Fermata offers licensing challenge Cartoon: Here's Johnny Coast to Coast People: Executive transactions Getting the studio into the mix The player’s been traded, so now what? Hall: No plans to address concussions Does IMG College face shifts in market? Fox Sports, Sporting News teaming up NFL preseason: Hall of Fame Game
SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40Print All
Major League Baseball
Faust Capobianco IV
Brailsford & Dunlavey
Kroenke Sports Enterprises
Boston Red Sox
University of Georgia
Anschutz Entertainment Group
National Mobile Television Inc.
Beverly Hills Sports Council
Dew Action Sports Tour
Major League Baseball
Rosenhaus Sports Representation
Dave St. Peter
Fox Cable Networks Group
Genesco Sports Enterprises
Wasserman Media Group
Orlando Magic & RDV Sports
New Jersey Nets & Brooklyn Sports
New York Yankees
Momentum Worldwide/McCann Erickson World Group
Palace Sports &Entertainment
Coca-Cola North America
Los Angeles Dodgers
Fox Sports Net/Fox Cable Networks
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, 2003) Billy Beane, Oakland A’s (2001) Dan Beckerman, Anschutz Entertainment Group (2003) 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) Dan Champeau, Fitch Ratings (2003) 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, 2003) Michael Crowley, Oakland A’s (2002) Lee Ann Daly, ESPN (1999, 2000) William Daly, NHL (2001, 2002, 2003) 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 (2002, 2003) Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. (1999) Neil Glat, NFL (2003) Tom Glick, Lansing Lugnuts/Sacramento River Cats (1999, 2000) David Grant, Velocity Sports & Entertainment (2000) Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk Inc. and Birdhouse Projects (2002) Adam Helfant, Nike (2003) 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) Louis Jacobs, Delaware North Cos. (2003) 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, 2003) Barry Klarberg, KRT Business Management (2000) Jonathan Kraft, The Kraft Group and the New England Patriots (2002, 2003) Katie Lacey, Pepsi-Cola North America (2000, 2001) Sal LaRocca, NBA (2003) Steve Lauletta, Miller Brewing Co. (2002, 2003) Mark Lazarus, Turner Sports (2000, 2001, 2002) Joe Leccese, Proskauer Rose (1999) Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins (2000) Sam Levinson, ACES (2003) Tom Lewand, Detriot Lions (2003) 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, 2003) Kevin McClatchy, Pittsburgh Pirates (1999, 2000, 2001) Patrick McGee, Octagon (2002, 2003) Tom McGovern, OMD (2002, 2003) Duane McLean, Seattle Seahawks (2001) Dan Meis, NBBJ Sports and Entertainment (1999, 2000) Marla Messing, Women’s World Cup (1999) Bruce Miller, HOK Sport + Venue + Event (2003) Percy Miller, No Limit Sports (1999) Howard Nuchow, Mandalay Sports Entertainment (2003) Susan O’Malley, Washington Sports and Entertainment (1999, 2000) Ethan Orlinsky, Major League Baseball (2003) Alan Ostfield, Palace Sports & Entertainment (2000, 2001, 2002) Jacqueline Parkes, Major League Baseball (2003) David Paro, SFX Sports Group (2000) David Payne, CNN/Sports Illustrated Interactive (2000) Bea Perez, Coca-Cola North America (2001, 2002, 2003) Doug Perlman, NHL (2003) Tony Petitti, WCBS and CBS Sports (2000) Peter Pezaris, SportsLine.com (2003) Steve Phelps, NFL Properties (2000, 2001) John Pleasants, Ticketmaster (2002, 2003) Jon Podany, PGA Tour (2003) Curtis Polk, SFX Sports Group (1999) Jeffrey Pollack, NBA (1999) Jamie Pollard, University of Wisconsin and Collegiate Financial Services (2003) George Postolos, Houston Rockets (2002) Jeff Price, MasterCard International (1999, 2000) George Pyne, NASCAR (1999, 2002, 2003) 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, 2003) Robert Rowell, Golden State Warriors (2001) Michael Rubin, Global Sports/GSI Commerce (2001, 2002) Chris Russo, NFL (2000, 2001, 2002) David Salomon, Millsport (2000) David Samson, Florida Marlins (2003) Wendy Selig-Prieb, Milwaukee Brewers (1999) Mark Shapiro, ESPN (2002, 2003) 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) Dave St. Peter, Minnesota Twins (2003) Mark Steinberg, IMG (2000, 2001, 2002) David Sternberg, Fox Cable Networks Group (2003) Andrew Sturner, SportsLine.com (1999, 2000) John Tatum, Genesco Sports Enterprises (2003) Neal Tiles, Fox Sports Marketing Group/Fox Television (2002, 2003) Rob Tilliss, Chase Manhattan Corp. (1999, 2000) Heidi Ueberroth, NBA Entertainment (2000, 2001, 2002) Stacy Wall, Wieden & Kennedy (1999) Casey Wasserman, Wasserman Media Group (2003) Chris Weil, Momentum Worldwide (2003) Russell Wolff, ESPN International (2003) Brett Yormark, NASCAR (2003) Mitchell Ziets, Legg Mason (2000) Note: Companies are listed as they were at the time the recipients were selected Forty Under 40 winners.
BEN DOGRA, SFX FOOTBALL
BY LIZ MULLEN
Representing professional football players might be the most cutthroat profession in the sports industry. But somehow, in the last few years, a polite and cerebral guy named Ben Dogra has muscled his way to the top of the business.Ben Dogra
• Age: 39 • Title: Senior vice president/managing director • Company: SFX Football • Education: B.S., economics, George Mason University, 1988; J.D., St. Louis University School of Law, 1994 • Family: Wife, Yanine; daughters Pamela, 7, and Danielle, 5 • Career: Worked as a law clerk in 1992-1993 at veteran football agent Jim Steiner's Sports Management Group Inc.; hired full time by SMG in 1994 as an agent; promoted to president of SMG in 1998; given the title of vice president, SFX Football when SMG was acquired by SFX in 2000; promoted to current title in 2002 • Last vacation: Working vacation of taking family to the 2002 Pro Bowl in Hawaii. (Hasn't taken a "real" vacation in 15 years.) • Last book read: "One L" by Scott Turow • Last movie seen: "Rounders" • Greatest achievement: Ability to retain my clients. In this business that is pretty tough. • Greatest disappointment: Losing my mom to a heart attack in 1994, before she got to know my children • Fantasy job: I would love to be a general manager of an NFL team and build a Super Bowl winner. • Executive most admired: Bill Gates, because he seems to be down to earth and gives back to the community. • Business advice: Whatever you decide to do, go full force, don't cut corners and put your heart and energy into it.
Dogra has become a major name in the NFL player representation business, said Jim Overdorf, vice president of business administration for the Buffalo Bills.
“When you get three first-rounders a year … that tends to make you powerful,” Overdorf said. “It puts your name out there.”
Arn Tellem, the high-powered baseball and basketball player agent who recently was promoted to CEO of SFX Sports, said Dogra is “a real star.”
“He is one of the best young agents in the business,” Tellem said, “and I really believe that he is going to be one of the leaders in this field going forward.”
Dogra has been working for veteran football agent Jim Steiner, who since 1992 has represented many NFL stars, including Jerry Rice, William “Refrigerator” Perry and Dan Hampton. In the last few years, Dogra has taken over the responsibility of recruiting SFX Football’s rookie players.
“He is certainly doing the lion’s share of the work in the collegiate area,” Steiner said. “In the last few years, he is responsible for 99 percent of our collegiate players. It has changed over time. I am recruiting players less and less and he is doing it more and more.”
There are two main ways to build a football representation practice: signing rookies for the NFL draft or signing veteran players who have fired their previous agent. Signing players who worked with other agents is a practice that can be fraught with accusations of client stealing, and Steiner admits it is one area in which he and Dogra have not been that active.
Concentrating their recruiting efforts on rookies and holding on to their clients has earned the agents of SFX Football a reputation as pretty nice guys in a tough business. SFX Football represents 51 active NFL players, and of those, Dogra is the primary agent for 30.
In 1996, Dogra signed his first first-rounder, Detroit Lions selection Jeff Hartings, and since then he has represented at least one first-round pick in every year but two.
Dogra’s secret, Steiner said, is hard work, incredibly long hours, a sharp, analytical mind and an ability to reach people.
“He’s got a work ethic unlike anyone,” Steiner said.
BRETT YORMARK, NEW JERSEY NETS AND BROOKLYN SPORTS
BY SCOTT WARFIELD
When Brett Yormark arrived at NASCAR in 1998, his boss, Chief Operating Officer George Pyne, told him to develop a new culture for the sport while building a foundation that would be strong enough to withstand a major change — the exit of Winston as the sport’s primary sponsor.Brett Yormark
• Age: 38 • Title at the time of selection: Vice president of corporate marketing, NASCAR • Current title: CEO, Brooklyn Sports and the New Jersey Nets • Education: B.S., Indiana University, 1988 • Family: Wife Amy; daughter, Madison, 3½; son, Drake, 6 months • Career: Spent two-plus years with the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment and two years with Katz Sports in New York, where he acquired and managed the broadcast sales rights for several NBA, MLB and NHL teams; had two stints with the New Jersey Nets, leaving in 1998 as senior vice president of corporate sales; joined NASCAR in '98 and started its New York office; rejoined the Nets this year • Last vacation: Aruba • Last book read: "You're in Charge — Now What?" by Thomas J. Neff • Last movie seen: "SpongeBob" with my daughter, Madison • Greatest achievement: Building NASCAR's New York office • Fantasy job: Selling time shares • Executive most admired: Jim Donald, president and CEO of Starbucks • Business advice: Chase your dreams.
If Yormark can persuade people — primarily the team’s sponsors, fans and people in Brooklyn — that the move makes sense, as he persuaded sponsors that NASCAR was a solid investment, Ratner will have nothing to worry about.
In six-plus years with NASCAR, during which he built the sport’s New York office from the ground up, Yormark helped take NASCAR from a regional sport to a national spectacle. Consistently connecting with corporate America on a level not reached by past salesmen at NASCAR, Yormark was able to attract Fortune 500 companies such as UPS, The Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Domino’s Pizza, Sunoco and Nextel.
As he expanded the corporate culture, the process has changed as well.
“I think back in ’98, we were just so thrilled when people would open their doors and let us come in and tell our story,” Yormark said. “I don’t want to say we weren’t selective about who we would talk to, but I think now, given where the sport is and how it’s being perceived out there in corporate America, we are more strategic in how we go after it.”
It is because of this sound foundation Yormark helped establish that many in the NASCAR world are not worried about what will happen in the post-Yormark years.
Ardy Arani, president and CEO of Atlanta-based sports marketing firm Championship Group, whose clients include Georgia Pacific, Pennzoil and Advance Auto Parts, said the job Yormark did while at NASCAR will long outlive his time there.
“With no disrespect to him, maybe even as a compliment to him, the marketing side of NASCAR has grown so much since he came on board that I don’t think they are going to miss a beat,” Arani said.
Whether that is true, NASCAR will have to move on quickly because Yormark has been given the job of his dreams. When he reported for his first day, he stressed one idea to his new co-workers.
“Everything is going to be about process,” Yormark said. “In the world I live in, process defines results. And if you think about where we were in ’98, at NASCAR, we defined the process and the process enabled us to reach greatness.”
BY RUSSELL ADAMS
In the summer of 2001, at a time when Yahoo! executives were searching for ways to be less dependent on a battered online advertising market, Yahoo! Sports was a second-tier sports site that barely registered on the collective consciousness of the company.Brian Grey
• Age: 39 • Title: General manager • Company: Yahoo! Sports • Education: B.A., economics and mathematics, University of the Pacific, 1990; M.A., economics, UC-Santa Barbara, 1991; MBA, UCLA Anderson School of Management, 1997 • Family: Wife, Paige; daughters Zeli, 5, and Frankie, 2 • Career: Associate, Law & Economics Consulting Group, 1993-1995; scout, Chicago White Sox, 1994-1995; intern, MLB International, 1996; consultant, global sports marketing, Nike, 1997-1998; director of consumer programming on Netcenter, Netscape, 1998-2000; vice president for business development, Shutterfly, 2000-2001; hired as Yahoo! Sports general manager in 2001 • Last vacation: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico • Last book read: "The Barbary Plague: The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco" by Marilyn Chase • Last movie seen: "Sideways" • Greatest disappointment: The fall from grace of my Trail Blazers • Fantasy job: NFL defensive coordinator • Executive most admired: Dick Ebersol • Business advice: Prioritize and focus
Behind the transformation is 39-year-old Brian Grey, who after becoming Yahoo! Sports’ general manager in September 2001 targeted two areas for raising the site’s profile. The first was fantasy sports, where Grey determined Yahoo! Sports could become the dominant fantasy player by giving away the same games everyone else was selling and instead charging for the content on which fantasy participants relied. The second was editorial coverage, where Grey sought to make the site more than a content aggregator.
Yahoo! Sports last year had three times as many fantasy football participants as its next nearest competitor. Its products’ popularity has fueled a successful subscription business and attracted huge sponsorship dollars from companies such as General Motors and Visa. Meantime, a stable of high-profile analysts, such as Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr, has infused the site with an editorial identity.
The result: Yahoo! Sports routinely ranks second only to espn.com in its number of unique monthly visitors, according to data from Nielsen/NetRatings.
That Grey has made a career of delivering sports content to fans comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed him. He has been involved at virtually every level of sports. The son of a high school and college baseball coach, Grey was a pitcher at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., and later a pitching coach at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he earned his master’s degree. Grey also scouted for the Chicago White Sox while working in the San Francisco Bay area as a litigation consultant.
Grey’s true introduction to sports business came after business school when he interned for Rudy Chapa, then Nike’s vice president of global sports marketing. Nike had signed Tiger Woods, and Chapa tapped Grey to figure out what to do with Woods’ and other properties’ Internet and video game rights. Grey determined Nike should sublicense Woods’ video game rights to Electronic Arts.
“I knew he was thinking far more into the future than most people in our industry,” Chapa said. “That was what attracted me to him, and why I was spending so much time with an intern.”
Grey later joined Netscape, where he embarked on a now familiar-sounding job: aggregating content for the Netcenter portal. Grey stayed at Netscape through AOL’s acquisition of the company and into early 2000, when Netscape co-founder Jim Clark hired Grey to manage the business development group at Clark’s new online photo service, Shutterfly.
When a former colleague called in the summer of 2001 to tell Grey that Yahoo! was looking for someone to manage its sports unit, Grey had an easy choice.
“I was itching to get back [into sports],” Grey said. “It’s kind of at the core of my content experience.”
CASEY WASSERMAN, WASSERMAN MEDIA GROUP
BY NOAH LIBERMAN
Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker remembers the first meeting he had with Casey Wasserman. Wasserman was 23 years old and making a pitch to own an AFL franchise. “I think he was nervous about his presentation,” Baker recalled. “He made it from a binder with three-hole paper and, I think, a No. 2 pencil. But he came on his own jet.”CaseyWasserman
• Age: 30 • Title: CEO • Company: Wasserman Media Group • Education: B.A., political science, UCLA, 1996 • Family: Wife, Laura; son, Emmet, 1 • Career: Worked with supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, evaluating business opportunities from 1996-1998; bought Arena Football League's Los Angeles franchise, which was later named the Avengers, in 1998; acquired sports marketing firm Envision, action sports representation firm The Familie and founded Wasserman Media Group in 2003 • Last vacation: Hawaii over Christmas • Last book read: "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton • Last movie seen: "Napoleon Dynamite" • Greatest achievement: The birth of my son • Greatest disappointment: That my grandfather doesn't get to see my son grow up • Fantasy job: Director of the CIA • Executive most admired: My grandfather, Lew Wasserman, former head of MCA • Business advice: A CEO's biggest job is to manage bad news. I don't expect people to tell me when good things happen, but I do expect to hear when bad things happen.
His sports marketing, management and content company, Wasserman Media Group, has had an excellent year. Its marketing arm engineered the $180 million naming-rights deal between the British soccer club Arsenal and Emirates Airlines and subsequently was chosen to handle naming rights and shirt sponsorship sales for Italy’s Juventus soccer team.
Wasserman Media Group was part of a deal that will bring four Formula One races and ancillary programming to CBS this year. And it launched Studio411, a cooperative venture involving assets that the company acquired with action sports film studio 411 Productions and agreements with many of the top independent studios and producers.
“It’s been interesting watching him grow, not only as an owner but as an executive with a significant agency,” Baker said. “He’s got a lot of great achievements ahead of him.”
Wasserman Media Group’s revenue is in the low to mid-eight-figure range. Those aren’t IMG numbers, but the 30-year-old Wasserman acknowledges that the Cleveland-based agency is the model he’ll be following for the next four or five decades.
“But I’m bad at predicting the future and worse at making excuses,” he said. “I’m going to continue to invest in acquisitions and organic growth. Everyone talks exit strategy and end game. I’m thinking entry strategy. Are we going in with smart people? And are we operating it well? Then everything else takes care of itself.”
Rather than bet on single outcomes, Wasserman said it’s crucial to anticipate everything that could go wrong in a deal, even when things look good. He pointed to his purchase last year of filmmaker 411 Productions. Despite due diligence, he found a less stable, narrower business when the acquisition was done.
“But we were prepared for it and acted quickly,” he said, “and the result is frankly much better than what we had started off doing.” It’s now a broad-based production and marketing coalition involving the other top studios and producers.
With his family roots in early Hollywood — Wasserman’s grandfather, movie mogul Lew Wasserman, was his prime influence — and with his efforts focused on many nontraditional sports and leagues, Wasserman is asked about the eventual convergence of sports and entertainment media. “It’s interesting for people to think they’re not already converged,” he said. “That’s a misconception. Entertainment to me is just sort of content, generally speaking, that appeals to a broad range of people.”
BY DON MURET
Chris Dunlavey discovered early in his career that, as an architect, he was on the wrong side of design and development. After jumping the fence, he’s become a primary player in the process of planning sports facilities.Chris Dunlavey
• Age: 39 • Title: President • Company: Brailsford & Dunlavey • Education: B.A., architecture, Columbia University, 1988; MBA, finance, George Washington University, 1993 • Family: Wife, Janet; daughter, Taryn, 7; son, Conor, 3 • Career: Architect, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1988-1989; project manager, MPC Associates, 1989-1993; partner, Brailsford & Dunlavey, 1993-present • Last vacation: A week in Rehoboth Beach, Del., with the family • Last books read: James Joyce's "Ulysses" and Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos" • Last movie seen: "The Polar Express" • Greatest achievement: Assisting in returning Major League Baseball to the nation's capital after a 33-year absence • Greatest disappointment: Assisting in Washington's losing bid to serve as the U.S. candidate city to play host to the 2012 Olympics • Fantasy job: Wing forward for the U.S. national rugby team • Business advice: The expert is just the guy who knows a little bit more than everyone else in the room.
His consulting firm, Brailsford & Dunlavey, represents the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission in its quest to build a $435 million ballpark for the newly won Washington Nationals. He wrote the design proposals for the team’s new facility and the $18.5 million renovation of RFK Stadium, where the Nationals will play the next three seasons.
Dunlavey earned a degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1988 and got a job designing office towers for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a firm specializing in commercial architecture.
“What they don’t tell you in school is that the architecture industry is a very reactive profession,” he said. “You get to be hands-on, but at the same time, you’re divorced from what gets built where, the economics that drive [the decision] and how the deal really works. I was more interested in how to shape the big decisions rather than figuring out what the brickwork looked like.”
Dunlavey went to work for MPC Associates, a university development consulting company, and found the work of managing the development of on-campus facilities was more stable. Paul Brailsford, his eventual business partner, was in charge of MPC’s sports facility practice.
“We were doing things better than anybody else in the firm and discussed hanging our own shingle,” Dunlavey said. “I was working for Paul at the time and needed help [to start a new company]. I never could’ve done it on my own. It was too early in my career.”
Brailsford & Dunlavey started in 1993, with “two guys in a rented room with a laptop,” Dunlavey recalled. B&D has since grown to a staff of 40 employees and posted revenue just short of $6 million in 2004, he said.
The fledgling firm got in on the tail end of the Baltimore sports development when the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens hired the pair in 1996 to facilitate the process of building a new stadium soon after the team moved from Cleveland.
“It was the first big-league project we were involved in that actually got built,” Dunlavey said.
The Ravens job led the Ohio Arts and Sports Facilities Commission to hire Brailsford & Dunlavey to act as the state’s adviser for funding publicly owned sports venues in Ohio. Strangely enough, that included Cleveland Browns Stadium, built for the NFL expansion team that replaced the Ravens in 1998.
Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Great American Ball Park, where the Cincinnati Reds play, also were built under the guidance of Brailsford & Dunlavey.
CHRIS WEIL, MOMENTUM WORLDWIDE
BY BILL KING
When Chris Weil took over as CEO of event marketing agency Momentum Worldwide two years ago, he set off on a whirlwind blitz, covering most of the company’s 72 offices in 49 countries.Chris Weil
• Titles: Chairman and CEO • Company: Momentum Worldwide • Age: 39 • Education: B.A., Westminster College, 1987 • Career: Arlen Marketing, 1991-1997; joined Momentum in 1997 to head the New York office; regional director of Momentum's Europe/Middle East/Africa operations, based in London, 2000-2003; named chairman and CEO of Momentum in 2003 • Family: Wife, Katherine; daughters Annabelle, 3, and Merilee, 1 • Last vacation: St. Bart's in February • Last books read: "A Salty Piece of Land" by Jimmy Buffett and "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini • Last movie seen: "Garden State" • Greatest disappointment: Leaving Europe to take this job. It's a great job, but I loved living in Europe. • Fantasy job: I'm in it. I love this job. But if I weren't doing this, I'd run a charter service on an 82-foot ketch with a beach bar as a base. • Executive most admired: Lou Gerstner, because of his ability to change an organization like IBM • Business advice: Culture wins the game, especially in the agency business. That's all you have is culture. Get the best people, set the culture right, and it's game over. You win.
His goal: to make Momentum one of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work within five years.
“Culture wins the game,” Weil said, borrowing from the philosophy that celebrity CEO Lou Gerstner applied when remaking IBM. “Especially in the agency business, that’s all you have is culture.
“Get the best people, set the culture right, and it’s game over. You win.”
To set that culture, Weil has installed a training curriculum. Some courses — such as the two-day “Momentum Essentials” series that Weil teaches at offices around the world — are geared toward building a company vernacular that can be shared across borders and tailoring presentations so that they speak in similar tones, if different languages. Others are aimed at individual development.
Employees who don’t keep up with training aren’t eligible for bonuses or raises.
Weil believes it’s an essential process for an überagency that was built through the acquisition of 33 other agencies.
“When you take their nameplates off the door and put yours up, you take away a culture that made them great, the reason you bought them,” Weil said. “If you don’t replace that with something even greater, it’s going to be a vacuum.”
Weil believes a consistent culture will help attract and retain the most talented employees. He also thinks it will help Momentum continue to deliver platforms that work in multiple markets for top clients such as American Express, General Motors, Microsoft and Anheuser-Busch.
It was that commitment to apply a single idea across varied markets and cultures that brought Momentum success on behalf of American Express at the tennis majors last year.
It all began with the idea of taking the U.S. Open beyond the grounds of the National Tennis Center to capture broader attention in the nation’s largest market. To do it, Momentum brought a slice of the Open atmosphere to Rockefeller Center. There, it set up a full court for eight days of clinics, skills challenges and celebrity matches that featured Chris Evert and Monica Seles, among others. It also showed matches live on a 25-foot screen.
“We brought the U.S. Open to more people, and it was a success,” Weil said. “It’s a strategy: tying ourselves to the broader community by drafting on the excitement of tennis in the marketplace.”
Momentum applied the same strategy at Wimbledon and at the Australian Open, tweaking it in both cases to drive exposure and contact with far more people than it otherwise would have reached at either event. During Wimbledon, Momentum floated a grass court down the Thames on which it staged an exhibition match between Monica Seles and John McEnroe. It also set up grass courts at the base of London’s Tower Bridge. In Australia, it staged similar events in Sydney, a far larger city than Melbourne, where the Open is played.
“The objectives are set broadbased and the concept is broadbased, but the execution is local market interpretation,” Weil said. “We’re local market citizens. That allows us to already be a citizen of Sao Paolo, so it’s not New York coming in to do it, it’s Sao Paolo. That’s an important differentiator. Entertainment and sports events are local first.”
CLAY WALKER, PLAYERS INC.
BY LIZ MULLEN
Clay Walker has a big job ahead of him this year.Clay Walker
• Age: 39 • Title: Senior vice president • Company: Players Inc. • Education: B.A., East Carolina University; MBA, Colorado State University; M.S., labor relations, University of Massachusetts, Amherst • Family: Wife, Anne; children, Davis, 4, and Caroline, 2 • Career: Started out covering licensing issues for a trading card magazine; has been with the NFL Players Association and Players Inc. for the last 12 years. • Last vacation: Bald Head Island, N.C. • Last book read: "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror" by Stephen Kinzer • Last movie seen: "Polar Express" • Greatest achievement: My wife and kids • Greatest disappointment: Not being able to play four years of college football because of injuries • Fantasy job: Athletic director • Executives most admired: Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue. Their shared vision is primarily responsible for the overall success of the NFL. • Business advice: Never give up on your passions.
Like the NFL itself, Players Inc. has been signing more exclusive deals with companies — for instance, Reebok for apparel and EA Sports for video games — because such agreements are bringing in significantly higher revenue than many deals that aren’t exclusive.
When it comes to fantasy football, though, Walker will have to work carefully. Not only has that part of the industry turned into big business for the NFLPA, but Walker himself was one of the first to see its potential. He’s nurtured the business for a decade, and he doesn’t want to do anything to stifle it — by, for example, cutting off too many fans from their favorite fantasy game.
“We will end up with a number of key partners,” he said, “but we will cut it down from 15 to five or six.”
Working out a big deal for Players Inc. isn’t new to Walker.
Last year, he was the lead negotiator on the union’s reported five-year, $300 million deal to make EA Sports the exclusive licensee for video games that use NFL player names and likenesses.
“He was really my counterpart,” said Joel Linzner, senior vice president of legal and business affairs for EA Sports, who led the company’s negotiations on the deal.
Linzner said Walker has a straightforward style and worked to attain EA’s goals, as well as those of the NFLPA.
“The thing that Clay understands well is that video games is not like some other sponsorship,” Linzner said. “Video games increase the goodwill of the property.”
Walker first met NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw and Players Inc. COO Pat Allen in the early 1990s, when he was working as a reporter at a trading card magazine. At the time, the NFLPA was decertified as a union and was operating as a trade organization. Those days were tough ones for the NFLPA. The NFL had employed a strategy of signing players to its own licensing agreements, denying the association any money from licensing.
Walker covered the battle between the NFL and NFLPA, which, at the time, hurt the value of NFL player trading cards. When the NFLPA recertified as a union in 1993, the NFL no longer could do its own licensing deals for players, and Walker was hired by the NFLPA as an assistant director of licensing in its newly created licensing department, which later became Players Inc.
Now, Walker manages licensing for trading cards and collectibles, apparel and multimedia. He also manages the communications and Internet departments, in all overseeing about a dozen employees.
Walker is “very detail oriented,” said Allen, “but he is a great communicator.”
Chris Russo, the NFL’s senior vice president of new media and publishing, said Walker “was an advocate of fantasy football before it became vogue. A number of years ago, [he] saw the potential.”
Russo remembers his first meeting with Walker five years ago. “His personal issue was fantasy football,” Russo said, “and when is the league going to get involved with fantasy football?”
Russo said that because of Walker’s passion and the quick start the NFLPA got on licensing fantasy football games, football has three times the following of any other fantasy sports game. That, in turn, is good for business overall, as the NFL has found that fantasy players spend many more hours a week watching NFL games than do fans who don’t participate in fantasy leagues.
“He is always looking at areas of growth,” Allen said. “Fantasy football is a perfect example. That is an area of business he really has been involved in the growth and creation of.”
DAMON EVANS, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
BY ROSS NETHERY
It’s a good thing Damon Evans knows how to take a hit.Damon Evans
• Age: 35 • Title: Director of athletics • School: University of Georgia • Education: Bachelor's degree, finance, University of Georgia, 1992; master's degree, education in sports management, University of Georgia, 1994 • Family: Wife, Kerri; son, Cameron, 6; daughter, Kennedy, 3 • Career: Interned at the Southeastern Conference in 1993-94; was director of compliance and operations for a year at the University of Missouri; rejoined the SEC for three years, becoming assistant commissioner for eligibility and compliance services; returned to Georgia in 1998 as an associate athletic director of internal affairs; took over as AD in July 2004 • Last vacation: Disney cruise, June 2004 • Last book read: "Up Country" by Nelson DeMille • Last movies seen: "Ray" and "Coach Carter" • Greatest disappointment: When I played football, I wish we had won a championship. • Executive most admired: [Former General Electric CEO] Jack Welch. • Business advice: Don't let people tell you you can't accomplish whatever your goals are.
Never mind that Evans had been intimately involved for six years in most of the department’s decisions, the majority of the time as senior associate athletic director, and that he was Dooley’s hand-picked successor. Some among the Bulldog faithful were upset that the university’s president, Michael Adams, didn’t renew Dooley’s contract when it ended last year, sending the Georgia legend — he was athletic director for 25 years and head football coach for 15 — into semi-retirement. (Dooley still works for the athletic department in a mostly fund-raising capacity.)
As if all that weren’t enough, almost as soon as Evans took over, he fired a few longtime employees, including three department heads.
He didn’t do it on a whim, though. He had known for six months that he would be taking over the top job, giving him time to plan how he would reshape the department.
“I downsized our senior staff because I wanted a leaner management team,” Evans said. “I also wanted to get some people in here who had a fresh set of eyes and a similar philosophy to mine.”
That philosophy involves using a business-oriented approach to meet the demands of running a $55 million athletic program while also focusing on the priorities of a university: educating students and fielding winning teams, and doing it with a strict adherence to the rules.
It’s the fact that Evans has those priorities, and the gumption to make the hard decisions, that helped convince Adams that he was right for the job.
“I had watched him for six years as senior associate AD,” Adams said. “I thought he was a quick study, had a good grasp of things and usually came down on the right side of an issue.”
Evans got the AD job at age 34, a fact that caused many people to question whether he had the wisdom and experience for the job. Evans has frequently pointed out that he already had 12 years of experience, adding that if he had been 44 years old with the same experience, few people would have questioned his credentials.
“Everyone was saying I was too young to be athletic director,” he said. “If I had listened to that, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
DAN LOZANO, BEVERLY HILLS SPORTS COUNCIL
BY LIZ MULLEN
Baseball agent Dan Lozano has had a big year. In what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called a “historic deal,” Lozano last year negotiated a $100 million, seven-year deal to keep Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in St. Louis through the 2010 season. The deal, which more than doubles the previous record contract awarded a player with three years of major league service, could be worth as much as $112 million if the Cardinals exercise an option for the 2011 season.Dan Lozano
• Age: 37 • Title: Partner • Company: Beverly Hills Sports Council • Education: B.A., University of Southern California, 1990 • Family: Single • Career: Started as an intern at Beverly Hills Sports Council while still in college; became a partner in 1996 • Last vacation: Monte Carlo, summer of 2004 • Last book read: "My 30 Years in Dodger Blue" by Fred Claire • Last movie seen: "Ray" • Greatest achievement: Becoming partners with Rick Thurman, Jeff Borris and Dan Horwits • Greatest disappointment: My brother, who was killed in a car accident, wasn't able to see my success • Fantasy job: A wine sommelier • Business advice: Don't ever chase the dollar. Find your passion and then figure out how to make money at it.
Earlier this month, Lozano was working on a multiyear extension of a one-year, $3.85 million contract that he had negotiated for Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins in January.
Lozano is one of four partners and agents who run Beverly Hills Sports Council, a baseball player representation agency with a roster of about 85 Major League Baseball players and 45 minor leaguers.
Among the clients Lozano personally represents are New York Mets slugger Mike Piazza, Philadelphia’s Rollins, St. Louis’ Pujols, Minnesota’s Jacque Jones and Toronto’s Eric Hinske.
Lozano wouldn’t say exactly how many of the agency’s players are his primary responsibility. “There are a lot of players I am very close to, but our office is definitely a team effort,” he said. “My other partners — Jeff Borris, Rick Thurman and Danny Horwits — they play a huge role with every one of the guys I deal with.”
Lozano starts each workday at home about 6:30 a.m. by making calls to clients or teams on the East Coast. “In this business, your phone is really your office,” he said.
When he is in town, he will go into the agency’s Beverly Hills, Calif., office at 8:30 if he doesn’t have clients staying over, or at 10 a.m. if he has house guests.
During the season, when clients come to town to play the Angels or Los Angeles Dodgers, they always come into the office.
Lozano goes to 80 to 100 baseball games a year, counting spring training, minor league games and major league games. When he is not going to a game, his work day ends about 7 p.m.; otherwise it ends when the game ends.
He travels about eight months a year visiting clients, and calls each of his clients at least four or five times a week.
Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, has known Lozano for about 11 years and counts him as both a friend and a business partner.
“We both came up in the business together,” he said. “I have a hard time believing he is under 40, he has been in the business so long.”
Beane said that he has a high level of trust with Lozano. “When he tells you something, I think you can take it to be accurate,” he said, adding that it often takes a long time for him to complete a negotiation with Lozano because “half the time we are interacting as friends.”
Beane said that he has dealt with Lozano on every kind of player and every kind of contract. “He is especially good with major league players and major league free agents,” Beane said. “The bigger the issue, the better he is.”
DAVE ST. PETER, MINNESOTA TWINS
BY RUSSELL ADAMS
Throughout Dave St. Peter’s upbringing in North Dakota in the 1970s, his family used to pile in the station wagon for the six-hour drive from Bismarck to the Twin Cities to watch the Minnesota Twins play. It was during those long drives that St. Peter’s father, an avid New York Yankees fan, instilled in his son a devotion to Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter and the other architects of the Yankees’ resurrection.Dave St. Peter
• Age: 37 • Title: President • Team: Minnesota Twins • Education: B.A., public relations, University of North Dakota, 1989 • Family: Wife, Joanie; sons Jack, 8, Eric, 6, and Benjamin, 6 • Career: Retail store manager, Minnesota Twins, 1990-1991; manager of communications, 1992-1995; director of communications, 1996-1998; vice president, corporate communications, 1999; senior vice president, business affairs, 1999-2002; named president in November 2002 • Last vacation: Punta Mita, Mexico • Last book read: "Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable" by Seth Godin • Last movie seen: "Polar Express" • Greatest achievement: Surviving 15 years in this game • Greatest disappointment: Still not having a resolution to our ballpark situation • Fantasy job: U.S. senator • Executive most admired: Former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle • Business advice: There's no substitute for hard work.
“I spend a lot of time with my marketing staff trying to attract families,” said St. Peter, president of the Twins for the last two years. “In many ways, my youth, and specifically the family dynamic, has served me well.”
While Twins general manager Terry Ryan has orchestrated three straight American League Central Division titles on the field, St. Peter has helped create economic stability off it. The Twins, fueled by overall industry growth and the club’s ability to capitalize on its large regional appeal, broke even in 2004 on an operating basis while carrying a $54 million player payroll.
Jerry Bell, president of the club’s Twins Sports Inc. parent company, cited a flexible ticket plan that the Twins will offer this season as well as the addition of 133 seats billed as “Dugout seats on the field” as the latest of many examples of St. Peter’s ability to create new revenue streams.
“He’s been creative and innovative, and he brings a high degree of energy,” Bell said. “He thinks outside the box.”
St. Peter, since becoming team president in 2002, has overseen the difficult task of managing the Twins’ relationship with sponsors and fans while the team has flirted with contraction and continued to play in one of Major League Baseball’s least fan-friendly venues.
Despite a family-friendly commitment to keeping ticket prices well below the league average, the Twins have failed to draw 2 million fans in a season since 1993. But the franchise has employed an aggressive regional marketing approach reflected in its recently unveiled “This is Twins territory” ad campaign. Highlighting the approach is what is believed to be the most extensive winter caravan in Major League Baseball, spanning more than 50 cities in five states, including Bismarck.
Such efforts have helped the club cultivate a vast and loyal television audience that Twins executives said is finally reflected in their local television revenue, even though their grand vision of $50 million in annual revenue from a team-owned network failed shortly after its inception last year.
For all the team’s magic of the last few years, the Twins’ long-term success depends on the club’s ability to secure financing for a new ballpark, a task that rests largely on St. Peter’s shoulders. It’s a major responsibility for a guy who once aspired to be the sports information director at a major university before taking a job managing one of the Twins’ retail stores 15 years ago.
“I’ve always believed that just working in sports is a privilege,” St. Peter said. “I’ve been given a greater opportunity to lead, and I’m honored and humbled.”
DAVID EHRLICH, KROENKE SPORTS ENTERPRISES
BY DON MURET
David Ehrlich was simply acting the dutiful spouse when he followed his wife Meredith’s suggestion to apply for a job advertised in the Denver Business Journal in 1996.David Ehrlich
• Age: 39 • Title: Chief operating officer • Company: Kroenke Sports Enterprises • Education: B.S., industrial and labor relations, Cornell University, 1987; J.D., Hastings College of the Law, 1991 • Family: Wife, Meredith; son, Mason, 7; daughter, Eva, 5 • Career: Corporate attorney, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, 1991-1994; corporate attorney, Sherman & Howard LLC, 1994-1996; assistant general counsel, Ascent Entertainment Group, 1996-1999; general counsel, 1999-2000; vice president, business and legal affairs, Kroenke Sports Enterprises, 2000-2002; executive vice president, 2003-2004; chief operating officer, 2004-present • Last vacation: La Jolla, Calif. • Last book read: "A Soldier of the Great War" by Mark Helprin • Greatest disappointment: Professionally, the brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills. • Fantasy job: Big-wave surfer. I love the ocean. I have a bit more than 10 years to get ready for the 50-and-over circuit. • Executive most admired: Robert Loup of Loup Development Co. in Denver. Bob is a local real estate developer and a mentor of mine. He has built a very successful company and has selflessly given an incredible amount of his time and energy to the community for over 40 years. • Business advice: Never forget that you are part of a greater whole.
“I told my wife she was nuts,” he recalled.
Lo and behold, the organization hired Ehrlich, and his string of good luck continued.
“My first day of work the Avs won the Stanley Cup, so things started out pretty well,” Ehrlich said. “After that, however, it was a roller-coaster ride with Ascent.”
The ride included a few aborted attempts to sell the two teams and the arena. It ended four years later in April 2000, when real estate developer and St. Louis Rams co-owner Stan Kroenke acquired the properties from Liberty Media Group. Liberty had bought the entities from Ascent the same year.
Kroenke asked Erhlich, who had been promoted to general counsel in 1999, to stay on with the new company, and Ehrlich was promoted to executive vice president three years later.
“When the CEO [Don Elliman] retired, Stan gave me the opportunity to become chief operating officer,” Ehrlich said.
Since then, the company has bought Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, Arena Football League’s Colorado Crush and the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth and built the Universal Lending Pavilion, a 4,200-seat outdoor concert venue on the Pepsi Center grounds.
KSE recently launched Altitude Sports & Entertainment, a Denver-based regional television network, and is planning to build a $64 million soccer-specific stadium for the Rapids.
“There are more balls to keep an eye on and it’s definitely a challenge,” Ehrlich said. “I go to all the staff meetings and there are a lot of people I don’t know. Our company has grown to more than 400 employees from slightly over 200.”
Ehrlich also has supervised the renovation of Pepsi Center, entering its sixth year of operation in 2005. KSE upgraded a concessions area into the Crown Royal Bar, a branded area open to the public.
The freedom that team owner Kroenke provides his executive staff makes it exciting, Ehrlich said.
“It’s something new every day,” he said. “If a deal pencils out and the numbers make sense, it’s not a question of wherewithal. Stan is in a position where he can do these things.”
DAVID SAMSON, FLORIDA MARLINS
BY BILL KING
There’s a movie scene that David Samson likes to play in his mind when he considers the approach that he has taken as president of the Florida Marlins.David Samson
• Title: President • Team: Florida Marlins • Age: 37 • Education: B.A., economics, University of Wisconsin, 1990; J.D., Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, 1993 • Career: Founder and president, News Travels Fast, 1993-1996; investment adviser, Morgan Stanley, 1996-1999; executive vice president, Montreal Expos, 1999-2001; named president of the Marlins in 2002 • Family: Wife, Cindy; daughters, Hannah, 9, and Kyra, 6; son, Caleb, 1 • Last vacation: Egypt for a three-day weekend in December • Last book read: "Free to Be You and Me" by Marlo Thomas, to my kids • Last movie seen: "Let It Ride" • Greatest achievement: Unanimous victory in the lawsuit filed against us by the former limited partners of the Montreal Expos • Fantasy job: Sixth man on the New York Knicks in the early 1970s, when there was no agenda or selfishness in sports • Executive most admired: Steve Jobs, for not being afraid to fail and for being different and sticking to his principles • Business advice: Persistence pays. "No" is merely an impediment on the way to "yes."
“The metaphor is that we put blinders on, and we keep rolling down that hill,” said Samson, who shocked the baseball world when the Marlins won the World Series two seasons ago and insists he’ll do it again when the club locks up funding for a new stadium. “Sticking to that plan has taken incredible intestinal fortitude, because the shots were coming from all sides.
“If you allow yourself to get off course by reacting to any of the intermediate commentary, it guarantees you won’t reach your final goal.”
This particular shopping cart began its roll downhill late in 2001, when Samson, then president of the Expos, worked with MLB to navigate a complex three-way deal in which his boss, Jeffrey Loria, ended up as owner of the Marlins, Marlins owner John Henry bought the Boston Red Sox and MLB absorbed ownership of the Expos.
Many in baseball figured that if Loria wasn’t going from the frying pan into the fire, he was at least going into another frying pan. He and Samson thought otherwise.
Three years later, they have a World Series ring to show for it. While they have bled millions along the way to field a competitive team in a low-revenue ballpark, they remain convinced that the payoff waits around the next corner in the form of a new ballpark that would stabilize the franchise’s balance sheet.
“We knew we couldn’t start our stadium effort until we proved to this community that we were serious about committing to field a competitive team,” Samson said. “You must invest in your product and believe in it before you can get anybody else to invest and believe in it. To me, that’s the most critical part of being successful in the sports industry, and it’s something that not everyone understands or accepts.
“Your willingness to invest on the come is crucial, and you have to have the stomach to continue it every year.”
In the last three years, the Marlins have increased attendance from a dismal 800,000 to 1.3 million and then 1.7 million. This year, Samson says he is confident they will eclipse 2 million. The season-ticket base has grown from the 300 they inherited to 3,000, then 5,000 and last year 10,000. This year, it should clear 12,000. Sponsorship revenue increased 40 percent last year.
It has happened, Samson said, because he and Loria have stuck to their plan, even though the obstacles may have seemed insurmountable, going all the way back to the beginning, when they sold the Expos and bought the Marlins.
“That entire transaction fell apart 15 times and it took creativity and incredible, incredible persistence to get it back on track,” Samson said. “And when history looks back on that transaction, it will go down as the most complicated transaction in baseball history, and one that resulted in taking a powerful franchise and two fledgling franchises and morphing them into three powerful franchises. I really believe that.”
As January turned into February, the Marlins were closing in on the completion of a stadium deal that would include contributions from both the city and county. But another fight remained. They still had to secure a tax subsidy from state legislators.
That’s a fight they’ve lost before. Samson insists that this time will be different.
“I want people to look back in 50 years,” Samson said, “and know that we were captain of the ship when it finally started sailing downstream.”
And the shopping cart when it started rolling downhill.
DAVID STERNBERG, FOX CABLE NETWORK GROUP
BY ANDY BERNSTEIN
If you just looked in David Sternberg’s mailbox, it might be hard to figure out what he does for a living. There’d be a copy of Skateboarder magazine tucked under 442, a British soccer periodical. There’d also be a few things in Spanish.David Sternberg
• Age: 36 • Title: Executive vice president of emerging networks • Company: Fox Cable Networks Group • Education: B.A., comparative literature, Prince-ton, 1990; MBA, UCLA, 1996 • Family: Wife, Julie; daughters Sarah Anne, 5, and Nicole, born Feb. 15; son, Brian, 3 • Career: Joined Fox Sports International as director of business development in 1998, after a stint as a management consultant in PricewaterhouseCoopers' Entertainment, Media and Communications Strategy Group in Los Angeles; also worked for World Cup USA 1994 and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum • Last vacation: Hawaii • Last book read: "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth • Last movie seen: "Sideways" • Greatest disappointment: Not meeting my wife five years earlier • Fantasy job: Head coach of the San Francisco 49ers • Executive most admired: Would it be too much brown-nosing to say David Hill? • Business advice: Be fair.
They include Fuel, Fox’s 2-year-old action sports network; Fox Sports en Español; and the recently rebranded Fox Soccer Channel, formerly known as Fox Sports World.
Sternberg has to be as well-versed in the latest moves on a half pipe as he is on who’s dominating the English Premier League.
He’s also done a pretty good job of convincing cable operators of the merits of each network, as they rank as the most successful in the digital sports space. Fox Soccer is highly profitable and reaches about 20 million homes.
Fuel already reaches 12 million homes, tops among the latest wave of niche sports networks that are primarily distributed via optional sports tiers. Fox Sports en Español is in about 3 million Spanish-speaking cable homes, close to half of the total market.
As Sternberg’s title indicates, all of the networks are on a growth track, evolving from narrowly focused specialty channels into ones that eventually hope to attract a broad audience.
“The way I look at these networks is they started off as niche channels addressing a very specific segment of the viewing population,” Sternberg said, “but with the idea that that niche was on the verge of exploding and had the potential to become part of the mainstream in a very short time.”
It all comes down to simple demographics and consumer trends.
“If you look at the Hispanic market, no one would dispute that,” he said. “And the same applies to action sports or soccer. You’ve got more people now skateboarding than doing any other sport other than soccer in this country, and soccer, of course, is growing at a fast rate.”
With larger audiences come larger budgets.
Sternberg renewed Fox’s U.S. deal with the English Premier League last year, just about doubling the annual rights fee to the $10 million range.
Fuel just became title sponsor of Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom HuckJam arena tour. The deal will include a few programming elements but is primarily a marketing agreement, an aggressive move to put the Fuel name in front of the teenage male audience.
Sternberg’s role within Fox Sports has changed somewhat in the last year, as he no longer is involved in Fox’s overseas networks on a day-to-day basis. There was a time when the international side of the business was a large part of his responsibilities.
But now these digital networks are considered of paramount strategic importance to Fox, and Sternberg is able to focus on them almost exclusively.
“I think he represents the future of the television business, someone born out of the digital cable world as opposed to the broadcast world,” said Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber. MLS games are shown on both Fox Soccer and en Español. “He understands the value of the niche digital cable platform. He’s from the world of the channels in the hundreds, and as such I think is very tuned in to where the broadcast business is going, as opposed to where it’s been.”
DREW ROSENHAUS, ROSENHAUS SPORTS REPRESENTATION
BY LIZ MULLEN
Love him or hate him, no one can deny that NFL player agent Drew Rosenhaus has become a very powerful person in the world of sports.Drew Rosenhaus
• Age: 38 • Title: President • Company: Rosenhaus Sports Representation Inc. • Family: Single • Education: B.A., University of Miami, 1987; J.D., Duke University School of Law, 1990 • Career: Started as an agent while in law school; was 22 years old when he first registered with the NFL Players Association • Last vacation: I never take vacations. But every day is a vacation when you love your work the way that I do. • Last book read: I read comics on a daily basis. On almost every flight. My favorite comic is "Batman." • Last movie seen: I rarely have time to go to movies. I watch them on DVD or pay-per-view. Most recent DVD I watched was "Hero." • Greatest achievement: Cover of Sports Illustrated • Greatest disappointment: Not yet representing the first pick of the NFL draft • Fantasy job: Member of the military's Special Forces unit • Business advice: Find a trusted partner like my brother, Jason Rosenhaus, to work with.
Sports Illustrated dubbed Rosenhaus “the most hated man in football” in a 1996 cover story, and his year of smashing records for signing players hasn’t made him any friends in the agent business. That’s because at least 32 of his 39 new clients had been signed to other agents, before the players fired them and signed with Rosenhaus.
Although a lot of rival agents complain about Rosenhaus, some have a grudging respect for him.
“Here is a guy who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the most hated man, and every agent in the country and a lot of NFL front-office types despised him, and he went on to build one of the biggest representation firms in the country in the face of it all,” said veteran NFL player agent Jack Bechta. “I respect that. He has a place in our industry.”
Rosenhaus has said that football representation is a business in which no one trusts anyone, which is why his brother is the only other contract agent in his company.
“Drew is, without a doubt, the most entertaining, dynamic and charismatic guy in the business of sports,” said Jason Rosenhaus, Drew’s younger brother and partner in Rosenhaus Sports.
The two grew up in the Miami area, sons of Robert Rosenhaus, a self-made businessman who owned a synthetic marble manufacturing company, Jason Rosenhaus said. Robert Rosenhaus became friendly with some players on the Miami Dolphins team, and players regularly came to dinner at the Rosenhaus home when Drew and Jason were growing up.
“Drew became enamored with these guys,” Jason said, “and took a great deal of pride in being able to conversate with them about their business and the team, and he became in love with the Miami Dolphins.”
Jason said that in addition to his father and the Dolphins who visited their home, Drew was deeply influenced by his boyhood Korean martial arts instructor.
The instructor “was an extreme disciplinarian,” Jason said. “He took a special interest in Drew and took a soft, mama’s boy and made him into a disciplined, aspiring student.”
Drew gained “a mental toughness” from martial arts that he applied to his studies at the University of Miami and Duke Law School, and to his business as a sports agent.
Jason noted that, although other agents have accused his brother of stealing clients, and some of those agents have filed grievances with the NFL Players Association, not one of those complaints has been upheld.
“I know that other agents dislike us,” Drew said. “But if you ever meet a person that doesn’t say I am the hardest-working guy in this business, I would be surprised.”
Drew said that he and his brother are “raising the standard” of the representation business. “If you don’t want to lose your client to someone who works as hard as we do, then you are going to have to work hard,” he said.
Rosenhaus said he negotiated contracts valued at more than $300 million last year, which included about $90 million in bonuses that were guaranteed. This offseason, Rosenhaus said he wants to negotiate $500 million in contracts, and that eventually he wants to negotiate $1 billion worth of contracts in one year.
“Why not?” he said. “It’s never been done before, but it’s a goal.”
FAUST CAPOBIANCO IV, MAJESTIC ATHLETIC
BY TERRY LEFTON
Faust Capobianco IV remembers one of his first big deals with a national retailer more for what he didn’t sell.Faust Capobianco IV
• Age: 33 • Title: President • Company: Majestic Athletic • Education: B.A., government, University of Notre Dame, 1994 • Career: Started in the family business directly out of college as a licensing director; named president in 2002 • Family: Wife, Melissa; daughter, Luisa Grace, 2; expecting another child in March • Last vacation: Rome over Christmas and New Year's • Last book read: "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't" by Jim Collins • Last movie seen: "The Village" • Greatest achievement: Leading a management team that emerged as MLB's exclusive on-field apparel partner in the face of stiff competition from some of the industry's largest and most sophisticated brands • Fantasy job: Athletic director at my alma mater, Notre Dame. Undoubtedly one of the toughest jobs in sports, but I'd love to give it a shot. • Business advice: The harder you work, the luckier you get.
Attention to basics like that have allowed family-owned Majestic Athletic to flourish. Since it signed its first MLB leaguewide licensing deal in 1984, competitors like Starter and Pro Player have disappeared into the abyss of bankruptcy proceedings, tripped up by a fickle, fashion-driven market, overlicensing by leagues and far too many marketing commitments.
Befitting a company known for its domestic manufacturing capabilities and an ability to turn product quickly into a dynamic marketplace, Majestic also has stuck to its knitting. Starting this season, the Bangor, Pa., firm will supply uniforms to all Major League Baseball teams.
“If you asked me 10 years ago about doing every team, I would have believed it,” Capobianco said, “but I might not have laid money on it. But we’ve always been very pragmatic about what our strengths are.”
Those strengths are the basics of design, service and delivery to retail chains and mom-and-pop stores, along with a reputation for quickly turning product to fuel the hot markets that are sports licensing’s feeding frenzy.
When the long-rumored trade of Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees was being consummated, Majestic got wind of the trade from MLB on a Thursday and confirmed the deal and the uniform number two days later. On the Monday of the Yankee Stadium press conference, Johnson jerseys and T-shirts were available throughout Manhattan in quantity.
Attention to detail and quick turn-arounds have produced results that are anything but dull. Revenue for the privately held company has grown 50 percent over the past three years — and that’s before Majestic goes from supplying uniforms for 16 clubs to all 30 MLB teams this season.
“They just do everything right,” said MLB licensing czar Howard Smith. “Faust knows the business as well as anyone. You could say he got his position because of the family, but he’s earned it. He’s made the model his dad set up that much better.”
Capobianco joined the family business out of college in the 1990s, when the licensed sports apparel business was exploding. Majestic was still small but growing with the market, and it always had an entrepreneurial bent.
In the late ’90s, Capobianco told his dad about the value of on-site hot-market sales.
“Fine,” said Faust III, “go do it.”
So it was that the younger Faust found himself in the snow selling T-shirts in Cleveland at the 1997 World Series. Another lesson learned.
“Opportunity is out there, if you know when to take risks,” he said.
“Faust understands licensing from the bottom up,” said Mitchell Modell, president of the sporting goods retail chain that bears his name. “He knows what works like someone who’s been in the business for 30 years.”
Working his way from licensing to president three years ago, Capobianco still sweats the details and has the same love now of the business, where a logo turns a $2 shirt into a $20 shirt, as he had coming out of college 10 years ago.
“Consumers don’t need us the way you need food or water, but they love what we make,” he said. “You have to enjoy being in any business when you’re able to say that.”
GREG SHAHEEN, NCAA
BY ROSS NETHERY
On the front of the Forty Under 40 nomination form is a list of five segments of the sports industry. The idea is for the person doing the nominating to circle the part of the industry in which a nominee works.Greg Shaheen
• Age: 37 • Title: Vice president, Division I men's basketball and championship strategies • Organization: NCAA • Education: B.S., business, Indiana University, 1990 • Family: Single • Career: Before joining NCAA in 2000, worked for Indiana Sports Corp., for which he organized the NCAA's move from Kansas City to Indianapolis; was director of operations for the Indianapolis Local Organizing Committee during the 1996, '97, '99 and 2000 NCAA Division I men's basketball championships • Last vacation: In November, 13 days in Hawaii on first vacation in four years • Last book read: "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell • Last movie seen: "Ray" • Greatest achievement: The diverse relationships, friendships and experiences that I've been fortunate enough to have • Fantasy job: To be involved in an even larger logistical operation, such as the Olympics • Executive most admired: My father, an extraordinary success who overcame many barriers and odds in the business world • Business advice: Don't worry about getting credit. Don't worry about being known. Focus on creating the best possible product and outworking everybody else, and everything will take care of itself.
That is no exaggeration.
Shaheen carries the title “NCAA Vice President, Division I Men’s Basketball and Championship Strategies,” but it’s not a title that’s particularly enlightening about what he really does.
Here’s the nutshell version: He oversees the day-to-day operations of what we know as “March Madness” — 65 teams, 14 sites and nearly a million ticket buyers. He works with the media partners who carry and cover the event across a variety of platforms. And he works on operations and promotions for the other NCAA championships. There are 88 of them.
Now for the hard stuff. Shaheen also oversees the NCAA’s 11-year, $6 billion rights agreements with CBS and ESPN. He works with the NCAA’s biggest sponsors (Coke, GM, Cingular, etc.) to make sure their money is well-spent for both sides, including helping with promotions and fan interactive programs. He’s involved with licensing, as well, and with media efforts ranging from televised broadcasts of all NCAA championships to radio, Internet activities and publishing.
Perhaps the nomination form provides a hint for a better title: “Vice President, Responsible for All.”
Shaheen relishes both the volume and the variety, despite the all-consuming nature of the job.
“I believe that sleep is overrated as a use of time,” he said.
NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt said Shaheen’s vision, leadership abilities and work ethic “are beyond description.”
“He does a remarkable job,” Jernstedt said, “particularly in the relationships that he builds and enhances.”
Never were those relationships, and Shaheen’s stamina, tested more than they were two years ago, when U.S. armed forces invaded Iraq on the eve of the men’s basketball tournament. The Department of Homeland Security was practically on a hotline as the NCAA and television partner CBS tried to decide whether to delay the games.
“That was a crucible for us,” said Mike Aresco, senior vice president of CBS Sports. “It was nothing in comparison to what was going on over there, but in terms of television, we had a significant challenge to overcome.”
Shaheen “showed tremendous poise and a sense of cooperation,” said Aresco, adding that he helped everyone get through the crisis with relationships intact.
In hindsight, carrying on with the tournament was certainly the right decision, but it wasn’t so obvious at the time.
One of Shaheen’s most poignant memories is of getting NCAA President Myles Brand connected with then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
Said Shaheen, “I’ll never forget Secretary Ridge saying, ‘Our young men and women are fighting abroad to protect the rights of all young men and women at home. The games must go on. I’m a true fan of March Madness.’”
Brand said Shaheen’s work is critical to the mission of the NCAA, particularly with regard to the basketball tournament and managing the relationship with the organization’s media partners.
“He does an extraordinary job,” Brand said, “and for those efforts alone, he stands out among his peers in the world of sports.”
JACQUELINE PARKES, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
BY RUSSELL ADAMS
In the midst of an episode from 2004 most Major League Baseball executives would rather forget, Jacqueline Parkes knew everything had come together for a league that had long struggled to sell itself.Jacqueline Parkes
• Age: 39 • Title: Senior vice president of advertising and marketing • League: Major League Baseball • Education: B.A., English, Mount St. Mary's University, 1987 • Family: Husband, Brian Hendrix; three children: Christopher, 7; Creighton, 5; and Caroline, 3 • Career: 18 years in entertainment and sports marketing, starting with Stephen M. Pollan as a writer-researcher for his articles and cable show on CNBC; six years at Jim Henson Productions; now entering her 10th year at MLB, having started with the league as director of advertising and promotions in 1995 • Last vacation: Captiva Island, Fla. • Last book read: "Career Warfare" by David D'Alessandro • Last movie seen: "Polar Express" • Greatest achievement: My family • Greatest disappointment: That we didn't get enough press on the announcement of the "Spider-Man 2" MLB promotion • Fantasy job: Sports broadcaster • Business advice: Have passion for what you do and how you do it.
Parkes handled a conference call with reporters to explain and defend the promotion without her boss, but the support she got from Brosnan, MLB President Bob DuPuy and Commissioner Bud Selig in the heart of the media firestorm was as telling as any other event during Parkes’ decade at MLB.
“The whole organization stood with me,” said Parkes, who as senior vice president of advertising and marketing for the last two years has spearheaded many of MLB’s marketing initiatives. “You don’t get that at a lot of companies.”
“I’m fortunate to work for a company that continues to want to aggressively market the game in new and innovative ways,” she added.
That the words “new” and “innovative” can be associated with MLB is largely the result of a more centralized structure in which Selig and DuPuy have entrusted the league’s department heads with more responsibility and freedom. How far MLB has advanced as a centralized marketing unit is a credit to Parkes, who under Brosnan has helped push clubs to new levels in reaching out to fans.
Before the 2004 season, Parkes sent clubs a “tool kit” with instructions and resources for marketing a series of celebrations — including Opening Day, Jackie Robinson Day and Roberto Clemente Day — as an outgrowth of MLB’s focus on breaking down the season into events to package and sell. Also included were instructions on the “Spider-Man 2” promotion, for which Parkes later helped clubs execute a scaled-down version.
Parkes last year implemented a pilot television program in which six clubs and their TV partners introduced such innovations as microphoned players and on-field cameras during select broadcasts. The program was widely lauded and will expand into more markets this year. In addition, she coordinated the introduction of the “8 Teams, 1 Champion” postseason campaign as an extension of the “I Live For This” effort and conceived and coordinated the “Rally Monday” concept, eight celebrations in the eight playoff cities on the Monday before the start of the postseason. “Rally Monday” will return this year, a new annual platform for the league.
Club officials and league sponsors say that largely because of Parkes, their relationship with baseball’s league office has never been tighter. MLB this offseason held its first sponsor symposium for sponsors, advertisers and television partners to evaluate the 2004 season and prepare for 2005.
Selling others on the value of baseball is hardly a chore for Parkes, who fostered her passion for the game as a child while following the New York Mets, for whom her dad was team doctor. Parkes’ allegiance to the Mets rubbed off on her son Creighton, but in a clear sign that the good of the game comes first in the family, her oldest child, Christopher, is a Yankees fan.
In her current position, Parkes oversees advertising, marketing, research and design services at the league. Her next major task is putting together for MLB and its sponsors a plan that maps out the league’s marketing agenda for the next three to five years.
With any luck, the plan will include plenty of innovation and none of the negative attention that Parkes knows the job of selling baseball can make extremely difficult to avoid.
JOHN BRODY, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
BY TERRY LEFTON
In the business of high-profile sports sponsorships, there are salesmen who dabble in marketing and marketers who practice some salesmanship. MLB senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing John Brody artfully blends both disciplines in a business where there are few who’ve mastered either.John Brody
• Age: 32 • Title: Senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing • League: Major League Baseball • Education: B.A., political science, Tufts University, 1995 • Family: Wife, Gayle; son, Michael, 19 months • Career: Young & Rubicam, 1995-1998; corporate marketing, MLB, 1998-2002; executive vice president of marketing, Boston Celtics, 2002-2004; MLB senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing, 2004-present • Last vacation: Chatham, Cape Cod, last summer • Last book read: I read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" to my son daily, but for me it was "Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season" by Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King. • Last movie seen: "The Aviator" • Greatest achievement: I love coming to work and I love going home — not everyone can say that, so I'm lucky. • Greatest disappointment: Not having my father around anymore to share my life with • Executive most admired: Michael Dell • Business advice: Love what you do and don't think your life has to be a Horatio Alger story. Not many presidents start in the mail room of their company anymore.
Complicating matters was the fact that MLB already had five incumbent financial service sponsors: Century 21, MasterCard, MBNA, Ameriquest and John Hancock. It was more about giving the customer what it wanted than artful category surgery.
“He’s a consummate professional,” said John Lynch, Reebok’s vice president of sports marketing, who worked with Brody when he was with MLB and the Boston Celtics. “John spends a lot of time understanding what the customer’s needs are and looks to find a marketing solution, as opposed to just selling inventory.”
“What I tell everyone in this department — and try to keep in mind myself — is that while anyone we’re talking to has an affinity for baseball, what matters to Viagra is vastly different from what’s important to MasterCard,” said Brody, who counts the payment-card association’s All-Century Team (1999) and Memorable Moments (2002) promotions as two of the best he has worked on.
Brody originally joined MLB in 1998 after four years at Young & Rubicam. After The Baseball Network debacle, in which marketing rights were sold as a throw-in to media buys, MLB was trying to build a sponsorship business, and Brody helped restore it with new categories like Claritin (then a prescription drug), Viagra and Century 21.
“Traditional partners like Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi are our bread and butter,” Brody said, “but with non-traditional partners, we got baseball in new places and new faces.”
Returning to his native New England in 2002, Brody spent two seasons with the Celtics as executive vice president of marketing. He returned in March 2004 to MLB’s long-vacant top sales job, with a new perspective he now says is as valuable as his fervent curiosity about consumer behavior.
“What I thought teams did every day is much different from what I found you actually did,” Brody said. “I didn’t appreciate what priority sales and sponsorship has to a team. Sales are important, but they can’t be the only piece or the most important piece when you have to be concerned with getting a product on the floor and selling seats every night.”
It didn’t take Brody long to attract new business last year, landing Bank of America, along with Taco Bell, MLB’s first fast-food sponsor in years, and Ameriquest Mortgage. Combined with A-B, Gillette and Century 21 renewals, sponsorship revenue was up 25 percent in 2004, with sponsorship activation dollars at an all-time high of more than $110 million.
“A lot of people with marketing positions in sports treat you as if there’s an endless supply of sponsors,” said former John Hancock CEO David D’Alessandro. “John always treats you like you’re the only client he has. He realizes that retaining clients is as important as selling new ones.”
JOHN GALLOWAY, PEPSI
BY JOHN LOMBARDO
John Galloway joins SportBusiness Journal’s Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame this year, a recognition of sustained success for an executive who is guided in business by a belief in long-term deals.John Galloway
• Title: Director of sports marketing • Company: Pepsi • Age: 38 • Education: B.S., journalism, Manhattan College, 1989 • Family: Wife, Denise; daughter, Julia, 7; son, J.J., 4 • Career: Worked for Burson-Marsteller Public Relations and Wunderman Cato Johnson Sports Group, where he handled sports marketing for Miller Brewing; worked as an account supervisor on Pepsi with Tracy Locke Partnership; joined Pepsi in 1996, spending time as a brand manager for Mountain Dew and as director of flavors marketing in Europe; promoted to current position in 2001 • Last vacation: San Diego • Last book read: "Bringing Down the House" by Ben Mezrich • Last movie seen: "Meet the Fockers" • Greatest achievement: This year, it was thwarting Coke's decision to have eight cars in our title Pepsi 400 race. • Greatest disappointment: I didn't get to come back to run the New York City Marathon, but I'm on it for 2005. • Fantasy job: Head football coach at West Point • Executive most admired: Steve Reinemund, PepsiCo chairman — It's an honest suck-up move. He's a former Marine and he's a visionary. • Business advice: Take a job that has to do with your passion so that you enjoy your life 24 hours a day.
Galloway last year helped negotiate a long-term extension of Pepsi’s sponsorship with the NFL, a deal that now runs through 2011. The nature of the agreement is vintage Galloway: He wants no part of short-term deals, preferring instead to lock up key sports properties for the long haul to protect Pepsi’s brand.
Pepsi’s long list of sports properties includes a long-term sponsorship of Jeff Gordon and a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race; Major League Baseball; and naming-rights deals in Denver, Indianapolis and Albany, N.Y. In addition, Pepsi’s Mountain Dew brand is lead sponsor of the Dew Action Sports Tour, which debuts this year.
Mountain Dew long ago established itself as the biggest brand in action sports. Galloway now is banking on the company’s five-year sponsorship of the NBC-Clear Channel tour at a reported $3.6 million per year to forge even deeper inroads.
“We’ve always subsidized action sports and built a successful platform, and now we have a vested interest to make it even larger,” Galloway said.
Those who know Galloway say he’s also working to spread the Mountain Dew brand through outlets other than sports.
“[Galloway] is going to be leading the charge on some Mountain Dew entertainment stuff later in the year, and those are the things I’m impressed with,” said John Tatum, a partner of Genesco Sports Enterprises, which counts Mountain Dew as a client. “[Galloway] sees an opportunity and then goes full force through the door.”
While Galloway insists on long-term agreements with Pepsi’s sports properties, Pepsi takes a different approach with its executives, preferring a management strategy of regularly rotating executives into new jobs. Galloway’s predecessor, Katie Lacey, spent just two years on the job before being moved.
Before Galloway assumed the post, he worked as brand manager for Mountain Dew and as flavors director for Pepsi’s Europe and sub-Saharan Africa business.
So is it time for a new assignment?
“As long as every year there are challenges, I’m not looking to be jettisoned anytime soon,” he said. “But it’s not up to me.”
Galloway, an Army brat, relishes the battles that come with his job. Four weeks before last year’s Pepsi 400 NASCAR race, Galloway learned that Coca-Cola was planning to run eight cars in the race, posing a major threat in the ongoing branding competition between the two soda giants.
Immediately, his team went into action, creating a promotion that would give fans a free can of Pepsi Edge if Jeff Gordon won the race, helping create a buzz around the Pepsi brand. As if on cue, Gordon won the race.
“We have nine people assigned to our properties, and they take it seriously,” Galloway said. “I am a pusher and a bit aggressive, but it was the best of a team effort.”
The big challenge this year, Galloway said, is to keep sports marketing at the top of Pepsi’s overall branding strategy.
“You have music, technology and gaming, and the question is, how do you keep sports innovative and on the forefront of consumer promotions,” he said. “It’s tough to build brand equity simply through traditional advertising. You have to market through every channel and communication, and today there are a million channels, and we have to make sure the channels are effective.”
FORTY UNDER 40 HALL OF FAME
“John Galloway is a seasoned professional and committed partner to Major League Baseball. His entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and innovation have made him an industry leader, which is illustrated by his accomplishments at Pepsi. John’s passion and excitement about his work only enhances his abilities as a marketer, which is why I am so proud to count him among my business partners and friends.”
John Brody, senior vice president,corporate sales and marketing, MLB
“John brings a lot of enthusiasm and passion to Pepsi’s sports marketing endeavors. When he believes in a direction or a cause, then he’s going to channel all of his energies to seeing that through. He does a great job of managing and motivating his people … not only his employees, but his agency support, as well.”
John Tatum, partner, Genesco Sports Enterprises
“The thing I appreciate the most is his passion for what he does. Some go about their business matter-of-factly, but John believes in it and it resonates through both his expressions and the way he represents the brand. He’s a tough negotiator and he comes in and tells you what he can and can’t do. He understands and appreciates that one-sided deals aren’t beneficial.”
Paul Phipps, chief marketing officer,International Speedway Corp.
JOHN TATUM, GENESCO SPORTS ENTERPRISES
BY TERRY LEFTON
Genesco Sports Enterprises co-founder John Tatum likes the sports agency business for the same reason he likes politics. The way he sees it, it’s all about protecting people and guiding them to better choices.John Tatum
• Age: 38 • Titles: Co-founder and partner • Company: Genesco Sports Enterprises • Education: B.S., economics, University of Texas, 1988 • Family: Wife, LeeAnn; son, Jack, 18 months • Career: Advantage International, 1988-1989; Stringer Marketing Group, 1989-1992; Tracy Locke, 1992-1994; co-founded Genesco in 1994 • Last vacation: Seaside, Fla., last July • Last book read: "Customer Mania!: It's Never Too Late to Build a Customer-Focused Company" by Ken Blanchard • Last movie seen: "Ray" • Greatest achievement: My son Jack and the second child we're expecting in July • Greatest disappointment: Not buying more Sirius stock when it was low • Fantasy job: Governor of Texas • Executive most admired: Sam Walton. He was a true entrepreneur who built an empire out of nothing. • Business advice: Love what you do and then it won't feel like work.
There are, he believes, as many people and businesses being misled by government as there are brands being led astray by sports properties only too willing to sell them what they don’t need.
“Looking out for other people’s interest really motivates me,” Tatum said. “We look out for our clients. People paying too much in taxes doesn’t bug me as much as brands paying too much for an athlete or a property, but it might someday.”
Brands hiring Genesco (the likes of Pepsi, RadioShack, MasterCard and, over the past year, Sirius Satellite Radio and Game Stop) could have picked any agencies, including ones much larger than the 50-person shop Tatum runs with Turano.
But Dallas-based Genesco often gets the nod for its industry knowledge, both in sports and in the industries it serves, such as beverages and payment cards. That kind of insider acumen allows it to get things done quickly.
That was handy in signing MasterCard and the overwhelming majority of NFL team sponsorships, and in getting Sirius NFL team deals to complement Sirius’ overall league rights package.
It’s all about being quietly efficient. Consequently, Tatum doesn’t see the need for something as basic as a corporate Web site.
He’d rather sell the old-fashioned way of word-of-mouth and pounding on doors. And, oh yeah, there are a lot of ex-Pepsi marketers strewn around sports, and Genesco was a Pepsi agency almost as soon as it opened its doors.
“We’d always rather that our clients talk about us than vice versa,” Tatum said. “And while a lot of people don’t know who we are, we like being the stealth agency. I really think it helps us get things done more efficiently.”
Sirius Satellite Radio’s senior vice president of marketing, Tola Murphy-Baran, had never heard of Genesco before an agency review last June, during which an NFL marketing vice president happened to recommend Genesco. So, while it entered the review late, Genesco won one of the year’s most high-profile agency shootouts and subsequently delivered 28 team sponsorships by November.
“They move quickly, they know the business cold and the amount of work they take on certainly freed us up at a time we were inundated,” Murphy-Baran said.
Genesco remains one of the few agencies left of any size and clout that’s independent, though Tatum says he’s recently fended off offers from some of the largest communications conglomerates. For now, he still likes being his own boss.
“There will come a time when we have to make those decisions, but it isn’t now,” Tatum said. “We’re kind of the last man standing in the ring; I just don’t know yet if that man is Muhammad Ali or Custer.”
JOHN WEISBROD, ORLANDO MAGIC AND RDV SPORTS
BY JOHN LOMBARDO
The first move made last summer by John Weisbrod in his new job as Orlando Magic general manager was to trade Tracy McGrady to Houston.
Talk about an introduction.
The trade raised eyebrows within the NBA and drew criticism from fans: Just who was this newly minted general manager with little NBA player-personnel experience to be dealing one of the league’s biggest stars?John Weisbrod
• Age: 36 • Titles: Chief operating officer/general manager • Company/team: RDV Sports/Orlando Magic • Education: B.A., English, Harvard University, 1991 • Family: Son, C.J., 11 • Career: NHL player, San Jose Sharks, 1991-1993; executive vice president, AHL Albany (N.Y.) River Rats, 1993-1995; assistant general manager, New Jersey Devils, 1995-1996; general manager, IHL Orlando Solar Bears, 1996-2000; chief operating officer, RDV Sports, 2000-2004; COO, RDV Sports, and general manager, Orlando Magic, 2004-present • Last vacation: Caribbean cruise • Last book read: "Chronicles" by Bob Dylan • Last movie seen: "Ocean's 12" • Greatest achievement: Winning the 1989 NCAA ice hockey championship at Harvard • Greatest disappointment: When the Orlando Solar Bears folded • Fantasy job: I'm doing it, but before I'm done, I'd like to win an NBA championship and then move back (to hockey) and win a Stanley Cup. • Executive most admired: New Jersey Devils President and CEO Lou Lamoriello • Business advice: You can't manage other people if you can't manage yourself.
Now, seven months after the blockbuster trade, the former rough-and-tumble NHL player turned NBA executive continues to make a name for himself as he overhauls the Magic, a franchise that has struggled mightily in recent years. The Magic’s failure created opportunity for Weisbrod, though, and he has taken advantage.
“When I took over, the Magic was in a bad way, and I felt a lot of pressure immediately,” Weisbrod said.
This season, by mid-January, Orlando had already matched last season’s full-year win total (21) on the court. Attendance through Feb. 14 was up 1.4 percent from the same time last season to an average of 14,524 fans per game.
Weisbrod is proving wrong the critics who cringed when Magic owner Rich DeVos named him, already chief operating officer of DeVos’ RDV Sports, to replace former general manager John Gabriel last March. At the time, the hiring was considered an unconventional move. Weisbrod had a penchant for hard work and a vicious competitive streak, but his background painted him more as a no-nonsense hockey guy than a basketball executive.
Weisbrod attended Harvard University on a hockey scholarship, leading the Crimson to a national championship. He moved on to play in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, but a shoulder injury ended his career in 1993.
DeVos hired Weisbrod in 1996 to run the Orlando Solar Bears of the now-defunct International Hockey League. In 2000, DeVos promoted Weisbrod to oversee the business side of RDV Sports, which included both the Solar Bears and the Magic.
When he took over as general manager of the Magic, Weisbrod wasn’t well-versed in NBA player-personnel issues, but DeVos liked his pedigree: Weisbrod already had proved himself to the team’s top brass on the business side, and he has won a championship wherever he has been, no matter the level.
Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide recently restructured the team’s front office, promoting executive vice president of finance Jim Fritz to executive vice president of business operations, allowing Weisbrod to narrow his focus. It’s another sign of more good things expected from Weisbrod in Orlando.
“John’s intense and he will still make his share of mistakes, but he has a nice blend of people skills,” Vander Weide said. “I want to see him be a great general manager for 20 years, so he’s got to chill out a little, but he’ll learn it.”
JON PODANY, PGA TOUR
BY NOAH LIBERMAN
Jon Podany’s early marketing training was pretty common for the sports world: He was a brand manager at Procter & Gamble, which has graduated hordes of brand managers into sports marketing.Jon Podany
• Age: 39 • Title: Senior vice president, brand development and integration • Organization: PGA Tour • Education: B.S., finance, Miami (Ohio) University, 1987 • Family: Wife, Julie; daughters Nikki, 10, Morgan, 8, and Kelli, 5 • Career: Began as a cost analyst at Procter & Gamble, rising to brand manager of Safeguard and then Pert Plus; joined the PGA Tour in 1995 as a director of business development, switching over to the brand-development side in 1999 and reaching the senior vice president level last year. • Last vacation: Aspen, Colo., in January • Last book read: "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown • Last movie seen: "Million Dollar Baby" • Greatest achievement: 13 years of a happy marriage and three wonderful daughters • Greatest disappointment: Not becoming a starting quarterback at the collegiate level • Fantasy job: NFL quarterback • Executive most admired: John Wooden (OK, so he's a coach) • Business advice: Treat people the way you would like to be treated and give your best effort in everything that you do and things tend to fall into place.
“Certainly it’s a challenge, because having been on the other side, I know there are so many opportunities a company can consider, getting 50 or 100 proposals in six months and weeding through to find what’s a good fit for your brand,” he said. “But the toughest part I found was just getting to the right people at the right company to make your case. What we had to offer, once we got that far, was pretty good.”
But a few years after Podany arrived, something else unpredictable happened. The tour got interested in spicing up its own brand image, and it turned to Podany, putting him back in the role of brand steward. Today he is one of only two senior vice presidents under the age of 40 at the PGA Tour, an organization that is not known for having young guns in management positions or for having a lot of turnover at the top.
“He really is one of the bright lights at the tour,” said John Von Stade, a vice president at Velocity Sports & Entertainment, which has numerous corporate clients in golf sponsorship. “Jon has the understanding of the consumer marketplace to raise the PGA Tour brand profile beyond the standard target.”
Podany is behind the tour’s increasing use of clever, edgy self-promotion. The current “These Guys Are Good” campaign is the longest-running campaign of any major sports property, but it gets regular updates that always put a little extra backspin on the message. A campaign set to break in late February had the tour’s No. 1 golfer, Vijay Singh, trudging out onto a frozen lake past ice fishermen, drilling his own hole in the ice and practicing his putting.
One of the fishermen tells his pals, “I hear the greens are pretty slick on the tour this year.”
Even the tour’s “Drive To A Billion” campaign, touting its imminent charitable milestone, has an artsy feel. Tour players known for their success in various tournaments will appear in front of road signs with the city names and — instead of the population — the dollar amount given to charity by the local tournament.
Every tour partner feels an investment in the PGA Tour brand, and that means roughly 300 title sponsors, umbrella sponsors, retail licensees, tournaments and tour-branded retail outlets, then another 700 or so players.
“The most vexing thing is that everyone seems to have an opinion on advertising and the brand,” Podany said. “So weeding through the range of opinions to try to put out a product that we think delivers the right message can be a challenge.”
Podany’s notable rise at the PGA Tour shows he’s meeting that challenge.
KEN BLOCK, DC SHOES
BY NOAH LIBERMAN
Many of America’s top entrepreneurs didn’t go the Harvard Business School route — or even the graduate-from-school route. Passion and innate talent carry them quite far, and a sense of timing doesn’t hurt, either.Ken Block
• Age: 37 • Title: President and co-founder • Company: DC Shoes • Education: Two years at junior college learning silk-screening and graphic design • Family: Wife, Lucy • Career: Worked at ski and snowboard shops and as a graphic designer and silk-screener before founding action apparel company Eightball, which became Droors and Dub, and then DC Shoes; DC Shoes was sold to Quiksilver last year for $87 million in cash and stock. • Last vacation: St. Bart's this winter • Last book read: "Angels & Demons" by Dan Brown • Last movie seen: "Team America: World Police" • Fantasy job: To become a World Rally Championship driver • Executive most admired: Steven Jobs at Apple Computer, because they've been an underdog for so long but thrive on innovative products and marketing • Business advice: I live by honesty, integrity, hard work and focus. If you run a straight-up business, you don't have to worry about a lot of the BS.
The sale’s timing was characteristic of the company. It was formed in 1993, just as the sport of skateboarding was beginning a rebirth.
But DC Shoes and its co-founder had more than good timing. Block, the marketing mastermind of the pair, has always had a knack for visual design and strong messaging, including the ads he created more than a decade ago, supporting skate shoes that were uncharacteristically high-tech, that helped the company catch fire. The two years of college training he had in graphics and silk-screening were just the right preparation for Block.
“PAL AB 2000 — it was just a technical term for this material we put into our shoes back then, the first time anyone had used anything better than suede,” he said. “The tag line we used was ‘Grip Tape has finally met its match,’” a reference to the common patch for skateboarders’ shoes.
The combination of sophisticated design and technical materials caught consumers’ eyes.
“The voice of the company has always been really distinctive,” said Sean O’Brien, editor in chief of TransWorld Business, the top trade magazine for the action sports industry. “They’ve always gone for the far right side of the bell curve. I know they have [lower] price-point shoes, but they’re always driven by performance at the high end.”
Block began skateboarding as a little kid and continues to have racy hobbies. Motocross and freestyle star Travis Pastrana, a DC endorser, has ventured into World Rally racing, and Block’s right there with him, training in the hope of being a pro driver himself someday.
He’s a car buff, with a Bentley Continental GT, two Mercedes G wagons (for his homes in Southern California and Utah), a Subaru WRX (a street version of his Rally car) and “a couple of random trucks.”
But his ambitions don’t involve trying to repeat his success with a new company. In the deal with Quiksilver, 40 percent of the payment was in stock, so he’s a large shareholder in the parent company. And he has a four-year earn-out, so he’s not going anywhere soon.
“Actually, I plan on staying a lot longer than that,” he said. “This is what I love to do. The DC brand has so much more potential that if I don’t keep pushing to make it better, I’m doing a disservice to what I have done in the past.”
KEVIN PLANK, UNDER ARMOUR
BY TERRY LEFTON
Everyone in the $37 billion sports apparel industry knows what is best for Under Armour. Every industry veteran knows the performance apparel company should get out now — before they are outwitted by the sharp minds at Nike. Fold their tent, before an established competitor like Russell Athletic crushes them with superior manufacturing and distribution. Sell out now and move to the beach, before Reebok leverages its athletic shoe muscle to squeeze in more competitive apparel product.Kevin Plank
• Age: 32 • Titles: President and founder • Company: Under Armour • Education: B.A., business, University of Maryland, 1996 • Family: Wife, D.J.; son, James, 19 months • Career: Founded company at 24 • Last vacation: Vail, Colo. • Last book read: "Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time" by Howard Schultz • Last movie seen: "The Aviator" • Greatest achievement: Marriage, my son and winning the city championship in high school football. The ball from that game is my most prized possession. • Greatest disappointment: We had our first women's line ready to go in 2001 and ended up killing most of it because it was disappointing. Torching $700,000 worth of product wasn't an easy decision, but it was the right one. • Business advice: Know what you're good at and what you're not good at. That's where a lot of business mistakes are made.
The truth is, while every sports apparel company is now making performance athletic underwear, even with 300 or so products and more than $200 million in sales forecast for 2005, Plank is in the business of brand building. Regardless of the relative merits of Nike’s Dri-Fit or Reebok’s NFL Equipment performance line, neither company will ever have a brand name more suited to a product than Under Armour.
Like so many stories of business success, the brand name’s derivation was an accident. Plank, who played football at the University of Maryland, had already told his family his company was going to be called “Body Armour,” but it turned out that there were already bulletproof vests and body shops with that brand. When Plank’s brother snidely asked how “Under Armour” was doing, the name stuck — and it cleared trademark registration.
As the company is attacked on all sides by competitors, the biggest question now is how elastic the Under Armour brand is. The answer will determine if it’s a one-trick pony, or whether it will continue as one of the most sought-after names in the me-too, markdown-plagued world of sporting goods retail.
“We have the opportunity to be one of the great brands in this business,” said Plank, who began his business on savings and credit card loans in his grandmother’s basement. “The good news is that with our track record, if we see a new category, retailers will give us an opportunity.”
Plank counts Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz as an inspiration, and the similarities are striking: Both companies grew based on a superior product and without massive marketing budgets.
“You don’t try to out-Nike Nike,” Plank says.
Under Armour’s longevity will depend on whether the company can apply the same kind of marketing savvy to other product lines.
“The best thing we make is our story — the way we communicate with our consumers,” Plank said. “Technical fabric [like the kind used in the compression shorts that were the inspiration for Under Armour’s original T-shirts] was around a long time before us. We just figured out a compelling way to explain it to consumers.”
MARK DONOVAN, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
BY DANIEL KAPLAN
Mark Donovan has done almost every job in sports marketing, from negotiating eight-figure deals for the NFL to setting up hospitality villages at the Ryder Cup.Mark Donovan
• Age: 39 • Title: Senior vice president of business operations • Team: Philadelphia Eagles • Education: B.S., political science and business degree in organizational behavior and management, Brown University, 1988 • Career: Management consultant, Synergetics, 1988-1992; event production firm Regency Productions, 1992-1994; AMC Events, 1994-1996; National Media Group, 1996-1997; director of corporate sales and marketing, NHL, 1997-1999; senior director of marketing and sales, NFL, 1999-2003; joined the Eagles in 2003 • Family: Wife, Kathleen; son, Luke, 2½; a daughter due in March • Last vacation: Kiawah Island, S.C. • Last books read: "I'm a Big Brother" to Luke; "The Purpose-Driven Life" • Last movie seen: "Meet the Fockers" • Greatest achievement: Luke's birth • Greatest disappointment: Not winning an Ivy League championship at Brown • Fantasy job: To own an NFL team • Executive most admired: Pete Rozelle • Business advice: Always remember where you came from.
To better learn the ins and outs of event operations in the mid-1990s, Donovan, while employed by an event management firm, worked the concession stand at New Haven’s tennis tournament.
“I had to learn what it meant to operate an event,” he said. “I distinctly remember selling beers to some of my college buddies from behind the counter.
“It was a humbling experience. Humbling because I went four years to an Ivy League school, worked as a management consultant and took a 48 percent pay cut to get my entry into sports, and one of the first projects I was on … I was working behind a beer counter.”
For sure, Donovan has come out far from behind that beer counter. But the lesson he learned from stints like pouring beer, hanging banners and putting up backboards at the NBA’s Slam Jam gave him insight into sports marketing that a lot of his brethren don’t possess.
He knows what is possible and what is not, what can and cannot be promised to a sponsor, like whether a banner can be hung in a certain way or a sign can fit at a particular point of a venue.
“The salesperson’s job is to create the successful partnership and get the deal done,” Donovan said. “In some cases if you overpromise and can’t deliver because of reality, it hurts the organization.”
Donovan isn’t working any beer stands at Lincoln Financial Field, home of his employer, the Philadelphia Eagles. No, he is far too busy these days.
He operates the entire Eagles business, from sponsorships, to booking concerts and other sporting events at Lincoln Financial, to the team’s growing media assets.
“Mark will be going places,” said Joe Leccese, a sports attorney with Proskauer Rose, which represents the Eagles. “People find he is easy to work with.”
Donovan in many ways arrived at just the right time with the Eagles, getting to the team from the NFL league office 90 days before the Linc opened. The club took something of a flier on him. While he had a marketing background, he did not have experience running all aspects of a team’s operations, from media to concert promotion.
Since his arrival, he has been responsible for the Eagles’ national branding campaign, and also for tending to the backlash caused by the Terrell Owens “Monday Night Football” fiasco.
Donovan’s group was not directly involved in the decision to place star receiver Owens in a pregame skit with a scantily clad actress from the hit ABC show “Desperate Housewives.” (Whose decision it was is still somewhat a matter for debate.)
Donovan declined to comment on this aspect of his job, but clearly when the team’s brand is attached to such a negative story, one might worry about sponsor backlash.
Sponsors, however, have not pulled out, and in some ways, the old PR adage that any news is good news may be helping Donovan’s quest to make the Eagles a national brand.
Making the Super Bowl also will help as he positions the club for the future. Donovan already has opened an Eagles retail store in Lancaster, Pa., and will launch a kids TV show to target the elusive youth demographic.
“The success of this organization creates opportunity,” he said. “While the outcome of the game was not what we had hoped for, we learned a lot from the experience and will be better for it. The effect on the business side has been extremely positive, notably the continued growth of our team’s popularity on a national and international scale.”
MARK HOWORTH, NATIONAL MOBILE TELEVISION INC.
BY ANDY BERNSTEIN
It was like running a vineyard without knowing the difference between merlot and cabernet.Mark Howorth
• Age: 39 • Title: CEO • Company: National Mobile Television Inc. • Education: B.S., business administration, UC-Berkeley, 1987; MBA, Harvard Business School, 1992 • Family: Wife, Amy; sons Ari, 9, and Jack, 8 • Career: Worked at consulting giant Bain & Co. from 1987 to 2000; became CEO of NMT in July 2000 • Last vacation: Lair of the Bear family camp • Last book read: "The Razor's Edge" by Somerset Maugham • Last movie seen: "The Aviator" • Fantasy job: To be athletic director at UC-Berkeley • Executive most admired: Comcast CEO Brian Roberts • Business advice: There are very few black-and-white situations.
NMT supplies broadcast trucks, cameras and the accompanying personnel to networks televising live sporting events. It’s about a $300 million-a-year industry in the United States, one that primarily employs hardened veterans who’ve spent half their lives turning knobs on sports broadcasts.
They’d never met a bean counter like Howorth.
“I was the first person in the mobile facilities business who didn’t spend 20 years in it before they got to run one of these companies,” said Howorth, a Harvard Business School grad. “I’m a true outsider.”
Howorth came to NMT via the giant consulting firm Bain & Co., where he was a managing partner. NMT was in deep financial trouble in the late 1990s, after expanding at a breakneck pace and taking on more than $125 million in debt. Bain was hired to help turn NMT around, and after a few months of working for the company as a consultant, Howorth was offered the job of CEO.
The first challenge he faced was that no one in the company really thought of themselves as business people. They were engineers. Technicians. Camera operators. They were all, in a way, artists. To them, the bottom line was the image on the screen, not the number on a ledger.
Trying to get everyone to send out invoices on time, or make cost-effective decisions, that was another story.
“What I’ve tried to do over the last five years is show them the link between doing high-quality TV and doing it in a financially responsible way,” Howorth said.
It’s like saying “no dessert unless you clean your room,” but NMT was in need of plenty of housecleaning back in 2000.
The first thing Howorth did was consolidate debt and get it down to a manageable level of about $50 million. Accounting and other back-room operations were centralized. And the company diversified, creating a consulting division.
He hired Jerry Gepner, a producer and television engineer, from Fox Sports to serve as NMT’s president. Whatever Howorth didn’t know about the technology side of the business, Gepner had either invented or perfected. They were perfect counterparts.
Gepner said Howorth has helped transform not just NMT, but the mobile facilities business as a whole.
“He’s trying to address very core issues in our industry,” Gepner said. “Is he a numbers guy? Absolutely. But business is about numbers. It’s also about relationships. And he understands that, too.”
Howorth made a difficult decision late last year to sell a portion of NMT’s fleet, nine trucks, to its largest competitor, NEP, for about $40 million. Howorth’s company now has 32 trucks, down from 46 when he started. NEP will have slightly more, including the trucks NMT had been supplying to ABC Sports for “Monday Night Football” and other top events.
NMT gave up its lead in market share and its most prestigious client, all in the name of eliminating more debt and becoming poised for more growth.
“Emotionally, it totally tore me up,” Howorth said. “But at the end of the day, it’s the right decision.”
MARK SHAPIRO, ESPN
BY ANDY BERNSTEIN
There was a passing reference to Mark Shapiro in The Wall Street Journal last month. An excerpt from a book about the Walt Disney Co.’s dysfunctional upper management briefly mentioned him as the “rising star at ESPN” who was up for a job with ABC on the entertainment side last year.Mark Shapiro
• Age: 34 • Title: Executive vice president, programming and production • Company: ESPN • Education: B.S., political science and communication, University of Iowa, 1992 • Family: Wife, Kim; sons Jack, 4, and Jeffery, 1 • Career: Interned at NBC in New York while in college; moved to Los Angeles to be assistant producer for David Michaels, Al Michaels' brother; moved to ESPN to become a production assistant on the "Jim Rome Show"; promoted to producer within six month; later was producer on the ESPN show "Up Close"; moved to Connecticut after being named head of production for the "SportsCentury" series in 1997; named vice president and general manager of ESPN Classic in January 2000; named senior vice president of programming in August 2001; added production responsibilities in September 2002; launched ESPN's first scripted drama, "Playmakers," in 2003 • Last book read: "DisneyWar" by James B. Stewart • Last movie seen: "Ray" • Greatest achievement: My two children • Greatest disappointment: Steve Bartman • Fantasy job: Novelist • Executive most admired: Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch • Business advice: Inspire commitment and demand accountability.
But to understand Shapiro’s career path — to this point, and his next step — one has to understand the singular thing that drives him.
“I love stories,” he said. “Books, movies, drama, suspense. I’m a big fan of the narrative.”
And he loves to plunge his hands into the mixing bowl, to be not just the guy who green-lights projects, but the guy who molds and shapes them.
“Being hands-on with content and having constant creative freedom — that’s what keeps me here, keeps me attentive and challenged,” Shapiro said. “One day it’s negotiating with the NFL or MLB, the next day it’s trying to figure out how to reinvent ‘SportsCenter.’”
He throws himself into the minutiae that can be the difference between good television and great television. Turn on any of ESPN’s seven domestic channels and you’re probably seeing a piece of Shapiro without even knowing it. Maybe it’s the background decorations on the set of “Baseball Tonight,” or a racy piece of dialogue on “Tilt.”
Of ESPN’s 4,000 employees, 2,300 are in departments headed by the 34-year-old Shapiro. So you’d think he would just delegate seemingly trivial things.
But in planning meetings for the new show “ESPN Hollywood” last month, Shapiro was involved in every element, from picking the on-air talent and negotiating their contracts, to assembling 50 camera teams around the country, even to dropping the name of someone who would make a good stagehand.
This was squeezed in between negotiating sessions with the NFL, Major League Baseball and the Australian Open.
It’s a constant juggling act. But one of Shapiro’s defining qualities, said TWI senior vice president Bob Horowitz, is that when he gives someone his attention, he gives his complete attention. For five minutes or an hour or however long a call or meeting lasts, he will focus completely on the matter at hand and probably make a quick decision.
“He says no more often than he says yes. But I can’t recall a time he ever said no after waiting a week or two,” Horowitz said. “A lot of executives will say, ‘Can you send me something?’ because they’re afraid to say no, or they’re not sure of themselves. With Mark it’s boom — ‘No’ or ‘Yes, I want to do it.’”
Shapiro’s abrupt negotiating style is tough for some people to handle, especially for industry veterans 20 years his senior.
But ESPN President George Bodenheimer has put enormous trust in Shapiro and constantly added to his responsibilities. In 1997, at only 26, Shapiro was put in charge of ESPN Classic’s “SportsCentury” series. He was handed the reins to all of Classic at the age of 29. Next he was put in charge of the ESPN Original Entertainment project. Then came the most important step of all, as he leapfrogged some of the very executives who’d groomed him and was named ESPN’s head of programming in the summer of 2001, at age 31.
He was told to build ESPN’s lagging ratings. And he did, for three straight years. During that span he also was put in charge of all production.
The next challenges for Shapiro are more difficult to define. They’ll likely come not in giant heaps of new responsibility, but brick by brick.
He wants to develop a new nightly show for ESPN. He wants to break ESPN2 out of the shadow of the flagship network. The new channels, like ESPN Deportes and ESPNU, are blank canvasses to paint on.
But there isn’t a clear next step for Shapiro at ESPN, and that’s one of many reasons people speculate where he’ll end up next. His contract with ESPN has about 18 months left, and many think he’ll take on something even bigger when that is up, inside or outside the Walt Disney Co.
It’s a touchy subject, one he addresses diplomatically.
“I’m very loyal to ESPN, and I’m very happy here,” he said. “I’m grateful for the support and creative freedom I’ve gotten. Let the chips fall where they may. You have to be able to count on coming to work every day and being energized by what you do. Today, I can.”
FORTY UNDER 40 HALL OF FAME
“I have been in the industry for 20 years. I have met nearly everyone that is supposed to be the real deal or the total package, and I have never met anybody that puts it all together like this young guy. He’s just got it.”
Charlie Besser, CEO, Intersport
“He’s programming into the culture. He’s a younger guy and he gets what younger sports fans are looking for. That’s one of the things that’s caused ESPN to step up.”
Kevin O’Malley, sports television consultant
“He’s one of the sharpest minds in television that I know. We don’t always see eye to eye, but I respect what he’s done at a place many people thought had seen its best days.”
Lou Oppenheim, CEO, Headline Media Management Inc.
“What I think gets lost by some people is how effective a businessman he is. He knows what he wants in every negotiation. Knows what’s important to him and what’s not, which enables him to get to a deal very quickly. It’s not always the outcome we want, but we know where we stand with him.”
Adam Silver, president, NBA Entertainment
MICHAEL ROBICHAUD, NEXTEL COMMUNICATIONS
BY SCOTT WARFIELD
Being in charge of a sponsorship portfolio that includes series sponsorship of NASCAR, official sponsorship of the NHL, its players association and the American Airlines Center, and sponsorship of 11 NHL teams, seven NFL teams and a handful of basketball and baseball teams is no small task. Then again, Michael Robichaud, senior director of sports and entertainment marketing for Nextel, is familiar with large tasks — and even larger deals.Michael Robichaud
• Age: 36 • Title: Senior director of sports and entertainment marketing • Company: Nextel Communications • Education: B.S., civil and environmental engineering, VMI, 1991; MBA, College of William and Mary, 1998 • Family: Wife, Beth • Career: Five years as an environmental engineer and going on eight years with Nextel • Last vacation: Naples, Fla. • Last book read: "What would Machiavelli Do?" by Stanley Bing • Last movie seen: "The Bourne Supremacy" • Greatest achievement: Getting to work with the team at Nextel and Octagon responsible for managing the 2004 inaugural NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season • Greatest disappointment: Not getting to spend as much time as I'd like with family and friends • Fantasy job: Executive producer of hit movies • Executive most admired: Michael Dell • Business advice: Invest in yourself through formal and informal education. You'll be a more valuable asset to your company and better prepared for future opportunities.
“What set him apart was his ability to be tenacious and make this deal happen,” NASCAR Chief Operating Officer George Pyne said.
His compassion and understanding of the sport and its history allowed for the smooth transition.
“We knew we were stepping into some pretty big shoes and that we weren’t going to be able to replace a 33-year sponsor overnight,” Robichaud said of replacing Winston, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. brand that had been synonymous with NASCAR racing since the early 1970s.
Robichaud was born in Newport News, Va., and grew up outside New York City in northern New Jersey. He went to college at Virginia Military Institute, where he studied engineering before working as an environmental engineer for five years.
After deciding that was not the right career path for him, Robichaud returned to school and received his MBA from William and Mary. During one of his summer breaks, Robichaud did an internship with Nextel, and he received a full-time job at the wireless company when he graduated in 1998.
In his seven-plus years at Nextel, Robichaud has climbed the corporate ladder while the company has gained strength among the wireless giants.
“The company, when I started, had less than 400 people at the headquarters, and now we have over 3,000,” Robichaud said. “We had less than a million customers and we’re at over 15 million today.”
And it might not all be due to the calculated sponsorship buys, but Robichaud likes to think at least a part of the company’s growth can be credited to his group’s work.
“I’d like to think that the stuff we’ve done in this group, and along with the rest of our department, has had a pretty big impact on selling the brand,” Robichaud said.
Selling the brand and growing the company was exactly what Tim Donahue, Nextel president and CEO, had in mind when he signed the richest sponsorship contract in American sports history. Robichaud, taken aback at first by the magnitude of the opportunity, said his boss read his mind regarding interest in the sport.
“He basically came and said, ‘We want in,’” Robichaud said. “He said he wanted us to really look at it. Coincidentally, we [as a marketing group] were going to look at it pretty hard, too, but we were going to look at it from a team level just knowing that it was a sport that had been on our radar. So my team had a pitch ready to go, internally saying, ‘Hey, this is the next place we should be.’”
Where to go now might be the largest task yet for Robichaud, as the $36 billion merger between Sprint and Nextel has muddied the waters a little. But Robichaud said there is nothing to worry about because the wireless company that emerges will have some of the best assets among all wireless companies.
“We can do things sooner. We can do them bigger. We can do them better,” he said. “We are going to have the critical mass to compete against the Verizons and Cingulars of the world.”
MIKE BARTELLI, MILLSPORT
BY TERRY LEFTON
Millsport, one of the oldest sports marketing agencies, is back on track, and it seems appropriate that Mike Bartelli, who heads the agency’s 5-year-old motorsports division, is helping steer the agency back to the winner’s circle.Mike Bartelli
• Age: 38 • Title: Senior vice president, motorsports • Company: Millsport • Education: B.A., political science, Canisius College, 1987 • Family: Wife, Lisa; expecting first child later this year • Career: Was vice president, business development for Action Performance Cos. and director of marketing partnerships for International Speedway Corp. prior to joining Millsport in May 2000; opened Millsport's Charlotte office in 2002 • Last vacation: Key West, Fla. • Last book read: "Killing Bono: I Was Bono's Doppelganger" by Neil McCormick • Last movie seen: "The Incredibles" • Greatest achievement: My greatest sales job ever — getting Lisa to marry me in 1996 • Greatest disappointment: I'll never be as good at this as I want to be. • Fantasy job: Playing rhythm guitar for Van Halen • Executive most admired: Bill France Jr. Almost by sheer will he took what his father created and grew it from a regional curiosity into one of the major sports properties in America. • Business advice: Surround yourself with good people who believe in each other.
A principal reason is the depth of knowledge. Including Bartelli, the Charlotte-based shop has five former International Speedway Corp. employees, along with three from NASCAR. Industry connections that deep count for a lot when you’re trying to make noise in a sport as cluttered with sponsors as NASCAR.
As busy as the space has become, “There’s still room for creativity and originality,” said Bartelli, citing the Tropicana 400, one of Millsport Motorsports’ early wins, as an example. “It makes it more imperative that you find or create the most relevant assets in the sport for what you’re trying to accomplish marketing-wise.”
Bartelli grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., more a heavy-metal headbanger than a gearhead, and says he’d be playing guitar in coffeehouses if he weren’t a sports marketer. After college, he spent nine years with a chain of community dailies in upstate New York, where he developed his sales and marketing chops.
There was a brief stint as marketing director for the National Warplane Museum in Elmira, before he entered the motorsports world in 1997 as manager of sponsorships for ISC, where he eventually was promoted to director of marketing partnerships.
“I was totally unqualified for that job,” Bartelli said. “I never had any access to or right to believe I belonged in that world, but it opened the door to the rest of my career.”
Bartelli joined a host of marketers (including current Millsport President Howard Jacobs) going west to join Action Performance in the late ’90s as vice president of business development. He eventually was recruited by Millsport Chairman Bob Basche to lead the agency into motorsports, which at that point was limited to Jeff Gordon’s Pepsi sponsorship.
After the Tropicana win, Bartelli garnered more blue-chip clients eager to ride NASCAR’s surging growth: Waste Management, ConAgra and Yum! Brands.
Millsport went from a virtual nonentity in racing to one that’s in the consideration set of almost every new NASCAR client.
“Mike’s marketing background and his experience with tracks and the licensing side of the business give him a broad skill set very few people in and around NASCAR have,” said New Jersey Nets President and CEO Brett Yormark, who left his post as NASCAR’s top sales exec in January.
With the rest of the agency foundering, the success of Bartelli’s division became even more apparent, as it grew to more than half of Millsport’s entire business.
Last summer, Millsport merged with The Marketing Arm, another Omnicom marketing shop, and added a number of impressive NASCAR clients on its own: Sunoco (leveraging the brand’s official fuel and convenience-store status), Office Depot and most recently Tylenol for its new NASCAR program. It also has started to win accounts outside the track, like MLB activation for Yum! Brands and XM Satellite Radio.
Buoyed by the support and connections offered by The Marketing Arm’s other business units — U.S. Marketing & Promotions (events), PromoLink (promotions) and Talent Link (entertainment and sports talent booking) — motorsports no longer needs to be Millsport’s driving force.
Still, Bartelli helped keep the agency on track and his heady steering is likely to continue to guide the agency with aplomb worthy of a driver who’s raced every track on the circuit.
MOLLY SOLOMON, NBC UNIVERSAL
BY STEVE WOODWARD
Molly Solomon’s dad was a military officer, thus she grew up seeing the world. Solomon later attended prestigious Georgetown University in the distinctly international climate of Washington, D.C.Molly Solomon
• Age: 36 • Titles: Managing director and coordinating producer, NBC Olympics Cable • Company: NBC Universal • Education: B.S., foreign service, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, 1990 • Family: Husband, Geoff Russell; triplets Madeleine, Jonathan and Alexandra, 1 • Career: Started at NBC in 1990; hired as an Olympic researcher for the 1992 Olympics; started as a production associate for NBC Sports in fall 1992; hired in 1996 as the coordinating producer of the Olympics on cable • Last vacation: After the Athens Olympics, a week of golf at Kiawah Island, S.C. • Last books read: "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards"; "Father Joe" by Tony Hendra • Last movie seen: "Sideways" • Greatest achievement: Producing triplets and 450 hours of Olympic coverage, all in 13 months • Greatest disappointment: My golf handicap has never been lower than 22. • Fantasy job: Supermodel • Executive most admired: Dick Ebersol • Business advice: If you prepare, you'll never fail.
“I was mugged on my first day on the job, in a subway [station],” said Solomon, today a 15-year veteran of the Peacock Network. “This was 1990, before [Mayor Rudy] Giuliani had cleaned up the place. I was in the subway, carrying my purse, like any silly 22-year-old.”
Purse stolen and ego bruised, Solomon managed to get to work on time, determined to be the picture of composure.
She didn’t tell her bosses about the subway mugging, but Solomon has been telling dramatic stories to a vast audience since declining an entry-level production post at ESPN to join NBC as a researcher in its Olympics unit. By 1992 she was the research guru for Bob Costas, who made his debut as NBC’s prime-time Olympic studio host that year in Barcelona. Leading to Athens 2004, she was the executive in charge of cable Olympic programming.
Solomon’s brief but fast-tracked career has coincided with a significant evolution. NBC’s broadcast rights fee for last summer’s Athens Games was $793 million, nearly double the $409 million fee in 1992. An even starker contrast: U.S. cable access to Games coverage in ’92 was by pay-per-view (NBC’s experimental Triplecast); last year, cable viewers of NBC’s networks, including CNBC and MSNBC, were greeted by more than 415 hours of mostly live programming from Athens.
NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol hatched the mega-hours plan in Athens two years ahead of the Games, and Solomon was shocked.
“He said, ‘We need to show every sport in the Olympic Games [from Athens],’” Solomon said. “Then he looked at me and said, ‘Molly, they are all going to be on the cable networks of NBC. Go make it happen.’”
Athens was a home run for NBC Universal, which cleared a profit in excess of $60 million and enjoyed a broad platform for its many cable holdings such as Bravo, Telemundo and USA Network.
Ebersol, recovering from injuries sustained in a November plane crash, said in e-mailed remarks that Solomon is “one of those rare human beings who’s respected and admired by everyone.”
Add to Solomon’s admirers moms with careers. She jokes with colleagues that giving birth to triplets 19 months ago was the ultimate team player thing to do, as she has no plans to require any future maternity leave.
Steve Woodward is a writer in Illinois.
NEIL GLAT, NFL
BY DANIEL KAPLAN
As the NFL’s man of all trades, Neil Glat must know a lot about almost every nook and cranny of the league, if not the world.Neil Glat
• Age: 37 • Title: Senior vice president of strategic planning and business development • League: NFL • Education: B.A., Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 1989; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1995 • Family: Wife, Dana; daughters Ashley and Isabelle, who turn 2 in March • Career: Dillon Read, 1989-1991; NFL, 1991-1992; McKinsey, 1995-1997; NFL, 1997-present • Last vacation: Stayed at home to spend time with family • Last book read: "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand • Last movie seen: "The Aviator" • Greatest achievement: Birth of healthy and happy daughters • Greatest disappointment: Not having or making time to become more skilled in certain sports and other outdoor activities (e.g., golf, squash, skiing, scuba diving, boating, fishing, martial arts) • Fantasy job: Be a Michael Crichton-like best-selling author who gets to research, learn and write about topics of interest • Executive most admired: Al Lerner, former Cleveland Browns owner and MBNA chairman • Business advice: Never make an important business decision with emotion.
Glat’s historical reference is to the name of an unsuccessful, late-19th/early 20th-century movement to create a universal language. When you speak with Glat you must know the discussion will explore a multitude of different avenues, some obscure and unexpected. His job is to look at every possibility and decipher the right one.
As the NFL’s internal management consultant, he and his team of five are in charge of everything from planning the league’s Los Angeles re-entry to overseeing the budgeting of all internal league operations. He had his hands in the NFL’s recent megasponsorship and licensing deal with Electronic Arts, and is even called on to help out with TV negotiations.
A former McKinsey consultant, Glat says his six-person group is more focused than a traditional management oversight firm like his former employer.
“Whether we are doing an industry evaluation, trying to understand industry economics, who the key competitors are, what is driving their business decisions today, some deal-structuring issues,” the work is more precise, he explained.
And exhaustive. His supervision of the league’s effort to win back the Los Angeles market is truly a Herculean task, from working with the four stadium groups, the local government entities and, of course, the 32 NFL owners he ultimately reports to.
How thorough is Glat?
“Painfully thorough,” said a chuckling John Moag, the investment banker who represents one of the sites vying for an NFL team in Los Angeles.
Mitchell Ziets, who is working with Anaheim’s effort to win a team, said that while Glat is thorough, his style is easygoing.
“He won’t ask 50 different questions about 50 little points,” Ziets said. “He is very bright, very poised. He has a pretty good sense of where he needs to be at the end of the day, whatever deal he is working on.”
The L.A. process has been slow going, and the league has admitted that its long-standing target of having a team playing in Los Angeles by 2008 may be pushed to 2009. Is Glat frustrated?
If he is, he won’t show it.
“It forces you to get ahead when you are dependent on other people’s schedule,” Glat said. “Some [of the sites] have gone faster than we initially anticipated; some have gone slower than we anticipated. That is not frustration. That is just the course you are dealing with.”
In the last two years, Glat’s group has assumed the overseeing of the league’s internal budgeting process. Each group, from media to public relations, now submits its annual budgets, strategy and goals to Glat for review.
In fact, several NFL teams have begun replicating his approach.
Glat’s group acts in a variety of capacities within the NFL. With L.A., it is leading the charge. With, say, the Electronic Arts deal, it worked more in an advisory capacity.
But even there, Glat had skills one might not expect. While he would not describe himself as a “gamer,” he does play video games, saying it can take up to 40 hours to master one. It would have been difficult, he said, to handle the EA deal without knowing the product.
Asked his favorite video game, he replied, “Tiger Woods Golf.” With a league PR executive eyeing him nervously, Glat quickly added, “and Madden NFL.”
With quick thinking like that, he is sure to learn Esperanto soon enough.
PAUL BROOKS, NASCAR
BY SCOTT WARFIELD
In the middle of every major NASCAR deal, from the sport’s $2.4 billion network TV deal to Nextel’s $750 million sponsorship, is a former paramedic helping breathe life into it.Paul Brooks
• Age: 39 • Titles: Senior vice president, NASCAR; president, NASCAR Broadcasting and NASCAR Digital Entertainment • Education: High school graduate • Family: Wife, Kelly; children, Olivia and Kasey • Career: Worked for the Campbell County (Va.) Rescue Squad as a volunteer emergency medical technician and cardiac technician from 1982 to 1984; was a nationally registered paramedic with the Lynchburg (Va.) Fire Department from 1984 to 1989; joined Charlotte-based RMG/Bobby Hillin Racing in marketing and sales in 1989; was manager of special projects for Charlotte-based Griggs Publishing Co. from 1990 to 1993; joined NASCAR in 1993 as marketing services coordinator; named NASCAR manager of special projects in 1994; was NASCAR's director of special projects and publishing from 1995 to 1998; named NASCAR senior director of special projects worldwide in 1998; served as NASCAR vice president, office of the president, from 1998 to 2000; became vice president of broadcasting for NASCAR and NASCAR Digital Entertainment, opening NASCAR's Los Angeles office in 2000. • Last vacation: The Bahamas • Last book read: "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell • Last movie seen: "The Bourne Supremacy" • Greatest achievement: Personal, my family; professional, the role I played in NASCAR's television consolidation • Greatest disappointment: From the NASCAR perspective, it was losing Dale Earnhardt. • Fantasy job: Secret agent 007 • Executive most admired: Bill France Jr. • Business advice: Be yourself, work hard, learn every day and be true to who you are.
“The deals he’s working on, most people will read about next year,” said George Pyne, NASCAR’s chief operating officer. “He is in the middle of everything.”
Brooks, 39, came to stock car racing after seven years working with a Virginia fire department as a paramedic. He came to Charlotte in the late 1980s and soon thereafter began helping former driver Bobby Hillin find a sponsor for his race team. Four years later, after a stint with Griggs Publishing, Brooks joined the NASCAR family, where he would soon meet France, a man who would change his life forever.
“I was fortunate enough to come on board with him and we just share a lot of similar thinking and philosophies and approach, and it just became a great opportunity for me,” Brooks said. “And I’ve essentially been with Brian ever since.”
It’s this relationship with France to which Brooks credits most of his success.
“It’s been terrific,” he said. “He’s a great leader, a great visionary.”
The way Brooks describes France is the way everyone else describes Brooks.
Brett Yormark, NASCAR’s former vice president of corporate marketing, said Brooks is an “unassuming, great, consistent leader who is also a great guy.”
Turner Entertainment President Mark Lazarus said Brooks’ long-term vision is responsible for a lot of the growth of NASCAR in the last several years.
“He’s got a longer-term vantage point of where his business needs to go, and he takes steps to implement that,” Lazarus said.
Brooks said he looks up to five years out when thinking about the future of the sport.
“What I do a lot, week in, week out, is look into the future and look down the road and look three, five years out across the company as a whole, looking at all the areas and issues that we as a company and a sport need to be focusing on,” he said.
So where will the sport be in five years? Brooks sees continued growth and popularity for NASCAR.
“You will see NASCAR in 2010 like never before on the international stage through television, through media, but also through events and hopefully through the outgrowth of NASCAR in the international markets as a brand and a sporting league,” he said.
NASCAR is not likely to become Formula One, with races in different countries and on different continents, because Brooks believes there are plenty of locales to explore in the United States, specifically in the Northwest and on Staten Island, where International Speedway Corp. is working toward building a racetrack.
“I think that will have happened and we will be racing within the view of New York City, and I think that is going to open up probably more than any of us really realize,” he said.
NASCAR’s television deal, which Brooks helped structure with Fox and NBC/Turner in 2001, continues to pay off for NASCAR and its fans. In every year since 2001, season ratings have increased, with final household ratings up 2 percent to a 5.0 average last year across all networks for the Nextel Cup Series.
And to ensure that those ratings don’t plateau, Brooks said NASCAR and its TV partners continue to find ways to enhance the broadcast. Fox announced last year that it will broadcast all NASCAR races in high definition this season, starting with the Daytona 500. NASCAR also has renewed its deal with In Demand for another two years to continue producing its “NASCAR In Car” product, which lets viewers view races on seven channels devoted to in-car cameras and statistics.
Brooks continues to look ahead, while not forgetting the interesting path that his career has taken.
“It’s been an amazing ride, and I’ve just continued every day to feel fortunate to have been a part of it,” Brooks said.
FORTY UNDER 40 HALL OF FAME
“Paul has been at my side working at NASCAR for over 10 years. He still is one of the best idea people I know.”
Brian France, CEO, NASCAR
“He doesn’t get riled when everyone around him seems to, on all sides of an issue. He is able to keep a demeanor and sensibility that helps smooth any trouble spots. … The role he’s played over the last five or six years as they’ve changed their television landscape and their competition landscape, I think he’s clearly had input and a longer-term focus.”
Mark Lazarus, president, Turner Entertainment
“Paul is a really good human being. He’s a guy who’s got a great vision for what needs to be done and he’s also somebody who is very creative and he uses all those skills to make things happen. His uses his people skills, he uses his vision, he uses his creativity, and usually when he puts all three of those things together, good things happen. And he’s worked on some of the bigger deals in sports. He’s worked with Bill France as his right-hand guy, he’s worked with Brian France as his right-hand guy, he’s run NASCAR’s broadcasting business for a number of years now, and so he’s worked in sports on some of the bigger deals. … He is really where the action is.”
George Pyne, COO, NASCAR
PETER CARLISLE, OCTAGON
BY STEVE WOODWARD
Amid the frenetic summer of 2004, in which swimmer Michael Phelps would qualify for and then dominate the Athens Olympic Games, there was a guy in the Phelps entourage accessorized with a backpack over his shoulder, wraparound shades and shorts, and often wearing a mild smirk rather than a nervous scowl.Peter Carlisle
• Age: 36 • Title: Director, Olympics and action sports • Company: Octagon • Education: B.A., Bates College, 1991; J.D., University of Maine School of Law, 1994 • Family: Wife, Justine; sons Aidan, 3, and Kenneth, 1 • Career: Practiced business law with a traditional law firm, 1994-1997; independent sports agent, 1997-2001; moved to Octagon in 2001 by acquisition • Last vacation: Miami • Last book read: "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" by Mo Willems • Last movie seen: "Sideways" • Greatest disappointment: In 2004, Balco • Fantasy job: Anonymous travel critic responsible for distinguishing between four- and five-star golf and tennis resorts • Executive most admired: Visa's Michael Lynch. Even at the highest level of sports, you can rely on a handshake. • Business advice: Value your team, don't sell out for short-term results, put personal integrity first and make your kids proud of the way you do your work.
Although at 36 Carlisle insists he has “aged considerably” since his first time as a Forty Under 40 honoree, in 2002, the effect so far seems mostly to the upside. Sometimes a little older means a little bolder. The former corporate lawyer believed in the late 1990s that a burgeoning generation of radical U.S. winter athletes, namely snowboarders, was on the verge of fame — and the income to go with it.
That theory was reality by 2002, when Octagon athletes Kelly Clark and Ross Powers won gold. And Carlisle was well past any doubts heading into 2003 that his then-18-year-old swimming client, Phelps, was destined for historic heights.
“Coming off a history-making performance by Phelps [five world records] at the 2003 Barcelona World Championships, Peter had the foresight to propose a contract extension through 2009,” said marketing vice president Craig Brommers of swimwear maker Speedo.
The most famous element of that deal was the well-documented $1 million bonus for seven golds. It generated buzz — a “bonus” for six other sponsors that include Omega watches and Visa (through 2008) — and linked Phelps to an undisputed Olympic legend, Mark Spitz. But there was risk. Would Phelps reel from financial and media pressure with expectations so high?
“We knew there might be some backlash,” Carlisle said. “[But] it was one of the things Michael did that made people view swimming differently.”
Carlisle said he never believed his client was under pressure to earn the million bucks. He had negotiated a basket of endorsement deals, some into six figures annually, with commitments in place beyond ’04.
“He had no monetary pressure on him,” Carlisle said of Phelps, who ultimately won six gold and a record eight medals overall. “Don’t think he wasn’t incentivized to win five [gold], four, three, two or one. He had no financial pressure.”
Phelps appeared on 13 magazine covers and was featured in six nationally televised ad campaigns, and “we did all of that without materially affecting his training,” said Carlisle, who’d been warned that even one poor practice session would hurt Phelps’ chances at the Games.
Carlisle’s approach represents “the epitome of modern representation for an elite athlete,” said Phil de Picciotto, Octagon’s president of athletes and personalities. “Peter is very well-equipped to handle the panoply of services required today. He is very competent and highly collaborative.”
Steve Woodward is a writer in Illinois.
PETER MURRAY, NFL
BY DANIEL KAPLAN
If an NFL fan sometime this past season received an e-mail or direct-mail pitch from home lender Ameriquest to take out a loan, he can either thank — or blame — Peter Murray.Peter Murray
• Age: 37 • Title: Vice president, partnership marketing and corporate sales • League: NFL • Education: B.A., Iona College, 1989 • Family: Wife, Terri; daughters Amanda, 7, and Grace, 7 months • Career: Advertising account executive, Young & Rubicam, New York, 1989-1993; advertising account director, Bates USA, 1994-1995; senior marketing manager, NFL Films, 1996-1998; director of marketing and sales, NFL Films, 1999-2000; vice president of corporate media sales, NFL, 2000-2002; named to current position in 2003 • Last vacation: Amagansett on the east end of Long Island • Last book read: "Blood on the Street" by Charles Gasparino • Last movie seen: "Sideways" • Greatest disappointment: Not being able to fulfill 99 percent of the Super Bowl ticket requests that I receive • Fantasy job: Feature film director • Executive most admired: Jack Welch, former CEO of GE • Business advice: When creating partnerships, understand sponsors' metrics of success and commit to helping them achieve a return on investment.
For the first-time league sponsor, that included access to the NFL’s voluminous database that includes questions to fans about whether they were in the market for a mortgage. While sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show is great and offered valued brand exposure to Ameriquest, so did thousands of names of potential borrowers.
“It’s more than just a one-dimensional trademark association” deal, Murray said. “We are able to look at our fan base, and through some database assets we have, help [Ameriquest] acquire new qualified mortgage leads.”
Ameriquest is just one example of the new path Murray is forging for the league as vice president of partnership marketing and corporate sales. Gone are the days of companies being content with slapping their logos on events or simply running ads touting the NFL tie.
Today, Murray talks about return on investment and brand metrics, a way to measure a sponsorship return. Take the Ameriquest deal. Both the league and the company have been measuring the brand enhancement from the alliance, and if it doesn’t match expectations, the one-year deal will not be renewed.
“In our industry sometimes [leagues and teams] don’t spend enough time understanding the business objectives of their sponsors,” said Tony Wells, vice president of event and sponsorship marketing at Visa, a longtime NFL sponsor, which recently renewed its deal through 2010. But Murray has stepped up the NFL’s focus on helping sponsors achieve their business objectives, Wells said.
The NFL is better able to execute this since three different marketing and sponsorship departments were consolidated into one unit, reporting to Murray.
Previously the departments that handled finding new sponsors, servicing existing sponsors and developing promotional platforms for these companies were separate.
But six months ago, Murray changed that.
“We finally got to a place where we are effectively integrating and bundling our assets in the marketplace,” he said.
What’s next for Murray, whose unit saw revenue rise 40 percent last year? Filling the consumer electronics, fast-food and wireless sponsorship categories are high on his agenda.
As is selling for the first time since 1997 what are called in-game enhancements to sponsors, which could include titling the first-down line. That brings Murray back to where he started with the NFL, when he arrived at NFL Films after a career in the ad business.
His NFL Films experience included selling those enhancements, until the 1998 media deals ended them. They are back in the new contracts with Fox and CBS starting in 2006.
“Looking ahead at the future, it is an exciting time at the NFL in that we are evolving more and more into a media company, with the launch of the 24/7 [NFL Network], with our online capacity, nfl.com,” he said. “And through other extensions like the publishing areas … through satellite radio and emerging opportunities in wireless.”
Wherever the business takes Murray, one thing is certain: He will be pumping the NFL’s, and his sponsors’, brands.
RUSSELL WOLFF, ESPN INTERNATIONAL
BY ANDY BERNSTEIN
The career development office at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business asked Russell Wolff to address its new students on the second day of classes. The title it gave for his 30-minute pep talk: “Dream Job.”Russell Wolff
• Age: 37 • Titles: Executive vice president and managing director • Company: ESPN International • Education: B.A., Dartmouth College, 1989; MBA, Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth, 1994 • Family: Wife, Patty; sons Michael, 3, and Spencer, 1 • Career: Account executive at Leo Burnett ad agency 1989-1992; spent 1994-1997 at MTV Networks in affiliate sales; moved to Hong Kong to head ESPN's office in 1997; joined ESPN Star Sports in Singapore as head of programming the next year; returned to the United States in 2000 as senior vice president of ESPN International; promoted to managing director in 2002; promoted to executive vice president in December • Last vacation: Disney World, just before the Super Bowl • Last book read: "In Retrospect" by Robert McNamara • Last movie seen: "Meet the Fockers" • Fantasy job: Director of athletics at Dartmouth College • Business advice: Perception is reality.
A direct report to ESPN President and CEO George Bodenheimer, Wolff is much like a CEO himself, overseeing an entire arm of ESPN and networks that collectively reach 170 million homes worldwide and have 1,500 employees. All of the various disciplines involved in running a cable network — programming, advertising sales, affiliate relations, production — fall under Wolff.
His reach extends to every continent other than Antarctica. Whether it’s with cricket in India or soccer in Latin America, ESPN International aims to be everyone’s hometown sports network, even in towns most Americans would have difficulty pronouncing.
Last year Wolff oversaw the launch of ESPN Deportes, a domestic Spanish-language channel, and new versions of “SportsCenter” out of Mexico City and Hong Kong. Also launched, through joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries, were a French-language sports news channel in Quebec, and versions of ESPN Classic in Scandinavia and Germany.
ESPN International also created a version of ESPN The Magazine in China. It may not come as a shock that Yao Ming was on the cover of the first issue.
The challenge of Wolff’s job is to keep track of so many different things at once, when politics and business climates change constantly on a country-by-country basis.
“At the beginning of the year you write a budget,” Wolff said, “and then you watch it change. Whether it’s currency devaluation in Argentina or a new administration in India that leads to a change in the regulatory environment, there are always things happening.”
Then there are smaller decisions that require sensitivity to the disparate cultures and people ESPN reaches. For instance, when “SportsCenter” was filmed on location at a U.S. military base in Kuwait, Wolff said he was unsure how well that would be received in Middle Eastern countries that receive the U.S. “SportsCenter” on their version of ESPN. Wolff consulted with individual affiliates in the area, and luckily they all said they would welcome it.
Wolff’s office in New York bears evidence of his world travels — he spends about 60 percent of his time on the road — and his love of American sports. LeRoy Neiman prints center two walls. There are also cricket bats; collector pin sets from UEFA, the top European soccer circuit; and a framed ticket from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey gold-medal game.
Wolff is both an avid hockey fan and player, suiting up once a week near his home in the New York suburb of Westchester.
He was hired by ESPN in 1997, after several years in affiliate sales with MTV, to reopen a Hong Kong office. His wife, Patty, whom he met at Dartmouth and who has worked for PepsiCo ever since, joined Wolff in Hong Kong and then Singapore. She now is the head of international marketing for PepsiCo’s non-carbonated beverage division, which includes Gatorade and Aquafina.
Wolff’s tenure at ESPN included a stint with ESPN Star Sports, a joint venture between ESPN and News Corp. that runs several sports networks in the Far East. He returned to the United States and ESPN proper in 2000.
Wolff said that until he gets tired of all the traveling — which hasn’t happened yet — he can’t think of anything he’d rather do. For him, heading ESPN International is indeed a dream job.
SCOTT O'NEIL, NBA
BY JOHN LOMBARDO
It’s Scott O’Neil’s job to make it as easy as possible for NBA teams to steal from each another.Scott O'Neil
• Age: 34 • Title: Senior vice president, marketing and team business operations • League: NBA • Education: B.S., marketing, Villanova University, 1992; MBA, Harvard School of Business, 1998 • Family: Wife, Lisa; daughters Alexa, 5, and Kira, 18 months • Career: Corporate marketing manager with the New Jersey Nets from 1992 to 1994; joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994 as director of corporate sales; rejoined the Eagles after business school as vice president of sales in May 1998; president of HoopsTV 1999-2001; joined the NBA in 2001 as vice president of business consulting; named to current position in March 2004 • Last vacation: Phoenix • Last book read: "Leadership and Self Deception" by The Arbinger Institute • Last movie seen: "Million Dollar Baby" • Fantasy job: Backup point guard for the Nets • Business advice: There is nothing more important than the quality of the people around you. Work for the best, hire talent and create an environment that allows people to do what they do best every day.
“Selling tickets is hand-to-hand combat,” O’Neil said. “The more we can interact and leverage information at the league level and help teams, the more effective we will be.”
The team business operations department was created in 2000 under the leadership of Bernie Mullin, who left the league offices last spring to run the Atlanta Hawks. O’Neil, who was working under Mullin as a vice president, was promoted to take his former boss’s job.
Since then, O’Neil has been putting his own stamp on the division, which when first created, ran into some resistance from teams not convinced that sharing would be worthwhile. That suspicion has diminished, thanks largely to seeing some early returns. Teams now are leaning on the department, affectionately referred to as the “best practices” division, more than ever.
“Bernie set the foundation, and we are growing it a bit,” O’Neil said. “One of the biggest things was a push to integrate the information and be more of a resource to teams.”
Under O’Neil, the NBA has refined its own business intranet site that lets league executives log on and copy various marketing plans, promotional efforts and other business strategies. His group also is developing a new database that will include extensive sponsorship data for all teams so they can share values, categories and activation efforts of every local sponsor in every NBA team market.
O’Neil’s current focus is to study season-ticket retention patterns for each franchise so teams can swap strategies for that business, too.
O’Neil’s staff includes 30 employees, with six executives assigned directly to NBA teams to help with marketing efforts.
In a business environment that finds the NBA continually battling for the entertainment dollar, the slightest increase in average annual attendance is seen as a victory. Last year, attendance climbed 1 percent to an average of 17,050 fans per game, up from 16,883 during the 2002-03 season. Teams played to a collective 89 percent of capacity in their arenas, the fourth-highest mark in league history, according to league officials.
There’s no doubt the rookie seasons of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony helped fuel that growth, but O’Neil and his staff take some credit as well. This season, leaguewide average attendance through Feb. 14 was 17,006, up 1.6 percent through the same date last season.
“Scott has the hardest job in the NBA,” said Adam Silver, president of NBA Entertainment, which oversees the team business operations department. “He’s supporting nearly 25 million ticket sales between the NBA and the WNBA and he’s continuing to grow the business in a mature business with enormous competition.”
TED FIKRE, ANSCHUTZ ENTERTAINMENT GROUP
BY DON MURET
Ted Fikre has played a key role in Anschutz Entertainment Group’s rapid ascent in the industry and yet the company’s chief legal counsel doesn’t tout his accomplishments, a rarity in sports business, said his former law partner.Ted Fikre
• Age: 37 • Title: Chief legal counsel • Company: Anschutz Entertainment Group • Education: B.A., economics, Princeton University, 1989; law degree, Stanford University, 1994 • Career: Assistant economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 1989-1991; associate with Latham & Watkins, 1994-1997; vice president and general counsel, Los Angeles Kings and Staples Center, 1997-1999; executive vice president and general counsel, 1999-2000; executive vice president and general counsel, Anschutz Entertainment Group, 2000-present • Family: Wife, Angela; son, Asher, 5; daughter, Serafina, 3; another son on the way in March • Last vacation: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in September • Last book read: "The Progress Paradox" by Gregg Easterbrook • Last movie seen: "Sideways" • Fantasy job: Starting and running a small business with my children in 20 years • Executive most admired: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger • Business advice: Some people excel at talking, and some at listening; some are good thinkers and some are good leaders; some are proficient at numbers and some with words. Many people in the workplace have one or two of these attributes, but few individuals, if any, possess them all. Those who come close are the ones who succeed in business.
“There have not been many people like Ted that have been involved in all of AEG’s ventures. He’s at the center of all of that stuff, but you probably had to dig around to find the guy.”
Maybe that’s because Fikre’s too busy working on the firm’s multiple projects, whether it’s building new facilities in the United States and Europe, negotiating exclusive deals with Levy Restaurants and Ticketmaster or developing an entertainment district outside Staples Center, AEG’s flagship venue.
“There’s way too much going on for any one person to have their hands in everything,” Fikre said. “Some things I’m not involved in at all. However, the nature of my role has evolved quite a bit. Remember, seven and a half years ago, AEG didn’t exist.”
Fikre, 37, acknowledges that he was in the right place at the right time when he went to work for billionaire Phil Anschutz. Fikre was a first-year associate with Latham & Watkins, one of the world’s largest law firms with 1,600 attorneys, when he represented Anschutz in his acquisition of the Los Angeles Kings in 1994.
“It was a very complicated deal because the Kings’ owner [Bruce McNall] was going through bankruptcy,” Fikre said. “It took one and a half years to get it done. I worked with a partner who gave me way more responsibility than I probably deserved.”
Fikre also was involved in the early stages of the Staples Center development and the negotiations to relocate the Los Angeles Lakers to the new arena, and Anschutz’s option to buy a piece of the Lakers.
“There were a series of transactions, and I was doing a lot of project finance work and mergers and acquisitions,” Fikre said. “Three years into the arena development, Tim Leiweke thought it made sense to bring an attorney in-house. I was familiar with the deals, and as a third-year associate became Tim’s general counsel.”
Staples Center opened as the crown jewel of sports arenas in 1999, and AEG began building upon its properties, constructing Home Depot Center and doing deals to build other MLS facilities in Chicago and New Jersey, and arenas in Kansas City, England and Germany.
“The combination of Phil’s willingness to put his money at risk and Tim’s ambition is a great recipe for growth, and I’m lucky to be along for the ride,” Fikre said.
Fikre credits Leiweke for having faith in his ability to tackle the big deals despite Fikre’s relatively young age.
“Tim wasn’t afraid at all to throw a tremendous amount of responsibility my way even though I was only three years out of law school,” Fikre said. “I learned a lot by trial and error.”
THEO EPSTEIN, BOSTON RED SOX
BY RUSSELL ADAMS
Fans gathered above the third-base dugout moments after the final out of the 2004 World Series to chant his name. He received several hundred thousand marriage proposals at the subsequent victory parade. He can’t even leave his house without someone telling him how much the Red Sox triumph meant.Theo Epstein
• Age: 31 • Titles: Senior vice president and general manager • Team: Boston Red Sox • Education: B.A., American studies, Yale University, 1995; J.D., University of San Diego Law School, 1999 • Family: Single • Career: Intern, Baltimore Orioles, summers of 1992, 1993 and 1994; media relations work, San Diego Padres, 1995-1997; baseball operations assistant, San Diego Padres, 1997-1999; director of baseball operations, San Diego Padres, 2000-2001; senior vice president and general manager, Boston Red Sox, 2002-present • Last vacation: Puerto Rico • Last book read: "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth • Last movie seen: "Fahrenheit 9/11" • Greatest disappointment: Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series • Fantasy job: Lead guitar player in the right kind of rock 'n' roll band • Business advice: When things aren't going well, adhere even more diligently to your organizational vision or philosophy.
“There are 14 million people in New England, and if you say ‘Theo,’ at least 13.5 million know who you’re talking about,” said Sam Kennedy, Red Sox vice president of sales and corporate partnerships and a friend of Epstein’s since high school. “He has no privacy. He is equal to a rock star in this region.”
There is no shortage of early signs of greatness in Epstein, from the upper 1400s he scored on his SAT to the acclaim earned in college as sports editor of the Yale Daily News. He made his first mark on Major League Baseball as an intern with the Baltimore Orioles in 1992, when Orioles executives had to come up with a celebration to honor the Negro Leagues, something few in the organization knew much about. So they passed the task to Epstein, whose project would become the focal point of the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards.
“About 48 hours later, Theo walks in with a 14-page white paper that would have done Ken Burns proud,” said Bob Aylward, the Orioles’ former vice president of business affairs and now executive vice president of business affairs for the Seattle Mariners. “It was at that point I realized this kid was something special.”
Epstein, after graduating from Yale in 1995, followed former Orioles President Larry Lucchino to San Diego, where he ultimately rose from Padres media relations intern to general manager Kevin Towers’ chief lieutenant in baseball operations.
Epstein said Towers taught him “how to scout, how to lead, how to treat people and how to trust one’s instincts,” while Lucchino, the Padres’ former president who hired Epstein as Red Sox general manager after Lucchino joined John Henry’s ownership group in 2001, showed Epstein “what the major league work ethic was all about.”
Epstein’s hiring, which made him the youngest general manager in MLB history, further polarized a baseball world in which the old guard has not exactly embraced a new crop of Ivy League-educated general managers with no playing experience. Epstein has ignored the stereotypes and created perhaps the most philosophically integrated front office in baseball.
“As long as the baseball world remains polarized, it’s a good thing for us,” Epstein said. “Whatever success we’ve had is probably attributable to the fact that we’re open-minded and use both schools of baseball evaluation to make our decisions.”
He need only step outside to know that it’s working.
TOM LEWAND, DETROIT LIONS
BY BILL KING
In one of his first meetings with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Tom Lewand pulled out a business card that elicited a chuckle. In his second year working full time as an executive with the Detroit Lions, Lewand had been promoted to a newly created position.Tom Lewand
• Titles: Executive vice president and chief operating officer • Team: Detroit Lions • Age: 35 • Education: B.A., University of Michigan, 1991; law and business degrees, University of Michigan, 1996 • Career: Worked one year as an environmental adviser to Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh in 1991; hired by the Lions in 1997 • Family: Wife, Suzanne; daughters Cayleigh, 7, Paige, 5, Shannon, 2, and Erin, 6 months • Last vacation: One week in northern Michigan in June 2001 • Last book read: "America's Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation" by Michael MacCambridge • Last movie seen: "Million Dollar Baby" • Greatest achievement: My wife and four kids • Greatest disappointment: Not winning the Super Bowl • Fantasy job: I'm in it. • Executives most admired: William Clay Ford Jr. and Roger Penske • Business advice: Hire people smarter than you and let them do their jobs.
The implementation of the NFL salary cap — and the resulting emergence of the capologist’s position for which Lewand was hired in 1997 — yielded a new career path within NFL franchises. A sharp young lawyer who understood contracts and economics could marry those skills to an interest in football. The Lions also were working toward a new stadium and chose Lewand to spearhead its development.
Lewand parlayed those skills and that opportunity into a combo role that remains rare in the professional sports world. As executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Lions, he has maintained responsibility for cap strategy while adding oversight of most of the franchise’s day-to-day business functions.
“I wouldn’t trade what I do for any other role,” said Lewand, who spent the days leading up to the Super Bowl working on cap strategy and budgeting for the offseason. “I made a conscious decision to dedicate myself to the salary cap whenever it’s necessary, because really, your long-term success in this league will always come back to that.
“And, since I’m so involved in revenue, it gives me a perspective on all facets of the organization. If you can oversimplify it into a discussion of two sides of a curtain, I’d say I see behind both sides.”
Lewand came out of Michigan with the ideal pedigree for the job as capologist: a joint J.D./MBA, along with a stretch of experience that set him apart from anyone that Lions owner Bill Ford Jr. had encountered. Lewand was manager of the football team at Michigan throughout his four years as an undergrad and then through grad school, first with Bo Schembechler and then with Gary Moeller.
That gave him an understanding of coaches, players and scouts that most entry-level executives are lacking.
“He told me when he hired me that he had seen people with an MBA and with a law degree, but never anybody who had both and also had a football background,” Lewand said. “I think that at least provided a degree of credibility for me with the coaches and personnel people here. You understand how a football team functions and what your coaches’ needs are and your GM’s needs are. You understand that your role in managing the salary cap is to support them.”
The emergence of the salary cap in the NFL and NBA and greater attention paid to resource allocation in Major League Baseball has created opportunities for executives like Lewand who until recent years would have been shut out of the personnel side of most organizations.
“The cottage industry of the salary cap has opened the eyes of a lot of people,” Lewand said. “Now, they can more easily see a nexus between a business or law background and sports.”
WADE MARTIN, DEW ACTION SPORTS TOUR
BY NOAH LIBERMAN
The person running the new Dew Action Sports Tour — teenagers, skateboarding, live music and all that — was the captain of the Michigan State tennis team about 10 years ago. This either makes no sense or all the sense in the world.Wade Martin
• Age: 33 • Title: General manager • League: Dew Action Sports Tour • Education: B.S., Michigan State University, 1993; M.S., sport management, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 1995 • Family: Wife, Paula; son, Tosh, 3; daughter, Elle, 6 months • Career: Started with Advantage International in 1996 as tennis event manager; moved to the emerging sports division a year later, rising to executive director of the Gravity Games and director of the action sports division at Octagon; moved to the NBC/Clear Channel Dew Action Sports Tour as general manager last year • Last vacation: Turks and Caicos, Thanksgiving 2004 • Last book read: "Devil in a White City" by Erik Larsen • Last movie seen: Does "Bob the Builder" count? A tough year for movies, so it was probably something I saw on a plane. • Fantasy job: Assistant basketball coach to Tom Izzo at Michigan State • Business advice: Find an area that you will be passionate about and where you can make your own mark.
Now the former tennis player is running one of the two top action sports properties — the other, the 10-year-old X Games, being the standard-bearer — and he shows a real skill for communicating both with the disparate segments of the still-fractious action sports industry and the sports-business old guard.
“Within this industry, there’s a lot of personality, and there’s an emphasis on being true to these sports and protecting them, and not acting on the exact whims and needs of TV but blending them together,” said Gary Ream, founder of the Woodward Camp and an unofficial adviser to top action properties and athletes. “Wade has that sense. Also, he has developed the wherewithal that when he does say something, he does mean it and he will follow through.”
The Dew Tour debuts in June, to be televised on NBC, the USA Network and possibly others as well. The management team, now barely a year on the job, is working intensely to wrap up matters such as record label partners for live acts and a DVD partner.
“I always tell people that I’m the only tie between tennis and action sports,” Martin said. It’s a different scene than tennis management, which Martin had figured for his career path.
“I never would have dreamed this is the segment of the industry I’d be in when I started,” he said. “But the moment I moved into the emerging sports world, I realized there was something there, that I enjoyed it and it had a ton of potential. I think I kind of naively assumed that the kind of growth that’s taking place would happen … but I made that assumption because I was so close to it and saw the personalities and athleticism.”
Of course, the early stages had their slip-ups, for the sports and for Martin. He recalled the first action event he managed, the Ultimate Inline Challenge, where the bar for a skate high-jump event kept falling on its own. “[You hear] stories about the little things that can just sink an event,” he said. “It’s the fear of the unknown that drives you.”
Maybe that’s where the tennis experience is an asset. Ream doesn’t see a stretch between competitive tennis, competitive action sports or running the Dew Tour.
“There’s the sense of discipline and also of knowing the competitive side of it, the pressure,” he said, “whether you’re a tennis player at match point or on the vert ramp ready to drop in and you know you have to hit every wall.”