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SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40
Published March 20, 2006
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL ADVANCED MEDIA
By Eric Fisher
• Age: 38
• Title: Executive vice president, business
• Company: Major League Baseball Advanced Media
• Education: B.S., journalism, Boston University, 1989; J.D., University of Virginia, 1993
• Family: Wife, Ellen; children Delaney, 5, and Henry, 3
• Career: Ran the Goodwill Games Ambassador Tour for Turner Broadcasting from 1989-1990; worked as an entertainment intellectual property litigation attorney and new media transactional attorney from 1993-1999; was a business development executive with RealNetworks from 1999-2003; hired by MLBAM in 2003.
• Last vacation: Family cabin on Lake Pend Oreille in Northern Idaho
• Last book read: “Goodnight Moon,” to my kids every night I am home
• Greatest disappointment: Not being able to find time to secure my private pilot’s license
• Fantasy job: Someday starting a magazine
• Executive most admired: Howard Schultz
• Business advice: You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails.
For an executive so deeply immersed in the dizzying business of digital media, George Kliavkoff lives a very old-school, bicoastal lifestyle.
Kliavkoff, MLB Advanced Media's executive vice president for business, keeps his primary office at the company's Manhattan headquarters. But he calls Seattle home, where he lives with his two children and wife, Ellen, who oversees training and development for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"I found my dream job and she found hers, and we're making it work," Kliavkoff said. "But I've gotten very, very familiar with Continental Airlines."
Kliavkoff divides his time between New York, Seattle and traveling to MLBAM clients and partners in roughly equal chunks. But wherever he's hanging his hat on a particular day, Kliavkoff is standing on the front lines of one of the most rapid and striking developments of the young history of digital sports properties.
While not as much of a household name as his hard-charging boss, Bob Bowman, Kliavkoff has played a critical role in MLBAM's massive success, one that hit dizzying heights in 2005. In just the first quarter of last year, MLBAM purchased Tickets.com and struck major interactive media rights deals with the MLB Players Association and Minor League Baseball.
Kliavkoff's primary role is to license and monetize that quickly expanding warehouse of content. And in the course of just the past year, he completely overhauled the company's fantasy licensing structure, substantially bulked up the level of video games available both through MLB.com and wireless service providers, and deepened MLB.com's treasure trove of live and archived video content that has each of the other major sports leagues playing catch-up.
The net result is anticipated top-line revenue of about $300 million for MLBAM in 2006. In part because of Kliavkoff's rainmaking, MLBAM has moved from a $120 million initial investment from MLB team owners to the subject of inquiries of an initial public offering that could generate more than $2 billion.
"This is a good network we have," Kliav-koff said of MLBAM's separate existence from the rest of MLB's business operations, a division that continues to create many internal and external issues. "We've done everything, I think, sooner, been more aggressive, and done much better maximizing the full value of our assets. As far as interactive content for a major sports league, we're completely charting new territory. It's an exciting time to be here."
Kliavkoff worked in business development for RealNetworks in Seattle before joining MLBAM in 2003, a post in which he sat across the negotiating table from Bowman to do an interactive content deal. Bowman liked him so much he recruited him for his upstart operation.
"George is a really friendly, social guy … and that naturally leads to business opportunities," said Kenny Gersh, CBS SportsLine.com vice president of business development. "George has a different negotiating style than [Bowman], but it complements what Bob does really well."