philosophies to the minors."
Nuchow has benefited from two prominent mentors. As an intern with the Nets in 1991, part of his job entailed driving then-club president Jon Spoelstra to and from the airport. Not long after Peter Guber, the former head of Sony Pictures Entertainment, formed Mandalay Sports Entertainment with three partners in 1996, Nuchow was the first employee hired, initially working in a spare office on a studio lot.
Nuchow, as family and friends predicted, did wear many hats at first, selling tickets at Lake Elsinore and pitching in where needed during games. "I had to establish myself as someone willing to roll up my sleeves," he said. "Gradually, we rallied people around this grand vision we had."
The company bought a Class A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds in 1998 and moved it to a new downtown ballpark in Dayton, Ohio, in 2000. The park, a public/private venture, cost $23.5 million to build. Nuchow negotiated a naming-rights deal with First Third Bank worth about $6.5 million over 20 years, with a 10-year option that could bring the total value to more than $10 million.
In April the Frisco Roughriders, jointly held by Mandalay and Tom Hicks, whose Southwest Sports Group owns the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, opened a $28 million, privately funded ballpark that looked far more big than bush league.
Instead of building two tiers of billboards as many minor league operations do, Nuchow took a cue from the NBA and NHL and installed an LED (light-emitting diode) display in the outfield walls. Between innings, the boards allow advertisers to use animation on a pair of 7-foot-high video screens. One stretches 170 feet long, the other 70 feet.
Each advertiser gets the entire wall for a segment of the game, rather than a segment of the wall for the entire game, a strategy pioneered by Mandalay's Dayton Dragons.
Nuchow, who received an equity position in Mandalay in 2000, helped the company secure $40 million in financing for future team purchases. Mandalay bought the Class AA Erie (Pa.) SeaWolves in March and the Class A Hagerstown (Md.) Suns in June to add to a portfolio that also includes the Class AAA Las Vegas 51s.
Once thought crazy for leaving the NBA to work in minor league baseball, Nuchow has lured a dozen executives from Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL teams to work for Mandalay. He even hired Spoelstra, his former boss.
"The traditional career path was always from the minors to the majors," Nuchow said. "That's no longer necessarily the case, and I like to think I've had a hand in that."
Pete Williams is a writer in Florida.
Jacqueline Parkes wasn't ready to leave her job marketing Jim Henson's Muppets the first time she was pitched a position at Major League Baseball.
That first job, a position in MLB's licensing department, just wasn't the right opportunity, Parkes said, especially since she was moving up in the Henson ranks.
Several months after the first MLB opportunity came and went, league officials approached her again to discuss a spot as a director in advertising and promotion. This time she accepted.
Parkes said it was a difficult decision to leave Henson. She loved the company and working in entertainment. Still, she couldn't be more pleased to work in baseball.
The sport has been a passion for Parkes since childhood. Her dad was the New York Mets' team doctor from 1973 to 1991, so she "spent many a day and night happily" attending games.
"My parents always told me, 'Whatever you do, make sure it's something you enjoy and it's something you'd be able to do well,'" Parkes said. "Baseball is my passion and it's so much a part of the social fabric of this country. To me the sport demonstrates the principles and values and ethics that I believe in, so I feel good about promoting it day in and day out."
Since she joined the league in 1995, Parkes has steadily risen in the league's ranks. She was promoted to senior director in 2000, then in 2002 was promoted to vice president of advertising and marketing.
"She has a ton of energy and she has the right balance between having a clear vision and being forceful, yet being open-minded and being able to get a group on board with that vision," said Bob Gamgort, former president of Major League Baseball Properties. "She's able to deliver great results because of that and that's propelled her to the position she's in now."
Gamgort, who left MLB to join Masterfoods USA where he's now president, pointed to Parkes' ability to pick up on opportunistic advertising and marketing, such as her work during the 1998 home run chase.
Parkes, now as MLB's senior vice president of advertising and marketing, oversees advertising, marketing, research and design services. She also works with other league department heads on sponsorships, community relations and special events.
This past year she had her hand in the development of efforts such as the "This Time It Counts" marketing campaign during the All-Star Game and the "Ultimate World Series Pass," a promotion designed to drive viewership of the World Series by giving fans a chance to watch and win World Series tickets for life.
Parkes also is a member of a staff that works in support of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century. The group, which comprises top baseball execs as well as top marketing and television execs, is charged with putting together a blueprint for the future of the game.
Although she's only been in her current role for a little more than a year, Parkes' work in enhancing the league's relationship with its agency and the subsequent work that's come out as a result of their combined efforts "has been nothing short of revolutionary," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president, business.
"[Parkes] is a terrific addition to our senior team," Brosnan said. "She's been very instrumental in bringing a strategy to the advertising and marketing of Major League Baseball that I think has been absent for many years. She is always looking to advance baseball's agenda and, perhaps more importantly, baseball's bottom line."
Playing a vital role in the successful start-up of a pro sports franchise is nothing new to Jamey Rootes, senior vice president and chief sales and marketing officer for the Houston Texans, who are currently in the middle of their second NFL season. Rootes, you see, was president and general manager of the MLS Columbus Crew when the team opened play in 1996.
But last fall, as the Texans began to craft their second-season business plan, Rootes vowed not to repeat a management technique he used in Columbus. Back then, he said, "I told my staff, 'Avoid the sophomore slump, avoid the sophomore slump.' That put a negative in everyone's mind."
With the Texans, he accentuated the positive. "We talked about how it went well [in year one] and how we were going to do it even better going forward," said the 37-year-old Rootes, who's responsible for all the club's revenue-generating and corporate-branding activities. The second-season mantra, written on the cover of the team's business plan: "Good to Great."
Emphasizing the positive appears to have worked. Said Rootes, who reports directly to Texans owner Bob McNair, "Even though that first season was as good as it was, in 2003 we are performing at a significantly higher level."
Local revenue is up significantly this season over last, Rootes said, declining to provide the numbers. Industry sources estimate the percentage growth could approach the low double-digit range.
Two areas that have helped drive that local revenue growth, both under Rootes' purview, are sponsorship sales and sales of luxury suites — providing several million additional dollars to the Texans' coffers this season, the industry sources said. The Texans added 19 luxury suites to Reliant Stadium in the off-season and sold them all. Additionally, six suites that had been sold on a game-by-game basis last season were sold on a long-term basis during the off-season.
Last June, when Texans exec Steve Patterson left to become president of the Portland Trail Blazers, Rootes assumed broader responsibilities with the team. He now heads a new entity called Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, the Texans' subsidiary responsible for bringing five non-Texans events to Reliant Stadium annually. This year, Lone Star kicked off efforts to attract big-time soccer events to the stadium, playing host to several major matches this past spring and summer — including a game between the U.S. men's national team and Mexico's national team.
Rootes would not disclose the financial results for this year's matches, but did say, "In total, they were very profitable." Those matches also were a vehicle for reaching out to the Hispanic community, which accounts for 37 percent of Houston's population.
The second Houston International Soccer Series is slated to take place next spring and summer, and Rootes is leading the effort to secure the matches.
He's also now the lead executive liaison with Texans business partners SMG (Reliant Stadium's building manager), Aramark (the stadium's concessionaire) and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In addition, he's on the board of directors for the Houston Super Bowl XXXVIII Host Committee, which is preparing for this season's Super Bowl at Reliant Stadium.
In its rookie year, the Texans franchise quickly became the epitome of a successful pro sports team launch, rising to near the top in NFL team franchise value and team-revenue rankings (around $200 million). According to J.D. Power & Associates, the Texans also provided the best fan experience in the NFL last season. "We made it an organizational priority to be the gold standard in customer service within pro sports," said Rootes, who's in charge of the club's customer service efforts.
During the off-season, he initiated a program called STEP (Success Through Excellent Planning), in which Texans execs teamed SMG and Aramark to work to further upgrade the team's game-day operations.
"We've got to continue to step up our performance and continue to identify new revenue opportunities," Rootes said. "It is so easy to slip into 'good is good enough.' It's amazing how energizing and galvanizing it is for an organization when expectations are high."
After two years as an accountant at Arthur Andersen, Jamie Pollard knew he wasn't cut out for a life of crunching numbers.
"I knew my passion wasn't there," Pollard said.
As a result, he left the company and decided to get into college athletics — either by first attending grad school for sports management or by finding a job as a coach for cross country, the sport he participated in while attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
But as luck would have it, Pollard, while perusing The NCAA News, saw there was an opening in Saint Louis University's athletic department for a business manager. He applied, got the job and found his passion.
Being in the right place at the right time is something Pollard believes helped him get to where he is now — running a $55 million, 23-sport athletic program as Wisconsin's deputy athletic director.
The timing of the Saint Louis job, for example, gave him the opportunity to work under and learn from Deborah Yow, who is considered one of the best athletic directors in the country.
"I wouldn't be here today at Wisconsin if Debbie didn't come in and take that [Saint Louis] job," he said of Yow's arrival at Saint Louis in 1990, one year after he started working there.
"You learn from her things you didn't even know you were learning when you were doing it. Quite frankly, I used to think, 'This is weird,' when I was doing some things. Years later, though, I get it. It was about work ethic, passion and not cutting corners."
Pollard later joined Yow at Maryland in 1994.
His success in helping Yow turn around Maryland's athletic department, which was in significant debt when they joined the department, eventually caught the eye of Wisconsin Athletic Director Pat Richter, who hired Pollard in 1998.
Originally hired as the department's CFO to help develop a long-term financial plan to keep the department in the black, Pollard kept piling on responsibilities as he demonstrated his ability to handle many and different tasks, said Richter, who will retire at the end of this school year.
Earlier this year, Wisconsin football coach and incoming AD Barry Alvarez put his administration in place and named Pollard deputy athletic director.
"When I was first approached by the chancellor to take this position, the only way I felt it was possible was if I had a very strong deputy, someone who I could trust, someone who has a very good pulse of what's going on and someone who's been effective in the past," Alvarez said. "There was only one guy that came to mind and that was Jamie."
Pollard, in addition to the department's finances, is now in charge of the day-to-day administration of the department, which employs a full-time staff of 250. He directly supervises other members of the department's senior management team, oversees fund raising for capital projects such as the $83.7 million renovation of Camp Randall Stadium, and attends Big Ten Conference meetings and other campus meetings with the various deans and the chancellor.
As deputy AD, Pollard will serve as acting AD when Alvarez isn't available.
"As I've told my other senior staff, if I'm tied up with football, Jamie is the acting AD," Alvarez said. "His decisions and his leadership is the same as mine if I'm not available."
In addition to his duties at Wisconsin, which take up most of his time, Pollard runs a side business called Collegiate Financial Services.
The company, in its fifth year, provides athletic departments and conferences customized financial reports and salary information that help programs benchmark themselves against others across the country. The information is gleaned each year from financial information filed by schools according to the government's Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act.
In addition Pollard, by assuring confidentiality to each reporting school, is able to gather more specific athletic department financial info such as revenue generated from football ticket sales, or the amount of state or institutional support received by a program.
John Galloway brings the kind of loyalty to Pepsi and the kind of focus on moving cases of soft drink that you'd expect from the son of an army general, whose two grandfathers were generals as well. He can't have a discussion about his job — from the philosophy to the nitty-gritty — without returning to the mantra of moving cases.
And it's clear that the people who man a soft-drink company — like distributors, sales reps and drivers — function like an army to him, each one integral to meeting the objective. Conversations always touch on the importance of the foot soldiers.
When he describes a defining moment in his seven-year career at Pepsi, where he now is the director of sports marketing, it fits this picture as well. It has to do with loyalty to a cause, down to the smallest detail.
"I go back to a woman named Pat Eichten when I did marketing for Miller at the agency Wunderman Cato Johnson, and we were in a very nice yacht near Newport [R.I.] on a friendly business outing," he said. "We stopped at an island, and the people we were with picked up some Coors Light, and my friend Pat was extremely upset about it. It taught me the brand loyalty idea and how important it is to be loyal to a fault, with no tolerance for slippage. In the Pepsi-Coke competitive environment, you have to be passionate."
Galloway has a reputation in the business for this passion, but also for good humor. At a sponsorship conference in September, the host announced that "John Galloway is almost here. He's caught in a rainstorm on Fifth Avenue," and the crowd chuckled appreciatively. Galloway held up his end, swooping in five minutes later and bounding to the podium sans suit coat, shirt drenched and making wisecracks as he settled into his chair.
"He's always been very approachable, and he seems to have truly taken a lot of time in creating partnerships with properties where you both feel like you're getting a win," said Sean Belgrade, managing director of consumer marketing for International Speedway Corp., whose 13 tracks all have relationships with Pepsi — a telling fact considering Coke is NASCAR's official soft drink.
Galloway was a Forty Under 40 winner last year, and he has delivered a strong year before picking up another award. "From our largest to our smallest property, they've all delivered against the expectation and in most cases have exceeded it," he said. Pepsi has 50 national promotions around the NFL alone this fall.
When asked about his concerns regarding the sports world, Galloway sticks to selling soda.
"The challenge in the sports world is having constant measures of return on investment. There's not a consistent measure on programs — signage, media, impressions — that would allow us to measure ourselves against other companies, a global ROI model across all sports properties."
Galloway oversees eight employees, none older than 36, who help run Pepsi's efforts in their assigned sports. He said he's learned to be more hands-off in the past year, partly from wisdom and partly from a hectic travel schedule that makes it necessary. No one told Galloway to change. "It was more of an internal awareness, that my people have been on the job a little longer and I saw them growing within them."
As for his own career, Galloway again sounds like the son of lifetime military people. Pepsi has a "rotation policy" that shuttles people to new jobs regularly — Galloway has already been a brand manager for Mountain Dew and a flavors director for Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
"I very well could be managing the Pepsi trademark or our food-service department, but I'm a Pepsi guy for life and I look forward to different experiences that round out my career at Pepsi."
Ticketmaster President and CEO John Pleasants and other company executives may have been out of their element when boss Barry Diller ordered cell phones shut off during a late October corporate confab in Phoenix.
Consider that most of them are heavily involved in advanced technology, especially after Diller's Interactive Corp. acquired Ticketmaster in January. Ticketmaster, Citysearch and Match.com joined Evite, Expedia, Hotels.com, Reserve America and other online portals to become one of the largest Internet-concentrated firms in the world.
Before heading to the in-house conference, Pleasants rattled off all those Web-based firms and the time line of the various mergers involving Ticketmaster, spewing forth tech talk that's a far cry from his background in marketing that once included a sales job with Frito-Lay.
He definitely has a firm grasp of the lingo after insisting last year, on making Forty Under 40 for the first time, that he is not a techie. But in the midst of chronicling Ticketmaster's amazing online growth in his nearly eight years on board, Pleasants manages to get to the heart of the matter.
"At its core, Ticketmaster is a ticketing company, which now is a very transformative category," he said. "We're one of the leading Internet businesses in the world. In 1996, we were zero percent online. Now we're more than 50 percent online. No other brick-and-mortar company can say that.
"But the bottom line is our goal is always to sell more tickets better ... to get more butts in the seats and also to optimize revenues. Those initiatives include peer-to-peer buying with Ticket Exchange and our new program with auctioning tickets in a premium market."
Brenda Tinnen, senior vice president of Anschutz Entertainment Group Facilities at Staples Center in Los Angeles, applauded the concept of what Pleasants described as "dynamic pricing" of high-end ticket inventory. She has known Pleasants since he started with Ticketmaster in 1996 and credits him with helping the industry's dominant ticketer stay on track with digital trends.
"Ticketmaster has for the past four to five years done quite a bit to keep up with the everyday world of technology and the Internet in purchasing tickets. And during that time, John has done quite a bit to keep Ticketmaster going forward to be user-friendly not only for the ticket-buying public but for all their clients," Tinnen said.
"He has been very proactive coming to the table with all the new bells and whistles and presenting them in a way that is easy to understand and implement. The fact that John is the first one in the door makes life easier for us."
Pleasants worked patiently with Staples Center box office employees to launch the initial ticket auction last April for the Lennox Lewis-Vitali Klitschko heavyweight fight at the arena. "We proposed the idea and John said it was a great idea," Tinnen said. "He asked us what could he do to make it work.
"Boxing events tend to come together very quickly, and we put tickets on sale sooner rather than later. It was a tight turnaround. But when you're doing any type of auction that resembles a lottery, there are legalities that have to be taken care of. But rather than saying it would not work and let's try it later, John and his staff worked over the weekend with us to get it right."
Pleasants, 38, is just starting to settle in after his rise through the Ticketmaster ranks. Although he joked about wanting to become a Starbucks barista, Pleasants added, "I'm not going anywhere. I've got a lot of work to do. I've got a great job and it's challenging. We have a chance to change the industry. I have my hands full."
For a principal at an agency where staying out of the limelight is a foundation of the corporate culture, John Tatum has this reputation for talking. Not a lot, but at length.
As is the case with anyone from Genesco Sports Enterprises, the sports marketing agency Tatum co-founded with Charlie Turano in 1994, there's no hyperbole evident in his conversation. It's just a peculiarity, akin to another man's tic, that Tatum tends to speak in sentences so protracted that no one could punctuate them. Or maybe it is all one sentence.
Many days, Pepsi sports marketing chief John Galloway, a major Genesco client, begins his drive home by dialing Tatum's cell phone and asking a single question.
"I'm pulling in my driveway 30 minutes later and he's still talking, and I haven't said another word," Galloway said. "But he knows my business so well, he's given me all the answers I need."
Tatum started his career in sports marketing as an intern at Advantage International. Working with such athletes as Dan Marino and Darrell Green, he developed a fondness for agency work and in 1992 found himself working at Omnicom marketing agency Tracy Locke.
A bit later, the agency set up Tatum and Turano as its in-house sports agency. Almost immediately, the two realized they could do better on their own.
So, in March 1994, they opened Genesco Sports Enterprises in Dallas, with a mission to show clients how to bring their increasingly expensive sports sponsorships to life, particularly at retail. The mission statement is deceptively simple: "to grow business by efficiently and effectively leveraging sports."
Certainly that's what any efficient marketing platform is supposed to do, but the affinity that makes sports an effective marketing ploy can also blind marketers.
"Companies dive in because of the sex appeal of sports," Tatum said. "We try to tell them how to be smart."
As testimony, Tatum's clients often talk about the focus the agency has brought to their own sports marketing department.
Genesco started with a retainer from Tracy Locke, got some Pepsi and Mountain Dew work early on and has established that relationship as the bedrock account of the agency. Genesco's Pepsi assignments (around 30 percent of its billings) represent Pepsi corporate on its MLB, NFL, AVP and motorsports relationships. Genesco also works with various Pepsi bottlers, including the biggest.
Other big brands, such as MasterCard and RadioShack, are giving the agency increased responsibility. In nearly 10 years, Genesco has grown from the original pair of Turano and Tatum to around 45 people, with revenue in the mid-seven figures.
A passion for business, a knack for relationship-building and a reputation for treating clients' marketing dollars as if they were his own are all qualities that have set Tatum, and Genesco, apart. Tatum's enthusiasm is just like his speech pattern — endless and inexhaustible.
"John brings a high energy level and a real passion to everything," said MasterCard vice president of global sponsorships and event marketing Bob Cramer, who uses Genesco to activate the payment-card brand's MLB sponsorship, and for its growing collection of NFL team sponsorships. "What's really impressed us is that he's found a way to infuse that enthusiasm into every person that works for Genesco."
So, maybe that's it. Tatum is enjoying what he's doing so much, he can't stop and take a breath.
"I won't draw a line between business and personal," Tatum said. "If you're really committed to your clients, it is pretty much the same thing."
Or as Galloway, who worked with Tatum at Tracy Locke, explains, "I've got Pepsi running through my veins and so does he."
Genesco negotiates many of the biggest sports property and athlete deals for Pepsi and MasterCard. Tatum and Genesco get plaudits for being intelligent buyers.
"He's a tireless and savvy negotiator and he knows both sides of the business [buying and selling]," Cramer said.
Independence is one thing both Tatum and his clients prize most. Still, in an age of agency consolidation, "We've had offers from every entity you can imagine," Tatum said. "I never say 'never' to anything, but we're building something I'd like my son, Jack, to work at, and he was born Sept. 15."
While he was working at Procter & Gamble in early 1995, Jon Podany heard from a friend about a job opening at the PGA Tour. "I'd always had in the back of my mind that I'd like to get into the sports industry," he said.
"I'd always had a strong interest in sports," added Podany, who was a backup quarterback on the Miami (Ohio) University football team during his freshman and sophomore years.
He landed the job at the PGA Tour in March 1995, leaving Cincinnati for Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., to become the tour's director of business development. From March '95 through November 1998 — first as director and later as vice president of business development — Podany had a major role in helping secure $250 million in sponsorships. Those deals included official tour partnerships and tournament title sponsorships, as well as sponsorships of the World Golf Village and World Golf Hall of Fame. Among the marketing partners: Shell (a 20-year agreement), IBM (a 10-year agreement), MasterCard and AT&T.
Help snag $250 million worth of business and you get noticed. In December 1998, Podany was named vice president of brand development, a newly created position at the tour.
Today, he is the tour's vice president of brand development and marketing support services. Just eight months ago, the tour created the in-house marketing support services group and tapped Podany to manage it. That department's charge is to develop ideas and initiatives that enable sponsors to further leverage their relationships with the tour and tour events.
As vice president of brand development, the 38-year-old Podany is responsible, he said, for "continuing to build our brand and strengthen the image of the tour so that we are able to drive more fans to the tour and more viewers to our telecasts."
Podany has had an eventful year, leading several new tour initiatives. First and foremost was a rebranding effort that included renaming the Senior PGA Tour the Champions Tour. The rebranding also featured a push to wrap the Champions Tour and the newly named Nationwide Tour, the PGA Tour's feeder circuit, under the banner of the PGA Tour.
"We're treating our tours more as a brand family, the PGA Tour brand family," Podany said. "We've done a better job of tying our tours together — under the PGA Tour mark."
There were myriad reasons behind the rebranding. Research showed that baby boomers, particularly those over 50, did not think of themselves as seniors. "We also were finding that fewer companies really wanted to associate their brands with something called senior," Podany said. "And we found that there wasn't a high awareness of the fact that the PGA Tour managed both the Senior Tour and what was then the Buy.com feeder tour."
He and his staff also put together the integrated marketing plan designed to publicize the rebranding.
Additionally, Podany was in charge of a push to better communicate the extensive charitable efforts of the tour and its tournaments. "We're delivering consistent communication about the idea of giving back," he said. The ad campaign's tag line: "Giving Back: the Heart of the PGA Tour."
Podany also is a key player in the tour's growing effort to target such demographic groups as kids, Hispanics and women. "We're creating strategies and marketing platforms to reach those groups more effectively and developing ways that our sponsors can tie in," he said.
There are several such projects in development that are slated for 2004. For example, Podany said the tour is considering creating a "junior clubhouse" — equipped with a variety of games and activities for kids — at various tournament sites. Other on-site experiences, to be set up at a handful of tournaments, would be aimed primarily at Hispanics. Another possibility: producing a TV special targeted largely at the Latino audience.
The tour has tapped Podany's department to develop a "Vision for the Tour," a five-year plan for growth, ranging from broadening the fan base to building the brand.
A little over a year ago, things could not have been better for Jonathan Kraft, his father and the rest of the brain trust behind a sports empire that includes the New England Patriots, the Revolution of Major League Soccer and Gillette Stadium, home of both teams.
The previous 12 months had seen the Revolution win the Eastern Conference title, the Patriots win the Super Bowl, the Kraft family open Gillette for the start of the 2002 NFL season, and the defending champs explode to a 3-0 start in their new, privately financed, $325 million stadium.
But success in the NFL, as so many Super Bowl champions over the last decade have discovered, is fleeting, and the Patriots could not fully escape the harsh realities of a league ruled by competitive balance.
The club lost the next four games, and while it finished the season a playoff-worthy 9-7, a lost tiebreaker robbed New England of a playoff berth and the chance to defend its title.
Despite the disappointing finish on the field, the Patriots, who had set an NFL record in 2002 by generating what sources estimated to be nearly $250 million in revenue, managed to increase operating revenue in 2003 while not raising ticket prices, Kraft said. Those two facts, Kraft said, say more about the franchise's and fans' commitment to each other than any number of Super Bowl victories.
"Fans know you can't win a Super Bowl every year," said Kraft, the 39-year-old vice chairman of the Patriots who is in his 10th season with the club. "They want to know there's a commitment to winning. When you have that, you have value to sponsors."
The Patriots' rise from league laughingstock and relocation target to model franchise is well documented, and it's no secret that journey began the day Robert Kraft purchased the franchise in 1994 and began a piece-by-piece restoration of pride in pro football in New England.
Those involved with the day-to-day operations of the club, however, know that Jonathan Kraft from the beginning has been as much a part of the success as anyone.
"From the time we went to purchase the team, he's been more than a trusted aide," said Robert Kraft, who called his son the "main architect" of Gillette Stadium. "He's meant more than anyone else to the acquisition of the franchise and the development of it.
"It's nice that there's a good sense of continuity with him for the franchise," the elder Kraft added of ultimately handing over the reins to his son. "It's a sense of stability for all of the key employees."
While sports make up the high-profile — and fun — aspect of Kraft's responsibilities, oversight of the Patriots and Revolution takes up only about 40 percent of his time. He estimates he spends an equal amount of time working as president and chief operating officer of the Kraft Group, the holding company of Rand-Whitney Containerboard, the Rand-Whitney Group, International Forest Products, the Revolution and a portfolio of more than 30 private-equity investments.
With the remainder of his time, Kraft is heavily involved in charity work.
Kraft's accomplishments over the past decade speak for themselves, but his legacy likely will be determined by how well he maintains the house his father built. It's a fact Kraft seems keenly aware of, and a task he knows cannot be met by riding a wave of past successes.
"We set out to run a first-class business operation and marketing operation, to consistently put a competitive product on the field and win a world championship, and to get a new stadium for the Patriots," Kraft said. "Ten years in, we feel we've achieved a lot of what we set out to do. That's a good feeling, but in this business, you just start setting new goals and work to achieve those.
"So there's not a sense of great satisfaction or a sense of great comfort and ease. It's a sense of wanting to continue to get better and to really evolve the business and to win more championships."
Lou Jacobs wouldn't say it was a foregone conclusion that he would follow the footsteps of his brother, father, two uncles and grandfather in the 88-year-old family business, which happens to rank among the largest privately held firms in the United States.
After all, two of his five siblings opted to go another route. But the 39-year-old Jacobs didn't need his two Harvard degrees to map out professional goals. Delaware North Cos., with Lou's father Jeremy as CEO, generates $1.6 billion in annual revenue.
Subsidiaries include Sportservice, among the nation's leading arena and stadium food and retail concessionaires, with accounts that include Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Soldier Field in Chicago and 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium in London, scheduled to open in late 2005 or early 2006.
Lou Jacobs said, "Honestly, this is something I wanted to do. To be candid, there were opportunities in the organization that I would have been foolish to ignore. To be involved at a senior level at such a young age was something I couldn't pass up."
His path to executive vice president started when Jacobs was a teenager taking bets behind the pari-mutuel wagering windows at Buffalo Raceway, a thoroughbred track at the Erie County Fairgrounds in nearby Hamburg, N.Y.
Jacobs developed an affinity for horses at an early age. He grew up on a farm outside Buffalo, and his father was one of the leading amateur equestrian riders in the 1970s and '80s. Lou followed suit, representing the U.S. Equestrian Team in two World Cup finals.
He met his wife Joan through European equestrian travels and passed that passion for horses on to his daughter, Charlotte. "She is interested in it, which I think is great, because there are not many things an 8-year-old and a 40-year-old [as of Jan. 10, 2004] can do together," Jacobs said.
After graduating in 1986 with an economics degree from Harvard, Jacobs went to work for Delaware North, spending 18 months at old Boston Garden. His primary responsibility was to develop a new arena for the NHL Bruins, a separate entity owned by the Jacobs family.
"I worked on the real estate and financing of a new building. The market fell off and it ended up being a futile effort," he said. Eventually, in 1995, the Jacobs family would own and operate a new facility that became known as FleetCenter, also home to the NBA Celtics.
Rich Krezwick, president and CEO of FleetCenter, has worked with Jacobs for nearly 10 years.
"This comes from my heart," he said. "I hesitate in trying to find enough superlative words to describe Lou. He is a class act; smart, compassionate and somebody any executive would want to call a friend. Lou's a great guy and finishes first — he's a leader and motivator with his calming style. People want to work for Lou."
Jacobs moved back to company headquarters in the late 1980s and returned to Cambridge, Mass., to earn an M.B.A. in 1991 from the Harvard School of Business. Two years later, he moved to Sydney, Australia, responsible for building Delaware North's international sports clients, with an emphasis on fine dining.
The reputation the company established a decade ago in Australia has paid enormous dividends. In 2001, Delaware North extended its contract for the Australian Open tennis tournament at the multivenue Melbourne Park.
The biggest catch of all came last year, when officials secured a 25-year deal for the Wembley Stadium, being built for an estimated $1 billion. Jacobs believes that because of the scope of the project, "there won't be anything else like it in the world."
"We raised the standard in Australia and they recognized that in the U.K. with the latest stadium, despite the fact we don't have a foothold in the marketplace. It was more challenging to get that contract, but we distinguished ourselves on quality."
When talking about Mark Shapiro, it's hard to avoid hyperbole. To say that no one his age has more power in sports television is hardly a stretch. Most talked about individual in sports media? Yes, Shapiro probably fits that bill, too. Most controversial? Without a doubt.
When a sketch of the square-jawed 33-year-old graced the far right front-page column of The Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, it unofficially marked Shapiro's ascension from golden boy producer to big-time media player in the public eye. Ruffling countless feathers along the way, especially those of the sports world's old guard, Shapiro has rewritten the rules of what ESPN is supposed to be. Seeking a broader audience of casual sports fans, he's spearheaded the efforts of ESPN Original Entertainment, venturing into scripted and lifestyle-oriented programming.
On the live event front, he's been aggressive when it comes to both acquiring programming and getting the best possible deals.
When Shapiro was named ESPN's senior vice president of programming in the fall of 2001 (he added production to his title a year later), ESPN was mired in a two-year slump of declining ratings. Since then, average total-day ratings are up year over year for eight straight quarters.
His track record is difficult to knock, but that hasn't stopped critics from voicing their discontent over Shapiro's style and, more recently, his choices.
When Rush Limbaugh resigned after making racially charged remarks on "Sunday NFL Countdown," it was Shapiro, who hired Limbaugh, who took much of the heat. And nothing has gotten Shapiro, and ESPN itself, in more hot water than "Playmakers," the scripted drama that depicts an ethically challenged professional football team.
Don't look to Shapiro for apologies.
"Say what you want about 'Playmakers,'" he said. "It's testing at a 70 percent approval rating and is highest with African-Americans and Hispanics." The show is ESPN's highest-rated program overall behind only college football and NFL games, and has succeeded in bringing new audiences to the network, the exact goal from the beginning.
Not that ratings are the only measure of success. Shapiro explained that programming decisions are made around the three R's: ratings, revenue and what's the right thing to do.
Shapiro and ESPN worried about the right thing to do? Some may roll their eyes, but he is quick to point to "Outside the Lines Nightly," which was developed in the name of bringing probing journalism to sports television on a regular basis, bumping the profitable and higher-rated "Baseball Tonight" out of the midnight timeslot.
"Have we made it ratings at all cost?" he asked. "No. We have 65 sports on ESPN. Of those, there are at least 10 that don't pull a rating that merits being on the network. But we keep them on to serve the fans."
While "Playmakers" and the Limbaugh hiring are what drew Shapiro the most heat in the public sphere, it's his allegedly cutthroat negotiating style that's most talked about in sports media circles. Shapiro said it's a reputation that is undeserved.
"It's totally inaccurate to say I'm not about compromise," he said. Putting his image in perspective, he realizes that when he does his job well, he's not always going to win friends.
"My job is to cut the best possible deal for ESPN," he said. "I'm relatively new to the scene, and at the same time I've been very aggressive on all fronts."
Even Shapiro's critics generally recognize that he's served his employer's interests well. And his supporters say they recognize that his confident style rubs some the wrong way.
"If you believe in Mark," said Sandy Montag, a senior vice president of IMG who represents John Madden and several top ESPN personalities, "you say he's creative, aggressive and competent. If you're down on him, you'd say he's brash, combative and a know-it-all."
Montag, who calls Shapiro a friend, said the challenge Shapiro faces is that he's often negotiating with people who've been doing their jobs for 20 years longer than he has.
Neal Tiles this year continued to solidify his reputation as a television executive with a knack for daring ad campaigns that make people laugh.
So it is noteworthy that for David Hill, chairman and CEO of Fox Sports Television Group, Tiles' greatest achievement during the last 12 months was to add gravity to a traditionally light-hearted and meaningless event.
Tiles, Fox Sports' executive vice president of marketing and promotion, was the brains behind the "This Time It Counts" campaign, the product of a joint effort by Fox and Major League Baseball to convert the All-Star Game's format so that the winning league would receive home-field advantage during the World Series.
The result was that unlike most All-Star Games, for which the ratings start out high and tail off as the meaningless game goes on, the ratings built as the game continued, according to Hill.
"[That] meant the message had totally gotten through to the fans — which leads me to believe ratings for subsequent All-Star Games will continue to improve — which is a huge feat," Hill said.
Not that Fox viewers did not get their share of laughs, as Tiles unveiled a string of campaigns that lived up to the award-winning standard the executive has set.
For one, there was the NBA campaign that featured fans of opposing NBA teams being singled out by a higher power, getting pelted with hail, blown off the ground by wind and struck by lightning.
There also was the $2 million campaign to promote NASCAR around the Daytona 500. The ads tracked the family lineage of some of the drivers, linking their need for speed to aspects of their upbringing.
More recently, Fox Sports launched a campaign to promote the NHL season in which hockey fans are shown getting tougher as the season progresses. In one of the spots, which are tailored to all the Fox Sports Net markets to promote the network's regional NHL broadcasts, a Pittsburgh Penguins fan is shown withstanding the pain of a back-waxing at the beginning of the season, a dart to the neck at game 14 and a trash bin slamming on his head at game 47. The ad ends with, "The more Penguins games you watch, the tougher you get."
Tiles said he tried in the network's promotions to better tap his inner sports fan, incorporating an understanding of what distinguishes fans of different sports.
For example, the campaign promoting "54321," the nightly news show surrounding extreme sports, centers on the substantial role of peer pressure among fans and participants of these sports. In one ad, a surfer wearing a bright green wetsuit and scuba mask paddles out to join a group of much more experienced surfers. The ad ends with "Don't be that guy. The show that brings you inside the world of extreme sports."
For its NFL broadcasts, Fox expanded beyond promoting the pregame show and this year ran promos touting the relative wealth of intriguing story lines in the NFC.
"The [promos] that everyone likes to talk about are the ones that are funny," Tiles said. "But there are also a bunch of things that I'm equally proud of, the ones not meant to make anyone laugh or crack up, but tap into the emotions that sports fans have about the games they love."
Tiles is overseeing a transition at Fox Sports that will reach fruition over the next two to three months. The network, hoping to better tout its local advantage over rival and industry behemoth ESPN, will be giving more freedom and autonomy to its regional networks, Tiles said.
Whereas the Los Angeles office was responsible for cutting 5,000 to 6,000 promotions annually, the central office will establish a template and the basic tone of each promo, and each regional network will localize it.
"Neal's ongoing campaign to totally define FSN's regionality in the viewer's mind is most certainly paying dividends," Hill said.
With so many memorable campaigns, Tiles cannot point to a singular professional accomplishment he's most proud of.
Personally, however, there is a day that stands out for Tiles as particularly triumphant. On April 7, shortly after the Syracuse University graduate watched his beloved Orangemen upset Kansas for the NCAA basketball title, he saw his wife give birth to the couple's first child, a daughter.
Despite his pleas for Carmela McNamara Tiles, in honor of the team's two star players, Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, Tiles lost out in favor of Sarah.
In 1999, when top NFL executive Roger Goodell traveled to Massachusetts to hammer out a deal with the state's politicians to keep the Hartford, Conn.-bound Patriots in the state, his trusted lieutenant, Neil Glat, was at his side.
For those within the tight circle of NFL leadership, and for people who do business with the league, Glat, 36, has for some time been a fast-rising star.
From divisional realignment to the NFL's effort to return football to Los Angeles, Glat, the senior vice president of strategic planning and business development, is in the thick of most major league policy issues, even if he likes to stay out of the limelight.
"There is a hierarchy within the NFL, and you know he has started gaining when he is at all the owners' meetings," said Marc Ganis, a sports consultant. "Quite a few executives, fairly senior in the league, either aren't invited or attend only for the period of time they have a presentation. Neil is there from beginning to end."
If not for a fluke meeting on a cold New York City street, however, Glat may not have been at the league at all. A McKinsey consultant in the mid-1990s, Glat bumped into his old boss, Goodell, in front of NFL headquarters in January 1997.
Glat had worked with Goodell for about a year at the NFL in the early 1990s. Glat had then shipped himself off to Harvard Law School and was well on his way to a long career in consulting and investment banking when, after their chance hello, Goodell convinced him to return to the NFL to help with the sale of the new Cleveland Browns franchise.
"Quite frankly, if I hadn't been in the NFL in 1991 and 1992, and didn't know Roger and [ex-NFL President] Neil Austrian and about the potential to get involved in some exciting things ... I probably would not have taken the job," said Glat, who had followed Austrian from Dillon Read to his first stint at the NFL.
By 2000, Glat was put in charge of a new strategic planning and business development unit, which acts as the league's roving man-of-all-trades. When the sponsorship unit needed help hammering out a landmark, 10-year merchandise pact with Reebok, Glat and his group were there. When the commissioner put Goodell on the L.A. riddle, Glat's unit was called in.
Glat also has been instrumental in developing the league stadium financing program, which grew out of the effort to keep the Patriots in Massachusetts.
With a legal, investment banking and consulting background, Glat is well suited to take on thorny, complicated situations that could have dozens of outcomes. But that characteristic also can be found in how he approaches almost any question.
Asked what his toughest task had been, Glat's response is to define tough. Queried about who his clients were at McKinsey when he worked there from 1995 though early 1997, Glat, ever mindful of legal issues, cited confidentiality restrictions in not disclosing them.
"The skill you need to rely on is taking a lot of ambiguity, looking at an open-ended question, which is how do we improve this or that aspect of our business, and identifying pretty quickly what the right opportunity and where is the right place to dig a little bit deeper," he explained.
Glat's services are also there for the teams. When the Green Bay Packers were brainstorming about renovating Lambeau Field, which reopened this season, Glat was one of the first they turned to.
"Neil is a great asset to the league," said John Jones, the Packers' chief operating officer. "Neil was very valuable not only [in helping us understand] where our revenue trend was placing us each year, but talking us through some of the challenges we would need to meet at the new Lambeau Field."
Executive vice president of marketing
As one of the youngest team marketing chiefs in the NBA, Brody has the advantage of selling one of sport's most venerable brands in the Celtics, but the disadvantage of having limited marketing inventory to sell with the team, since the Celtics do not own the FleetCenter. That's a situation that calls for creativity — and marketing partnerships that can be activated outside the arena.
By awarding all on-field apparel rights to Majestic Athletic in its recently redone $500 million licensing contract, Major League Baseball gave a solid endorsement to a licensing company renowned for its agility, but one that's relatively minuscule compared to its competitors. Capobianco must confirm MLB's vote of confidence by showing that a family-owned company can successfully compete with heavyweights like Nike, Russell Athletic and Reebok, all of which bid against it for the rights.
Epstein (left), Kennedy
Ages: 29 and 30
Senior vice president and general manager; vice president of sales and corporate partnerships
Boston Red Sox
They grew up in the shadows of Fenway Park in Brookline, Mass., became best friends in high school, worked together in the San Diego Padres' front office after college and returned home to work for the Red Sox in March 2002. Epstein made headlines when he became the youngest GM in MLB history. Kennedy oversees ticket sales, premium-seating sales and sponsorship sales and services for one of baseball's most valuable properties.
President and founder
Under Armour Performance Apparel
Plank got tired of sweating through undershirts as a captain of the University of Maryland football team in 1995 and founded Under Armour a year later after developing what has become the best-selling performance undergarment of its kind, according to independent auditors. He will see his company grow to more than $100 million in revenue this year, double last year. Savvy marketing — like a trade-out that gives his brand exposure on the ESPN show "Playmakers" — is typical of the company.
Vice president and assistant to the president
Although he has only two years under his belt with ESPN after a stint in corporate law, Simmelkjaer now finds himself in the center of all the action as ESPN President George Bodenheimer's right-hand man. A smooth operator and quick study, Simmelkjaer was an aspiring sportscaster while an undergrad at Dartmouth but scrapped plans to pursue that as a career to attend Harvard Law School instead. His first stint with ESPN was overseeing the new NBA contract. Now there's hardly a facet of ESPN's vast business that he doesn't touch.
Mark Abbott, Major League Soccer (2001, 2002)
Hank Adams, Ignite Sports (2002)
Rick Adams, East Coast Hockey League (1999)
Bill Allard, SFX Sports Group (1999)
Paul Archey, Major League Baseball (2002)
Mark Bartelstein, Mark Bartelstein and Associates (1999)
Patrick Battle, Collegiate Licensing Co. (1999)
David Baxter, Reebok (2001)
Billy Beane, Oakland A's (2001)
Seth Berger, And 1 (1999, 2002)
Katie Blackburn, Cincinnati Bengals (2000)
Colin Boatwright, Total Sports Inc. (2000)
Russ Brandon, Buffalo Bills (2001)
Paul Brooks, NASCAR (2001, 2002)
Anucha Browne-Sanders, New York Knicks (2002)
Scott Brubaker, Arizona Diamondbacks (2002)
Willy Burkhardt, ESPN International and ESPN Enterprises (2000, 2001)
August Busch IV, Anheuser-Busch Cos. (1999)
Peter Carlisle, Octagon (2002)
Bill Carter, Fuse Integrated Sports Marketing (2001)
Brian Cashman, New York Yankees (1999, 2000, 2001)
Dockery Clark, Bank of America Corp. (1999)
Greg Clark, FleetBoston (2001)
Ray Clark, The Marketing Arm (2001, 2002)
Casey Close, IMG Baseball (2000, 2001)
Bryan Colangelo, Phoenix Suns (2000)
David Cope, Washington Redskins (1999)
Bob Cramer, MasterCard International (2001, 2002)
Michael Crowley, Oakland A's (2002)
Lee Ann Daly, ESPN Inc. (1999, 2000)
William Daly, NHL (2001, 2002)
Mike Dee, San Diego Padres (2000)
Mark Dowley, Momentum Worldwide/McCann Erickson World Group (1999, 2000, 2001)
Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons (2002)
Tom Fox, Gatorade (2001, 2002)
Brian France, NASCAR (2000)
Kathy Francis, Major League Baseball (1999)
John Galloway, Pepsi-Cola (2002)
Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. (1999)
Tom Glick, Lansing Lugnuts/Sacramento River Cats (1999, 2000)
David Grant, Velocity Sports & Entertainment (2000)
Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk Inc. and Birdhouse Projects (2002)
Tim Hofferth, Nelligan Sports Marketing (2001)
Ed Horne, NHL Enterprises (2002)
Shawn Hunter, Phoenix Coyotes (1999)
Michael Huyghue, Jacksonville Jaguars (1999, 2000)
Michael Jackson, YankeeNets Media (2001)
Jeremy Jacobs Jr., Sportservice and Delaware North Cos. (2001)
Gary Jacobus, IMG (1999)
Brian Jennings, NHL Enterprises (1999)
Kristi Jernigan, Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation (2001)
Bill Johnson, Ellerbe Becket (1999)
Michael Jordan, NBA athlete (1999)
Wayne Katz, Proskauer Rose (2000, 2001, 2002)
Lesa Kennedy, International Speedway Corp. (1999)
Billy King, Philadelphia 76ers (2001)
Barry Klarberg, KRT Business Management (2000)
Jonathan Kraft, The Kraft Group and the New England Patriots (2002)
Katie Lacey, Pepsi-Cola North America (2000, 2001)
Steve Lauletta, Miller Brewing Co. (2002)
Mark Lazarus, Turner Sports (2000, 2001, 2002)
Joe Leccese, Proskauer Rose (1999)
Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins (2000)
Mark Lewis, Olympic Properties of the United States and Salt Lake Organizing Committee/Utah Athletic Foundation (2001, 2002)
Jon Litner, ABC Sports/NHL (1999, 2000, 2001)
Dan Lozano, Beverly Hills Sports Council (2002)
Elliott McCabe, Bank of America (2002)
Kevin McClatchy, Pittsburgh Pirates (1999, 2000, 2001)
Patrick McGee, Octagon (2002)
Tom McGovern, OMD (2002)
Duane McLean, Seattle Seahawks (2001)
Dan Meis, NBBJ Sports and Entertainment (1999, 2000)
Marla Messing, Women's World Cup (1999)
Percy Miller, No Limit Sports (1999)
Susan O'Malley, Washington Sports and Entertainment (1999, 2000)
Alan Ostfield, Palace Sports & Entertainment (2000, 2001, 2002)
David Paro, SFX Sports Group (2000)
David Payne, CNN/Sports Illustrated Interactive (2000)
Bea Perez, Coca-Cola North America (2001, 2002)
Tony Petitti, WCBS and CBS Sports (2000)
Steve Phelps, NFL Properties (2000, 2001)
John Pleasants, Ticketmaster (2002)
Curtis Polk, SFX Sports Group (1999)
Jeffrey Pollack, NBA (1999)
George Postolos, Houston Rockets (2002)
Jeff Price, MasterCard International (1999, 2000)
George Pyne, NASCAR (1999, 2002)
Scott Radecic, HOK Sport + Venue + Event (2001)
Bob Reif, Miami Dolphins and Pro Player Stadium/Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League (1999, 2000)
Geoff Reiss, ESPN Internet Ventures (1999)
Kris Rone, Los Angeles Dodgers (2000, 2001, 2002)
Jamey Rootes, Houston Texans (2002)
Robert Rowell, Golden State Warriors (2001)
Michael Rubin, Global Sports/GSI Commerce (2001, 2002)
Chris Russo, NFL (2000, 2001, 2002)
David Salomon, Millsport LLC (2000)
Wendy Selig-Prieb, Milwaukee Brewers (1999)
Mark Shapiro, ESPN (2002)
Jeff Shell, Fox Sports Net/Fox Cable Networks (1999, 2000, 2001)
Adam Silver, NBA Entertainment (2000, 2001)
Daniel Snyder, Washington Redskins (1999, 2000, 2001)
Brenda Spoonemore, NBA Entertainment (2002)
Mark Steinberg, IMG (2000, 2001, 2002)
Andrew Sturner, SportsLine.com (1999, 2000)
Neal Tiles, Fox Sports Marketing Group (2002)
Rob Tilliss, Chase Manhattan Corp. (1999, 2000)
Heidi Ueberroth, NBA Entertainment (2000, 2001, 2002)
Stacy Wall, Wieden & Kennedy (1999)
Mitchell Ziets, Legg Mason (2000)
Note: Companies are listed as they were at the time the recipients were selected Forty Under 40 winners.
When Octagon signed Michael Phelps, the young swimmer who has broken numerous world records and is favored to be one of the hot stories, if not the story, of the Athens Olympics, Octagon Olympics director Peter Carlisle immediately started talking to Patrick McGee, the company's marketing guru.
Octagon, naturally, already had been working on the obvious marketing deals for such an athlete, Carlisle said, such as deals with swimwear companies and Olympic sponsors.
"So one of the things Patrick is working out with us is the generation of new opportunities," Carlisle said.
Because Phelps is expected to transcend the sports pages, McGee came up with the idea of going after companies that previously have shied away from sports marketing, Carlisle said.
"There are a handful of companies based in Phelps' particular geographical area [of Baltimore] that are international companies but have not been all that involved in sports marketing," Carlisle said.
McGee came up with the idea to pitch those companies that "this is a hometown hero who is about to become a national hero, and maybe that is enough to jostle these companies into sports marketing," Carlisle said.
"He is very creative," Carlisle said. "He just goes after it. If he has latched on to an idea or an athlete or a company and he is going after it, there is no one in Octagon that I feel more confident will generate that opportunity."
Octagon represents more that 400 athletes in all the major team sports, as well as all the major individual sports. As vice president of athlete marketing worldwide, McGee interfaces with all the agents in all the different sports, as well as sports marketing executives from major corporations like McDonald's and Coca-Cola on a daily basis, trying to work out fits between the agency's stars and corporate America.
Apparel deals and shoe deals are done by the individual agents for the individual sports, McGee said. "Our group has its footprint on everything else," he said.
McGee said he has no such thing as a typical day or week. But in a recent week in the early fall, he:
Talked to a casting agent in London about a potential role for Octagon client Anna Kournikova in an upcoming movie with Matt Damon.
Tried to find out if Octagon tennis client Lleyton Hewitt would be back in the United States in time to open the Nasdaq market on behalf of Microsoft and the new Xbox game featuring Hewitt and other tennis players.
Talked to an executive at Wilson Sporting Goods about new promotional programs that the company is working on for golf and tennis.
Talked to executives at McDonald's regarding an ongoing negotiation for a possible endorsement for some Octagon clients, and relayed the discussion to the players' agents.
John Lewicki, senior director of alliance marketing for McDonald's, recently worked with McGee on a licensing deal for Octagon client Michael Vick to use the quarterback's image to make a toy that will be sold as part of the fast-food chain's children's meals.
McGee spent a lot of time trying to work out a deal that would best fit McDonald's needs, as well as Vick's, Lewicki said. "He understands what we need to get done and our objectives," Lewicki said. "He also represents his clients well."
Lewicki said McGee is interested not just in getting an endorsement fee for an Octagon athlete, but in building a partnership between the athlete and the corporation and making sure the deal provides "the appropriate exposure for the athlete he represents."
David Schwab, Octagon director of strategic marketing and media, said McGee "solves problems. He looks for ways to generate business."
McGee also finds ways to get a lot out of Octagon's star athletes' precious time, Schwab and other Octagon officials said.
One example is when Kournikova sat for a photo shoot for her worldwide best-selling John F. Turner calendar. McGee took the photo shoot and used it for the calendar and posters; a television special entitled "A Date with Anna," which aired on ESPN; photos for the covers of different men's and fashion magazines; and a DVD.
"We started with the calendar and now we have four products," McGee said.
Late one night in November 1996, Peter Pezaris and a handful of his college friends were sitting around a table trying to decide if the Internet company they founded would ever make enough money to allow them to quit their day jobs.
Someone suggested offering to manage people's fantasy sports leagues online, and that's when Daedalus Worldwide Corp. (DWWC) — which until then had capitalized about $5,000 as an online restaurant guide — took on a new mission: to provide a place online where fantasy baseball players could pay to get their scores and statistics tabulated for them.
In an instance of youthful bravado, Pezaris and DWWC's other co-founders took out an ad promoting the new company that was to run on the back page of the Jan. 15 issue of a fantasy sports publication. That left a month and a half to figure out how a five-person company lacking the infrastructure to tabulate and update statistics daily, not to mention a merchant account that would allow it to accept credit cards, was going to follow through on its promises.
"We were young and brash and foolish enough to think we could do it anyway," said Pezaris, who now oversees all content and fantasy sports for SportsLine.com, the publisher of cbssportsline.com, nfl.com, pgatour.com and ncaasports.com. "I slept about an hour a night in December of that year."
Amazingly, the site, Commissioner.com, launched on Jan. 1, and while the launch did not immediately usher in the "bazillion" customers Pezaris naively anticipated, it did get about 300 people to plop down $300 apiece before the start of the baseball season.
"To us, that was real success and real money, and something we could build on," said Pezaris, whose current employer last year generated $11 million from fantasy revenue and in 2003 expects to bring in about $15 million.
The moderate success meant Pezaris could start sleeping up to three hours a night, but Commissioner.com's journey to financial success, and fantasy sports' trek to commercial and popular acceptance, were only beginning.
Pezaris spent the next year and a half operating the Internet business at nights while plugging away as a systems and software developer at Bankers Trust during the day. It wasn't until Pezaris found himself napping regularly in the bathroom stall during lunch, using a toilet paper dispenser as a headrest, that he decided to enter the fantasy business full time.
That decision paid off in 1998, when Commissioner.com struck a deal with SportsLine to be the site's exclusive developer of fantasy games, bringing Commissoner.com's full-time staff from one to five people. A year and a half later, SportsLine made Commissioner.com an offer it couldn't refuse, purchasing the company for $31 million in cash and stock.
Shortly after the acquisition, Pezaris was named senior vice president of product development for SportsLine's newly acquired subsidiary, which was producing fantasy games for cbssportsline.com, nfl.com, aol.com and cnnsi.com.
In June 2001 Pezaris was named president of product development, putting him in charge of programming, production and fantasy products for all of SportsLine's sites. And in April 2002, Pezaris added chief technology officer to his ever-growing list of responsibilities.
In his current role as president of operations and product development for SportsLine, Pezaris oversees a major chunk of the sports content and sports-related subscription products consumed online.
That includes the league and team sites for the NFL, which prior to the 2003 season helped legitimize fantasy sports by offering a paid game on nfl.com.
"Obviously Peter's roots are with our fantasy sports business, and it's difficult to underestimate the positive impact that business has had for SportsLine.com," said Michael Levy, CEO of SportsLine, which in 2002 generated revenue totaling $62.1 million and lost $48.2 million, according to financial filings.
"Under Peter's direction, SportsLine.com has assumed a leadership role in the fantasy sports field and our fantasy sports products are considered the best on the Internet."
It's no surprise that you'll find sports memorabilia in Russell Wolff's office. When growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and then the suburb of Larchmont, his family had season tickets to the Knicks, Rangers, Mets and Yankees. While only a junior in high school, he went to Calgary to work for ABC Radio during the Olympics.
The only surprise is the kind of sports memorabilia.
There are three cricket bats and a photo of him playing that strange game in the backyard of an Indian temple. And Wolff lists attending the Cricket World Cup in 1999 as one of the most exciting moments of his career.
That's what a few years overseas and the responsibility of running all of ESPN International will do to you.
Wolff was indoctrinated into the world of international sports in a hurry, when he was sent to Hong Kong to run a new Pacific Rim office for ESPN in 1997. Before that he'd been in affiliate sales at the most American of American cable networks, MTV.
He spent a year in Hong Kong and then went to Singapore to head up programming for Star, a joint venture between Fox and ESPN that serves the Asia Pacific region.
His job was to identify and procure content that would be of interest to each of the nations served by Star.
"Being in programming, you had to quickly come to terms with local sports tastes," he said. "I had to learn rugby, cricket, Formula One. At the same time, doing business across different cultures requires a bit of sensitivity and sometimes finesse."
That year, 1998, he attended his first cricket match in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The event lasted eight hours, including the tea breaks that are customary in the sport. "It was a real wake-up call that I wasn't just putting baseball, basketball and football to air," he said.
After three years in Singapore, Wolff was brought home by ESPN to be the second-in-command of the entire international business. His direct responsibilities included operations in every region in the Eastern Hemisphere, and marketing and programming for the entire world.
In 2002, he was put in charge of it all.
Reporting directly to ESPN President George Bodenheimer, Wolff now oversees 24 networks (seven wholly owned networks that reach 18 million households; 17 jointly owned networks that reach 176 million).
In all, ESPN International divisions have 1,451 employees, with 491 being from wholly owned entities that report to Wolff.
It's not just a large operation, but a complex one. The domain is 147 countries with programming in 10 languages. And the economies of many of those countries are highly volatile.
Wolff must pay attention to currency fluctuations, leadership changes and local economic health on a country-by-country basis, along with what's happening on the local sports scene.
"Based on the time Russell has spent both here and overseas, he's developed just a real comprehensive understanding of not just the sports television business but the broader business," said Ken Yaffe, group vice president of NHL International. "He's been a very significant help to us in structuring a number of our international television deals and providing input on a strategy for marketing the game outside of North America."
Whether it's putting on the Stanley Cup Finals in Australia or a local soccer team in Bolivia, Wolff has a guiding philosophy.
"Part of what I have told everyone is that we should learn to be as local as we can," he said. "You have to understand the market and understand the sports if you're going to be respected in the country. It's a willingness to open your mind and try to forget you're American sometimes."
In a way, Wolff is doing that right here at home through the launch of ESPN Deportes, a Spanish-language network that falls under his direction. The channel will have its own version of "SportsCenter" and pluck programming from both the U.S. ESPN and the Latin American versions, while also doing some original content.
"I've always wanted to oversee a network," Wolff said. "But I never envisioned I'd get to oversee this many."
The NBA is loathe to release financial information, but that's not stopping Sal LaRocca from publicly touting that the league expects merchandise retail revenue to reach a record $3 billion this year, a noteworthy number given that the market was dead in the water just a few seasons ago.
"This will be the biggest year in our history," said LaRocca, who as senior vice president of global merchandising for the NBA is charged with running the league's licensed merchandise business. "We will have doubled the sales since 2001."
LaRocca, 38, has worked for the NBA since 1990 and has seen its merchandise cycle range from today's explosive growth to the lockout year in 1998 when sales all but stopped. He knows that the current double-digit annual growth won't last forever, just as he knew that the business eventually would recover following the lockout. The key to the business, he said, is that the NBA must be willing to work with its licensees during both good times and bad.
"We won't always see the growth that we are seeing now, so we are working to maintain the same relationships [with licensees and retailers] to benefit from the ups and to manage the downs," LaRocca said.
The NBA's strategy to grow its merchandise business hinges upon its ability to introduce new lines of products into the market while taking advantage of the continued retro-inspired trend of apparel, which has sent sales skyrocketing.
The NBA this year unveiled new lines such as the nba4her collection, the NBA Big & Tall collection and the retro NBA Rewind by Nike and Reebok's dFunkd line. This season, LaRocca will oversee a new merchandising push aimed at the children's market called NBA for Kids, and a new international focus that the NBA hopes will be the catalyst for continued growth. He also will be a key player in Reebok's move in becoming the NBA's exclusive licensed merchandiser. Reebok, which signed a 10-year deal with the league in 2001, has shared the NBA's licensed merchandise business with Nike but takes over the entire licensed apparel business in 2004.
"He is largely responsible for the long-term deal with Reebok, and he's worked at virtually every level of the business," said LaRocca's boss, NBA Entertainment President Adam Silver. "The international side has been more recent to Sal, and we are seeing business booming in Europe and Asia."
LaRocca may travel the globe selling NBA merchandise, but he's a full-fledged New Yorker.
He grew up in Brooklyn and attended St. John's University. His father is a retired steelworker who became a doorman in a commercial building in Manhattan. His mother still works as a sewing machine operator and also chaperones special education students on city school buses. His brother is a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department.
"I guess you'd call my childhood a middle-class, concrete experience," LaRocca said.
LaRocca began his merchandising career by happenstance. As a commuter student at St. John's, where he majored in business, LaRocca also worked full time at Paragon Sporting Goods.
After six years of working his way up to a buyer position at Paragon, LaRocca caught the eye of a member of the NBA's merchandising group, who recommended LaRocca for a sales opening. He joined the NBA as a regional sales manager in 1990 and began climbing the ranks.
"It's not where you are from, it's where you are at," LaRocca said. "I had no direct connection to the sports industry other than just liking sports. I didn't intern for a team or a league or anything. It was by the virtue of my business relationships that I got to the NBA and it wasn't anything I planned."
From 1992 to 1995, LaRocca was director of licensing for adult apparel, then worked as a group manager in 1995. In 1996, he was promoted to vice president of apparel, and in 2001 was named as senior vice president of global merchandising, where he reports to Silver.
"It's the classic rags-to-riches story," Silver said. "Sal has a unique ability to relate to people on all levels, from clerks to chief executive officers."
It was in the winter of 1992 when Major League Baseball player Keith Miller realized how different his agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, were from other players' agents.
Miller, a utility player, had just been traded by the New York Mets to the Kansas City Royals. The main topic of conversation among the Royals that winter was contracts and how much teams were offering.
When some of his new teammates asked Miller about his situation, Miller showed them a large analysis that the Levinsons had prepared for him, explaining his statistics and statistics of other players and their contracts and so on.
"I had this huge, 200-page brief explaining everything, and they were looking and I had guys say, 'Ask your agents where do they think I should fit in?'" Miller recalled.
Miller said he just assumed that was the kind of thing most agents did for their clients. "I didn't know they didn't, and I didn't realize that until I got traded to Kansas City," he said.
Miller was one of the first clients Sam Levinson ever signed. He signed him when Miller was in the minor leagues and Levinson was still a student at Brooklyn College.
Today, ACES, the firm owned by Sam and Seth Levinson, Sam's older brother by four years, represents 50 MLB players, including six 2003 all-stars.
In the last five years, the firm has negotiated more than $500 million in contracts. In the past year the firm negotiated Scott Rolen's $90 million deal with the Cardinals, Mike Sweeney's $55 million deal with the Royals and Cliff Floyd's $26.5 million deal with the Mets.
One of the proudest moments for the firm came in 1994, when the Levinsons won a $4.6 million arbitration grant for one of their first clients, Gregg Jefferies, making him the highest-paid St. Louis Cardinal at the time. The award was the second-highest arbitration win at the time and still stands in the top 10 ever won by a player.
But, Sam Levinson said, "Our greatest achievement is building this business from nothing."
The Levinsons grew up in Brooklyn. "Seth and I have always loved baseball. Seth and I grew up die-hard Yankee fans, and our dad took us to 25 to 30 games a year."
Sam played high school baseball and Seth played in college. By the time they realized that they would not be playing baseball professionally, they were already planning careers as agents.
Seth graduated from law school at 23 and started saving every penny toward their goal. Sam, at 19, began recruiting players, like Miller, making phone calls to clients and clubs from pay phones at Brooklyn College.
Seth and Sam share all duties at ACES (Athletes' Careers Enhanced and Secured Inc.), including client maintenance, contract negotiations and writing those enormous briefs for every player, every year, laying out where they fit in the baseball marketplace.
But, although they work together on everything, they are very different, Seth Levinson says.
"Sam and I have nothing in common," he said. "God blessed him with all the social graces and I have none. ... I would give the majority of, if not all, the success we have had to Sam's ability to relate to the players, and as a result he has signed the majority of players."
Sam Levinson tells his players that he will work as hard for them off the field as they work on the field. "You give the commitment from day one," he said.
ACES client Kevin Millar of Boston said Levinson is sincere. The Levinsons spent countless hours during seven weeks in the off-season negotiating with the Japanese baseball league to free up Millar, who had been traded by the Florida Marlins to the Japanese Chunichi Dragons, to play for the Red Sox.
Millar said he had agreed in principle to play for the Dragons when the Red Sox claimed him off waivers, the first time an MLB club had done so in such a trade. Millar wanted to stay in the United States and go to the Red Sox. This resulted in seven weeks of talks with all the parties involved and phone calls around the clock because of the time differences.
"Those nights, literally, 3 and 4 and 5 in the morning, Sam was calling me up every single night," Millar said. "Sam, I don't know if the guy sleeps, because he would talk to me from the office at 10 and 11 at night and then I would get a call at 3 in the morning, 'This is Sam.'"
When it was over and Millar was able to join the Red Sox in spring training, "I actually had to send Sam's wife flowers because I thought she was going to divorce him over me."
In the year since Steve Lauletta won his first Forty Under 40 award, his job has gotten harder.
"The real change for me," he said, "is trying to differentiate what we do vs. what everyone else does. Sports and event marketing is becoming a very cluttered environment, and a lot of thinking is, you do something once and then move on to the next thing. Very rarely do you take something and develop it over time and have the discipline to stay with it and refine it and really learn. You really have to be disciplined to make that happen."
Lauletta is in charge of Miller Brewing's sports and event marketing, and in the past year he added oversight of the company's on-premise program, which means managing the people who conduct branded promotions in targeted accounts in key markets.
A group dedicated to grassroots marketing is a concept more common in 2003 than it was in 1993. Lauletta's been at Miller for 10 years in all, and he's seen the sports marketing landscape change radically, while the vexing task of proving return on investment remains. It explains the urge toward short-term thinking, Lauletta said, and why he strives for the discipline to stick with a program.
"It's hard to prove that every aspect of a sponsorship is delivering results as opposed to everything else that's going to market, so there's always the easier route of trying to invent a new idea rather than refine what you have," he said.
Lauletta said that's why his group developed the Miller Lite End Zone in Lambeau Field, "which we can make whatever we want, but it all comes back to knowing it'll still be there next year for us to make more interesting and fun."
That's not to say Lauletta's folks haven't come up with some clever one-offs. They've had a pretty good year at the ambush game, for one thing. Rusty Wallace has never won a Daytona 500, so Miller offered to give fans at the Daytona International Speedway free six-packs if Wallace won last February.
The speedway countered by refusing to allow it, then by keeping Miller off the speedway grounds. Finally Daytona Beach authorities warned Miller against impeding traffic. But the press coverage was heavy — and free — and Lauletta said the message got sent: "We're a beer company, and if Rusty won, we'd celebrate with a beer, so we wanted the whole crowd to celebrate with us."
And farther north, in Chicago, Wrigley Field fans arrived this year to see the venerable Torco car dealership sign on a building beyond the right-field fence replaced by a Miller Lite sign that competed with the traditional, "official" Budweiser rooftop sign in left field. A Cubs marketer would only say, "No comment; it's a sticky situation" — but what good ambush isn't?
Scott Brubaker, senior vice president of marketing and sales for the Arizona Diamondbacks, tells a slightly different story about Lauletta. Two years ago, barely a third of the way through a 15-year deal with Miller, the franchise went to the company asking it to share the beer category with interloper Budweiser in exchange for a significant cut in Miller's cost. Lauletta took the deal.
"The market could potentially have viewed it as a sign of weakness, but [Steve] took it as a way to get a little more efficient financially and showed a great deal of confidence in not only his marketing abilities but his regional marketer's abilities — 'I'll gladly go head to head with any competition.' That's just smart, and the one word I'd use to describe him is smart," Brubaker said.
Tom Lewand may owe his career to the dorm he was assigned to his freshman year at the University of Michigan. The student across the hall happened to be the manager of the football team, a job that Lewand would soon assume with his new friend's help.
Lewand's aptitude at managing the squad caught the eye of legendary football coach Bo Schembechler. He suggested Lewand try his hand at sports management, and arranged an introduction to the Detroit Lions. Lewand was on his way.
Today the Lions' chief operating officer, Lewand was instrumental in shepherding the Ford Field project. The team's 120 employees report to him, and he still serves as capologist, the post for which he was hired in 1997. Capologists manage NFL teams' salary caps.
"Being a lawyer, being smart and loving sports, it was just an ideal fit for him to go into sports management," Schembechler said. "I told him, 'You ought to be doing something in sports because you love it, you are good at it, and you ought to do it.' "
Lewand is "good" at it, as the coach predicted he would be. The Lions' revenue has grown 400 percent since he arrived at the team in 1997, though he admits much of that is due to the opening of Ford Field in 2002.
Ever mindful of the Ford family's preference for secrecy, Lewand declined to provide team revenue figures. The Fords have owned the team since 1963.
With the 2006 Super Bowl and 2009 Final Four coming to Ford Field, Lewand expects the growth to continue.
While all of marketing reports to him, he says his real focus is to ensure the Lions field a competitive team, something the franchise has not done for some time.
"I have been overseeing marketing for one and a half years, with sales in the new stadium and sponsorships, but it is all just a means to an end," he said.
Nonetheless, Lewand's career in football tracks the change in the economics of the game. Ten years ago, the main issue for someone in his position at an NFL team would have been cost control. But today, because of the stadium boom and advances in marketing, it is revenue growth.
With a family active in Michigan Democratic politics (his father was chief of staff for former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard and chairman of the state's Democratic Party), Lewand thought about a career in that profession. He earned a law degree, worked for some law firms and even interned at the Clinton White House.
But his love for football, the Schembechler advice and his timely meeting with the Lions paved his road into sports.
"My immediate family was happy to see me stick around the area," he recalled of the reaction to his entry into the sports business. "Everyone looked at it with a degree of excitement, but a degree of somewhat caution, as it is a mercurial business."
As manager of the powerhouse Wolverines football team, Lewand did everything from shag punts to arrange travel to create scouting programs. When he returned to the campus for graduate degrees, the NCAA had recently reduced the number of graduate assistants teams could employ, so the club needed some help.
Lewand recalls standing on the sidelines one day when Schembechler idled up and offered his pearl of wisdom.
"Bo Schembechler said, 'Hell, you have been working for me for free for 10 years, why don't you go and get paid for it,'" Lewand said. "I had a relatively extensive political background and thought that my direction might be to a law firm or an investment bank, until I had that conversation."
As the sports media buyer for ad-buying giant OMD, Tom McGovern maneuvers between several powerful contingents.
He's got clients like PepsiCo, Visa, McDonald's, FedEx and Universal Pictures on one side, spending upwards of $450 million a year of their cash. And he's got television networks on the other, which he has to stay on respectful terms with through constant negotiations.
But the event that most influenced him was when his other constituency, his boss, handed him the proverbial keys to the car three years ago and left town.
"It was my first few months on the job in mid-2000 and we were sort of just coming together as a company at OMD [a merger of several Omnicom Group agencies], and my boss said, 'I know you're involved in [buying for] the Super Bowl and this is the most important event for us as a company, so we don't want to screw up any deals. And by the way, I'm going to be traveling for the next two weeks.'"
McGovern came through fine, and he's gone on to build a reputation in the sports world not only for deal-making but for ideas.
"He is clearly one of the sharpest and brightest people in the business," said Jon Miller, senior vice president of sports programming at NBC. "When we walked away from the NBA in 2001 and were considering replacements, he put together a team of people from his agency to bounce ideas off, and he was the first agency guy who said we should look into arena football as the best opportunity out there for sponsor value and a young demographic. There were a lot of important people in that room and it was impressive that he came right out and said that."
McGovern said he's learned that what appears a great idea to him might not to others. "The challenge I've learned about myself is that you sometimes can have a vision for an idea and you have to take a step back and consider how you present it, break it down and put it in terms that really make sense, so [others] can see it as you do."
McGovern describes his deal-making style as involving constant give-and-take. "There's definitely guys out there who are punishers, but I try to make myself firm but fair. We have a lot of money on the line and a lot at stake ... but you also have to realize when something should be an easy 'give' for you and not get caught in the minutiae, because every day is a negotiation."
Technological advancements like TiVo have many people in the television industry concerned, but McGovern is not ready to concede that television ads are in danger. "I got into this business around 1986, when cable was in its infancy, and clearly [TiVo] is not the first technological improvement to come along and change the way people watch TV. We've all had remote [controls] for a long time. Everything is an evolution and it challenges us to be smarter."
Currently McGovern's reacting to the evolution in sports rights holders, which require media buyers to become even stronger marketers. "With CBS taking on NCAA rights and marks, ABC owning all the BCS rights and marks, and with NBA TV and the NFL Network, you've seen media owners selling marketing rights and leagues who are in the media business — a convergence. There's a changing landscape, and how do we prepare to bring the right skill sets to bear?"
McGovern said he's bullish on sports in general. "What makes me feel good — and we're living it right now — is what's gone on in baseball the last couple weeks. Television has the ability to get you so close to a game now."
But he laments "when you see athletes who have a sense of entitlement, when some of them don't seem to appreciate where they came from. Anyone who grew up in the Northeast has dreamed about the [Yankees-Red Sox] Game 7, and those players were kids once, too. I wonder if some athletes have lost the sense of where they came from, or if they just don't show it."
It might not be an overstatement to say that the future of hockey as we know it rests on Bill Daly's shoulders.William Daly
Hes an incredibly steady, honest broker, really a salt-of-the-earth, very straightforward guy. He gives a lot of great advice to owners and is very welcoming to new owners and is really one of the main people we lean on for advice and candor. Ted Leonsis, owner, Washington Capitals He has credibility on all fronts in the hockey world. He fits into that circle in a unique way. He has a knack for getting his point across but does it in a way that doesnt offend anyone. Larry Pleau, general manager, St. Louis Blues The first word that comes to mind is solid. Bill is a guy with very good read of any situation, a well-grounded commonsense approach. A guy you can rely on. He doesnt get involved in any factions or carry tales, and thats a vital resource for those of us in the 30 teams out there. Jack Diller, president, Nashville Predators Hes tremendously involved with hockey and very involved with the full business. Hes one guy that has to cross over all lines and disciplines because thats where his role takes him. And he does that in a very positive way. Greg Jamison, CEO, San Jose Sharks
A passionate advocate for a system that puts guaranteed limits on salaries, Daly is involved in every facet of the league's push toward getting a new economic system. Although it is Bettman who ultimately will set the strategy and be at the center of the negotiations, Daly has taken on both the macro issues and the subtlest nuances of labor relations as talks with the union have started to materialize.
He has spent hours with pencils and spreadsheets, working through various economic models designed to give every NHL team a fighting chance at profitability. He spent months preparing a series of presentations that lay out how and why the league lost about $300 million last season, and the proposed remedy.
Throughout the summer he walked owners, team representatives, the media and the union through two hours worth of PowerPoint slides underscoring all those points.
While Bettman has made the phrase "cost certainty" into a rallying cry, it's Daly who is making the case for it. As the NHL coalesces around a single message, an important process in any labor negotiation, it's Daly who has become the de facto voice of the league.
"I like to think I've done more at the league and accomplished more than just collective bargaining," he said. "But obviously, this is the most important thing we have to deal with right now, and getting it resolved in an effective way is the most important thing to me personally and, of course, professionally."
With a regular-guy demeanor that belies just how political and divisive the league's economic issues can be, Daly exudes a credibility and an honesty that will be crucial to convincing skeptics that the league's cries of poverty are genuine.
While sports leagues and their top executives often spew more spin than substance, Daly has a candor that is both refreshing and a potential asset as talks heat up. Not paranoid about what he says or reveals, he believes that there's very little it makes sense to hide when it comes to the labor questions.
"It goes to an old lawyer's adage, which is 'good facts make good law,'" said the 1990 graduate of New York University School of Law. "I've rarely been involved in any type of negotiation where the facts are as strong as they are here. The challenge was to come up with effective communication points."
Daly spent six years at New York law firm Skadden Arps, where he represented several sports leagues in high-profile cases, most notably the NFL in the lawsuit filed by former player Freeman McNeil.
He joined the NHL in 1996, at the age of 32, as its chief counsel. A direct report to Bettman from day one, Daly has always been at the center of most of the league's important business dealings.
While the old guard of the hockey world sometimes regards any new blood with distrust, especially business or legal types who don't have years of hockey experience, Daly has always been able to bridge that gap.
"He's my kind of guy," said Boston Bruins President Harry Sinden. "I think he has a total understanding of not only the business end but of the playing of the game. I often call on him for advice."
Team executives say there's really nothing they can't talk to Daly about.
"He's really a go-to guy for us because he seems to know everything," said Richard Peddie, president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "He's very pragmatic, street-smart and just seems to have a lot of credibility with a lot of constituencies."
Peddie said he even sought Daly's opinion on whom the Maple Leafs should hire as a general manager, perhaps the most important and highest-pressure hockey-related job in Canada.
Whether it's dealing with banks or team sales or arena leases, Daly is on the front lines. He is Bettman's eyes and ears, and sometimes his muscle.
"He can be the heavy," Sinden said. "They're a terrific team. He's also a sounding board for Gary. He's the guy that Gary relies on for kind of a devil's advocate role."
Look for both of them to play the heavy over the next year.
If there's one issue where Bettman and Daly are of similar mind, it's labor and the economics of the game. They rejected the union's offers for a luxury tax and revenue-sharing-oriented system like baseball's, and say that only cost certainty will lead the NHL out of its financial straits.
Daly says he's confident the union will eventually come around, because players will begin to believe the league's message that there is no real alternative. To get to that point, Daly said, the key is being straight-up with all the parties involved.
"I think [NHLPA executive director] Bob [Goodenow] has been very clear that his role is to reflect the desires of his constituents," Daly said. "So while he may have his own personal philosophies on how this should come out, at the end of the day he'll listen to what his players have to say."
Therefore, Daly said, the most important thing is getting players to believe what he has to say. "Our role and objective is to make sure that we're communicating effectively," he said. "Over time, you want to build credibility in a relationship that hopefully you can call in when it comes to crunch time."