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SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40
Published March 20, 2006
By Steve Woodward
• Age: 35
• Title: Senior vice president, sports and Olympic sales
• Company: NBC Universal
• Education: B.A., University of Delaware
• Family: Wife, Kara; sons Jacob, 4, and Trevor, 2
• Career: Began in media buying at Backer, Spielvogel Bates, and gained additional experience at both Lowe & Partners and Young & Rubicam; started at NBC Sports in 1997; joined launch of Internet company Phase 2 Media in 2000; returned to NBC in 2001 in Olympic and sports sales; promoted to current position in 2004.
• Last vacation: Last summer in Long Beach Island, N.J.
• Last book read: “Branding Unbound” by Rick Mathieson
• Last movie seen: “March of the Penguins”
• Pet peeve: Indecisiveness
• Greatest achievement: My children
• Fantasy job: Professional baseball player
• Executive most admired: Mark Lazarus
• Business advice: Understand your client’s business strategies and goals in order to develop ways in which to create successful partnerships.
At 13, Peter Lazarus accompanied his father on a European business trip. It was the first step on a journey that often has him feeling like a kid more than 20 years later.
They traveled in early 1984 to Sarajevo, in the former Yugoslavia, where John Lazarus attended to duties at the Winter Olympics as an ABC Sports senior executive in charge of advertising sales. Peter was along as a spectator, albeit with better access than most.
"I remember standing in Sarajevo … [after] the Mahre brothers [American skiers Phil and Steve] won gold and silver," said Peter Lazarus, who holds essentially his father's same job description 22 years later with NBC Universal, as senior vice president of sports and Olympics sales.
"I was standing in what I guess was a medals plaza, of sorts … hearing the national anthem, watching those two guys, and seeing [the flag] flurrying in the air. I remember thinking, 'This has got to be the coolest thing going on in the world right now.' Even though it wasn't watching the sport itself, that's kind of where you get the Olympic fever, where it kind of gets into your system."
Lazarus recalls a charmed childhood fueled by opportunities to attend countless major sports events, and reflects on his father's years in the business as being somewhat charmed as well.
"He was lucky in the three-network world," a grinning Lazarus said during an interview in Turin, Italy, on the eve of a Winter Olympics where he was certainly not a bystander in the medals plaza.
As he approaches a second anniversary bearing his current title and responsibilities, Lazarus nonetheless remains driven by passions for the Olympic Games and inspired by NBC Sports' expanded holdings overall.
Younger looking than his 35 years, Lazarus is responsible for a financial engine that he said will churn out about $2 billion in advertising sales this year, thanks to the Olympics, the Daytona 500, PGA Tour golf, tennis (including Wimbledon), horse racing's Triple Crown, Notre Dame football and the NFL's Sunday night football slot.
"We are back into a lot of the major properties that, as a sports network, you would hope to be a part of," Lazarus said.
Lazarus attributes his success to a chain of people trusting his abilities when he was breaking in, and to leadership skills. The latter appears to run in the family. One brother, Mark Lazarus, is president of Turner Entertainment Group (and a Forty Under 40 Hall of Famer). Another brother, Craig Lazarus, is an ESPN senior producer.
"I admire [Peter's] passion, integrity and ability to take a punch," Mark Lazarus said. "Our father, John, instilled a real understanding of how to develop relationships and trust, and a real love of entertainment and sports as a product."
There were perks of having family members in the sports business while Peter was growing up. The Miller Lite dorm-room "swag" that older brother Mark sent to Peter, then in college, when Mark was a media buyer is now only a memory. But it made an impact at the time.
Peter Lazarus could not help thinking, "You know what, this probably isn't the worst gig in the world."
Steve Woodward is a writer in Chicago.