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SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40Print All
By Daniel Kaplan
• Age: 34
• Title: Senior vice president, distribution sales and marketing
• Network: NFL Network
• Education: B.A., economics and math, Yale University, 1993 (magna cum laude)
• Family: Single
• Career: Began career with Boston Consulting Group from 1993-1995; moved to Fox Television in 1996 and to Fox Sports Net from 1997-1999; worked for Fox Cable Networks from 1999-2001 and then the Fox-owned FX from 2001-2003; hired by the NFL Network in June 2003.
• Last vacation: Drove a Jeep from Mexico down to the Keys of Belize
• Last book read: "Freakonomics" by Steven Levitt
• Last movie seen: "Brokeback Mountain"
• Pet peeve: When people say "Between you and I …"
• Greatest achievement: Helping the NFL Network secure the Thursday/Saturday game package after only two years on the air
• Greatest disappointment: My beloved Detroit Lions
• Business advice: When assessing new employment opportunities, the single most important factor is who you will work for. Finding a mentor is infinitely more relevant to achieving success than securing a good salary or title.
Adam Shaw had a major decision a year ago. He could stay with the nascent NFL Network as senior vice president of distribution, or help start an Internet ad sales company a friend was launching.
The concept for the company, Spot Runner, was actually Shaw's, so even though he chose to stay at NFL Network, he received a small equity slice of less than 10 percent. Some days, though, he admits he thinks of what might have been.
"Based on [Spot Runner's] most recent valuation, I could retire and buy a plane" had I joined the company, Shaw said. "For some reason I don't regret it. I absolutely love what I am doing."
What he has done is to help make the NFL Network one of the best distributed startups in cable. The channel is in more than 40 million homes, and likely will surge past that level now that the NFL has sold eight regular-season games to its offspring.
In his post, Shaw has negotiated more than 110 distribution deals, including with industry leaders like Comcast and EchoStar's DirectTV.
His challenge, though, is clear: New York. Both Cablevision and Time Warner Cable, which dominate the country's largest media market, have thus far declined to carry the two-year-old channel, which televises a mix of original programming and archival shows.
Time Warner has been pushing sports tiers, the grouping of different sports channels for which consumers pay extra. The cable company had expected the NFL Network would anchor its sports tier, Shaw said, but the NFL will not allow its channel to be sold that way.
"My parents live in New York, a lot of Madison Avenue is there, and it is a very frustrating market we have been unable to get into," he said.
Shaw hopes the success other distributors have had with the network, using it as a marketing platform to lure new customers, will persuade the New York cable operators to relent.
Shaw grew up in New York. He later attended Yale, where he played on the football team. He knew early on that he wanted to get into sports cable, joining Boston Consulting out of college on the promise that he would work in media.
There he helped with the creation of cable channel Children's TV Workshop. From there it was on to Fox Sports, where he helped launch the series of regional sports channels that have helped make that company such a power in the business.
Jeff Shell, today president of Comcast's programming group, hired Shaw at Fox and remembers him as an independent and smart individual — and a little off the beaten track, too.
After Boston Consulting, Shaw had taken some time off to teach tennis at a Club Med in the Caribbean, Shell recalled. To interview him, Shell had to call a pay phone on the island at a specific time, as it was the only one Shaw had access to.
"He definitely is not your standard kind of button-downed, analytical finance guy," Shell said.
By Terry Lefton
• Age: 38
• Title: Senior vice president, athlete marketing and business development
• Company: IMG
• Education: B.S., marketing, Florida State University, 1989
• Family: Wife, Tempe; children Zachary, 6; Cole, 4; and Michaela, 2
• Career: Began career selling carpet for Shaw Industries; joined IMG in 1996, where he has been involved in negotiations for numerous divisions, including football, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, broadcasting, licensing and TV.
• Last vacation: San Diego
• Last book read: "The Winning Spirit: 16 Timeless Principles That Drive Performance Excellence" by Joe Montana (a client)
• Last movie seen: "Curious George" with my kids
• Pet peeve: Complacency. I can't stand people who stand still.
• Greatest disappointment: Missing too many of my kids' soccer, flag football and tee-ball games.
• Fantasy job: Umpiring the Little League World Series
• Executive most admired: Jack Welch
• Business advice: Pressure is greatest when you are unprepared — so always prepare.
What IMG's Alan Zucker likes about his job is the same thing baseball fans love about the national pastime: Every day there are infinite combinations providing countless possibilities. Given IMG's stable of athletes and properties, one day it's a Joe Montana speaking engagement, the next it's a technology endorsement deal for Maria Sharapova or Peyton Manning.
Zucker has been in sales for his entire career, but it wasn't always this glamorous. Fresh out of Florida State in 1989, he sold carpeting to retailers for Shaw Industries. Carpeting may be the ultimate commodity product, but if you think that's a tough sell, consider that as a typically self-conscious 14-year-old, Zucker sold leotards, tights and bras at his mother's dancewear store.
"That's 'get-your-teeth-kicked-in' selling, but I learned sales 101 at an early age because of it," he said.
After seven years of floor-covering sales, Zucker's basic understanding of retailing and marketing helped him land a job with IMG, Chicago, in 1996. An early love of football had sent him to Florida State for an education. As an equipment manager for the football team, he got to know athletes such as Deion Sanders and Brad Johnson, but Zucker was always more inclined to marketing and business than athlete representation.
With a "seven-year itch" urge to get back into the business, Zucker worked under IMG's Gary Swain to sell a WTA tourney that had been moved on the calendar and was being held at the relatively seedy venue of the UIC Pavilion. But after debating the merits of selling pile and plush, selling women's tennis is a luxury — even at a time when the sport of women's tennis was at ebb tide.
After selling a presenting sponsorship to the tournament, and some early success with Chicago Bears quarterback Eric Kramer and wide receiver Curtis Conway, Zucker felt more secure about his future as a sports marketer. Realizing the path to the top at IMG ran through its Cleveland headquarters, Zucker took a job there in 2000 under Peter Johnson, where he began to have success with high-profile clients such as Peyton Manning.
Developing his niche as an endorsement specialist, Zucker has worked his way to where he is one of IMG's top sales producers. Typically self-effacing, Zucker credits the IMG team and the breadth of offerings available to him. Outside of IMG, executives say that like any good salesman, Zucker's greatest talent is hearing what the client is saying.
"He really has this talent for listening and structuring deals that work for both parties," said World TeamTennis Commissioner Ilana Kloss, an early mentor of Zucker. "You always got the feeling from him that whatever he's selling is important."
With all the recent fallout at IMG, Zucker's value to the company should only increase. Asked for a look into the future of IMG, Zucker sees new media and fashion as important growth areas. Like many in the business, he sees entertainers challenging the endorsement market that's been left primarily to athletes.
"We're definitely selling against entertainers, and that's a trend I see continuing," Zucker said, "but when it comes to athletes, we have longevity on our side. Most musicians are famous for a year, unless you're the Rolling Stones. Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning will still be icons in 10 to 15 years."
NETS SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT
By John Lombardo
• Age: 39
• Titles: President and CEO
• Organization: Nets Sports & Entertainment
• Education: B.S., Indiana University, 1988
• Family: Wife, Amy; daughter, Madison, 4; son Drake, 19 months.
• Career: Spent two years with the Detroit Pistons, then worked two stints for the New Jersey Nets, first as marketing vice president in 1994, then as senior vice president of marketing; left in 1998 to become vice president of corporate marketing for NASCAR; rejoined the Nets as CEO in 2005.
• Last vacation: Aruba
• Last book read: "Balls! 6 Rules For Winning Today's Business Game" by Alexi Venneri
• Last movie seen: "Hoodwinked" with my daughter
• Pet peeve: I'm a neat freak
• Greatest achievement: Rebuilding the Nets franchise and sharing a Forty Under 40 award with my brother
• Greatest disappointment: Not being here when the Nets went to the NBA championship
• Fantasy job: Selling time-shares in Aruba
• Executive most admired: Jim Donald, president and CEO of Starbucks
• Business advice: Chase your dreams.
It's taken Brett Yormark about a year to transform the New Jersey Nets from one of the worst-run NBA teams into one of the most aggressively marketed franchises in the league.
That's yet another direct reflection on the hard-charging Yormark, a three-time Forty Under 40 winner and, thus, a Hall of Fame inductee this year.
But Yormark, CEO of Nets Sports & Entertainment, knows that the bigger challenge isn't continuing to sustain the Nets' business under new owner Bruce Ratner. Instead, it's trying to still extend the Nets' reach in New Jersey while at the same time planning a move to Brooklyn in 2009.
It's a fine line to walk, even for the accomplished Yormark, who before joining the Nets last year spent eight years helping expand NASCAR into the powerhouse property that it has become.
"The Nets were a franchise that had conceded itself to other teams in tickets sales and sponsorships, and we have to build on what we have accomplished this year," Yormark said. "There was a lot of low-hanging fruit out there last year, and now we have much higher expectations to move forward."
Yormark and his season of cherry picking has brought a 20 percent increase in Nets ticket revenue and a 100 percent boost to the team's sponsorship sales, though Yormark won't disclose specific figures.
But just as notable as the crush of new business is Yormark's bold strategy.
He has opened a sales office in Manhattan, once seen strictly as New York Knicks territory. His "all-access" campaign has increased the Nets' profile in the community. He has overhauled the in-game presentation at Continental Airlines Arena, and he's added pricey bunker suites to help drive revenue. And while he's busy marketing to the team's core fans in New Jersey, Yormark also is trying to build a fan base in Brooklyn with the "If You Love Us In Jersey, You'll Love Us in Brooklyn" campaign in preparation for the team's planned move across the Hudson River.
"It's imperative that we set the table now in Brooklyn," Yormark said. "The goal is to market [in New Jersey] and to reach out to fans in [Brooklyn] to sample us. It's a delicate balance, but we are getting more people across the river."
Selling the NBA is old hat for the 39-year-old Yormark. He spent two years with the Detroit Pistons and had two previous stints working for the Nets under previous ownership. Yormark left the Nets as vice president of corporate sales to join NASCAR in 1998, where he opened a New York office and helped negotiate NASCAR's 10-year, $750 million deal with Nextel, which replaced Winston as NASCAR's primary sponsor. He returned to the Nets in January 2005.
"I have worked with Brett Yormark for a long time in his various capacities, from sales executive up to CEO. There's no question in my mind that Brett has the leadership skills to take the Nets to new heights."
Jim Donald, president, Starbucks
"Brett has created a number of rather unique grassroots initiatives, and they've certainly had an impact. And, of course, he is simultaneously creating value for the Nets' business partners. The game experience is also significantly improved. As a Nets season-ticket holder, I can see a dramatic difference."
Mike Kowalski, president of Tiffany, sponsor of the Nets' Ticket Influencer Program
"I love dealing with a creative marketer that has a lot of passion about their business because I know that he will inculcate everything the organization does to bring value to my company through our business deal. And Brett definitely has that passion."
Mike Lister, president, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, a Nets sponsor"I am committed to pushing the envelope," Yormark said. "There is a new breed in the league that grew up on the marketing side of the business as opposed to the financial side. Look at owners like Mark Cuban and others. They know how to build brands."
When Ratner bought the Nets last year, his first major move was to bring Yormark back to New Jersey to resuscitate the team.
"Brett's impact on changing the perception of the franchise has been remarkable," Ratner said. "His ingenious marketing initiatives have created a buzz about the team, and his leadership and strategies are turning around the business side of the franchise. No one works harder than Brett."
Though the NBA and NASCAR are very different properties, Yormark sees similarities.
"When I left the NBA [in 1998], the league was riding high," he said. "When I returned, how the sport was perceived was very different. From my perspective, what I have inherited is to some degree what NASCAR was facing in the late 1990s. What was different in NASCAR was that we were making it as accessible as possible, and that is one of the things I want to do here."
While the league has taken notice of the team's business improvements in New Jersey, it's the Brooklyn side of Yormark's efforts that are earning high marks.
"He is first and foremost selling and marketing the Nets in Brooklyn," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "And he is doing it in a way where they don't hide. You tell people that, yes, we are going to Brooklyn and this is how we are going to do it."
The Nets aren't set to move to Brooklyn for at least three years, but Yormark is already consumed by the sizable task of building the proposed $430 million arena while also successfully rebranding the franchise.
"We've got the Brooklyn arena and I also need to sell [tickets and sponsorships in New Jersey]," Yormark said. "The biggest challenge for me is to play effectively in all areas of the sandbox. I have to make sure I'm ready for opening night of the 2009-10 season, and everything I'm doing now builds for that night."
By Ryan Basen
• Age: 39
• Titles: Vice president and general manager
• Network: ESPNU
• Education: Bachelor’s degree, history, Holy Cross, 1988; master’s degree, sport management, University of Massachusetts, 1994
• Family: Wife, Colleen; son Burke IV, 6; daughter Quinn, 4
• Career: Legal assistant for five years in New York and San Francisco; interned with CBS Sports from 1993-1994; began with ESPN in 1995, holding such titles as program associate, program planner, program manager and director of brand management for men’s college basketball, motorsports and other sports; named to current position in November 2004.
• Last vacation: Maui during Thanksgiving
• Last book read: “Now I Can Die in Peace” by Bill Simmons, although I’m a Yankees fan
• Last movie seen: “Curious George”
• Pet peeve: Work-related surprises
• Greatest achievement: My family on a personal level; overseeing production on “3,” the ESPN Original Entertainment movie about Dale Earnhardt, on a professional level.
• Greatest disappointment: Not being able to continue ESPN’s relationship with NASCAR in 1999
• Fantasy job: Owner of the New York Giants
• Business advice: When you’re making a deal, it has to work for both sides. Have the vision to look ahead to the next deal, making sure both parties are coming off of a positive experience.
Before his late 20s, Burke Magnus had neither worked a day in sports business nor attended a big-time college football game. Now, as the man in charge of ESPNU, the 39-year-old is a key player in the industry. He has overseen tremendous growth for the network in its first year, and he anticipates much more.
Not bad for somebody who thought he'd go to law school or work on Wall Street.
Magnus traces his entry into the sports business world to a "SportsCenter" segment that aired about a dozen years ago. While working as a legal assistant for Merrill Lynch in San Francisco, he saw a piece about the graduate sport management program at Ohio University, one of the top programs in the field. "I had no idea something like this even existed," he recalled. "It was like an epiphany."
Magnus did some research and enrolled in the University of Massachusetts' sport management program. Attending UMass gave him an inside look at the industry, and an internship with CBS Sports during those same years got him on his way. He landed a job as a program associate with ESPN in 1995 and quickly rose through the organization, being named vice president and general manager of ESPNU shortly before its launch last March.
Magnus finally attended a big-time college football game, at Michigan, a few years ago. And, despite growing up in northern New Jersey as a pro sports fan and attending Holy Cross, a school that garners far from widespread athletic recognition, he has embraced college sports. His creations for ESPN include the annual men's college basketball "Bracket Buster Saturday" and the basketball version of "College Gameday."
For ESPNU, specifically, Magnus has signed deals with five distributors (including DirecTV and Dish Network) and three historically black conferences; initiated original programming such as "Honor Roll" and "Cram Session;" made 24-year-old "Dream Job" winner Mike Hall his cornerstone anchor; and arranged to air more live events, such as U.S. youth soccer teams' games, during the summer.
Magnus also has volunteered ESPNU as a petri dish for new initiatives such as a total Skycam broadcast of a college football game last fall and airing a view from the crowd at a college basketball game in ESPN's initial Full Circle broadcast earlier this month.
Magnus has exceeded expectations in ESPNU's first year, said Chuck Gerber, ESPN's college sports executive vice president, in large part because he has been able to harness many of the factions within the immense ESPN family. The network, which launched in 3 million homes, is now in 8 million. It aired nearly 500 live events in its first full year (only 300 were anticipated), including NCAA championships in several sports.
"He has evolved into a terrific manager," Gerber said. "He's brought creativity, a great business sense and, more than anything, enthusiasm."
Capitalizing on those attributes and ESPNU's early gains will be key for the network's future, especially as it competes against three-year-old College Sports Television, which is in 15 million homes.
"Nobody's going to remember who was first," Magnus said. "They're just going to remember who's best, and we have no doubt that'll be us."
UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
By Ryan Basen
• Age: 36
• Title: Athletic director
• 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, 7; daughter, Kennedy, 4
• Career: Interned at the Southeastern Conference from 1993-94; was director of compliance and operations at the University of Missouri; was assistant commissioner for eligibility and compliance services with the SEC; became associate AD of internal affairs at Georgia in 1998; became AD in July 2004
• Last vacation: Martha’s Vineyard
• Last book read: “The 360 Degree Leader” by John C. Maxwell
• Last movie seen: “Firewall”
• Pet peeve: Complacency
• Greatest achievement: Starting a family, including the births of my children
• Greatest disappointment: That I won no championships as a student athlete at Georgia (the Bulldogs went 29-18 in Evans’ four years as a wideout but did not win any SEC titles)
• Fantasy job: President of the United States
• Business advice: We’re all going to make mistakes, so do what you think is in the best interest of your organization.
A standout wide receiver at Georgia in the early 1990s, Damon Evans still keeps in touch with many of his former Bulldog teammates. Evans, now Georgia's athletic director, doesn't always like what he hears from them, though.
"They tell you they're working," he said, "but you don't know exactly what they're doing."
Many of them struggle because they did not get their degrees while attending Georgia, Evans said. That trend continued throughout the 1990s. Georgia student athletes posted the 12-member SEC's second-worst graduation rate from 1995-98.
Evans wants to reverse that, making it his top priority on a job that has many. Since taking over for Georgia icon Vince Dooley in July 2004, Evans has dealt with many problems. None of them matters to him as much as the Bulldogs' graduation rate.
"At the University of Georgia, they're probably sick of me talking about it," said Evans, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgia. "[But] if we don't [address it], then I've got to re-evaluate myself."
So Evans has begun several new initiatives. He speaks to new student athletes and meets again with those who post GPAs below 2.0, often individually. He's also requested that school counselors prepare a report to predict student athletes' graduation status after their sophomore year.
"This is a part of his fiber," Georgia President Michael Adams said of Evans. "He feels like … we've got to prepare them before we send them out in the world."
Said Evans: "The reason why I wanted to be an athletic director, I wanted to have a positive impact on the lives of student athletes."
Evans has already positively affected Georgia athletics in other ways. He has worked to heal a rift between many alumni and the school that was created by Dooley's forced retirement. He's overseen a record athletic department budget and kept Mark Richt, the school's much-sought-after football coach, off the market with an eight-year contract extension.
In the last year, Georgia has broken ground on a $30 million practice facility for basketball and gymnastics, among other sports; signed Daktronics to construct new scoreboards for its basketball and football facilities; and extended a deal for the annual Florida-Georgia football game to be played in Jacksonville through 2011.
The past year also has seen the NCAA restore three scholarships to the Georgia men's basketball team that had been stripped after an earlier scandal, and Bulldog teams won three national titles during the year.
"It was a very good year," Evans said. "I feel more comfortable in the job, there's no doubt about that."
But Evans is still uneasy thinking about graduation rates. It is one of many challenges he'll face as he seeks to make Georgia "the premier intercollegiate athletics program both academically and athletically."
"We're going to focus not on eligibility but graduating our student athletes," Evans said. "That's something that is a big question for us right now. That's something that I will devote a lot of time to."
By Eric Fisher
• Age: 34
• Title: Head of sports and entertainment
• Company: Yahoo!
• Education: B.S., economics, University of Pennsylvania, 1994; master’s degree, management studies, Cambridge University, 1995
• Family: Single
• Career: Began career as a consultant for McKinsey & Co. in 1995; joined CBS in 1997 as director, strategic management, eventually being promoted to senior vice president, strategic planning and interactive ventures; named to current position in July 2005.
• Last vacation: Australia and Fiji
• Last book read: “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt
• Last movie seen: “Munich”
• Greatest disappointment: The Steelers winning Super Bowl XL
• Fantasy job: Owner of the Baltimore Ravens
• Executive most admired: Michael Dell. Using his entrepreneurial zeal, he took on the entrenched, well-funded establishment and in the process transformed an industry.
• Business advice: Fail to prepare … prepare to fail.
David Katz, head of sports and entertainment for Yahoo! Media Group, has little use for the ramp-up times and lengthy internal studies commonly associated with new jobs.
Just eight months into his new post, Katz has made one sweeping move after another attempting to rebrand and re-engineer the popular search engine and fantasy sports site into a premier destination for original content.
Katz quickly landed a series of expert analysts, including Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn; overhauled the site's Winter Olympics coverage; and earlier this year landed his biggest fish of all, Los Angeles Times deputy sports editor Dave Morgan to manage Yahoo!'s sports editorial content. The heir apparent to run one of America's top sports sections, Morgan instead chose Yahoo!, sending shockwaves through the media industry.
Perhaps even more striking, Katz is competing in the battlefield of online sports media without the promotional and content assistance of a traditional media property within the company, unlike key rivals ESPN, CBS SportsLine.com, FoxSports.com and The Sporting News.
"The power of the Yahoo! network is something I relish," Katz said. "There is definitely a real power in what we're doing. We're after no less than creating the ultimate sports fan community."
Katz arrived at Yahoo! at a dramatic crossroad as content sources such as the Associated Press, which formed Yahoo!'s original identity as a news aggregator, are now openly questioning whether Yahoo!'s huge traffic counts are still necessary to their business models. That tension only heightens Katz's need to generate original content, but he has spent his entire career trying to push boundaries online.
Joining CBS in 1997, Katz quickly went to work producing CBS's Web site, which became the most popular Internet destination among the major TV networks. Moving far beyond brochure-ware, Katz produced Internet talk shows for "Survivor" and "Big Brother," developed interactive games around the "CSI" dynasty of shows, and created an online subscription video service for extra content from "Big Brother." Katz also played a key role in getting live streams of the NCAA basketball tournament online in 2003, content now so popular that CBS recently decided to waive the subscription fee and offer it for free.
Katz has kept his ties to CBS strong, recently partnering with the network to stream replays of CBS comedies on Yahoo!, a move that ultimately could lead to deals with TV studios to produce original video content. A second step in that direction came in another recent, Katz-created deal in which TV watchers can program their TiVo anywhere through Yahoo!
"There's certainly a lot of talk out there about wireless," Katz said. "But I still feel the biggest upside is still very much with broadband Internet and the PC. There's a lot to mine there, and we're going to do it."
ESPN ABC SPORTS CUSTOMER MARKETING AND SALES
By Andy Bernstein
• Age: 34
• Title: Vice president, sports management
• Company: ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales
• Education: B.A., Michigan, 1993; M.A., Emerson, 1994; J.D., Rutgers-Newark, 1998
• Family: Husband, Edward
• Career: Worked at ABC Radio Network and WABC and WPLJ in New York before joining ESPN in 2000.
• Last vacation: Honeymoon in Africa and Mauritius
• Last book read: "Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping" by Patrick Radden Keefe
• Last movie seen: "Cars" (advance screening)
• Pet peeve: Incompetence
• Greatest achievement: Having no regrets
• Greatest disappointment: My dad was an enormous sports fan and when I was promoted three years ago, he was so proud of me and kept asking me when he would get to see my new business card. He passed away before I could show it to him and it breaks my heart.
• Fantasy job: CIA agent
• Executive most admired: Steve Jobs of Apple
• Business advice: You shine through your people. If you aren't doing what you need to do to have them fill your shoes, you aren't doing your job.
There was a time when Dorothy Whitehouse wanted to be an FBI agent. Either that or a White House correspondent. Or an entertainment lawyer. Somewhere along the line, she ended up with a job that so perfectly suited her passion for sports, and creative, strategic thinking, she hasn't looked back.
Whitehouse heads up ESPN's sports management unit, overseeing a group of 12 who act as the brand managers for more than a dozen professional sports in the ESPN fold. Their charge is to find ways to get the most out of each property, which can mean creating sponsorship packages, developing sales and marketing strategies, and dissecting each contract to figure out what they can and can't do to translate a rights deal into revenue.
"It's working not only with ESPN and understanding all of its business, but understanding what other businesses are trying to do and their objectives and how we can help them," Whitehouse explained.
In the day-to-day contact between ESPN and the top sales and marketing executives at the major sports leagues, Whitehouse is described as personable and always taking an interest in their business objectives.
"Dorothy lives partnership," said Steven Justman, vice president of global media at the NBA. "It's not only what she says, but how she goes about it. She's always focused on what's best for all parties. Not just what's best for herself or for her company."
Her contacts will also tell you she's tenacious and not afraid to issue a challenge.
There was a time when MLB sponsors accounted for a lower percentage of ESPN baseball advertising than any other league's sponsors did with their respective sports. Whitehouse issued a challenge to MLB senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing John Brody to change that. It worked. Now MLB sponsors rank No. 1 by that measure among the major leagues.
She also has a knack for creating assets seemingly out of thin air. Not long ago, fantasy sports was an area that only ESPN.com addressed, with no real involvement from ESPN's myriad other platforms. Whitehouse fought to create a fantasy sports franchise that would include broadcast elements in ESPN's news shows.
"If we want to be a gaming leader, we need to be a content leader," she said. Within a year, ESPN had created a multidimensional fantasy platform that would net more than $16 million in advertising.
Whitehouse has a master's degree in fine arts and a law degree, the latter of which she got while going to school at night and working a day job in sales at ABC Radio. The arts and law backgrounds have both been enormously helpful in her career path, she said, especially the law degree as she spends much of her time picking through rights contracts. But she never would have been happy working just in graphic design or just being a lawyer.
"With arts, I was training my creative side but wasn't using my strategic side," she said. "In law school, I was using my strategic side but not my creative side. With this job I'm able to do both, and I think that's why it is so well-suited for me."
By Andy Bernstein
• Age: 37
• Title: Executive vice president, media
• League: NHL
• Education: B.A., political science, Duke University, 1990; J.D., University of Virginia, 1993
• Family: Wife, Lisa; sons Taylor, 4; Carson, 2; and Chase, 11 months
• Career: Began career as an associate at Proskauer Rose from 1993-1995; joined the NHL as associate counsel, and has held the titles of senior counsel, legal and business affairs, NHL Enterprises, and vice president, business affairs; became group vice president, television and media ventures, in 2000; promoted to his current position in the fall.
• Last vacation: The Breakers Hotel in Florida with my wife
• Last book read: "By My Brother's Side," a children's book by Tiki and Ronde Barber
• Last movie seen: "Walk the Line"
• Pet peeve: People who are often wrong but never in doubt
• Greatest achievement: My family
• Greatest disappointment: Three Final Fours while at Duke with no national championship (I was a fan, not a player)
• Fantasy job: Author
• Executive most admired: Mark McCormack
• Business advice: It's a small world and a long life, so treat people the way you would like to be treated.
When the NHL lockout was settled last summer, teams went on a monthlong signing spree to fill up their rosters. The biggest deals made in NHL circles were not brokered by any general managers, though. Instead, it was a pair of media rights agreements where Doug Perlman was on the front lines.
The league's top media executive after the departure of COO Jon Litner during the lockout, Perlman spent the months following the lockout in a full sprint.
He joined Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly as the lead negotiators on the NHL's two-year, $135 million agreement with OLN. Then, he was the lead on a subsequent 10-year, $100 million pact with XM Satellite Radio.
During the OLN negotiations, Perlman sequestered himself in a New York hotel for several nights, at one point coming home to Connecticut to attend his 4-year-old son's birthday party and then getting right back on the train to New York.
"It hearkened back to my days as a first-year associate," said Perlman, who was an attorney at the law firm of Proskauer Rose before joining the NHL in 1995. "I was basically living in the conference room."
Daly commented at one point that the deal was as complex as the league's collective-bargaining agreement. Not only did it include U.S. television rights, but also streaming video, international television and groundbreaking elements that call for the league to be paid extra money based on changes in OLN's distribution.
This sort of deal-making for the new millennium is familiar territory for Perlman, who has overseen the league's new media arm since 2000.
Under his direction, the NHL got into the network ownership business, launching the NHL Network in Canada in 2001. It also took the NHL Web business in-house and signed out-of-market television deals with satellite and cable distributors in both the United States and Canada.
Additionally, Perlman is responsible for all the legal and contractual dealings with the league's television outlets. Phil King, the president of Canada's TSN Network, said that Perlman is one of the few American executives he's ever met with a firm grasp of Canadian regulatory rules.
Now, Perlman's job description has expanded following a promotion in the fall, as he heads all of the NHL's television-related activity, including its broadcasting and production departments.
It's no secret that TV ratings have always been a weak spot for the league. Still, Perlman views his role more as tweaking than making a radical overhaul.
"We're certainly going to try to grow ratings," he said. "I certainly wouldn't say we need to, but it's a key metric that people measure the popularity of the sport by, so we're certainly focused on it."
The growth, he believes, will come primarily from improvements to the game itself via rules changes instituted this year, and more storytelling and new technologies in game telecasts.
There is an overall optimism in Perlman's thinking, one that is present throughout the NHL right now. It's a very different atmosphere than a year ago, when the season was canceled and ESPN was about to opt out of its television deal with the league.
"Things are very, very different in every way," he said. "That was obviously a very difficult period. It was difficult professionally and difficult personally given what everyone went through here. Now we're at the complete opposite end of the spectrum."
ARENA FOOTBALL LEAGUE
By John Lombardo
• Age: 35
• Title: Chief operating officer
• League: Arena Football League
• Education: B.A., University of Notre Dame, 1993; J.D., Stanford Law School, 1996
• Family: Wife, Christy
• Career: Joined the AFL in 2001 after practicing law with Thompson Hine in Cleveland and Heller Ehrman in San Francisco.
• Last vacation: Honeymoon in Hawaii in October 2005
• Last book read: "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth
• Last movie seen: "Munich"
• Pet peeve: Unreturned phone calls
• Greatest achievement: The next one
• Greatest disappointment: The AFL's disruption in play in New Orleans
• Fantasy job: I'm living it.
• Executive most admired: My father
• Business advice: No job is too big or too small.
If anyone was ever going to peg Ed Policy for a career in sports, the natural choice certainly would have been the NFL.
Policy's father, Carmen, had been at the helm of the San Francisco 49ers' golden years, running the team in the late 1980s and early '90s, and even being named NFL Executive of the Year in 1994.
But Ed never wanted to work in his father's shadow, so the younger Policy moved indoors, so to speak, making his mark not in the NFL, but with the Arena Football League.
As chief operating officer for the AFL, Policy is playing a crucial role in expanding the indoor game. Since joining the league in 2001, the 35-year-old has been a major force in the AFL's aggressive expansion into larger markets for record amounts.
Investors in Kansas City last year paid $18 million for an AFL team, and the current expansion fees are reaching $20 million, compared with about $12 million five years ago.
Policy is the point man for all expansion negotiations. Under his watch, the AFL has added nine new franchises. And while AFL Commissioner David Baker is the face of the league, Policy handles much of the behind-the-scenes, day-to-day details of the league.
"In just four short years, Ed has grown into an exemplary executive, as evidenced by his selling more expansion teams than anyone in sports," Baker said. "He possesses a unique balance of skills. He can be both an unwavering negotiator and an understanding diplomat. Most importantly, Ed is a believer in what the AFL is trying to accomplish."
But running a sports league never was at the top of Policy's career goals. Instead, he was content with practicing law in San Francisco and Cleveland. Until, that is, he felt the pull of sports after dabbling in some sports-related legal issues. The shift toward sports management was entirely his own, he said, with no push from his father.
"My dad never pressured me to get involved," Policy said. "I was satisfied in what I was doing and I wasn't looking to get out."
But a conversation with NFL executive vice president and COO Roger Goodell changed Policy's focus.
"Roger put me in touch with Baker, and after several conversations I was hooked," Policy said. "I gave my notice just after Sept. 11, 2001, and people thought I was insane to move back to New York to work for the AFL."
There was immediate culture shock. The AFL had minimal resources compared to the cushy law firm for which Policy had been working.
"At first it was frustrating," he said, "but after a few months, I learned that the lack of resources lends itself to work harder, and now our resources have gotten better."
So what did Policy's father have to say when his son took a job with the indoor league and not the mighty NFL?
"He was supportive, and he's bullish on the league." Policy said.
Policy's current focus is to negotiate expansion fees for two teams likely to join the AFL next season, but down the road he also is seen as a potential successor to Baker.
"I hope David stays for a long time," Policy said. "I'm happy to grow in my role. I'm not looking to become commissioner."
By Bill King
• Age: 34
• Title: Senior manager, sports marketing
• Company: Coca-Cola Co.
• Education: B.S, kinesiology, Indiana University, 1993.
• Family: Husband, Stefan Manford; son Quinn, 3; daughter Norah, 3 months
• Career: An internship with the U.S. Olympic Committee led to first job as an associate at Lang & Associates from 1994-98; worked as a project manager at Coca-Cola from 1998-2000; managed NASCAR marketing for Coke from 2001-03; promoted to senior manager, overseeing relationships with the NBA, NHL and LeBron James, in 2003.
• Last vacation: St. Maarten and St. Barths in February
• Last book read: With a new baby at home, it’s been awhile, but I have “Three Nights in August” by Buzz Bissinger on my nightstand.
• Last movie seen: “Walk the Line”
• Pet peeve: Being late
• Greatest achievement: After my children, I’d say the swim scholarship to college and my relationship with LeBron James.
• Greatest disappointment: Not winning an NCAA title with my college team
• Fantasy job: Swim coach for the U.S. Olympic team
• Executive most admired: Bea Perez (vice president, media, sports and entertainment marketing for Coca-Cola). She has been a mentor for me.
• Business advice: Focus on your objective and stay true to the brand.
To swim competitively while in her last two years of high school in suburban Washington, D.C., Ellen Lucey had to rise at 4:04 a.m. for practice. It was an improvement over the years before she could drive, when she set the alarm for 3:55.
Her parents insisted that if they were going to drive her, she had to be the one to wake them up. She had to prove she wanted to go.
"When that clock hit 4:04 every morning, it was kind of ugly," said Lucey, who swam her way to a scholarship at Indiana University, where she was captain of the team her junior and senior years. "But it taught me that if I wanted something, there were things I had to do to get it. So I just did it. It wasn't something I questioned. I just did."
Lucey says that experience as a competitive swimmer serves her well today in her role managing Coca-Cola's sports marketing relationships with the NBA and NHL, along with its endorsement deals with elite pitchman LeBron James, who is in the third year of a six-year deal to pump Sprite and Powerade.
Last year, Lucey took James to an unlikely locale — a NASCAR race held in the mountains of Tennessee — to promote FLAVA 23, the Powerade flavor that mirrors James' jersey number. There, Coke unveiled a special paint scheme, with Powerade FLAVA taking the place of Interstate Batteries on the car driven by Bobby Labonte. James showed up to promote the brand during prerace, then spent 55 laps in the pits before heading up to Coke's suite. He even fired a high-arcing jumper at a rim perched atop the steep bank of Turn 2 — and made it with cameras rolling.
The payoff: more than 75 million consumer impressions, including 31 national TV hits, for FLAVA. The program, which also included a King James superhero comic produced by DC Comics, was nominated for a Horizon Award in the category Best Sports Business Integrated Marketing Plan.
"LeBron really understands the business of branding himself, so he was quite excited," Lucey said. "He saw it as a huge opportunity not only for Powerade, but for himself.
"That's the power of the relationship that LeBron saw. We had an interest in building a LeBron brand as well as the Powerade and Sprite brands. He saw the power of combining all those together."
One of Lucey's successes managing Coke's NASCAR sponsorship also involved promoting across properties. In 2003, Coke brought seven finalists from "American Idol," which it sponsors, to Lowe's Motor Speedway to sing the national anthem before the Coca-Cola 600, the race that is the signature of its NASCAR portfolio. Coke has brought Idol's finalists back to the race each year since then.
"It was really the start of the whole idea that Coke could bring unique things together and exploit that," Lucey said. "The whole melding of entertainment and sports is where we see the future."
FAUST CAPOBIANCO IV
By Ryan Basen
• Age: 34
• Title: President
• Company: Majestic Athletic
• Education: B.A., government, Notre Dame, 1994
• Family: Wife, Melissa; daughters Luisa Grace, 3, and Elena Marie, 1
• Career: Started in the family business as licensing director; named president in 2002.
• Last vacation: New Jersey shore for Labor Day weekend
• Last book read: “Get Better or Get Beaten!: 31 Leadership Secrets from GE’s Jack Welch” by Robert Slater
• Last movie seen: “Curious George” with my elder daughter
• Pet peeve: When people send e-mails instead of having an actual conversation
• Greatest achievement: Having a wonderful personal and professional relationship with my family
• Greatest disappointment: None. I’m a lucky guy.
• Fantasy job: Athletic director at Notre Dame
• Executive most admired: My father, Faust III, because of his work ethic and business ethics and the consistency and vision he’s had
• Business advice: You’re never as good — or as bad — as you think you are.
It was a busy winter in the Lehigh Valley, Pa., offices of Majestic Athletic. In addition to preparing for its second season as the official uniform provider of Major League Baseball, the company signed uniform deals for the World Baseball Classic and prepared for further expansion.
Even as Majestic officials focused on those new endeavors, they efficiently fulfilled all other client requests. Faust Capobianco IV, Majestic's president, has ensured they follow that longtime strategy. And why not? While several competitors dropped out of the market because they were slow to react, Majestic, getting products out quickly, grew from a tiny operation into one that is poised to become a top international sports apparel company.
After getting the MLB deal, Capobianco would have been excused for becoming complacent. Instead, he did official uniform deals for 12 of the 16 WBC teams, opened sales offices in Canada and the United Kingdom (with plans to expand to Japan later this year), and approved new baseball lifestyle launches for products such as warm-ups, fleeces and track suits.
Meanwhile, he's held onto the modus operandi and many of the employees that have defined the company since his father shifted its business plan to sports apparel maker 30 years ago.
"We're real proud of where we've come from," Capobianco said. "Continuity's always been important to us."
It's important to MLB officials, too. Majestic has been a stable business partner since it did its first MLB licensing deal in 1984, said Howard Smith, MLB senior vice president of licensing. It also has been proactive. MLB teams have been "thrilled" during their first year exclusively with Majestic uniforms, Smith said, in part because the company adjusts to their every whim.
"They're so accommodating," Smith said of Majestic, which was founded as Maria Rose Fashions Inc. by Capobianco's grandmother in the 1940s. "They've never really changed that mind-set of that small company that grew out of a sewing factory."
Capobianco's vision, drive and humble lifestyle (he lives in Easton, Pa., near the company's Bangor headquarters) are the backbone of a company whose success has been "storybook," Smith added.
"The remarkable thing about Faust is you had this small company," Smith said, "[and] it wasn't incredibly special to anybody." Capobianco made it so. "Usually," Smith added, "you don't have a company and a young executive like Faust growing in harmony."
As long as Capobianco sticks to his core strategy, the growth is likely to continue. Majestic spent about two decades building to the point where it is now with MLB, Capobianco said. Over the last year, it proved it could handle more responsibilities and a much heavier volume of product.
More importantly, he said, the company re-emphasized what he calls a "culture of urgency."
"We have to be more agile and more responsive than the big guys on the block," he said. "That's what got us here, and that's what's going to help us in the future."
New York Yankees
Momentum Worldwide /
McCann Erickson World Group
ABC Sports / NHL
Palace Sports & Entertainment
Coca-Cola North America
Los Angeles Dodgers
Fox Sports Net/Fox Cable Networks
Nets Sports & Entertainment
Note: Three-time Forty Under 40 winners are automatically moved to the Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame. Companies are listed as they were at the time the honorees were selected Forty Under 40 winners. Multiple companies are listed when the honoree held different jobs during his or her respective Forty Under 40 years.
By Terry Lefton
• Age: 37
• Titles: Executive vice president and general manager, North American Publishing
• Company: EA Sports
• Education: B.S., business administration, USC; MBA, Santa Clara University
• Family: Wife, Solveig; daughter Olivia, 2, and twins Lars and Penelope, 1
• Career: Has spent his entire career at EA, starting out in 1991; named senior VP North American Marketing, in October 2002; promoted to executive VP, North American Publishing, in September 2005.
• Last vacation: Seattle last summer
• Last book read: “Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission” by Hampton Sides
• Last movie seen: “The Constant Gardener”
• Pet peeve: People who are late
• Fantasy job: Flying as a bush pilot in Alaska
• Business advice: Follow your passion in business, and always listen to your customers — they’ll keep you honest.
Frank Gibeau grew up "a hacker and a gamer" in Silicon Valley. So it shouldn't be surprising that Electronic Arts has been his only employer.
After landing a job at EA in 1991 as a game-tester and marketing assistant, he's risen through the ranks of the video-game company's marketing department as EA has grown into a $3 billion powerhouse.
While EA's scale and scope have grown exponentially since Gibeau was steered there by a newspaper ad, its culture has remained constant.
"We're still all about making great games, and since we are in a technology market we are about leading change by embracing it," Gibeau said. "[Game] platforms change. Right now we're excited about making great games for cell phones or online."
That commitment is what's kept Gibeau at EA long enough to become executive vice president and general manager of North American Publishing.
With as much as a third of EA's revenue coming from sports games annually and the next generation of sports fans sampling major properties through video screens, EA Sports is now as influential a sports brand as Nike or ESPN, especially with the exclusive long-term NFL deal that Gibeau helped cement. Gibeau has helped instill a culture where competing with Adidas or Nike is just as important as besting the other video-game brands.
Television has long been the cash cow of sports. With the line between sports video games and sports TV blurring, Gibeau may soon be presiding over another generation of exponential growth involving real-time online play and mobile gaming.
"TV and video games will collide in this next generation of hardware," Gibeau said. "The pace of this industry is remarkable, but I expect it to change more over the next five years than it has over the past 10."
From the outside, EA looks like an amalgam of a media concern and a packaged-goods firm. Gibeau likens it more to a combined technology and entertainment company.
"To succeed here, you have to believe that games and interactive entertainment are the new rock 'n' roll," he said. "You have to be comfortable with how fast technology markets move. It's entertainment, which is always hard to get right with consistency, and it's technology, which is always changing. That's our double whammy."
With marketers struggling to reach video-gamers, they are trying to develop an advertising and sponsorship model that would get their brands inside of EA's hot titles. Gibeau helps keep everyone at EA focused.
"We're pretty close to cracking the advertising code, and there's clearly loads of opportunity there," he said. "But if we don't continue to make great games, that won't really matter, will it?"
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ADVANCED MEDIA
By Eric Fisher
• Age: 38
• Title: Executive vice president, business
• Company: Major League Baseball Advanced Media
• Education: B.S., journalism, Boston University, 1989; J.D., University of Virginia, 1993
• Family: Wife, Ellen; children Delaney, 5, and Henry, 3
• Career: Ran the Goodwill Games Ambassador Tour for Turner Broadcasting from 1989-1990; worked as an entertainment intellectual property litigation attorney and new media transactional attorney from 1993-1999; was a business development executive with RealNetworks from 1999-2003; hired by MLBAM in 2003.
• Last vacation: Family cabin on Lake Pend Oreille in Northern Idaho
• Last book read: “Goodnight Moon,” to my kids every night I am home
• Greatest disappointment: Not being able to find time to secure my private pilot’s license
• Fantasy job: Someday starting a magazine
• Executive most admired: Howard Schultz
• Business advice: You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails.
For an executive so deeply immersed in the dizzying business of digital media, George Kliavkoff lives a very old-school, bicoastal lifestyle.
Kliavkoff, MLB Advanced Media's executive vice president for business, keeps his primary office at the company's Manhattan headquarters. But he calls Seattle home, where he lives with his two children and wife, Ellen, who oversees training and development for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"I found my dream job and she found hers, and we're making it work," Kliavkoff said. "But I've gotten very, very familiar with Continental Airlines."
Kliavkoff divides his time between New York, Seattle and traveling to MLBAM clients and partners in roughly equal chunks. But wherever he's hanging his hat on a particular day, Kliavkoff is standing on the front lines of one of the most rapid and striking developments of the young history of digital sports properties.
While not as much of a household name as his hard-charging boss, Bob Bowman, Kliavkoff has played a critical role in MLBAM's massive success, one that hit dizzying heights in 2005. In just the first quarter of last year, MLBAM purchased Tickets.com and struck major interactive media rights deals with the MLB Players Association and Minor League Baseball.
Kliavkoff's primary role is to license and monetize that quickly expanding warehouse of content. And in the course of just the past year, he completely overhauled the company's fantasy licensing structure, substantially bulked up the level of video games available both through MLB.com and wireless service providers, and deepened MLB.com's treasure trove of live and archived video content that has each of the other major sports leagues playing catch-up.
The net result is anticipated top-line revenue of about $300 million for MLBAM in 2006. In part because of Kliavkoff's rainmaking, MLBAM has moved from a $120 million initial investment from MLB team owners to the subject of inquiries of an initial public offering that could generate more than $2 billion.
"This is a good network we have," Kliav-koff said of MLBAM's separate existence from the rest of MLB's business operations, a division that continues to create many internal and external issues. "We've done everything, I think, sooner, been more aggressive, and done much better maximizing the full value of our assets. As far as interactive content for a major sports league, we're completely charting new territory. It's an exciting time to be here."
Kliavkoff worked in business development for RealNetworks in Seattle before joining MLBAM in 2003, a post in which he sat across the negotiating table from Bowman to do an interactive content deal. Bowman liked him so much he recruited him for his upstart operation.
"George is a really friendly, social guy … and that naturally leads to business opportunities," said Kenny Gersh, CBS SportsLine.com vice president of business development. "George has a different negotiating style than [Bowman], but it complements what Bob does really well."
By Ryan Basen
• Age: 38
• Title: Vice president, Division I men's basketball and championship strategies
• Organization: NCAA
• Education: B.S., business, Indiana University, 1990
• Family: Single
• Career: Organized the NCAA's move to Indianapolis while working for Indiana Sports Corp., joining the NCAA in 2000; prior to that helped run family's electrical contracting business in Indianapolis and directed Indianapolis Local Organizing Committee's operations for 1996, '97, '99 and 2000 NCAA Division I men's basketball championships.
• Last vacation: November 2004, 13 days in Hawaii
• Last book read: "First Things First: To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy," by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill
• Last movie seen: "Syriana"
• Pet peeve: When people expect to get something that they haven't earned
• Greatest achievement: Assembling a group to elevate the Division I men's basketball championships and maintaining a solid working relationship with its broadcast partners
• Greatest disappointment: My continuing quest to find work-life balance and struggle to enjoy time away from the office
• Fantasy job: Any job that would involve a major logistical challenge, such as organizing the Olympics or directing Homeland Security
• Business advice: There is always a solution. It's a matter of taking whatever time is necessary to solve the problem at hand.
As he watched the 1980 men's Final Four inside Indianapolis' Market Square Arena, 12-year-old Greg Shaheen told his father that one day he'd like to organize college basketball's premier event.
A quarter-century later, Shaheen has gotten his wish — and then some. As vice president of Division I men's basketball and championship strategies, Shaheen runs the Final Four and fulfills several other duties for the NCAA. He loves his job, but that's not the driving force behind his work ethic.
Seven years after he proclaimed his childhood goal of running the Final Four, when Shaheen was a freshman at Indiana University, his father, Riad, suffered a heart attack. Shaheen drove 75 miles from Bloomington to the family home in Carmel, Ind., daily to see his father until he died of complications from the attack about six weeks later.
His father's death still motivates him, nearly 20 years later.
"My dad died at 50. I think of that every day," he said. "Not that I feel like I'm living on borrowed time, but … you have to take advantage of every opportunity you can to experience what's there."
Shaheen has done that, sleep and time off be damned. He refers to himself as "a professional greenskeeper."
"I get things ready for my colleagues," he said.
He's done plenty of work himself, though.
Shaheen helped the NCAA move its headquarters to Indianapolis and ascended to his current post in 2000. During the last year alone, he's taken on many new challenges. After the NCAA in August acquired the NIT, Shaheen managed the transition in ownership, which included renaming the bookend preseason tournament the NIT Season Tip-Off and creating a selection panel for the first time for the postseason NIT. He contributes to the College Basketball Partnership, a committee that meets occasionally to discuss the status of men's college basketball. In addition, for the coming Final Four in Indianapolis, he has planned enhanced corporate hospitality opportunities, new family activities and a free concert by Indiana's own John Mellencamp.
"He's invaluable" said Tom Jernstedt, NCAA executive vice president. "He continues to demonstrate a remarkable capacity for doing a large quantity of work at a very high level of quality."
Jernstedt noted that Shaheen's phone sign-off is "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you."
"He's very service-oriented," Jernstedt said.
Shaheen has applied that approach outside work as well. He returns home at least once a year to host a community fundraiser at his old school, Carmel High.
He also takes at least one moment to honor his father right after the Final Four. While he stands on the court with the newly crowned NCAA champions, Shaheen takes in "One Shining Moment," the song that airs with highlights from the tournament immediately after every Final Four championship game.
Shaheen saw it for the first time while watching a broadcast of Indiana's championship victory over Syracuse in 1987, not long after his father died. He promised he'd never miss a Final Four again. He hasn't.
"My moment to reconnect with my dad is during 'One Shining Moment,'" Shaheen said. "For three minutes, it all fits into place."
By Eric Fisher
• Age: 32
• Titles: CEO and co-founder
• Company: StubHub.com
• Education: B.S., finance and engineering, University of Pennsylvania; attended Stanford Graduate School of Business
• Family: Wife, Claire
• Career: Was a leveraged buyout professional at The Blackstone Group from 1996-98; founding private equity professional at Thomas Weise Partners from 1998-99; co-founded StubHub in 2000.
• Last vacation: Galapagos Islands
• Last book read: “Bringing Down the House” by Ben Mezrich
• Last movie seen: “Wedding Crashers”
• Greatest achievement: Upsetting Morris Knolls’ first doubles tennis team in high school county tournament
• Greatest disappointment: When Bill Buckner let the ball go through his legs during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series where the Mets went on to beat the Red Sox. I had just moved from the Boston area to the New York area. I was watching the series with friends and I painfully lost bragging rights after telling my new friends that the series was “in the bag.”
• Fantasy job: Manager for U2
• Executive most admired: Jack Welch
• Business advice: Do something you are passionate about and success will follow.
Jeff Fluhr, StubHub chief executive and co-founder, began his business career in one of the toughest ways possible. After dropping out of Stanford Business School, Fluhr posed an utterly simple, yet toxic, idea to the sports world: Let me help your season-ticket holders resell seats they cannot use.
Fluhr's idea did not entirely reinvent the wheel. Teams want their buildings filled to generate concession and parking revenue, and ticket holders don't want ducats going to waste in their desk drawers, making his creation of a national online resale marketplace a natural marriage of those two aims. But for years, the sports industry viewed the secondary ticket market as one populated solely by criminals and con artists, and in many circles still holds that opinion.
With dogged determination and a high-profile marketing strategy that went directly to fans, Fluhr essentially brought the sports industry to StubHub. The company last year tripled its volume of ticket resales to more than $200 million, garnered more than $50 million in commissions, and perhaps most shocking, now holds official relationships with more than a dozen pro and major college teams.
"We did spend a lot of the early days banging our heads against the wall, and there are still a lot of teams sitting on the fence on this issue," said Fluhr, recalling the company's beginnings as Liquid Seats. "But this market is going to exist. Why not make it completely safe and 100 percent reliable? There's a light bulb that has finally gone off and we're hitting a completely different level of consciousness."
Still, Fluhr and StubHub compete in an extremely competitive market, one perhaps approaching $10 billion annually. Internet auction site eBay generates exponentially more Internet traffic than StubHub. Ticket brokers, which represent part of StubHub's available ticket inventory, have local connections that StubHub cannot match. And RazorGator and TicketMaster's secondary ticket operations are now both online and growing quickly, pursuing much of the same business as StubHub.
For his part, Fluhr relies on a natural entrepreneurial bent that as a kid had him selling candy out of his locker, distributing toys as a 12-year-old and working for a stockbroker in high school. The extreme type-A personality continued at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned dual degrees in engineering and finance.
"I was really hesitant about doing a deal with them and cannibalizing our business," said Kevin Morgan, the Washington Capitals' vice president of sales. Last December the club sold an official sponsorship to StubHub, which then markets its services to Caps ticket holders. "But we spent a lot of time checking Jeff and the company out, and everything cleared out. And when we got to know them and sat down to do the deal, it was an incredibly easy process, maybe taking parts of a couple of days. And it's worked out great for us."
WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY
By Liz Mullen
• Age: 37
• Title: Partner
• Company: Williams & Connolly
• Education: B.A., University of North Carolina, 1990; J.D., University of Chicago, 1993
• Family: Wife, Alison; son Evan, 7; daughter Lauren, 4
• Career: Corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions attorney for Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom from 1993-1997; briefing book coordinator for the Clinton/Gore Re-election Campaign in 1996; joined Williams & Connolly as an associate in 1997; named partner in 2003.
• Last vacation: Cabo San Lucas
• Last book read: "The Last Juror" by John Grisham
• Last movie seen: "Good Night, and Good Luck"
• Pet peeve: Disloyal people
• Greatest achievement: Winning the Morehead Scholarship at the University of North Carolina
• Greatest disappointment: Realizing that, as a parent, you can't fix everything
• Fantasy job: I have a passion for movies, so anything related to the motion picture industry, like a studio executive, director or even a movie critic
• Executive most admired: Lon Babby, who has been a tremendous mentor both professionally as well as personally
• Business advice: Produce consistently excellent work and spend an equal amount of time developing and cultivating your network and business relationships.
Nearly a decade ago, in 1997, Jim Tanner was just one among the many, a name in a stack of resumes at venerable Washington, D.C., law firm Williams & Connolly, hoping to work under veteran sports agent Lon Babby. That soon changed.
"I knew as soon as I met him that he was the right guy," Babby recalled of his interview of Tanner, who has become heir apparent to Babby's practice of representing sports superstars.
Babby said he knew he needed someone "with the appropriate academic credentials and legal credentials." Tanner was a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina, had a law degree from the University of Chicago and worked as a corporate lawyer at what Babby called one of the country's best corporate law firms, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.
But, because he was going to work with millionaire athletes, "he had to have a scintillating personality and be kind of charismatic," Babby said. Tanner had those qualities as well.
Babby hired Tanner in 1997, primarily because at the time he envisioned athlete representation moving way beyond player contracts and endorsements, and more into outside business interests and financial planning. Tanner's background in corporate law would help the firm's clients who were starting their own businesses, as well as be helpful in negotiating large endorsement deals.
Williams & Connolly's sports law and athlete representation practice is known primarily for two things: A different fee structure and clients who have high-quality personalities to match their enormous athletic skills. Clients include NBA stars Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Shane Battier and Marvin Williams, as well as WNBA stars Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings, among others. But instead of charging a percentage of a client's contract value, like most agents do, Williams & Connolly charges clients by the hour.
For years now, Babby built his basketball practice by focusing on recruiting just one or two very highly rated basketball players a year. Over time, Tanner has taken the lead in recruiting those clients. Last year Tanner recruited Williams, the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, without Babby's help, and signed PGA Tour player Tim Clark and promising female golfer Perry Swenson.
Babby and Tanner have almost a father-son mentor relationship in which "the son has moved up and is now poised to take over the business," said Len Brown, a senior counsel to the PGA Tour, who worked with Tanner and Babby at Williams & Connolly from 2000 to 2004.
Babby and Tanner are involved in "every aspect of their clients' lives, from buying houses to buying businesses to family matters, divorce and custody," said Brown, who is a close friend of Tanner's.
"I like wearing a number of different hats over the course of a day — attorney, negotiator, mentor, marketer, big brother, adviser and friend," Tanner said.
Tanner was instrumental in helping Hill set up what is now a "thriving" commercial real estate business in Florida, and worked on numerous endorsement deals for him over the years, according to Hill's mother, Janet. "There isn't a deal that Grant does that Jim doesn't review," she said. "I bet he has signed 60 contracts, and in every way possible Jim Tanner looks to protect Grant's interest."
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
• Age: 33 (turns 34 on March 28)
• Title: Senior vice president, corporate sales and marketing division
• League: Major League Baseball
• Education: B.A., political science, Tufts University, 1995
• Family: Wife, Gayle; son Michael, 2, and a baby due in May
• Career: Began career with Young & Rubicam, New York, from 1995-98; started first stint in corporate marketing with MLB in 1998; served as executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Boston Celtics from 2002-04; returned to MLB in April 2004.
• Last vacation: Nantucket
• Last book read: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” with my son; “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
• Last movie seen: “Crash”
• Pet peeve: I would make a motion to remove the statement “I don’t know, we have never done that before” from the business world. When looking for new sources of revenue or marketing exposure, this one statement has killed more inspired ideas than any other.
• Greatest disappointment: Not having my father with me anymore to share my (and my family’s) life experiences.
• Fantasy job: Governor of Maine. Helping turn around the fiscal and political landscape in my home state would be a worthwhile challenge.
• Executive most admired: Howard Schultz
• Business advice: We are all our own brand … protect it, cultivate it and think long term.
By Eric Fisher
It's no doubt easy to sell sponsorships in good times. But when Congress was heatedly sparring with Major League Baseball last year over steroid use in the game, John Brody kept the money coming into baseball.
In a four-week span in February and March 2005 that surrounded Commissioner Bud Selig's embattled St. Patrick's Day appearance before the House Government Reform Committee, Brody, senior vice president of sales and marketing, played a key role in signing a quartet of corporate sponsors committing more than $125 million to MLB.
Not only did Brody and MLB get General Mills, Chevrolet, DHL and The Home Depot to sign on the bottom line, but they also held flashy press conferences at MLB's Park Avenue headquarters to trumpet the deals. The clear public message MLB sought to convey: We're still open for business, and the sport of baseball, as it always has, will survive the dark hours.
"There certainly was strategy there in what we did. But at the core of it was the simple fact we were able to work with these companies and help them leverage our brand to find a marketing solution that works directly for them," Brody said. "It's what we do for everybody, and a primary reason why we don't really churn through sponsors."
Since the white-hot intensity of last spring's steroid debate, Selig pulled off a historic coup, brokering with the players' union a second significant revision to the drug policy in less than a year. That, along with record leaguewide attendance, provided Brody with more ammunition to generate corporate sales and promotions. Last summer and fall Brody spearheaded the Chevy-sponsored Latino Legends program. He is nearing closure on renewals with seven corporate sponsors and could add Citgo to MLB's corporate mix.
With MLB again soaring toward record revenue and attendance this year, Brody faces plenty of operational challenges. Baseball's upper hierarchy is filled with strong and sometimes difficult personalities. And the separate existence of MLB Advanced Media, while producing its own financial success story and groundbreaking levels of league-generated content, presents a less-familiar sales structure to corporate America.
But Brody is widely seen as a peacemaker who deftly navigates through these issues.
"Major League Baseball is not as cohesive as perhaps some of the other leagues when it comes to rights," said Tom Fox, Gatorade senior vice president of sports and event marketing. "But John has such a calm, rational and focused manner about him, it makes a huge difference. He's an extremely bright marketer, and it would be difficult to do a deal without him."
By Don Muret
• Age: 35
• Titles: Principal and design director
• Company: Ellerbe Becket
• Education: B.S., architectural studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1992; master's in architecture, master's in urban planning, UW-Milwaukee, 1995
• Family: Wife, Julie; two daughters, Maddy and Anne; son, Jack
• Career: Was a designer for Plunkett Raysich Architects in Milwaukee from 1993-1995; moved to Ellerbe Becket in September 1995.
• Last vacation: Dubuque, Iowa
• Last book read: "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens
• Last movie seen: "Bewitched"
• Pet peeve: The lack of ambition and drive to be successful
• Fantasy job: Co-host of "This Old House"
• Executive most admired: Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons
• Business advice: Know where you want to go, both in life or in business, and draw a straight line to that goal and stay focused. The in-between highs and lows are not as important as long as you are making progress toward the ultimate goal.
Jon Niemuth first caught the design bug as a high schooler pushing wheelbarrows of dirt while helping his grandfather and uncle build a house in Appleton, Wis.
"I sort of fell into [architecture], coming from a family of handy people that would fix and build stuff," Niemuth said.
"I took a drafting course in high school, and the whole art-slash-sculpture-slash-painting-slash-drawing combination was a natural blend, the fix-it with the creative. Later on, I built a garage for my parents and a deck for my [eventual] in-laws. They had a vested interest to make sure their future son-in-law was taken care of."
Last year, at the age of 35, Niemuth became a principal shareholder for Ellerbe's sports practice after five of the company's six principals left en masse for HOK Sport. He is working on designing a University of Oregon basketball arena to appeal to Nike founder Phil Knight, one of the most powerful men in sports and the primary donor for the project.
In 1997, Niemuth was a project designer in the early stages of planning a new stadium for the Seattle Seahawks as the team waited for approval of public funding to help build Qwest Field.
When the Seattle stadium started construction in 1999, Niemuth moved on to start planning Rentschler Field, the University of Connecticut's new football stadium in Storrs.
In 2001, Niemuth assumed the task as lead designer for FedEx Forum, a home for the Memphis Grizzlies in the heart of the city's historic entertainment district.
The job provided him the opportunity to peruse his father's vintage jazz and blues record collection as he researched the heritage behind the "Memphis sound," a design theme resonating throughout the arena.
"Each of those three are so different," Niemuth said. "The purposeful collegiate stadium and the fact that there's only a handful of new ones; the Seahawks, which is different on the pro level; and Memphis, a great arena on a great site."
Niemuth's ideas for using FedEx Forum as a vehicle to promote the city's musical history were instrumental in allowing the Grizzlies to develop six sponsored spaces on the facility's two public concourses, said Don Hardman, president for Cascade Sports Group in Vancouver and the NBA team's former vice president for arena operations.
The themed spaces were included in sponsorship packages that the Grizzlies sold for prices ranging from the high six figures to low seven figures, team officials said when the arena opened in 2004.
Niemuth isn't ego-driven, a refreshing quality in the world of sports architecture, said Kelly Kerns, a designer for HOK Sport and project manager for Qwest Field when he worked for Ellerbe Becket.
"It's rare to have someone who is talented, skilled, intelligent and creative, yet at the same time be well-grounded," Kerns said.
For the Oregon arena, Niemuth is working in tandem with Knight and university officials to design the ultimate college basketball arena, a building that could very well be the collegiate world's most elaborate and expensive on-campus indoor venue.
"It's going to be a great project," Niemuth said.
SOCCER UNITED MARKETING
By Scott Warfield
• Age: 36
• Title: Executive vice president
• Company: Soccer United Marketing
• Education: B.A., political science, William and Mary
• Family: Single
• Career: Began career with Booz Allen and Hamilton in 1991; worked for the World Cup from 1993-94; moved to Major League Soccer in ’94; hired by ISL Worldwide in 1999; moved to Envision in 2001 and then AEG in 2002; hired by SUM to head up sponsorship sales and activation in 2003.
• Last vacation: Whistler in January
• Last book read: “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
• Last movie seen: “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”
• Pet peeve: When people are late
• Greatest achievement: The launch of MLS
• Greatest disappointment: The 99 percent deal that gets away
• Executive most admired: Steve Jobs at Apple
• Business advice: Call people back, don’t ask anyone to do something you won’t do and if you say you’re going to do something, do it.
Kathy Carter, executive vice president of Soccer United Marketing, remembers the day she realized that deal making was going to be a major part of her professional career.
"I completed my first deal when working for the World Cup in 1993," Carter said, referring to the StarKist sponsorship she landed for the 1994 World Cup held in the United States. "It was the coolest thing in the world. Closing a deal is the closest thing to winning a game, and at that time it was just a huge rush."
Carter continues to close deals, and feel that rush, today while also expanding SUM's sponsorship revenue base in the process.
New York-based SUM, which was founded in 2002, represents all commercial rights for Major League Soccer and holds the English-language broadcast rights for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, SUM is the largest promoter of international soccer matches in the United States, including being the exclusive U.S. promoter and marketing representative for the Mexican national team and its annual tour across the country.
Carter, 36, sells across all those platforms, and several others, making SUM a highly profitable marketing company.
"Commercial sponsorship revenue has tripled in 2 1/2 years," Carter said, refusing to divulge specific figures.
After the '94 World Cup, Carter signed on to help with the launch of Major League Soccer, which debuted in 1996. Carter, who played college soccer at William and Mary, was charged with selling everything from the sport to its players to corporate sponsorships for the league.
"We used to laugh because half the people agreed to meet with me just to get me off the phone," she said. "They wanted me to stop bugging them. You had to explain not only what soccer was at that time, but you also had to explain what Major League Soccer was and what it was going to be."
Doug Quinn, president of Soccer United Marketing, said Carter's knowledge of the game as both a Division I athlete and a former MLS executive gives her an advantage that allows her to succeed.
"Kathy's knowledge of the sport and the industry, combined with her burning desire to elevate the profile of soccer in the United States, puts her in a league of her own," Quinn said.
But even though the sport has come a long way in 10-plus years, Carter said her job of selling soccer is still a daily challenge.
"People and companies are much more aware of the game itself, and therefore we can meet with a lot more people," she said. "It's still difficult to get deals done, but I think everybody will tell you that."
Asked where soccer will be in 20 years, she doesn't hesitate.
"We will have won the World Cup and our men will stand on the same stage as our women," Carter said. "I think the league will be extraordinarily healthy and we'll be playing in at least 16 markets."
And what about the woman who right now is helping steer the sport in that direction?
"I'll be somewhere with my feet stuck in the sand and a cocktail in my hand," Carter said with a laugh.
By Ryan Basen
• Age: 33
• Titles: CEO and founder
• Company: Under Armour
• Education: B.A., business, University of Maryland, 1996
• Family: Wife, D.J.; son, James, 2 1/2
• Career: Founded company at age 24
• Last vacation: Bethany Beach (Del.) in June
• Last book read: "First in Thirst" by Darren Rovell
• Last movies seen: "Walk the Line" and "Saw"
• Pet peeve: When people cannot follow through on what they promise to do
• Greatest achievement: Assembling my team at Under Armour
• Greatest disappointment: Having to kill our first women's line in 2001
• Fantasy job: I'm lucky enough to enjoy it.
• Executive most admired: ESPN's George Bodenheimer, because he understands people and a team is such an important component to him. Plus, he's humble.
• Business advice: Work hard and never take no for an answer. Believe in your own vision.
During a trip to Munich in early February, Kevin Plank had a professional epiphany while watching a German pro soccer match. About nine of every 10 players on the field that cool night were wearing, underneath their jerseys, turtlenecks made by Under Armour, the company Plank started.
Under Armour has come a long way since Plank launched it in 1996 from his grandmother's Washington, D.C., townhouse, increasing sales from $5 million to more than $200 million during a recent five-year stretch and building the business into a dominant sports performance apparel company.
During the last year, Plank has overseen new developments that he hopes will shift Under Armour from a niche company into a multifaceted global player.
"It's important we stay on our toes and keep pushing," he said. "I take great pride in the fact that we're the leading performance apparel manufacturing company in the U.S., and I look forward to taking that globally."
Baltimore-based Under Armour took a large step toward that goal in January, opening a European headquarters in Amsterdam. The company has conducted business in Europe for more than two years, doing deals with about a dozen European pro sports leagues, but Plank said opening the Amsterdam office will help Under Armor craft products unique to the tastes of European consumers.
Stateside, applying that same targeted strategy helped Plank get Under Armour's women's line moving. Annual sales increased by 80 percent in 2005 after he added sales and marketing staffs that focus exclusively on women's apparel.
Plank also has expanded the company by announcing it's moving into the cleated athletic footwear market with baseball and football cleats and cleat sponsorships; signing a tennis player, Robby Ginepri, 23, the No. 3 American in the world, to an endorsement deal; signing a deal to outfit teams at Auburn, its second agreement with a major university (Maryland, his alma mater, was the first); and announcing sponsorship of new All-American high school lacrosse games.
The company went public in November. Its stock surged in its debut but later settled down, when Wall Street was not impressed by fourth-quarter income or 2006 sales projections.
That doesn't bother Plank. He is focused on maintaining Under Armour's position as the most popular brand in the performance apparel industry even as it faces stiffer challenges from companies such as Adidas and Nike. The cry "Protect This House," Under Armour's advertising slogan, has become a metaphoric business strategy.
The house, Plank said, is well secured. Kids don't ask their parents for "compression gear," they ask for "Under Armour" — just as they asked for Nike's "Bo Jacksons" and not "cross-trainers" in the late 1980s.
"Our name defines the entire [performance apparel] category," Plank said. So, while women's apparel, cleats and the European market are on Under Armor's radar, Plank wants to continue to serve his original customer base well into adulthood. If he can do that, he'll be one step closer to his ultimate goal:
"To build Under Armour," he said, "into the world's No. 1 performance athletic brand."
By Eric Fisher
• Age: 38
• Titles: Executive vice president and general manager
• Team: Cleveland Indians
• Education: B.A., Princeton University, 1989
• Family: Wife, Lissa Bockrath-Shapiro; son Caden, 3; daughter Sierra, 1
• Career: Started with the Indians in January 1992 as an assistant in baseball operations; was director of player development and assistant GM before being promoted to current position in November 2001.
• Last vacation: Turks and Caicos with family
• Last book read: "In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington" by Robert Rubin
• Last movie seen: "Match Point"
• Fantasy job: I am living it.
• Executive most admired: John Schuerholz in baseball; my father in life
• Business advice: In all your career decisions, pay the most attention to the people you are surrounding yourself with and the leaders you are choosing to follow — in particular their values and collective vision. This process — more than financial gain, job responsibilities or perceived prestige — will result in happiness and fulfillment.
There is perhaps no job in baseball more thankless than general manager of a struggling, economically constrained franchise. Wins are few and far between, fan and media patience is at a minimum, and resources to change the situation are scarce.
Yet, Cleveland Indians GM Mark Shapiro broke through the low-revenue shackles still surrounding clubs such as Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Colorado, building a 93-win team in 2005 on just a $42 million payroll that shocked the baseball world, and Shapiro is now aiming for greater heights this year.
There was no magic formula, no riding the coattails of a single dominant player, no overarching devotion to statistical formulas in the manner of Oakland's Billy Beane. Just a methodical, four-year plan to rebuild from within following the dismantling of the star-studded rosters led by Albert Belle and Jim Thome that actually is producing results as intended and turning the likes of Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta into household names.
"There are still significant challenges to building a club in this market," Shapiro said of the Indians, whose payroll for 2006 hovers around $50 million with some further room to grow, still well below the MLB average. "There is obviously less margin for error, and it places absolute paramount importance in scouting and decision-making. But our goal is to build a championship-caliber club that is of high character, and I see no reason why it can't be done."
Plenty of teams go through down cycles. But Shapiro's initial roster gutting trumped perhaps even the Florida Marlins' 1998 fire sale, jolting a fan base grown fat off seven rollicking years of postseason-caliber play and dropping more than a million people off annual Jacobs Field attendance figures previously buttressed by a 445-game sellout streak.
Years later, the risk-taking element of Shapiro's personality has yet to wane. Just before spring training this year, Shapiro dealt rising outfielder Coco Crisp to Boston in a seven-player trade that yielded back third baseman prospect Andy Marte, a move that instantly became baseball's most hotly debated trade in years.
"That was a very emotional deal for both fan bases," Shapiro said. "We're still in a situation where a lot of our deals are not going to be easy to digest."
Shapiro also is now without pitcher Kevin Millwood, last year's American League ERA champ who departed for a five-year, $60 million deal with Texas, far more than anything Cleveland offered. But Millwood's agent, Scott Boras, harbors no ill will for Shapiro.
"He's always taken the time to listen to everything we have to say. Our organization obviously puts a lot of emphasis on research and data, and he has always shown us the courtesy to hear us out," Boras said. "Mark's a guy who really puts in the time and does his homework. He's dealing in a fiscally confined environment, but he's definitely more dedicated than most of his counterparts out there."
Shapiro has now been in the job long enough that he is no longer known just as the son of Ron Shapiro, the noted agent best remembered for representing Cal Ripken Jr. But the younger Shapiro said the influence of his father, a highly respected figure known for his non-inflammatory negotiating style, remains strong.
"My dad's role in my baseball career is actually less than most think," Shapiro said, "but his role in the man I am and the leader I am is far more than people think."
By John Lombardo
• Age: 36
• Title: Senior vice president, marketing partnerships
• League: NBA
• Education: B.S., business management, Cornell University, 1991; MBA, Harvard Business School, 1998
• Family: Wife, Lisa; sons Tai, 4, and Kylan, 2
• Career: Held various sales positions with Procter & Gamble from 1991-1995; worked as regional sales manager for The Clorox Co. before attending business school; held an internship in Pepsi's sports marketing department in 1997; worked for Major League Baseball's corporate marketing division in 1998, joined the NBA in 1999; named to his current position in 2005.
• Last vacation: Carlsbad, Calif., over Christmas
• Last book read: "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss, to my sons
• Last movie seen: "Curious George"
• Pet peeve: People who are unprepared for meetings
• Greatest achievement: Running the New York City Marathon in 2000
• Greatest disappointment: Realizing I wasn't good enough to be a professional baseball player
• Fantasy job: Professional sports team owner
• Executive most admired: David Stern
• Business advice: Always over-deliver on expectations.
Ask Mark Tatum about how he goes about selling NBA sponsorships and he'll politely ask you to rephrase the question.
"We don't call them sponsors, we call them marketing partners and that's our philosophy," Tatum said. "We have some of the best brands in the world, and we make sure we are talking to them and meeting their objectives."
Whatever the term, Tatum, senior vice president of market partnerships for the NBA, is a key player in attracting and retaining the league's corporate business. In addition to landing deals for all of the NBA business platforms, Tatum also is responsible for marketing USA Basketball.
It's a job that is getting increasingly challenging, considering the competition and the higher standards demanded by companies investing in the league.
"What is changing is that the business has gotten so much more sophisticated and decisions are no longer made on feel and relationships," Tatum said. "There is more analysis, and companies want tangible results that resonate. So the challenge for us is that we have to continue to show real return on the investments."
Tatum's seven-year tenure with the NBA suits him well for the changing dynamic because he's familiar with all of the league's sponsorship areas, and that provides an advantage in creating highly integrated packages for clients.
"He's worked in every different division that impacts marketing partnerships, and his experience shows through," said Heidi Ueberroth, executive vice president of global media properties and marketing partnerships for NBA Entertainment. "Whether it's internal or external, Mark instills a lot of confidence in people because of his long history in working in sports."
Tatum's style also helps. He's seen as a consensus builder who can put a personal touch on deals based on financial analysis.
"Not only does he love what he does, but he enjoys the interaction with people," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "He delivers because he has the analysis and the facts to demonstrate why we are a good investment, and he does it with a business and personal perspective that makes him so successful."
Tatum's experience isn't limited to the NBA. Before graduating from Harvard Business School in 1998, he worked for Procter & Gamble and The Clorox Co., and then he was an intern in Pepsi's sports marketing department. That job led to a position in Major League Baseball's corporate sponsorship department. He then joined the NBA in 1999, just after the league's 1998-99 lockout.
He's seen both the ups and downs of the NBA's business, leveraging the league's stars such as LeBron James while also dealing with the fallout from last season's brawl in Detroit. Either way, Tatum keeps the same approach.
"No matter what's going on, the focus is the same," he said, "and the focus is know who our fans are and how can we help companies reach those fans."
SOUTH FLORIDA SUPER BOWL XLI HOST COMMITTEE
By Daniel Kaplan
• Age: 35
• Title: President
• Organization: South Florida Super Bowl XLI Host Committee
• Education: B.A., politics, Wake Forest University, 1992; M.S., sports administration, St. Thomas University, 1994
• Family: Wife, Lisa; daughters Cara, 4, and Seana, 2
• Career: Director of communications, Carquest Bowl, 1994-95; director of athletic operations/facilities, Wake Forest University, 1995-98; executive director, Tampa Bay Final Four Organizing Committee, 1998-99; executive director, Tampa Bay Super Bowl XXXV Host Committee, 1999-2001; associate AD, University of South Florida, 2001-02; president and COO, Jacksonville Super Bowl XXXIX Host Committee, 2002-05.
• Last vacation: Clinton, N.C., in December to visit family
• Last book read: “Riding with the Blue Moth” by Bill Hancock
• Last movie seen: “Glory Road”
• Pet peeve: Inconsistency
• Greatest achievement: Being able to serve as the local point person to the NCAA and NFL for their respective signature events by the age of 30
• Greatest disappointment: Not getting into the law schools of my choice
• Fantasy job: Athletic director or commissioner of a major university or conference, or a senior executive with an NFL club
• Executive most admired: Joe Gibbs
• Business advice: The will to win means nothing without the willingness to prepare.
Michael Kelly may be the only one of this year's Forty Under 40 winners to have carved out a whole new specialty: professional Super Bowl host committee president.
For the third time Kelly is running a Super Bowl city's preparation, in this case Miami's 2007 game, following similar stints in Tampa and Jacksonville.
In this Kelly is unique. In the not-so-distant past, the host city would hire one of its own to run the effort, usually a local executive or someone from the county government. But planning for the game has gotten so demanding that the host committees increasingly look for people like Kelly who have expertise in sports administration and planning.
"It's kind of indicative of the complexity of the event," Kelly said. "It has grown in scope each and every year."
Budgets are now in the millions of dollars, if not tens of millions depending on the circumstances. The person must coordinate efforts across wide-ranging agencies and government institutions and find qualified people to hire for jobs that end a few months after the game.
And increasingly, the major task, as with this year's in Miami, is fundraising. While the Jacksonville fundraising total was more than twice Miami's goal of $8.5 million (reflecting the cost the northern Florida city incurred to bring in cruise ships to serve as hotels), this time it may be even harder. With so many sports options in South Florida, getting companies to commit could prove tricky, Kelly said.
But Rodney Barreto, chairman of the host committee and the man who tabbed the 35-year-old Kelly, is sure his young hire will get it done.
"We needed a professional in this spot, someone who knew how to cut a sponsorship deal, someone who knew how to cut a media deal," Barreto said. In the past, he said, Miami's host committees have been run by county executives from Miami-Dade.
It's unclear whether the job of Super Bowl host committee president will become thoroughly professional in the future. Before Kelly, only Robert Dale Morgan, who ran Houston's and Atlanta's Super Bowls, had overseen the game in more than one city.
Managing two straight Super Bowls is not possible because the job requires a minimum 18 months of lead time before the game, said Jim Steeg, the San Diego Chargers' chief operating officer, who ran event planning at the NFL for 26 years.
But with fundraising for the game now a national effort as well as a local one, Steeg said, host committees will be looking for people like Kelly with a Rolodex full of contacts.
Arizona has the game after Miami, but the Super Bowl returns to Florida in Tampa in 2009 and then Miami in 2010. Kelly is noncommittal about whether he would entertain doing the job again.
His dream job is to be a college athletic administrator, so if such an opportunity arose, he might not be around for the next big game in the Sunshine State.
"Mike wants to do other things in life than running a Super Bowl," Barreto said.
VAN WAGNER SPORTS GROUP
By Terry Lefton
• Age: 34
• Title: President
• Company: Van Wagner Sports Group
• Education: B.A., history, Cornell University, 1993
• Family: Wife, Alyson; daughter Charlie, 2
• Career: Started at Athletes & Artists, which became The Marquee Group and then merged with SFX; was senior director of sponsorship sales and talent marketing at SFX Sports Group from 1993-2000; was vice president of business development for Sportscapsule Inc. from 2000-2001; hired as COO of Van Wagner in 2002; named president in 2003.
• Last vacation: Ocean Club, Paradise Island, the Bahamas
• Last book read: “War and the Engineers” by Keir Lieber
• Last movie seen: “Curious George”
• Pet peeve: Being late or unprepared. It makes me uncomfortable.
• Greatest disappointment: Seeing such a great team of people at SFX Sports Group unravel so quickly
• Fantasy job: Playing shortstop or center field for the Yankees
• Business advice: Know what you don’t know and don’t apologize for not knowing everything.
If ever there was proof that there's just one degree of separation in the business of sports, it's Mike Levine's success as president of Van Wagner Sports.
Levine knows everyone in the business because everyone wants to know him. He succeeds, not because of polish, guile or bluster — three elements fueling most salesmen. He's simply a loquacious, affable guy who can put a prospective client at ease in minutes. That means they are more likely to say yes to the guy everyone calls "Vino."
"No one in the business considers him a competitor, and none of his clients consider him a salesman," said Jordan Bazant, a partner in the New York-based sports marketing firm The Agency. "He's a resource."
Levine's been working in sports sales since his first year at Cornell, when his lacrosse coach assigned freshmen to sell programs at football games. An internship in CBS's media relations steered him to the business side of sports and he started at Art Kaminsky's Athletes & Artists in June 1993, without a desk or chair to call his own.
Levine scored early successes by helping land former Princeton running back Keith Elias and then persuading Team USA and Team Canada to do card sets with Fleer before the 1994 Winter Olympics. Soon after, he was A&A's director of marketing. Early on, he tried to hide his youth from clients such as Bill Walton and Chris Berman by dealing with them solely by telephone.
"When we finally met, I couldn't believe he was in his 20s," said Berman, who worked with Levine from 1993 to 2000. "Vino is just a guy people enjoy being around and his love of life and people are obviously serving him well in business."
As A&A merged with SMTI to form The Marquee Group, which later became part of the SFX Sports conglomerate, Levine got experience with property, media and sponsorship sales. With the Internet bug raging, he joined Sportscapsule.com, a startup that offered customized highlight reels.
Many Sportscapsule staffers watched the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold from the company's offices on 12th Avenue; the business closed soon after. Levine took a consulting gig with Marquis Jet and tried to sell a fractional jet ownership to Richard Schaps, CEO and founder of Van Wagner Communications. Instead, Schaps hired Levine to help sell Dorna rotational sports signage.
Levine realized early on that selling Dorna was really selling national TV ads. Layering on more traditional sports marketing, along with incremental media and property sales for the likes of the PRCA, U.S. Ski and Snowboard, and USA Gymnastics, the business grew. A recent triumph was selling Allstate-branded nets behind the stanchions at 55 colleges — getting Van Wagner into college football for the first time.
Overall, the business has grown 500 to 600 percent since Levine joined. He was named president in December 2003.
For future growth, Van Wagner is counting on new media sales and developing advertising and sponsorship opportunities in the video-game market.
"We're not just a rotational signage company anymore," Levine said. "We're a national sports sales organization. That gives us a lot of room to grow."
By Scott Warfield
• Age: 37
• Title: Vice president, sports marketing
• Company: Sprint Nextel
• Education: B.S., civil and environmental engineering, VMI, 1991; MBA, William and Mary, 1998
• Family: Wife, Beth
• Career: Five years as an environmental engineer; spent the last nine years with Sprint Nextel.
• Last vacation: Naples, Fla.
• Last book read: "1776" by David McCullough
• Last movie seen: "Wedding Crashers"
• Pet peeve: Conference calls
• Greatest achievement: Adding our new NFL partnership to the new Sprint Nextel, while still being fortunate to work with a great team on another successful Nextel Cup season
• Greatest disappointment: Not being able to spend enough time with my family and friends
• Executive most admired: Roger Penske
• Business advice: Find someone besides a manager or family member who can give you objective advice about your abilities. Be prepared to hear things that will make you uncomfortable.
Michael Robichaud, vice president of sports marketing for Sprint Nextel, had a very busy summer.
After its $35 billion merger was completed in mid-August, Sprint Nextel launched its new brand on Labor Day weekend at the 2005 U.S. Open. From Flushing Meadows, N.Y., Robichaud and his team headed north to Foxboro, Mass., to launch its new $600 million official wireless sponsorship with the NFL.
"At the same time we were launching our relationship with the NFL, we were in the throes of the Chase for the Nextel Cup," Robichaud said. "Sports was a pretty big part of our marketing campaign when we launched the new company."
In addition to title sponsorship of NASCAR's premier series and official deals with the NFL and USTA, the combined company of Nextel and Sprint now has sponsorship agreements with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, eight NHL teams, seven NFL teams and a handful of MLB and NBA teams. Add to that the PGA of America, Dallas' American Airlines Center and Kansas City's new Sprint Center when it opens next year, and Sprint Nextel becomes one of the largest sports sponsorship spenders in the country.
Robichaud, 37, was born in Newport News, Va., and went to college at Virginia Military Institute, where he studied engineering before working as an environmental engineer for five years.
"Marketing has a lot of math and science to it, and the return-on-investment question gets asked on a daily basis," Robichaud said. "So it's nice to be able to sit down with your CFO and with your finance group and have a conversation from their point of view."
Luckily for Robichaud, ROI conversations are pretty easy when it comes to the NFL and NASCAR.
As the official wireless telecommunications service sponsor, Sprint Nextel is able to deliver exclusive and original NFL content to mobile phones. Sprint customers receive exclusive audio and video highlights following the conclusion of game broadcasts, as well as audio and video highlights, live text updates, scores, stats and more during games.
And in year two of its 10-year, $750 million series sponsorship with NASCAR, Sprint Nextel avoided what many were expecting to be a sophomore slump and continued to build equity in its Nextel brand.
"The Nextel brand and the Nextel product set is vital," Robichaud said when asked about the possibility of rebranding the name of the Cup Series to include the Sprint name as well. "We've got, of our 40 million customers, almost half of them, 17 million-plus of them, are Nextel people using push to talk. So our research showed if the Nextel brand name went away, people thought the product went away, and we clearly can't have that."
For 2006, Robichaud said his focus will be on a possible NASCAR Cup rebranding in 2007 and the enhancement of the company's NFL activation plans.
"We are going to work very hard and you are going to see us go active with our NFL sponsorship much, much earlier as we try to create some different things for the fans," he said.
And on off days, Robichaud will work on his 12 handicap golf game that has seen little progress over the years because of a hectic work schedule.
"Given life, I can't seem to get into that coveted single-digit area," Robichaud said. "But you've got to keep trying. I'll take my clubs on the road a little bit more this year."
SUNRISE SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
By Andy Bernstein
• Age: 39
• Title: Chief operating officer
• Company: Sunrise Sports and Entertainment
• Education: B.S., University of Maryland, 1988; master's degree, sports administration, Ohio University, 1990
• Family: Wife, Dana; baby girl Sophia
• Career: Started as an account executive for the New York Yankees in 1991; was director of sports sales at Katz Communications from 1993-1995; vice president of sales at Wayne Huizenga's Front Row Communications from 1995-1998; became vice president of integrated sales and broadcasting for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 1998; joined the Tampa Bay Lightning as executive vice president and chief marketing officer in late 1999; left in September 2003 to be COO of the Florida Panthers franchise.
• Last vacation: Christmas in Aruba
• Last book read: "Winning" by Jack Welch
• Last movie seen: "Far from Heaven"
• Greatest achievements: Bringing financial stability to the Florida Panthers; and the birth of our baby girl
• Fantasy job: General manager of a five-star hotel on Aruba
• Business advice: The true keys to success are hard work, passion and a daily commitment to excellence.
Every morning when Florida Panthers employees come to work, they're greeted by an e-mail from the club's chief operating officer, laying out some new initiatives or accolade. The time signature says as much as the body — they're usually sent before 4:30 a.m.
With this daily act, Michael Yormark sets the tone for the Panthers and their newly dubbed parent company, Sunrise Sports and Entertainment. It's a fitting name, as many employees arrive to work before 6 a.m.
"Whenever you turn around a company you've got to change the culture, change the attitude," said Yormark, who shares a distinct style of high-energy salesmanship with his twin brother Brett, president of the New Jersey Nets and also a Forty Under 40 honoree. "The primary reason we've turned the corner here has to do with the atmosphere we've created."
When Yormark joined the Panthers in September 2003, it was a moribund organization, hemorrhaging money, struggling on the ice and facing an uncertain future.
What Yormark did was try to shift the emphasis of the company from marketing the team to marketing its home arena, then called the Office Depot Center, and becoming more sales than operations focused.
The mantra he handed down was "Dream big and dare to fail."
The result has been that sponsorship revenue has nearly doubled, to around $15 million, helped by a new 10-year, $30 million arena naming-rights deal with BankAtlantic.
It's very much the same story Yormark helped weave across the state in Tampa, where he was executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 1999 to 2003, growing sponsorship revenue from $4 million to $16 million during that time.
"I don't know if I know a better, you hate to use the word 'salesman,' but overall sports marketer in the business," said Scott Carmichael, the former vice president of club marketing at the NHL and now executive vice president, marketing development, at ANC Sports Enterprises. "Much of that is driven by his work ethic."
The Yormark approach — you'll find Brett doing similar things in New Jersey — is to constantly create new inventory and then sell, sell, sell. For Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, that included "Live on Stage," a free entertainment magazine distributed throughout South Florida, and "Unrestricted," a sports lifestyle magazine with features on various South Florida athletes. Yormark said both will earn a $750,000 profit this year.
Then there's the 3,000-seat configuration of the arena dubbed the "Sinatra Stage," hosting about 30 events per year and also operating in the black.
Challenges still exist for the Panthers in terms of getting hockey fans into the arena, but Yormark has spearheaded a slew of ticket sales initiatives, enlisting players to have pancake breakfasts with season-ticket prospects and sign autographs for kids after every home game in January. Players, like the rest of the club's employees, have reacted to his infectious ambition.
"Our players ask me every day, 'How's the crowd going to be tonight?'" Yormark said. "I know that's something that resonates with them. They also know they can impact what my answer is going to be."
By Ross Nethery
• Age: 38
• Title: Vice president of new media
• Company: PGA Tour
• Education: B.S., engineering, Illinois; MBA, Kellogg Graduate School of Management
• Family: Wife, Tami; daughters Nicole, 7; Paige, 5; Rachel, 2
• Career: Was a marketing representative for IBM from 1989-1992; was a principal at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney Inc. from 1994-98, and vice president of business development for Homestead.com from 1998-2000; joined the PGA Tour in 2000.
• Last vacation: Last fall, with my wife spending our 10th wedding anniversary in New York. We ate our way through New York City.
• Last book read: “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt
• Last movie seen: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” I haven’t seen the latest one because we wait to see each movie until my oldest daughter has read the book.
• Pet peeve: Missed deadlines
• Greatest achievement: Being a great father. I feel like I’m being a great dad while still putting a tremendous amount of passion and energy into my job.
• Fantasy job: I’d love to retire and have a second career as a basketball coach at the high school or college level. I’m passionate about the game.
• Executive most admired: Larry Probst, CEO of EA Sports
• Business advice: Bring passion to your work, work hard, deliver results, try to learn constantly and have fun.
One of the things Paul Johnson likes best about his job is that its possibilities seem endless. As vice president of new media for the Ponte Vedra, Fla.-based PGA Tour, Johnson is not only leading PGATour.com to new levels of readership and advertising, but is branching out to embrace opportunities ranging from video games to mobile devices to satellite radio.
In the last year, PGATour.com has grown 30 percent, to now reach more than 2 million fans each month. With partner XM Satellite Radio, the tour created and launched the PGA Tour Network. ("Even though it's only audio," Johnson said, "it still means building a new network.") And in the last four years, international new media partnerships have tripled, while video game licensing has quadrupled.
All of that is just a start on what eventually could be done, Johnson said.
But regardless of what may yet happen, his already lengthy list of accomplishments was enough to land Johnson on this year's Forty Under 40.
Looking back over the last few years, Johnson said he's most pleased about the chance to create new businesses with new partners, resulting in new opportunities for the tour.
"One of the reasons golf and new media is so cool is that a lot of the competition happens outside the television window," he said. "One of my biggest opportunities to capture that is to continually try to answer the question, 'How do I deliver that to our fan base?'"
One of the answers to that question was a project called Tourcast, an Internet application that delivers live statistical coverage of PGA Tour events. Tourcast won a 2005 Emmy Award for "advanced media technology in support of a television broadcast."
"It always comes back to the fan," Johnson said. "As consumer trends shift and change, it comes back to how we connect with these fans on this platform."
To help do that, Johnson takes great pains to make sure that the goals of the operation are clear not just to employees, but to potential business partners and customers.
"In this world, surprises are a bad thing," said Scot McLernon, senior vice president of advertising sales for CBS Digital Media, a new media partner of the PGA Tour. "Paul is a great communicator of what his expectations are."
Since joining the PGA Tour in 2000, Johnson's responsibilities have grown continually, noted Ed Moorhouse, COO and executive vice president of the organization.
"He plays an increasingly visible role in the leadership of our organization," Moorhouse said. "We admire his passion for his area of expertise, his vision and his grasp of all media platforms."
What that means for Johnson is more opportunity to expand the PGA Tour's business. Looking ahead, he said, "We have an opportunity to continue explosive growth."
AGASSI ENTERPRISES; A&R; PREMIER INTEGRATED SPORTS MANAGEMENT
By Daniel Kaplan
• Age: 37
• Title: President
• Companies: Agassi Enterprises; A&R; Premier Integrated Sports Management
• Education: B.S., business administration, Georgetown University, 1992; J.D., University of Arizona, 1994
• Family: Wife, Rosemary; daughter Hannah, 9; son Grant, 6
• Career: Has been managing Agassi and related enterprises since graduating from Georgetown
• Last vacation: Telluride, Colo.
• Last book read: "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century" by Thomas Friedman
• Last movie seen: "Match Point"
• Pet peeve: People who don't keep their word
• Greatest achievement: My family
• Greatest disappointment: Not getting a master's degree in theology
• Fantasy job: I've already got it.
• Executive most admired: Phil Knight
• Business advice: Your word matters more than anything.
When Perry Rogers was 12 growing up in Las Vegas, he challenged a fiery competitor at a state tennis tournament to a fight, enraged by a perceived slur.
Thus began what would become one of the great friendships and business relationships in sport. The other guy was a young phenom named Andre Agassi, who is Rogers' trademark client and has earned more money hitting tennis balls than anyone on the planet.
Today, Rogers manages Agassi; his wife, retired tennis player Steffi Graf; basketball icon Shaquille O'Neal; and golfer Adam Scott. He and Agassi also run a thriving investment fund, as well as one of the top charitable foundations in the country. Agassi's charity finances a charter school in Las Vegas that is one of the model institutions in the country for educating disadvantaged kids.
In 1987 when Agassi was going pro and Rogers headed off to his first semester at Georgetown, few would have seen the two getting together for this kind of run. Rogers was planning a career in law, and IMG managed Agassi at the time.
Then came the infamous "Image is Everything" Canon camera commercials, which wrapped the young prodigy in an arrogant, brash image. Shocked by the reaction, Agassi called his friend for help.
"You have to make sure your brand is clear and identifiable, and we learned that the hard way," Rogers said. "Image is everything; while that is true for Canon," it wasn't true for Agassi.
Rogers jumped at the chance to help his friend, and the two made history in the process. While IMG continued to manage Agassi though 2000, and SFX has had a part of the relationship since, Rogers' role has been as a trusted adviser and deal negotiator.
Agassi signed his first Nike contract in 1987 for $25,000 guaranteed. Eight years later he actually agreed to less of a guarantee in a royalty-based deal. The final result: $127 million over 10 years.
"Perry is one of the smartest guys I know out there in the business," said Ian Hamilton, the former Nike sports marketing executive who negotiated the 1995 deal. "Perry had the luxury of watching how not to do it."
Today at age 37, Agassi earns more than $20 million in off-court endorsements from companies such as Adidas, Genworth Financial and Head Rackets.
Rogers' influence now runs far outside of tennis, investing in hotels and clubs with Agassi, as well as his management of O'Neal and Scott, who he signed in 2001 and 2004, respectively. His 25-person Vegas shop will only represent one player per sport in order to focus as much attention on the client as possible, he said.
But it is tennis where he has the most sway, so much so that he was recently elected to the seven-member ATP board of directors as a player representative.
"He has a real understanding of how the sport acts as a business," said ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers. "Getting him on board is one of the most positive things that has happened."
By Steve Woodward
• Age: 35
• Title: Senior vice president, sports and Olympic sales
• Company: NBC Universal
• Education: B.A., University of Delaware
• Family: Wife, Kara; sons Jacob, 4, and Trevor, 2
• Career: Began in media buying at Backer, Spielvogel Bates, and gained additional experience at both Lowe & Partners and Young & Rubicam; started at NBC Sports in 1997; joined launch of Internet company Phase 2 Media in 2000; returned to NBC in 2001 in Olympic and sports sales; promoted to current position in 2004.
• Last vacation: Last summer in Long Beach Island, N.J.
• Last book read: “Branding Unbound” by Rick Mathieson
• Last movie seen: “March of the Penguins”
• Pet peeve: Indecisiveness
• Greatest achievement: My children
• Fantasy job: Professional baseball player
• Executive most admired: Mark Lazarus
• Business advice: Understand your client’s business strategies and goals in order to develop ways in which to create successful partnerships.
At 13, Peter Lazarus accompanied his father on a European business trip. It was the first step on a journey that often has him feeling like a kid more than 20 years later.
They traveled in early 1984 to Sarajevo, in the former Yugoslavia, where John Lazarus attended to duties at the Winter Olympics as an ABC Sports senior executive in charge of advertising sales. Peter was along as a spectator, albeit with better access than most.
"I remember standing in Sarajevo … [after] the Mahre brothers [American skiers Phil and Steve] won gold and silver," said Peter Lazarus, who holds essentially his father's same job description 22 years later with NBC Universal, as senior vice president of sports and Olympics sales.
"I was standing in what I guess was a medals plaza, of sorts … hearing the national anthem, watching those two guys, and seeing [the flag] flurrying in the air. I remember thinking, 'This has got to be the coolest thing going on in the world right now.' Even though it wasn't watching the sport itself, that's kind of where you get the Olympic fever, where it kind of gets into your system."
Lazarus recalls a charmed childhood fueled by opportunities to attend countless major sports events, and reflects on his father's years in the business as being somewhat charmed as well.
"He was lucky in the three-network world," a grinning Lazarus said during an interview in Turin, Italy, on the eve of a Winter Olympics where he was certainly not a bystander in the medals plaza.
As he approaches a second anniversary bearing his current title and responsibilities, Lazarus nonetheless remains driven by passions for the Olympic Games and inspired by NBC Sports' expanded holdings overall.
Younger looking than his 35 years, Lazarus is responsible for a financial engine that he said will churn out about $2 billion in advertising sales this year, thanks to the Olympics, the Daytona 500, PGA Tour golf, tennis (including Wimbledon), horse racing's Triple Crown, Notre Dame football and the NFL's Sunday night football slot.
"We are back into a lot of the major properties that, as a sports network, you would hope to be a part of," Lazarus said.
Lazarus attributes his success to a chain of people trusting his abilities when he was breaking in, and to leadership skills. The latter appears to run in the family. One brother, Mark Lazarus, is president of Turner Entertainment Group (and a Forty Under 40 Hall of Famer). Another brother, Craig Lazarus, is an ESPN senior producer.
"I admire [Peter's] passion, integrity and ability to take a punch," Mark Lazarus said. "Our father, John, instilled a real understanding of how to develop relationships and trust, and a real love of entertainment and sports as a product."
There were perks of having family members in the sports business while Peter was growing up. The Miller Lite dorm-room "swag" that older brother Mark sent to Peter, then in college, when Mark was a media buyer is now only a memory. But it made an impact at the time.
Peter Lazarus could not help thinking, "You know what, this probably isn't the worst gig in the world."
Steve Woodward is a writer in Chicago.
By Daniel Kaplan
• Age: 38
• Title: Vice president, partnership marketing and corporate sales
• League: NFL
• Education: B.A., Iona College, 1989
• Family: Wife, Terri; daughters Amanda, 8, and Grace, 1
• Career: Started out as an account executive with Young & Rubicam, New York from 1989-1993; moved to Bates USA in 1994 as account supervisor overseeing advertising for Miller Brewing Co.’s flagship brands; began career with the NFL in 1995 managing NFL Films’ marketing and sales efforts; promoted to vice president of NFL corporate media sales in 2000; assumed current position in 2003, with the addition of NFL International sponsorship sales in 2005.
• Last vacation: The Bahamas
• Last book read: “The Tender Bar: A Memoir” by J.R. Moehringer
• Last movie seen: “The Pink Panther” with Steve Martin (it’s not the same without Peter Sellers)
• Pet peeve: Settling for mediocrity
• Greatest achievement: Becoming a father to Amanda and Grace
• Fantasy job: Feature film director
• Executive most admired: Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, and Paul Tagliabue
• Business advice: Foster innovation and build a management team that has diverse bench strength.
Sometime this coming NFL season, the first journalist with a purist bent is sure to pen a diatribe against the latest alleged commercial excess in football: selling sponsorships to items such as the first-and-10 line and the red zone.
Known as enhancements or entitlements in marketing jargon, the NFL in its latest media deals secured those rights, meaning coming soon is something like "Instant replay brought to you by company X." Charged with selling those deals, and finding that perhaps impossible balance to appease the purists, is Peter Murray, the NFL's vice president of partnership marketing and corporate sales.
Enhancements are just the latest evolution of the NFL as a media company, according to Murray. It is simply selling content.
"You will continue to see a significant amount of … new content offerings beyond trademark rights that the NFL will be extending and delivering to these corporate partners," Murray said.
Sprint's recent sponsorship with the league was as much about the content rights that the wireless company received in terms of text-messaging as slapping its logo next to the NFL's. And new sponsor Burger King used NFL Films footage to have its mascot, the King, appear in ads designed to look like real games.
Murray started with the NFL in its NFL Films unit after a career in the advertising business. Ironically, selling the enhancements that have him so focused today was one of his first tasks with the sport. The 1998 media deals ended the practice.
He promises the league will avoid clutter by limiting the enhancements to only three categories a game, and then restrict how many times they can be used within the contest. If companies aren't satisfied with the existing technologies or areas of the field to sponsor, however, the NFL is working on new technologies that companies can latch their names onto.
Sorry, Murray won't reveal what the league has up its sleeve.
"Peter has done a great job of taking his media background and understanding and coupling that with a marketing savvy," said John Tatum, chief executive of Genesco Sports Enterprises, a marketing agency that counts NFL sponsors Pepsi and Coors as clients.
In terms of sponsorship deals, Murray also has been very busy. In the last three years, NFL sponsorship revenue has grown 70 percent, he said. In the past 12 months, the league has renewed with Coors, General Motors and MasterFoods, while adding Burger King, Prilosec, Sprint and Samsung. The next two categories Murray wants to fill are a financial services company as well as a packaged goods company that focuses on marketing to children.
Murray also has been a leader in creating new league marketing platforms, such as the NFL Kickoff weekend. This season, his focus will be on jazzing up the NFL draft and the tired Pro Bowl. Finding a presenting sponsor of the game is on the horizon, he said, something that will cause some purist somewhere to no doubt pick up his pen.
STRATEGIC SPORTS GROUP
By Scott Warfield
• Age: 39
• Title: President
• Company: Strategic Sports Group
• Education: B.S., political science, Ohio State University
• Family: Wife, Carly
• Career: Began career with One Stop Events in 1990; moved to Katz Media Corp. in 1991; launched Strategic Sports Group in 1996.
• Last vacation: Skiing in Aspen, Colo.
• Last book read: "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't" by Jim Collins
• Last movie seen: "Wedding Crashers"
• Pet peeve: People who aren't solution oriented
• Greatest disappointment: The Browns never making it to the Super Bowl
• Fantasy job: Owner of the Cleveland Browns
• Executive most admired: Michael Dell
• Business advice: Don't take "no" for an answer.
Strategic Sports Group, the New York City-based company that Peter Stern founded out of his apartment on 54th Street and Park Avenue in 1996, has the Stern family's fingerprints all over it.
"Before I launched, I borrowed my mother's computer and my sister gave me a coffee table," Stern remembers with a laugh. "And the entrepreneurial spirit in me came from my dad."
His father, who operated a men's shoe business in Ohio, allowed Stern to work in his stores and travel with him to business trade shows and conventions at the early age of 12.
"He gave me the responsibility very early on to open and close stores by myself and sort of handle everything," Stern said. "And that's something I've tried to do at the agency. I'm less concerned about experience than I am about talented people that are smart. You've got to give them an opportunity to have their shot and even allow them to fail."
But "fail" is a word Stern knows little about.
After graduating from Ohio State in 1989 and spending a year backpacking through Europe, Stern landed a job with One Stop Events in New York, where he directed sales efforts and was instrumental in the company's involvement with Minute Maid's Olympic launch and Seagram's Frank Sinatra tour.
"It's there that I learned in this business, if you can generate revenue, you're always going to have a job," Stern said.
After a year and a half with One Stop, Stern moved to Katz Media Corp. in 1991, where he directed programs for blue-chip clients such as Xerox, the U.S. Postal Service and Citibank. Stern excelled in that position, but in 1996 he decided he needed to "go out on my own."
And what began as a modest startup agency has become one of the most highly respected agencies in sports business. With a client list that includes GlaxoSmithKline, Siemens, The History Channel and Western Union, Strategic, which now has 17 employees and an actual office in New York City, has slowly positioned itself as a leading sports and sponsorship marketing consultancy. The company has enjoyed double-digit revenue growth in each of the last three years, Stern said.
Alan McKirby, director of marketing for GlaxoSmithKline, which has been a Strategic client since the company was founded, said Stern's straightforward and honest approach differentiates his agency from most.
"Strategic stands out because of the reputation Peter has," McKirby said. "He doesn't try to be overly slick with things and instead has a no-nonsense approach to the business."
For Stern, the success is extra sweet because of the company's rough beginning.
Probably most representative of Strategic's early days is Stern's story about the company's first fax machine. Because he was unable to afford his own fax machine, Stern had the contracts for his first three clients — OfficeMax, GlaxoSmithKline and Gulf Oil, all of which are still with him today — faxed to the Peninsula Hotel across the street from his apartment.
"I'd sprint over from my apartment and get the fax and sprint back," Stern recalls. "We've come a long way from those days."
PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDERS INC.
By Ross Nethery
• Age: 38
• Title: CEO
• Company: Professional Bull Riders Inc.
• Education: Studied agriculture business management at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
• Family: Wife, Cameo Kneuer; children Priscilla, 16; Ryan, 16; and Alexandria, 13
• Career: Six years marketing the California Mid-State Fair before joining the PBR in 1995.
• Last vacation: Three- or four-day trail ride in California last May
• Last book read: “Jack: Straight from the Gut” by Jack Welch
• Last movie seen: “Glory Road”
• Pet peeve: The word “can’t”
• Greatest achievement: Seeing where the PBR was in 1995 and where it is now.
• Greatest disappointment: Not spending more time with family.
• Fantasy job: Five years ago, I probably would have said something different, but right now I absolutely don’t know anything else I’d want to do.
• Executive most admired: Jack Welch
• Business advice: Never quit. Never take “no” for an answer.
Back in the early '90s, when Randy Bernard was event coordinator for the California Mid-State Fair, he hired the top two cowboys in the world for a head-to-head matchup.
For Bernard, it was a way to boost attendance. For Ty Murray and Cody Lambert, it was another paycheck.
For all three men, though they didn't know it then, it was the start of a relationship that continues today and has been more successful than any of them dreamed.
In 1995, Bernard was looking for a new opportunity at the same time that Murray, Lambert and their partners in the newly formed Professional Bull Riders Inc. were looking for someone to run the business.
Call it serendipity, or just plain luck. The result of it is that in 10 years, Bernard has gone from being the PBR's only full-time employee to being CEO of a fast-growing company with 90 employees, four bull-riding circuits and an expected $26 million this year in sponsorship revenue alone.
All of that growth helped earn Bernard a spot on the 2006 Forty Under 40 list, but his friends and partners expect Bernard's next decade to be at least as exciting as his last one. That's due in large part to Bernard's leadership, which is described as alternately visionary and off-the-wall. The essence of it is that Bernard is never afraid of what he doesn't know.
"He continually surprises me," said Mike Evans, senior vice president for sports and entertainment at SMG, which runs many of the venues in which PBR events are held. "He's always asking questions. He's always learning."
That translates into a constant stream of new possibilities, though some are more possible than others.
"His brain goes a thousand miles an hour, and he has a lot of out-of-the-box ideas," Murray said. "If he comes up with 10 ideas, nine of them will be stupid, but the other one will be huge."
"Randy is not afraid to think really big," added Lambert, "and dream up something that hasn't been done before."
The benefit from that, Bernard said, is that he's willing to consider ideas that others might dismiss out of hand.
"When we look at an issue, I'll throw out hundreds of ideas," he said. "Half the time they're not worth thinking about, but sometimes they are. I've always been that way. I love to think out loud and keep moving."
What Bernard has the PBR moving toward now is becoming more mainstream — "Our results need to be listed in the major papers," he said — and more international. The PBR will take its top circuit, the Built Ford Tough Series, to Mexico this summer.
As for what happens after that, he said, "Every day, we'll just keep working on it."