SBJ/20090727/Opinion

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  • A media visionary, Ray Shaw cherished family, employees

    It is with a heavy heart that I share with our readers that our chairman, Ray Shaw, passed away last week from complications from a bee sting. His accomplished life and tragic death have been covered a great deal over the past week, and many of you have undoubtedly already read about his passing.

    You’ve read about his amazing career: How he started out as a young reporter with The Wall Street Journal and, over time, built his career there and eventually served for 10 years as president of Dow Jones & Co., parent of The Wall Street Journal.

    You’ve read about how, after taking early retirement from Dow Jones, in 1989 he bought American City Business Journals, which published weekly business journals in 21 markets across the country. With the help of his sons, Whitney and Kirk, over the past two decades he doubled the number of markets of his weekly business journals and either launched or acquired and built a host of other publications, including Sporting News, NASCAR Scene, NASCAR Illustrated, Hemmings Motor News, Inside Lacrosse, and SportsBusiness Daily and SportsBusiness Journal.

    And you’ve read about the recognition and awards that he received during his lifetime, such as the distinguished achievement award that he recently received from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. You likely read how important family was to him, how the motivating factor for him to take early retirement from Dow Jones was because he wanted to be close to them in North Carolina and build a family-oriented company together. As chairman, Ray frequently focused on family issues. He improved the company’s employee benefits, started a scholarship program for children of employees and took other steps to make ACBJ family-friendly.

    But I want to take this opportunity to share with you a little about Ray Shaw that hasn’t been written about as much. Many of you probably never knew Ray or even saw him. He never wrote a piece for these pages, and when he had time to attend one of our conferences or events, he would sit discreetly out of view and just watch and listen, never seeking attention. That’s the way he wanted it. But without his vision and commitment, SportsBusiness Journal never would have been launched. It was Ray and his son Whitney’s idea to launch the magazine 12 years ago.

    Ray was a newsman through and through. He cared about the reporting and the writing, and no detail was too small to pay attention to. His entire company was built on breaking news, and the fact that we publish only once a week meant that we had to work harder than everyone else.

    It was Ray and his son Whitney’s
    idea to launch SBJ 12 years ago.

    As we planned the first issues of SBJ back in the early days in the spring of 1998, I recall his remaining steadfast to that notion, that we have to break news and be a “must read for people in the business of sports.” Along with the vision came the unending support … emotional support … support with resources … anything we needed to get SBJ properly launched and on solid footing.

    Work was never a burden to Ray Shaw. He loved his work, and you could always tell that he was invigorated by it. He was a visionary. He understood what readers wanted and were passionate about, and he had the unique ability to tap into those passions. He was not simply smart. Ray Shaw was always the smartest person in the room.

    He was a man of great integrity. In conversations with him, you could always tell that he cared deeply about doing the right thing, and he always did. There was never any question about that.

    Ray cared about people. He always talked about how the very best assets of the company were “the people who were in the building every day and the families that they went home to.” That came across in everything he did and in every conversation he had with you. It wasn’t just about last month’s income statement. He cared about you as a person and your family. You would never be in the elevator with him without his asking how your day was going or how your daughter’s soccer game turned out.

    He was enormously appreciative of others’ time and efforts, and people would remark that it was an honor to be asked by Ray to work on any launch or do any project. He respected the skills of those he worked with and wasn’t afraid to delegate and let people grow and shine.

    Ray was a straight shooter, unpretentious and completely unassuming in every way, and he insisted that everyone call him Ray. Although he could come across as a little shy at first, he was actually very easy to get to know. Pretense was not a word in his vocabulary. He often drove his truck to work, and at the stadium or racetrack, you were likely to see him in his jeans and baseball cap.

    Ray was a great leader and motivator, and he instilled confidence in the people around him. He is often described around our offices as someone like your father or your favorite uncle. And as the fatherly figure in the company, he always gave an end-of-the-year address to all company employees. Many of us were very interested to hear what he had to say at the end of 2008, as we were entering a very challenging year. A lot of the message was about the economy, how the company was positioned for 2009 and how he believed the company would continue to thrive. But one line in particular struck some of us, and I’ve thought about it many times since. Ray said: “I cherish this company and everyone in it.” He was a deliberate person, and he didn’t use that word lightly. It conveyed exactly what he meant.

    Ray Shaw touched many lives and motivated many people throughout his career. He was a media giant who, by choice, operated largely below the national media radar. He was a caring person and a wonderful human being, and he will be greatly missed by all of us.

     Richard Weiss is publisher of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. He can be reached at rweiss@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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  • Lack of signed contract leads Gillespie, UK to court

    University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari recently agreed to an eight-year, $31 million-plus deal, making him the country’s highest-paid college basketball coach. As the money involved in college athletics increases, so does the importance of college coaches’ employment agreements. 

    On May 27, former UK coach Billy Gillespie sued the university in federal court in Texas, asserting, among other claims, that under Texas law UK fired him “without cause” and owes him $6 million as set forth in an April 6, 2007, memorandum of understanding between Gillespie and the university. The next day, UK filed a lawsuit in a Kentucky court arguing that under Kentucky law the university does not owe Gillespie any money because the memorandum is not an “enforceable contract.”

    It is impossible to predict the precise outcome of the Gillespie-UK dispute. However, the initial legal filings offer insights for both coaches and university athletic administrators about memorandums in the coach-school employment context.

    Coach-school employment memorandums of understanding should rarely be necessary. Too often, a school and coach use a memorandum due to fear that any delay associated with finalizing a contract will lead to a change of heart by one of the parties. Additionally, pundits and fans often bemoan the supposedly dire implications of each day without a new coach. These fears are almost always greatly exaggerated.

    If a school and a coach truly want to work together, a detailed employment contract can be finalized in a few days. Consider that when both Gillespie and UK wanted to make a deal, they started direct negotiations, agreed on more than a dozen major contract terms, and announced Gillespie’s hiring in two days. The process of drafting the contract enables the parties to address concerns that could worsen if not promptly tackled and to lay a foundation for future coach-school teamwork that is essential to a program’s success.  Additionally, within NCAA bylaws and existing employment obligations, the coach can use the relatively quiet pre-announcement period in order to prepare the most effective transition to his/her new position.

    If, as they should, the parties plan to have lawyers review a contract, the lawyers should be consulted as early as possible. After the parties sign a memorandum and announce the hiring, the coach and athletic director deal with the post-announcement frenzy and then focus on their daily responsibilities. To the extent that finalizing the contract is delegated to others, the process seldom continues the momentum that existed before the hiring announcement. Disagreements that could have been easily negotiated when the coach and the school were motivated to reach agreement before publicly committing to each other often become sticking points and bog down the drafting process.

    The inability of Gillespie’s representatives and UK’s representatives to define “termination for cause” despite exchanging at least six proposed contracts over nearly two years demonstrates a fatal mistake. Had UK and Gillespie pushed to define termination for cause before announcing Gillespie’s hiring, one of two results would likely have occurred. Either they would have quickly agreed, or, after a day or two of negotiations, they would have recognized an unsolvable dispute about a critical issue, at which time they could have re-evaluated whether to move forward together. In either case, Gillespie and UK would have better understood their relationship before publicly committing to each other, which required Gillespie to leave Texas A&M and required UK to deliver millions of dollars and the stewardship of its flagship athletics program to Gillespie.

    Gillespie and UK now offer different theories about their memorandum’s validity. Gillespie quotes UK’s general counsel to argue that the memorandum is a “legally binding, written contract between the parties,” but the university cites Kentucky case law to argue that the memorandum is only “an agreement to negotiate” with no current effect because the parties never finalized a contract. These competing arguments illustrate why a coach-school memorandum of understanding should addresses the contract drafting process itself, which the Gillespie-UK memorandum did not do. Without the document becoming overly detailed and difficult to draft, subjects that a coach-school memorandum can address include a contract completion deadline; the use of default language if the parties fail to agree on their own terminology; and which, if any, memorandum provisions will bind the parties in the absence of a final contract.   

    The Gillespie-UK dispute also demonstrates the potential value of including some reasonably basic conflict resolution provisions in a coach-school memorandum. For example, a clause stipulating the settlement of memorandum disputes through arbitration could result in a more private, convenient, inexpensive, and timely process than the path taken by Gillespie and UK. Similarly, well-crafted forum selection and choice of law clauses could limit the legal uncertainty and expense inherent in the dueling lawsuits and competing legal theories of the Gillespie-UK case.

    Regardless of how the Gillespie-UK dispute ends, it shows that signing a memorandum of understanding and announcing a coach’s hiring while planning to subsequently draft a detailed contract neither assures the effective completion of the hiring process, promotes a good coach-school fit, nor necessarily enhances program stability.

    Coaches and schools should carefully consider the use of memorandums. If the parties decide to use a memorandum rather than pursue the pre-announcement completion of a detailed contract, then they should seek to reasonably include some provisions designed to reduce the risk of a situation like the Gillespie-UK dispute.

    Matt Wilson (mjwilson@stetson.edu) is an assistant professor and program director of the sport management program at Stetson University. Stu Brown (stuartbrown@bellsouth.net) is an attorney and a former college coach who counsels schools and coaches about rules compliance and employment issues.

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  • This Week's Cartoon

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  • Volvo race unforgettable

    The following comment was posted on sportsbusinessjournal.com in response to the story “High earners on the high seas” in the July 13-19 issue of SportsBusiness Journal.

    I was a full-time volunteer at the Volvo Ocean Race, Boston Port Stop. The event was very successful due to the support it received from the city and location. The event held on Fan Pier had an excellent view of the skyline and an up-close view of the boats. It was easy to see that the event was growing day by day as the word spread throughout the city.

    The event was hardly known in the beginning but due to the location and ease of access for those living in the city it quickly became the must-see event. I would like to congratulate everyone that was involved in creating the event. It was truly one that none of us will forget.

    Chad Burkart
    Boston

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