SBJ/20081215/Special Report

50 Most Influential, 21-30

President, IMG Sports and Entertainment

Change from 2007:

The economy is wracked and no one feels we are close to the bottom of it all. But IMG Sports and Entertainment President George Pyne says that if everything goes according to plan, he’ll grow his business in 2009.

IMG’s collection of corporate consulting clients (Visa, Kia, GE, Coke and Allstate) along with its footprint of 60 offices in 30 countries, and sports clients who include Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, Peyton and Eli Manning, John Madden and Michelle Wie, along with its designs on college sports and its global TV production and distribution capabilities, means everyone will be paying attention to see if Pyne’s prediction comes true.

Executive vice president, business, Major League Baseball

Change from 2007:

Overseeing all of baseball’s national revenue streams with the exception of MLBAM, Tim Brosnan enjoyed a solid 2008 amid the challenging economy. The league added to its sponsorship base through a new deal with Bayer’s One-A-Day brand, it set records with a massive All-Star Week in New York, playoff merchandise sales again showed significant strength, and TV rights are comfortably locked up into the next decade.

Brosnan’s crowning achievement of the year, however, was the further development of MLB Network, which will debut in January in a record 50 million homes. Brosnan additionally played a major role in landing Tony Petitti to run the network, a choice that has been universally applauded throughout the industry.

Outside counsel, NFL Players Association and National Basketball Players Association

Change from 2007: Newcomer

Jeffrey Kessler serves as outside counsel to both the National Basketball Players Association and the NFL Players Association at a time when both unions — particularly the NFLPA — face the possibility of labor war.

A brilliant negotiator and litigator, Kessler litigated McNeil v. the NFL, which led to the establishment of free agency in the league. A fierce defender of athletes’ rights, he also has been involved in numerous landmark trials and arbitrations throughout the years. This year, Kessler was on the losing end of a $28 million jury verdict against the NFLPA; but he also won court decisions allowing Michael Vick to keep $20 million in bonuses, as well as an international case allowing paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius to try to qualify for the Beijing Games.

Deputy commissioner, NBA

Change from 2007:

Adam Silver’s influence is thriving given his dealmaking prowess. While David Stern stands as the league’s stylemaster in front of the cameras, Silver prefers to work behind the scenes as a top power broker. He is pushing the league’s new digital strategy with a creative style that will give teams local digital rights to stream games live on their own Web sites.

Silver also has proved to be an expert in international negotiations as the NBA strikes new global deals on what seems a weekly basis. With it all, NBA team owners have only increased their trust in Silver since he was named deputy commissioner in 2006.

President, NCAA

Change from 2007:

Who would have thought that the NCAA and the NBA would be working together on an initiative to bring some direction to youth basketball, but that became a reality this year thanks in part to Myles Brand. As academic reform reaches a more mature stage in its development, Brand has moved aggressively to issues such as basketball recruiting, diversity among coaches and administrators, and stiffer penalties against schools committing infractions. Brand’s opinions on those topics set the course for their discussion.

But the foremost issue in college athletics, especially this time of year, is a college football playoff, and that’s an area where Brand yields little influence. Until the college conferences turn over control of the football postseason to the NCAA, Brand will be unable to exact the change he’s so successfully executed in other matters.

Executive vice president, content, ESPN

Change from 2007:

Flush with cash and willing to spend it, John Skipper has been in the middle of some of the biggest deals in sports TV history.

The executive vice president of content’s year has been so busy that his monumental move to bring all rounds of the British Open to ESPN wasn’t even close to being his biggest deal. First, Skipper committed $2.25 billion to wrap up SEC cable rights for 15 years. Then there’s the $495 million he’s paying the BCS over four years to steal its games from Fox. Those deals make the $175 million spent on the British Open over seven years seem like chump change.

Chairman and CEO, Wasserman Media Group

Change from 2007:

Working behind the scenes with fellow Los Angeles sports executive Tim Leiweke and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Casey Wasserman has led talks with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about bringing the 50th Super Bowl in 2016 to Los Angeles. The possibility that Los Angeles, a city without an NFL team, can be discussed as a future Super Bowl site indicates the type of influence Wasserman wields.

But Wasserman has always played at a high level. He is one of the few sports executives to attend Allen & Co.’s annual conference, sits on the board of the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, and oversees the distribution of $11 million annually through his own foundation. Those responsibilities, combined with overseeing a sports agency that works with worldwide brands, athletes and facilities, create a force both inside and outside of sports.

Co-chairperson, New York Yankees

Change from 2007: Newcomer

Several years of gradual but historic change within the Yankees camp were codified last month when Hal Steinbrenner received official designation as the team’s controlling executive, trumping his older and louder brother, Hank, who will remain overall head of baseball operations.

Much more calm and measured when compared with Hank or their father, George, but still a firm negotiator, Hal provides a rather different face to the Yankees as they prepare to move into their new stadium in the spring. That ballpark, a $1.3 billion edifice packed with revenue-generating opportunities, gives Hal ample room to put his own stamp on the franchise.

President and CEO, MLB Advanced Media

Change from 2007: No Change

While the forthcoming MLB Network generated much of baseball’s media headlines this year, Bob Bowman quietly churned along, again posting company records for what is widely considered the best overall official league Web site. New marks for revenue, traffic, video content and online ticket sales were all generated during 2008, continuing one of the most remarkable stories in all of digital media.

Bowman also has positioned MLBAM on the forefront of sports mobile content, in recent months strengthening alignments with Apple and Research In Motion that seek to take full advantage of new smart phones released under the iPhone and BlackBerry brands.

President, International Olympic Committee

Change from 2007: Not Ranked

The year 2008 in sports will be remembered for the Beijing Games. The event rejuvenated the Olympic movement around the world, and its impact was apparent in the U.S. where ratings soared to levels not seen since the 1990s.

But for all the Beijing Games accomplished, the event didn’t restore the health of the Olympic movement in the U.S. To do so, many say Chicago must host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Jacques Rogge will be at the helm as the International Olympic Committee makes that decision. He also will oversee the organization as it selects a U.S. broadcaster for the 2014 and 2016 Games.

Both decisions will go a long way to determining the future health of the Olympic movement in the U.S.

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