SBJ/20090323/Forty Under 40

James Pitaro

Age: 39
Titles: Vice president and general manager, Yahoo! Sports and Entertainment
Company: Yahoo! Inc.
Education: Cornell University, 1991; St. Johns Law School, 1994
Family: Wife, Jean Louisa Kelly; two children
Career: Lawyer in New York City (1994-99); head of business affairs for Launch.com/Yahoo! Music (2000-06); vice president and general manager of Yahoo! Sports (2006-current); added responsibility for the Yahoo! Entertainment properties, which include Yahoo! Movies, Yahoo! TV, omg!, Shine, Yahoo! Music, Yahoo! Games and Yahoo! Kids, in 2008.
Last vacation: My wifes familys beach house on Long Beach Island, N.J.
Favorite book: Disney War, by James B. Stewart
Favorite movie: Good Will Hunting
Whats on your iPod? Im a Beatles fanatic
Pet peeve: The expression low-hanging fruit
Greatest achievement: Converting my wife, a Massachusetts native, to a Yankee fan.
Greatest disappointment: The 2004 ALCS Im still not over it.
Fantasy job: General manager of the New York Yankees
Executive you most admire: David Stern
Business advice: A customer who has a good experience tells two people, but one who has a bad experience tells eight. Its easy to build a bad reputation and much harder to construct a good one.

If the recession was supposed to stifle deal flow, somebody forgot to tell James Pitaro, Yahoo! Sports general manager and chief dealmaker.

James
Pitaro
Yahoo! Sports

Pitaro, who took over leadership of the online portal’s sports operations in late 2006, spent last year engineering a breathless flurry of market-moving pacts that included agreements with each of the four major U.S. sports leagues, Turner Sports, NBC, UFC, Versus and GrindTV.com, among others. The deals added on to a $98 million purchase of Rivals.com in 2007 that remains a key pillar for the site.

All the dealmaking at once helped solidify Yahoo! Sports’ position atop third-party metrics rankings among sports sites, and positioned the operation as an important ally to sports leagues and other media brands as opposed to a cutthroat competitor.

“This is all about our wanting to be the pre-eminent starting point on the Internet, and bringing people everything they want and need for that to happen,” Pitaro said. “What we’ve been able to do is show the value of who we are and the impact of our distribution.”

While Pitaro has made deal after deal and added Yahoo! entertainment and games programming to his responsibilities, all the gains have been made amid a turbulent corporate background in which Yahoo! has been a source of constant acquisition rumors and seen its stock tumble by more than 55 percent in the last year.

“There have been many distractions, and you combine that with the macroeconomic environment we’re all dealing with, it’s been a perfect storm we’re fighting against,” Pitaro said. “But we’re still growing reach, and being able to maintain that growth is something in which we take a lot of pride.”

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