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Published March 3, 2008
When Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Chief Executive Larry Scott approached his outside legal adviser in 2004 to suggest someone for the circuit's vacant general counsel slot, Joe Leccese knew the right person.
But Leccese, partner in Proskauer Rose's sports practice, didn't tell Scott about David Shoemaker, an up-and-comer in his firm tabbed to be a future partner.
"We deliberately did not tell David about the job," Leccese recalled, chuckling about his effort to retain his prized young lawyer. "We had one candidate who we thought would be perfect and we couldn't figure out why Larry didn't hire the (person)."
Leccese soon found out. Shoemaker had learned of the job opening on his own. Within 18 months of becoming the WTA general counsel, Shoemaker was promoted to chief operating officer, charged with helping to oversee all business interests for the largest professional sport for women. And in May, he will move to China to open the WTA's new office, where he will run the circuit's business in that region.
From the WTA's anti-gambling and anti-doping programs, to the title sponsorship with Sony Ericsson, Shoemaker has his fingers in nearly every element of the WTA commercial pie.
A skier growing up, Schoemaker had ties to tennis. His mother, Brenda Nunns Shoemaker, played Wimbledon in the 1960s, and one year won the Canadian Open doubles title. His grandfather held the No. 1 ranking in Canada in 1930.
Shoemaker graduated first in his law school class at the University of Western Ontario, clerked for a Canadian Supreme Court justice, and then moved to New York to begin his career. After nearly five years as a corporate lawyer, he decided it was time to do something he loved.
Shoemaker's latest challenge is learning Mandarin. It's tough, he said, because in the language, the same word has a different meaning based on how it is pronounced. So it's not enough to know a word; one must know the different inflection to be understood.
But at least in tennis, it hasn't been hard for Shoemaker to be understood.