SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40
Published November 10, 2003
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."