SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40

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  • Forty Under 40

    One thing about sports business: There's never a dearth of talent. The lines are long of people clamoring to work where others play. In those lines are the next great idea, the startup we've never thought of, the deal we can't believe could get done.

    Nowhere does that show more than in this year's Forty Under 40 class. Thirty newcomers grace the following pages — 75 percent of this year's winners. Thirty young executives who've stepped up — or more accurately, moved right in — and distinguished themselves with marketing genius, sales expertise, deal-making tenacity and entrepreneurial guts. Not since the first year of these awards have so many new names appeared, showing the depth of talent in the industry.

    On the list you'll find Randy Bernard's leadership and Zak Brown's persuasion. Mark Shapiro's out-of-the-box thinking, and Jeff Fluhr and Shannon Terry's vision. Michael Yormark's work ethic, and Jon Niemuth and Tom Proebstle's

    Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal is proud to present its seventh Forty Under 40 list, a tribute to the best and brightest executives under the age of 40. And this year, it seems, a tribute to the overall talent level of the industry itself.

    Select the winners name to
    read profile
    Randy Bernard, Professional Bull Riders Inc.
    John Brody, Major League Baseball
    Zak Brown, Just Marketing International
    Faust Capobianco IV, Majestic Athletic
    Kathy Carter, Soccer United Marketing
    Damon Evans, University of Georgia
    Jeff Fluhr,
    Todd France, France Athlete Management Enterprises Inc.
    Frank Gibeau, EA Sports
    Wally Hayward, Relay Sponsorship & Event Marketing
    Sean Henry, Palace Sports and Entertainment
    Paul Johnson, PGA Tour
    Dave Katz, Yahoo!
    Michael Kelly, South Florida Super Bowl XLI Host Committee
    George Kliavkoff, Major League Baseball Advanced Media
    Peter Lazarus, NBC Universal
    Michael Levine, Van Wagner Sports Group
    Ellen Lucey, Coca-Cola Co.
    Burke Magnus, ESPNU
    Peter Murray, NFL
    Jon Niemuth, Ellerbe Becket
    Scott O'Neil, NBA
    Doug Perlman, NHL
    Kevin Plank, Under Armour
    Ed Policy, Arena Football League
    Tom Proebstle, Crawford Architects
    Michael Robichaud, Sprint Nextel
    Perry Rogers, Premier Integrated Sports Management
    Greg Shaheen, NCAA
    Mark Shapiro, Cleveland Indians
    Adam Shaw, NFL Network
    Peter Stern, Strategic Sports Group
    Jim Tanner, Williams & Connolly
    Mark Tatum, NBA
    Shannon Terry,
    Dorothy Whitehouse, ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales
    Russell Wolff, ESPN International
    Brett Yormark, Nets Sports & Entertainment
    Michael Yormark, Sunrise Sports and Entertainment
    Alan Zucker, IMG
    Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame

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  • Adam Shaw


    By Daniel Kaplan      
    Staff writer

    Adam Shaw
    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.

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: NFL, Fox, Jeep, Ping, Detroit Lions, UPS, Cablevision, Media, Football, Finance
  • Alan Zucker


    By Terry Lefton      
    Staff writer

    Alan Zucker
    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."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: IMG, Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Golf, Soccer, WTA, Chicago Bears, Ping, Cialis, Media, Forty Under 40
  • Brett Yormark


    By John Lombardo      
    Staff writer

    Brett Yormark
    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."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: Detroit Pistons, Brooklyn Nets, NASCAR, Forty Under 40, NBA, Champion, Franchises, USTA, Ping, New York Knicks, Continental Airlines, NFL
  • Burke Magnus


    By Ryan Basen
    Staff writer

    Burke Magnus
    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."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: ESPN, CBS, Basketball, Motorsports, NASCAR, New York Giants, Football, DirecTV, Soccer, NCAA, Champion, Forty Under 40
  • Damon Evans


    By Ryan Basen
    Staff writer

    Damon Evans
    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."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: Finance, Champion, Football, Basketball, Daktronics, Facilities, NCAA, Forty Under 40
  • Dave Katz


    By Eric Fisher
    Staff Writer

    David Katz
    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, 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."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: Yahoo, CBS, Baltimore Ravens, Media, Ping, Baseball, Olympics, ESPN, Fox, Sporting News, NCAA, Basketball, UPS, Forty Under 40
  • Dorothy Whitehouse


    By Andy Bernstein      
    Staff writer

    Dorothy Whitehouse
    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 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."

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    Print | Tags: ESPN, ABC, Ping, Media, NBA, MLB, Baseball, Forty Under 40
  • Doug Perlman


    By Andy Bernstein      
    Staff writer

    Doug Perlman
    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."

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  • Ed Policy


    By John Lombardo      
    Staff writer

    Ed Policy
    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."

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  • Ellen Lucey


    By Bill King
    Senior writer

    Ellen Lucey
    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."

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  • Faust Capobianco


    By Ryan Basen
    Staff writer

    FaustCapobianco IV
    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."

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  • Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame

    Paul Brooks
    Brian Cashman
    New York Yankees
    Bob Cramer
    MasterCard International
    William Daly
    Mark Dowley
    Momentum Worldwide /
    McCann Erickson World Group
    John Galloway
    Wayne Katz
    Proskauer Rose
    Mark Lazarus
    Turner Sports
    Jon Litner
    ABC Sports / NHL
    Kevin McClatchy
    Pittsburgh Pirates
    Alan Ostfield
    Palace Sports & Entertainment
    Bea Perez
    Coca-Cola North America
    George Pyne
    Kris Rone
    Los Angeles Dodgers
    Chris Russo
    Mark Shapiro
    Jeff Shell
    Fox Sports Net/Fox Cable Networks
    Daniel Snyder
    Washington Redskins
    Mark Steinberg
    Heidi Ueberroth
    NBA Entertainment
    Russell Wolff
    ESPN International
    Brett Yormark
    NASCAR /
    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.

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  • Frank Gibeau


    By Terry Lefton
    Staff writer

    Frank Gibeau
    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?"

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  • George Kliavkoff


    By Eric Fisher
    Staff Writer

    George Kliavkoff
    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 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 and wireless service providers, and deepened'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 vice president of business development. "George has a different negotiating style than [Bowman], but it complements what Bob does really well."

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  • Greg Shaheen


    By Ryan Basen      
    Staff writer

    Greg Shaheen
    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."

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  • Jeff Fluhr


    By Eric Fisher
    Staff writer

    Jeff Fluhr
    Age: 32
    Titles: CEO and co-founder
    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."

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  • Jim Tanner


    By Liz Mullen      
    Staff writer

    Jim Tanner
    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."

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  • John Brody

    John Brody
    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
    Staff Writer

    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."

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  • Jon Niemuth


    By Don Muret      
    Staff writer

    Jon Niemuth
    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.

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    Print | Tags: Ellerbe Becket, Ping, Basketball, Nike, Seattle Seahawks, CHL, Football, FedEx, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA, Forty Under 40
  • Kathy Carter


    By Scott Warfield
    Staff writer

    Kathy Carter
    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.

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  • Kevin Plank


    By Ryan Basen      
    Staff writer

    Kevin Plank
    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."

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  • Mark Shapiro


    By Eric Fisher      
    Staff writer

    Mark Shapiro
    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."

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  • Mark Tatum


    By John Lombardo      
    Staff writer

    Mark Tatum
    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."

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  • Michael Kelly


    By Daniel Kaplan
    Staff writer

    Michael Kelly
    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.

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: Facilities, NCAA, NFL, Forty Under 40, Media, San Diego Chargers
  • Michael Levine


    By Terry Lefton
    Staff writer

    Mike Levine
    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, 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."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: SFX, Football, CBS, Media, Ping, Olympics, Colleges, Forty Under 40
  • Michael Robichaud


    By Scott Warfield      
    Staff writer

    Michael Robichaud
    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."

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    Print | Tags: Sprint, NFL, Fox, NASCAR, USTA, NHL, MLB, NBA, American Airlines, Finance, Audi, Golf, Forty Under 40
  • Michael Yormark


    By Andy Bernstein      
    Staff writer

    Michael Yormark
    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."

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    Print | Tags: New York Yankees, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Brooklyn Nets, Forty Under 40, NHL, ANC Sports, Hockey
  • Paul Johnson


    By Ross Nethery
    Staff writer

    Paul Johnson
    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 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 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, 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."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: PGA Tour, Media, IBM, Basketball, EA Sports, Audi, Forty Under 40, Golf, CBS
  • Perry Rogers


    By Daniel Kaplan      
    Staff writer

    Perry Rogers
    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."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: Basketball, Golf, Finance, IMG, SFX, Nike, Adidas, NFL, ATP, Forty Under 40
  • Peter Lazarus


    By Steve Woodward

    Peter Lazarus
    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.

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: NBC, Media, Baseball, Olympics, ABC, PGA Tour, Golf, Wimbledon, Horse Racing, Football, NFL, Forty Under 40, ESPN
  • Peter Murray


    By Daniel Kaplan
    Staff writer

    Peter Murray
    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.

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  • Peter Stern


    By Scott Warfield      
    Staff writer

    Peter Stern
    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."

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    Print | Tags: Media, Cleveland Browns, Xerox, Citi, GlaxoSmithKline, Sprint, Forty Under 40
  • Randy Bernard


    By Ross Nethery      
    Staff writer

    Randy Bernard
    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."

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  • Russell Wolff


    By Andy Bernstein      
    Staff writer

    Russell Wolff
    Age: 38
    Titles: Executive vice president and managing director
    Company: ESPN International
    Education: B.A., Dartmouth College, 1989; MBA, Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth, 1994
    Family: Wife, Patty; sons Michael, 4, and Spencer, 2
    Career: Account executive at Leo Burnett ad agency from 1989-1992; worked in affiliate sales at MTV Networks from 1994-1997; moved to Hong Kong to work for ESPN from 1997-1998; moved to Singapore to work for ESPN STAR Sports from 1998-2000; was senior VP of ESPN International from 2000-2002; promoted to senior VP and managing director in 2002; promoted again to executive vice president in December 2004.
    Last vacation: Nantucket
    Last book read: "The Immortal Bobby: Bobby Jones and the Golden Age of Golf" by Ron Rapoport
    Last movie seen: "Capote"
    Pet peeve: Tardiness
    Greatest achievement: Managing a dual-career family (Patty is a vice president of consumer strategy at PepsiCo)
    Greatest disappointment: Losing my parents
    Fantasy job: Director of athletics at Dartmouth
    Executive most admired: My wife, Patty Wolff
    Business advice: Balanced employees make great employees.

    There are frequent fliers. Then there are platinum Admiral Club super frequent fliers. And then there's Russell Wolff.

    As the head of ESPN International, which includes 29 networks reaching 194 countries, Wolff spends about two-thirds of his time out of his New York office, and most of that is spent overseas.

    It's the sort of job that many executives will use as a launching pad, with the goal of getting a high-level job stateside. But Wolff has been on the international circuit ever since joining ESPN to work out of its Hong Kong office in 1997, and he hasn't tired of it yet.

    "First, you have to love where you're going, and I do," said Wolff, of how he's endured all the travel. "I love to spend time in Argentina, Thailand, Australia, India. The more time I spend in China the more I enjoy it."

    Not that Wolff always gets to take in the sights.

    As one of six direct reports to ESPN President George Bodenheimer, he carries enormous responsibility and has more than 1,400 employees under his charge.

    No one in the company other than Bodenheimer has a more diverse set of responsibilities. Wolff oversees every aspect of the international business, from programming to advertising to affiliate relations. He's also spent much of the last year working on the wireless side of things, preparing to launch various ESPN mobile publishing products around the world.

    With this comes a unique perspective on what the United States symbolizes in an increasingly fractured world, and the role sports play as an outlet for national passions, and sometimes international unity.

    He remembers a cricket match between India and Pakistan called "The Friendship Cup" that had to be played in Toronto because the hostility between the countries made it impossible for either to host it. ESPN made a concerted effort to support the event and its underlying message of peace by televising it around the world. "Today," Wolff said, "they play each other at home."

    When you're in that many places, world tragedies strike closer to home, too.

    Phuket, the Thailand beach resort that was among the hardest hit during the 2004 tsunami, was the home of the first International X Games in 1999. Wanting to do something on top of the $10 million that parent company Walt Disney donated in relief, ESPN International staged a special X Games event in Bangkok last year, raising more than $50,000 that went directly to victims of the earthquake and tidal wave.

    "He believes in having an ongoing business relationship, so there's always the freedom to work out any small things that come up. I think that's very positive."

    Charles White, NFL vice president of international media

    "He runs a very diverse business across many platforms and many countries, and it takes a very dynamic person who is tireless and constantly traveling to run a business like that."

    Ken Yaffe, senior vice president and managing director, NHL International

    "He has incredible relationships with the U.S. properties as well as the international markets. [When I got to MLS we] had some individual deals and pulled them all back and farmed them out to ESPN International because I know Russell and I trust Russell and know they'll do a good job."

    Doug Quinn, president, Soccer United Marketing

    Wolff said that as an American company, ESPN plays against the backdrop of how people around the world feel about the United States. The goal is largely to transcend that and be seen as a hometown player.

    "In some places we certainly act as a bridge between different worlds where we're bringing them American sports," he said. "But in many places, we're clearly established as a local broadcaster."

    He noted the nine different versions of "SportsCenter" outside the United States that lead with news of soccer and rugby, and might go weeks without mentioning the NFL.

    When his colleagues at ESPN are fretting over the $1.1 billion annual tab for "Monday Night Football," Wolff puts equal attention into the UEFA Champions League deal that extends to three regions, or cable rights to the FIFA World Cup that ESPN boasts in Brazil.

    "We want to have the same relationship with sports fans in each country as we do here," he said. "That's the gold standard we strive for."

    The only way to keep such a vast business running smoothly is to be hands-on, visiting offices, meeting with international governing bodies and rights holders around the world. It demands a dizzying pace that might chew up and spit out most. But Wolff manages to do it in a dual-career family — his wife, Patty, is vice president of consumer strategy at PepsiCo — and still plays hockey once a week.

    He has learned a few coping tricks along the way, one being to embrace jet lag.

    "I don't try to force it. If you can't sleep, you can't sleep. You get up, you read, you work, you make some phone calls," he said. "I have a theory that no matter what time it is of the day, there's a productive phone call to be made somewhere in the world."

    People who've held similar jobs marvel at Wolff's ability to cope.

    "He's continued to be an international road warrior," said Doug Quinn, the former head of NFL International and now president of Soccer United Marketing. "It's something I'm personally not envious of, but something I admire."

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    Print | Tags: ESPN, MTV, Golf, PepsiCo, Walt Disney, NFL, Media, NHL, MLS, Soccer, Football, Champion, FIFA, Hockey, Ping, Forty Under 40
  • Scott O'Neil


    By John Lombardo      
    Staff writer

    Scott O'Neil
    Age: 35 (turns 36 on March 23)
    Title: Senior vice president, marketing and team business operations
    League: NBA
    Education: B.S., marketing, Villanova University, 1992; MBA, Harvard Business School, 1998
    Family: Wife, Lisa; daughters Alexa, 6, and Kira, 2
    Career: Corporate marketing manager for the New Jersey Nets from 1992-1994; joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994 as director of corporate sales; rejoined the Eagles after business school as vice president of sales in May 1998; president of HoopsTV from 1999-2001; joined the NBA in 2001 as vice president of business consulting; named to current position in 2004.
    Last vacation: Snowmobiling in Utah
    Last book read: "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable" by Patrick Lencioni
    Last movie seen: "The Constant Gardener"
    Pet peeve: Focusing on excuses, not results
    Greatest disappointment: Going broke with HoopsTV
    Fantasy job: A product tester for Spalding
    Business advice: Work for a company you love, a boss you respect and people who you'd have over for dinner.

    As NBA senior vice president of marketing and team business operations, Scott O'Neil helped the NBA last year set an all-time average attendance mark.

    So what can O'Neil do for an encore?

    "We're on track to break last year's record," O'Neil said.

    The league's average game attendance is up about 2 percent from last year's record-setting mark of 17,314, and the league has reversed the downward trend of season-ticket sales.

    O'Neil recognizes that it's the league's star power that ultimately sells tickets. Hardcourt stars aside, though, O'Neil and his department play a pivotal role in getting teams to boost their ticket and sponsorship revenue. It's his job to help teams in their sales efforts and get them to share vital sales secrets in an effort to develop "best practices" that in the end benefit all 30 teams.

    "What is sustaining the [ticket-sales] momentum is that we have teams that are open and enjoy sharing information and they believe in the best practices," O'Neil said. "Our teams are competitive on the court, but off the court, they are striving to improve business overall. If there is an idea that works in Phoenix, three days later it can end up working for everyone else."

    The strong ticket sales point to O'Neil's success at helping teams build their fan bases, but the recent exodus of executives working for him who have migrated to high-level team positions speaks loudly to the league's talent pool. Three members of O'Neil's staff have moved to team jobs in the past year — Paul Mott, who is now president of the Hornets; Lou DePaoli, chief marketing officer for the Hawks; and Tom Glick, chief marketing officer of the Nets.

    "[O'Neil] brings his professionalism with the team experience and he has an absolute thirst for knowledge in the area," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "He has an extraordinary set of relationships with the teams, and they have absolute confidence in what he is telling them."

    O'Neil and his department spent the past year concentrating on ticket and sponsorship sales. That focus has now shifted toward boosting luxury-suite and premium-seating revenues.

    "We put a lot of work into early season-ticket renewal and more sophisticated database marketing, and it's contributed to the increase in full season-tickets sales," O'Neil said, declining to disclose the specific percentage of increase. "We've gotten much deeper into sponsorship development so teams can see where there is opportunity. We're doing the same things with premium seating, and I've taken on the CRM [customer relationship management] role to try to help build databases and market to those people."

    Though O'Neil has been able to point to the attendance record as a sign of strength, he feels the pressure of continuing to deliver.

    "The greatest issue in selling is how do we retain the season-ticket base and how do we keep growing," he said. "The world is changing so fast, how do we stay ahead with our business practices and how do we run our business at its optimum pace?"

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    Print | Tags: NBA, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia Eagles, USTA, Ping, Forty Under 40
  • Sean Henry


    By Don Muret
    Staff writer

    Sean Henry
    Age: 38
    Titles: Chief operating officer and executive vice president
    Company: Palace Sports and Entertainment (St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa)
    Education: B.A., history and economics, State University of New York-Stony Brook
    Family: Wife, Tracey; two sons, Steven and Matthew; a daughter, Amy.
    Career: Concession manager for Volume Services at the Palace of Auburn Hills and Pine Knob Music Theatre, 1990; assistant general manager, August 1991-October 1992; general manager, October 1992-July 1995; general manager, Volume Services, Trans World Dome, St. Louis, August 1995-January 1997; project manager, Volume Services at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, Landover, Md., January 1997-August 1997; co-owner of Unity Motion, August 1997-April 1999; executive VP for administration, Palace Sports and Entertainment in Tampa from April 1999-August 2000; named COO in August 2000.
    Last vacation: Palm Island
    Last book read: “Suburban Diva: From the Real Side of the Picket Fence” by my wife Tracey
    Pet peeve: Aggressive Little League parents, weak handshakes and PowerPoint presentations
    Greatest disappointment: Unity Motion going out of business
    Business advice: Work for the logo on your business card, not your name. Don’t be afraid to challenge the norm and do things no one else ever has.

    Sean Henry remembers the day he started working in the sports and entertainment industry, March 23, 1982. Henry was only 14 years old and Volume Services, the concessionaire now known as Centerplate, hired him to work in the New York State Parks system.

    Henry, Palace Sports and Entertainment's chief operating officer and executive vice president at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, started out doing "50 different things" such as busing tables, washing dishes and operating the grill at Robert Moses State Park and Jones Beach on Long Island.

    Henry worked his way through college at the state park facilities, attending three State University of New York branches to earn a degree in history and economics. He spent one final summer as catering manager at Jones Beach before moving to Detroit in 1990 and entering the food service firm's management trainee program at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

    Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson had purchased Pine Knob Music Theatre, now DTE Energy Music Theatre, and the organization was in the midst of renovating the outdoor music venue. Henry was named concession manager and got immersed in that project for Volume Services.

    "I was young enough and dumb enough," Henry said. "But it turned out to be a smart move because I got further entrenched with the Palace."

    After stops in St. Louis and Washington to jump-start food operations for the Rams and Redskins at their new NFL facilities, Henry left Volume Services in August 1997 to become VP of sales for Unity Motion, a new company that a few Palace Sports employees started that was ahead of the curve in selling high-definition television content and equipment. Too far ahead, it turned out.

    "We had the first national live sports event televised in HD, a Portland Trail Blazers game … but it was a little too early for that product," Henry said.

    Palace Sports and Entertainment acquired the Tampa Bay Lightning and the leasehold rights to what was then called the Ice Palace in 1999, and Henry got back in the sports facility business, starting the long road toward transforming an underperforming building and franchise into an award-winning arena and Stanley Cup championship team.

    Henry's energetic nature, his creative yet analytical mind and a strong work ethic made him a natural to work directly for Palace Sports, an organization that set the standard for teams taking control of facility operations, said Larry Hatch, former Centerplate CEO and Henry's old boss. "It was a perfect fit," Hatch said.

    The organization invested many millions of dollars to renovate what was at the time only a three-year-old arena. "We turned the business around dramatically and voided [almost] every [service] contract," Henry said. "We like our hands on everything."

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    Print | Tags: Centerplate, Facilities, Detroit Pistons, NFL, Portland Trail Blazers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Champion, Forty Under 40
  • Shannon Terry


    By Eric Fisher      
    Staff writer

    Shannon Terry
    Age: 36
    Title: CEO
    Education: B.S., finance and economics, Lipscomb University, 1992
    Family: Wife, Cayce; children Elly, 10, and Jack, 7
    Career: Began career as a senior credit analyst in the banking industry; has spent the last 10 years in online sports publishing.
    Last vacation: Seaside, Fla., in August
    Last book read: "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind" by Al Ries and Jack Trout
    Last movie seen: "Walk the Line"
    Pet peeve: Poor free-throw shooting!
    Greatest achievement: Raising from the ashes of bankruptcy to profitability in just 12 months
    Greatest disappointment: Selling my first company, AllianceSports
    Fantasy job: Head basketball coach at the University of Alabama
    Executive most admired: Bob Bowman at MLB Advanced Media
    Business advice: Building a great organization is all about having the right people — surround yourself with hard-working, intelligent people that subscribe to a team-first attitude.

    Shannon Terry, chief executive, bases his operation in Brentwood, Tenn., about as far from the media pulses of New York and Los Angeles as possible. But Terry figured out years ahead of his vastly bigger competition the true depth of fan passion for college sports.

    While the likes of ESPN, Fox Sports and CBS now are pouring millions into developing Web and video content related to college and high school sports and recruiting, Terry has been doing it for a decade, long enough to see the Internet bubble rise, burst and rise again.

    Terry was one of those early online casualties, as his original outfit, AllianceSports, went out of business in 2001. But reformed with several former AllianceSports executives as, Terry now has the big boys paying close attention. Despite an annual revenue base of less than $25 million and no mass marketing to match the likes of, is a mainstay among the most-visited sports Web sites, has been profitable for three years and its average user stay of nearly one hour and 20 minutes is easily the best in the business.

    There's little secret to Terry's success. While the pro leagues capture the lion's share of media attention, Terry made a business catering to the rabid following enjoyed by college football and basketball teams, particularly in the Southeast. He then set out to provide a depth of content unmatched by any mainstream outlet.

    "At the end of day, what we do is build and service the team affinities that exist out there, and the tightly knit communities that build around those affinities," he said. "The bigger players are obviously entering our space now, but it's hard to have local affinities when you're a national, top-down operation."

    As a result, Terry now finds himself in the enviable position of the big boys scrambling to attach themselves to AOL signed a distribution deal with the company last fall, and Terry said another top-tier Internet company will announce a similar relationship with in early April.

    Terry lived the college sports experience at Tennessee's Lipscomb University, where he won 145 games with the basketball team. Playing for Don Meyer, now the fifth-winningest coach in college basketball history, Terry learned a quiet, steady management style that has helped fuel business for and keep his key senior executives from joining bigger competitors.

    "Shannon's a leader, but not in an ego-driven way at all," said Alan Karpick, publisher of Gold & Black Illustrated, which covers Purdue University sports and is part of the network. "He's not about himself at all. … He's soft-spoken, to be sure, but he knows how to get his point across, and does so quite effectively."

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    Print | Tags: Finance, Basketball, MLB, Media, ESPN, Fox, CBS, Ping, Football, Forty Under 40
  • Todd France


    By Liz Mullen
    Staff writer

    Todd France
    Age: 34
    Titles: President and CEO
    Company: France Athlete Management Enterprises Inc. (FAME)
    Education: B.A., advertising, University of Alabama, 1993
    Family: Single
    Career: Hired as account executive by Career Sports Management in 1994; eventually promoted to senior vice president; founded FAME in August 2003.
    Last vacation: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in 2003
    Last book read: The NFL collective-bargaining agreement
    Last movie seen: “Baby Einstein” on DVD with my 2-year-old nephew and 1-year-old niece
    Pet peeve: People who want results and success but aren’t willing to put forth the effort to achieve it
    Greatest achievement: Owning my own company and the development of my career to this point
    Fantasy job: NBA player
    Executive most admired: My father. His work ethic, integrity and the success he has achieved is what I model myself after
    Business advice: Consistent and continuous hard work, focus, integrity and dedication while believing in yourself is what will enable you to make the strides you desire.

    Jerrold France, owner of Atlanta-based France Publications, wanted all of his three children to work for him at the company, the largest publisher of real estate publications in the United States.

    Scott France, his oldest son, serves as executive vice president, and Stephanie France, his daughter, is creative director. Jerrold's middle child, though, had other plans.

    "For as long as I can remember he wanted to be a sports agent," the elder France said. "I remember him stating that in high school. And when he got to college, I think he wanted to do it even more. It was his No. 1 career [choice] — to be a sports agent."

    Well, technically, it was No. 2.

    Todd France's ultimate career choice was to be on the other side of that relationship, as a professional athlete, ideally an NBA player. But reality hit in high school when France realized "that at 5-11, an athlete wasn't something I was going to do."

    Unfortunately for NFL agents, France had a backup plan.

    Today, the 34-year-old is one of the top agents in football, representing 25 NFL players, including Kansas City running back Priest Holmes and Buffalo Bills defenders Takeo Spikes and Nate Clements.

    Last year, France represented three first-round NFL draft picks, including Ronnie Brown, the Auburn running back who was picked second overall by the Miami Dolphins. France also represented cornerback Carlos Rogers, selected ninth by the Washington Redskins, and No. 14 pick Thomas Davis, who was taken by the Carolina Panthers.

    Of his nine NFL prospects for the 2006 draft, two are potential first-rounders, according to rankings by the Web site — Georgia tight end Leonard Pope, who is ranked 32nd, and Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims, who is ranked 35th.

    France started in the sports business after graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in advertising. He worked for veteran agent Lonnie Cooper in Atlanta, who may be best known for representing basketball coaches and general managers.

    France left Cooper's company, Career Sports Management, in 2003, taking the entire football practice of 17 players with him. Cooper sued France in Fulton County Superior Court, claiming France breached his duties to Career Sports, but the parties recently reached a confidential settlement.

    France would not discuss his time at Career Sports nor the lawsuit, and Cooper would not comment for this story.

    France said that since he started his own company, he has been approached about selling his practice to a larger agency, but talks about a potential sale have stalled. He's uncertain whether he'll sell it in the future, but he is certain about one thing: His desire to be an agent will never dwindle.

    France's only regret, he says, is that having a 24/7 career in sports has kept him from having much of a social life, at least for now.

    "Hopefully, I will be a football agent with a wife and kids," he said, looking down the road. "I just want to continue to build a successful clientele … whether it be 20 guys or 100."

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    Print | Tags: NFL, And 1, NBA, Football, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers, Basketball, Forty Under 40
  • Tom Proebstle


    By Don Muret      
    Staff writer

    Tom Proebstle
    Age: 38
    Titles: Partner and design director
    Company: Crawford Architects
    Education: B.A., architectural studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1991; masters in architecture, UW-Milwaukee, 1993
    Career: Was a designer for Ellerbe Becket from 1994-2001; became associate shareholder for Ellerbe Becket in December 2000; became founding partner for the U.S. office of Crawford Architects in 2001.
    Last vacation: Breckenridge, Colo.
    Last book read: "Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing" by Harry Beckwith
    Last movie seen: "Capote"
    Pet peeve: Over-promising and under-delivering
    Greatest achievement: The opportunity to work on Conseco Fieldhouse and Fenway Park
    Great disappointment: Not winning the Sprint Center arena project in Kansas City. I believe we had a unique opportunity.
    Fantasy job: Designing a landmark building in my hometown of Minneapolis
    Business advice: What are you waiting for? Life is short.

    Crawford Architects designer Tom Proebstle has a great opportunity to live up to his hometown legacy in the Twin Cities. The only question is whether the public that has enjoyed his family's work for almost 80 years will give him the chance.

    H.N. Leighton, Proebstle's great-grandfather, owned a construction company in Minneapolis that built the Foshay Tower, the first skyscraper built west of the Mississippi River, and the Basilica of St. Mary — two of the city's most recognizable landmarks.

    "When I was young, my grandmother used to take me downtown and we'd spend the day shopping and she would show me the projects he completed," Proebstle said.

    Now, the great-grandson could realize his dream to create a destination showpiece in the upper Midwest, but it's out of his control. The Minnesota Vikings hired Crawford Architects to design a $675 million retractable-roof stadium as the franchise continues its long quest to secure public financing to help fund the project.

    The Vikings have been trying for more than 10 years to move out of the publicly owned and operated Metrodome and into a new building where the team controls the revenue streams. Zygi Wilf, the Vikes' new owner, is the latest to take a stab at it.

    "We're on our third [Vikings] owner," Proebstle said, alluding to the relationship he and Crawford partner David Murphy established with the NFL franchise in the mid-1990s while working at Ellerbe Becket.

    Proebstle spent eight years working for Ellerbe, one of the most established sports architects, being part of the design team that planned the Indianapolis Pacers' Conseco Fieldhouse and the updating of Green Bay's Lambeau Field. The sports industry hailed the designs, and NFL teams renovating stadiums are using the Packers' venue as a model for their efforts to develop new revenue.

    Proebstle acknowledges taking a chance in 2001 when he departed the firm, where he had become an associate shareholder.

    "The ability to go in with a [relatively] new firm and start fresh in the sports architecture world had to be extremely difficult," said Justin Sell, associate athletic director at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, where the Crawford-designed McLeod Center arena opens in November.

    But Crawford principal Stacey Jones, a friend and colleague of Murphy dating to graduate school, gave them an offer they couldn't refuse, and they opened the doors to Crawford's U.S. office.

    Besides the Vikings, Proebstle has worked on Qwest Field's club lounge development for the Seattle Seahawks and two arena projects, a 12,000-seat facility opening in May in Auckland, New Zealand, and the 6,000-seater at UNI.

    Crawford also has completed initial designs for the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis as the school stands in line with the Vikings and MLB's Twins to build new facilities.

    The smaller schools such as Northern Iowa appreciate the undivided attention a smaller firm such as Crawford can devote to their facility projects, according to Sell.

    "The thing I like about Tom is when I'm talking to him on the phone, I don't feel like I'm on the clock," Sell said.

    "We're never going to pretend we're going to get as big as HOK," Proebstle said. "I hope we're just as successful."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: Ellerbe Becket, Sprint, Ping, Minnesota Vikings, NFL, Seattle Seahawks, MLB, Facilities, Forty Under 40
  • Wally Hayward


    By Terry Lefton
    Staff writer

    Wally Hayward
    Age: 38
    Titles: Chairman and CEO
    Company: Relay Sponsorship & Event Marketing
    Education: B.S., communications studies and radio/TV/film, Northwestern University, 1990
    Family: Wife, Jennifer; daughters Riley, 10, and Hope, 7
    Career: Began career at Lazin Sports Group, the official agency of the NFL Players Association. Spent 13 years with Bcom3, Starcom MediaVest Group and Leo Burnett, developing an internal sports and event marketing arm for the company’s roster of clients. Launched Relay in 2001 as the dedicated sponsorship and event marketing agency of Publicis Groupe.
    Last vacation: Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla.
    Last book read: “Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World’s Top Sports Organizations” by Clive Gilson
    Last movie seen: “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” … my daughters’ choice!
    Pet peeve: When people in our industry think that Super Bowl is one word. It’s the biggest event in the world and people still think it’s “Superbowl.”
    Greatest disappointment: Being a Chicago sports fan
    Fantasy job: To be owner of the Chicago Cubs AND Chicago Bears
    Executive most admired: Wayne Huizenga — he’s one of the greatest deal makers ever.
    Business advice: Anything is possible if you surround yourself with a great team that is passionate about creating innovative ideas.

    In recent years, sports marketing agencies have become specialized enough that they can craft comprehensive initiatives outside of the aegis of the lead ad agency associated with the brand. It wasn't always that way.

    After nine years of doing sports marketing and events for ad agency Leo Burnett and media shop Starcom, Wally Hayward put a stake in the ground for sports marketing as an independent discipline in 2001 when he founded Relay Sponsorship & Event Marketing. Even with some good work for big brands such as McDonald's and Sony, Hayward didn't like being seen as a backup.

    "We weren't seen as independent experts," Hayward said. "We needed our own space."

    After getting out from under parent Leo Burnett, Hayward launched Starcom Sports Marketing in 1999 as part of the Burnett-owned media buying agency by the same name. An early success was hooking up Allstate Insurance with the Women's World Cup soccer tourney, a property that caught fire in 1999. It initially wasn't welcomed by the people at Allstate, who originally wanted to know how a sport that prohibited the use of hands fit with their "good hands" tag line.

    Hayward reminded them that soccer moms were a big target, signed goalie Briana Scurry as an endorser (of course, she could use her hands), and Allstate was arguably the most effective marketer using that year's WWC.

    Seeking further independence and his own brand name, Hayward founded Relay in late 2001. Whereas many sports agencies then, as now, farm out the event side of their business, Relay's model early on was based on revenue from consulting and running events for clients. To accomplish that, Relay acquired event agency J.C. Dolan & Associates early on.

    Other than that, Relay's growth has been organic — and impressive. While loath to discuss specific revenue of Relay, now under the Publicis holding company umbrella, Hayward notes that revenue has grown more than ninefold and an original staff of 12 has mushroomed to 136 people in nine offices.

    Still, the most striking thing about Relay's success is the way it has taken clients that never used sports and showed them how. A good example is the U.S. Army, now Relay's biggest client. Relay led them into motorsports and expanded their portfolio, which now includes NASCAR, the NHRA, PBR and AFL, and it created and expanded the U.S. Army All-American Bowl high school all-star game. Those combined efforts yielded 250,000 recruiting leads in 2005.

    "Wally is a great listener, he knows what we need almost before we tell him," said Lt. Gen. R.L. Van Antwerp, commanding general of U.S. Army Accessions Command, responsible for recruiting, ROTC and initial military training. "Wally is creative enough that he can design programs that carry our message and appeal to the 17- to 24-year-olds we're trying to reach."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: NFL, Media, Ping, Marketing Arm, Publicis, Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears, McDonalds, Sony, Soccer, Target, Motorsports, NASCAR, NHRA, PBR, Forty Under 40
  • Zak Brown


    By Scott Warfield
    Staff writer
    Zak Brown
    Age: 34
    Titles: President and CEO
    Company: Just Marketing International
    Education: “Not much” (high school graduate)
    Family: Wife, Tracy; sons McGuire, 4, and Maxwell, 2
    Career: Founded Just Marketing International in September 1994 while also splitting time as a race car driver in Europe; retired from racing in 2000.
    Last vacation: Disney World
    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: The phrases “ASAP” and “To be honest with you”
    Greatest achievement: Getting spirits into NASCAR
    Greatest disappointment: Not having a more successful racing career
    Fantasy job: Playing second base for the St. Louis Cardinals
    Executive most admired: Roger Penske
    Business advice: Work smart and hard. Keep your head down and stay focused.

    Zak Brown, president and CEO of Just Marketing International, remembers having dinner with Diageo executives to celebrate Kurt Busch's 2004 championship season.

    The "three heavy hitters" from Diageo, which had just captured its first NASCAR Cup title with its Smirnoff Ice brand, quickly switched the conversation from malt beverages to distilled spirits.

    "About five minutes into it they said to me, 'That's great, you won a championship for us with Smirnoff Ice,'" Brown recalls. "'But how can you get spirits into NASCAR?'"

    "No chance in hell, boys," Brown remembers blurting out.

    But less than a year later, and after months of meetings with NASCAR's top executives, Brown, and a contingent of supporters, convinced the sanctioning body to reverse its 56-year hard-line ban on spirit sponsorship of its events and teams.

    "Zak, without question, was a key element of us looking at spirit sponsorships for the sport," NASCAR senior vice president Paul Brooks said. "He was really the bridge that helped us and the spirit companies."

    As was characteristic of that process, things have always just seemed to work out for Brown.

    Brown, 34, grew up in Los Angeles and through a friend was introduced to Mario Andretti and, consequently, the world of racing. After racing go-carts for almost five years in California, Brown moved to Europe when he was 18 to follow his dream of one day winning a Formula One championship.

    In addition to finding a permanent ride, Brown was trying to find a sponsor as well. "We weren't poor, but we weren't wealthy, especially by motor racing standards," Brown said. "My parents didn't pay for any racing so I had to, very early on, find every dollar I could."

    In some cases, it wasn't even dollars.

    Brown landed a one-off sponsorship with Trans World Air in which he was sponsored in the form of airline tickets. Brown used that inventory as bartering chips to land enough deals to put a car on the track.

    Brown hung up his helmet in 2000, but along the way he had turned that one-off TWA sponsorship deal into a multimillion-dollar motorsports sponsorship agency.

    He has built his company into a 70-employee business that this year he said will generate more than $35 million in revenue and handle between $125 million and $150 million in sponsorship commitments.

    Based in Indianapolis, Just Marketing has a client list that includes Subway, Ford Motor Co., Jackson Hewitt Tax Service and Henkel. Brown, who owns 100 percent of the company, said his clients participate in all major motorsports series, including NASCAR, Formula One, IRL and the ALMS.

    "Clearly, Zak Brown is not the marketing solution for a lot of companies out there," Brown said, referring to Zak the driver. "And once I got my ego around that, the business started to take off because now I could go from selling myself to, today, I tell people that I've got the most inventory in the world of motorsports. I can take you anywhere."

    Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

    Print | Tags: NASCAR, St. Louis Cardinals, Champion, Formula One, Motorsports, Subway, Ford, Forty Under 40
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