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Published March 12, 2007
Peter Lazarus, sitting on the patio of a vacation home in New Jersey last summer, was midway through his second beer when he decided he was going to leave his job as senior vice president of sports and Olympic sales for NBC Universal and take a top-level position at IMG.
But to suggest that conclusion came lightly is to shortchange the reverence Lazarus has for his former cohorts at NBC (he specifically mentions Dick Ebersol, Keith Turner and Randy Falco, now chief executive of AOL). "Taking this job was an easy decision," he said. "Leaving my other job was a tough decision."
Lazarus speaks with such reverence about NBC that he even cites an oft-spoken quote of Falco's that aided in his decision to leave the network: "Randy Falco always said, ?Don't let NBC happen to you, you should happen to NBC.' I've always taken that to heart and said, ?You know what? You've got to create your own career.'"
Under his new role, Lazarus is responsible for sales across all divisions of IMG, which is going through a restructuring process to more effectively market talent, event properties, media and consulting and licensing services. He also is charged with creating new revenue streams through partnerships with marketers, leagues, broadcasters and others.
"This is a different time in a different marketplace, and we're different people," he said. "There are so many opportunities that tried and failed that we need to look at again, and this time I believe a lot of them will succeed."
The "we" he's referring to is IMG chairman and chief executive Ted Forstmann and the host of licensing and media executives the company hired in 2006, led by George Pyne in sports and entertainment and Doug Perlman in media. Opportunity is at the core of IMG's enterprising culture — one that was instilled by founder Mark McCormack and has become Forstmann's life quest.
"There's such an entrepreneurial spirit in this company that's like nothing I've ever seen." Lazarus added. "In this company, you can sell anything that you can create."
The Olympics have deep roots in the Lazarus family; Peter's father helped run Olympic ad sales for ABC. While IMG has its toe in the Olympic water through its management of marketing efforts for IOC sponsors Johnson & Johnson and General Electric, one wonders how long it will take for nostalgia to meld with Lazarus' newly cultivated entrepreneurial spirit.
He pauses before issuing the stock answer, "I think that the Olympics is a great business, and we are always exploring opportunities to work with the IOC and the USOC."
— Jon Show