SBJ/March 24 - 30, 2008/This Weeks News

Details emerge from MLB Net’s search for CEO

Major League Baseball has hired top global executive search firm Spencer Stuart to find a chief executive to run the forthcoming MLB Network.

The headhunter already has reached out to several senior media executives to gauge their interest in taking the position for the channel, which is scheduled to launch on Jan. 1.

According to a search prospectus obtained by SportsBusiness Journal, the league is seeking an executive who will be “accountable for all financial, product and operating results of the network and the management of the entire organization through its senior executives.” No salary information was disclosed in the document.

The CEO will report to the network’s board, which consists of five owners, two MLB executives and two network partners: Kansas City’s David Glass, Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox, Boston’s Tom Werner, Jeff Wilpon of the New York Mets, and Oakland’s Lewis Wolff; MLB President Bob DuPuy and Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president for business; along with DirecTV President Chase Carey and Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke.

The CEO “will collaborate on a day-to-day basis with Brosnan,” the document says.

Chris Tully, MLB senior vice president of broadcasting, is listed as a “potential” chief operating officer for the network and will report to the CEO.

The document lists three goals for the chief executive. MLB expects the CEO to “create significant asset value to MLB’s owners; deliver new opportunities for baseball’s fans and sponsors to build an even stronger relationship with the game; and provide strategic value to MLB in its negotiations with media partners for years to come.”

To that end, MLB and Spencer Stuart are charged with finding someone who will carry significant industry gravitas and name awareness, while at the same time fitting into baseball’s insular corporate culture.

Lewis Wolff

“We’re looking for somebody very seasoned and accomplished,” Wolff said.

Beyond staffing, MLB executives have spent considerable energy over the past six months seeking to develop with Vornado Realty Trust an elaborate new headquarters building in Harlem, N.Y., the first such commercial development in the neighborhood in decades.

The job description describes the Harlem office as part of a 21-story building that “will deepen baseball’s relationship with the African American and Hispanic communities.”

The MLB Network plans to complement a nonexclusive package of 26 live Saturday night games per season with “a 24X7 mix of studio-based shows, and archival, fantasy, and reality baseball programming,” according to the Spencer Stuart document.

The channel is set to launch to more than 50 million homes, which will make it the most successful launch in cable history.

MLB officials declined to disclose names of executives they are contacting, and two executives who sent SportsBusiness Journal the Spencer Stuart prospectus asked not to be identified.

The search prospectus, interestingly, only makes a cursory mention of MLB Advanced Media and does not name its chief executive, Bob Bowman.

Earlier in the network’s development, there had been some thought of marrying some operations or programming between the TV outlet and MLB.com, but plans are now well along to have the two media assets operate more independently.

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