SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40

Brett Yormark

BRETT YORMARK, NEW JERSEY NETS AND BROOKLYN SPORTS

BY SCOTT WARFIELD
STAFF WRITER

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.
Seven years later, after successfully helping replace Winston with Nextel in a 10-year, $750 million sponsorship deal, Yormark has left NASCAR and rejoined the New Jersey Nets with a similar request from team owner Bruce Ratner: Build a world-class organization with a sound foundation that will be able to withstand a major change. In this case, the change is the franchise’s transition to Brooklyn, where Ratner hopes to relocate the Nets to a $430 million downtown arena by the 2008 season.

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.”

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