How distribution could work A different kind of labor leader UFC plans new digital net The Sit-Down: Dave Brandon Coors Light passes Bud for the lead In MLB's licensing spotlight Fox will sell for L.A. Coliseum ATP adding Michelob Ultra to U.S. nets Powdr buys ‘World of Adventure Sports’ From the Executive Editor
SBJ/Dec. 14, 2009/Special ReportPrint All
Agency Types1 George Pyne2 Casey Wasserman3 Michael Levine / Howard Nuchow*4 Scott Boras5 Tom Condon / Ben Dogra*6 Rick Dudley / Phil de Picciotto* * Honored as part of this years new executive combinations. Sports Media1 George Bodenheimer2 Brian Roberts / Steve Burke*3 Dick Ebersol4 Chase Carey / David Hill*5 Sean McManus6 John Skipper / Sean Bratches*7 David Levy8 Bob Bowman9 Jeff Shell10 Steve Bornstein11 Tracy Dolgin * Honored as part of this years new executive combinations.
It’s what Jacques Rogge didn’t do for the American sports industry rather than what he did that shows the extent of his influence. Working quietly behind the scenes, Rogge steered the International Olympic Committee’s selection of Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the 2016 Olympics. The selection of Rio and rejection of Chicago cost the U.S. sports industry hundreds — if not thousands — of jobs, $1.2 billion in sponsorship deals and approximately $250 million in U.S. media rights. The decision also meant that it likely will be more than 20 years before the Olympics ever return to the U.S. The IOC has become Rogge’s organization, and under his direction it has diversified its revenue streams internationally and, in turn, lessened its dependence on America . At the same time, his vision for an open-tender process for TV rights should generate another windfall from U.S. networks this year, even with the rejection of yet another U.S. Olympic bid.
Roger Goodell is growing more comfortable and more authoritative in year three as NFL commissioner. His actions — and reactions — still set the agenda of the U.S. sports landscape. If he says the NFL is doing something, the other leagues usually follow. He pared league expenses, led the resolution to the NFL Network/Comcast stalemate, and was outspoken on both Michael Vick and the Rams’ ownership situation. He’s also more comfortable taking on owners (read Bud Adams) and was not too set in his ways to react and address player concussions. But it’s his leadership in labor talks that will cement the polished commissioner’s legacy — and that’s the unknown.
Under George Bodenheimer’s leadership, ESPN has gained a reputation for innovation that has always kept it a step ahead of its competitors. ESPN clearly has been the most aggressive sports network in the broadband and mobile space. This year was no different, as ESPN again tested new technologies to ensure, as Bodenheimer has said, that “it will serve sports fans wherever they are.” This year’s developments: It produced a live 3-D production, opened an Innovation Lab and launched a Los Angeles facility.
David Stern is finishing his silver anniversary as NBA commissioner, and his influence over the league — and professional sports in general — remains as strong as ever. Stern pushes on with his vision of the NBA as a global sports entity, aware that the growth of the league is firmly centered on an international footprint. At home, the NBA has its challenges as teams try to sell tickets in a down economy while facing what is likely to be a contentious labor negotiation. But there isn’t anyone better prepared for those challenges than Stern.
Roberts (left) & Burke
Already two of the most influential executives in sports before Comcast’s NBC deal, Brian Roberts’ and Steve Burke’s power will grow considerably once regulators give their OKs to the purchase. If the deal is approved, the sports industry stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries. Roberts and Burke have been securing profits from sports media for years through their TV channels. With the addition of a broadcast network, look for them to become even more aggressive buying up sports rights.
Could anyone really doubt Dick Ebersol’s influence? When he started taking public swipes at the U.S. Olympic Committee over the summer, veteran industry executives knew it couldn’t be long before its leadership was ousted — something that happened just months later. Perhaps Ebersol’s defining moment this year occurred in April, when he accepted the Sports Emmys’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Prior to giving his speech, six league commissioners walked on stage to pay homage to the industry legend. That’s influence.
It might seem counterintuitive to claim a year in which attendance dropped 6.65 percent as your greatest year ever. But Bud Selig did just that, and there’s plenty of merit to the boast. The attendance drop was less than some feared, and the sport still drew more than 73 million people in 2009. Also happening this year: the successful launch of the MLB Network, growth in the second installment of the World Baseball Classic, strong postseason ratings improvement, and a sharply expanded charitable focus for the league. Selig likely does not get enough respect from those outside MLB, but his influence within league circles is unquestioned.
Carey (left) & Hill
These two News Corp. execs are front and center over key issues influencing the future of sports media. Carey has put Fox in the middle of retransmission consent negotiations as he tries to increase the amount News Corp. receives so the ever-creative Hill can continue to bid on rights and produce top sports events like few other. Carey’s ace-in-the-hole: He’s using leverage from Hill’s big events and Randy Freer’s RSN programming to force cable operators to pay more in retrans dollars.
Sometimes it seems like the NFL is Jerry Jones’ league and everybody else is just along for the ride. Whether it’s his economics-altering new stadium, the punt-affecting scoreboard, his fine-inducing comment about revenue sharing, not to mention his team, so much of the NFL revolves around Jones. With the CBA talks heating up, look for Jones to take a similarly larger-than-life role. And don’t forget that little event coming up in 2011, a Super Bowl at the new Cowboys Stadium.
Ironically, much of Sean McManus’ sports influence comes when he wears his CBS News hat. As president of CBS News and CBS Sports, McManus is able to orchestrate the coverage of some of the biggest sports stories that cross over to the mass media. Michael Vick gave his first post-prison interview to “60 Minutes.” Michael Phelps also sat down with “60 Minutes.” Given CBS’s standing as a longtime PGA Tour partner, would anybody really be surprised if the television news magazine landed the first extended sit-down with Tiger Woods? It would just be another example of the clout the well-regarded McManus brings to the table.
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When NFL player reps voted in March to select an outsider to lead the NFLPA, they gave D.C. lawyer and former Assistant U.S. Attorney DeMaurice Smith one of the toughest jobs in sports. The collective-bargaining agreements for the four major sports unions expire in 2011, but the NFL agreement is up first, in March, which could lead to an uncapped year in 2010. A newcomer to sports, Smith has the power and personality to lead the NFLPA, and the early results are of a man ready to leave his mark on the league’s future.
Any doubts about Gary Bettman’s power and influence in the world of hockey were put to rest during Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie’s bid to buy and relocate the Phoenix Coyotes. Bettman forged a united front among NHL owners and carried the battle flag on behalf of all leagues interested in preserving the location of their franchises. His commitment put out the fire in Phoenix, but plenty of others remain for the NHL.
As a gaggle of reporters surrounded New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft during the fall owners meeting in his hometown of Boston, another owner walked by, quipping that he was no match for the “commissioner.” Kraft may be nearly as powerful as the commissioner, with his powerhouse team, three Super Bowl rings and perches on powerful committees, but as someone who likes to appear humble, he clearly did not appreciate his colleague’s remark. “I could make a comment, but I won’t,” he said to laughs. “Maybe you should all go to him.” Not a chance, Bob.
He is loud, he is tireless and he is loaded with ambitious ideas. It’s the combination of those three traits that’s taken Tim Leiweke from his humble beginnings as an employee for a now-defunct indoor soccer league to the upper echelons of the sports business. His influence extends not only across every major sport but also across every major continent, and he still shows no signs of fulfilling his appetite for making AEG the world’s foremost entertainment company.
Denson (left) & Parker
Nike is the face of sports in the U.S. As the world’s biggest sporting goods company, and arguably the most prominent sports brand globally, anyone captaining Nike has influence extending well beyond sports. In establishing itself over the past 45 years, Nike’s genius was part design and part marketing; Mark Parker and Charlie Denson embody that dichotomy. Parker started as a Nike footwear designer, while Denson has a wealth of sales, marketing and distribution expertise, having worked at Nike’s first store. Each has been with Nike since 1979, so they understand that unconventional amalgam of East and West that is Nike’s corporate culture.
Jim France , Brian’s uncle, might technically own NASCAR, but Brian still runs it. The son of Bill France Jr., Brian oversees the day-to-day operations and the unit chiefs report directly to him. Brian is still the best-positioned France to dictate the direction of the sport, whether through instituting cost containment measures for teams, tweaking the Chase for the Sprint Cup format or setting the overall agenda. And if he decides to wield his influence on an issue, his voice will be heard above all others.
Ganz (left) & Batterman
Proskauer Rose law firm partners Howard Ganz and Bob Batterman have wielded enormous influence behind the scenes for years, but for the first time the two attorneys are working as outside labor counsel to all four major team sports leagues as they are preparing to, or have begun, negotiating new collective-bargaining agreements. The labor deals for all four major leagues expire in 2011. Ganz is outside labor counsel for the NBA and Major League Baseball, while Batterman occupies that role for the NFL and NHL, as well as Major League Soccer.
Tim Finchem sat in a sweltering media tent at the Tour Championship in Atlanta this September, calmly fielding questions about the potential loss of events and title sponsors. “Look at him,” remarked one drenched reporter, “I don’t even think he’s sweating.” It was a tough year not to sweat. Golf insiders don’t remember when Finchem was as visible as he was in 2009, starting the year fighting congressional pressure over corporate spending on golf and ending it on a tour of Asia to build the PGA Tour’s footprint outside the U.S.
Ganz (left) & BattermanJohnSkipperExecutive Vice President, ContentESPNSeanBratchesExecutive Vice President, Sales and MarketingESPN
While George Bodenheimer inspires ESPN’s growth and innovation from 30,000 feet, it’s John Skipper and Sean Bratches who implement that vision. Skipper drives the editorial and programming product, locking up new property deals and gobbling up more and more rights. Bratches oversees the sales, marketing and affiliate relationships key to ESPN’s mega-bottom line, while increasing ESPN’s place in pop culture. When new deals are done with ESPN, one of these two have signed off on it.
Few international sports figures find their way into the Oval Office when they visit the U.S., but the head of FIFA sat down with President Obama earlier this year. The meeting was indicative of just how important Sepp Blatter has become to the future of U.S. soccer. On the eve of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa , the U.S. Soccer Federation, MLS and other stakeholders in the sport believe it’s critical for the sport’s future growth that the U.S. host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. That decision, ultimately, rests with Blatter and FIFA.
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David Levy’s influence continues to grow within Turner, as he was promoted in May to oversee Turner Network Sales. Levy’s portfolio remains strong, including the MLB and NBA playoffs. But his 2009 was framed by a couple of personnel moves. In January, he gave NBA analyst Charles Barkley a leave of absence following Barkley’s DUI; and in December he cut ties with the much-maligned MLB announcer Chip Caray. To his credit, Levy didn’t shy away from addressing any of his decisions publicly.
Bob DuPuy, long MLB’s point man with the International Olympic Committee, did not prevail in getting baseball reinstated to the Olympics. But back home, Bud Selig’s right-hand man oversaw a year in which MLB largely held its own against highly difficult economic challenges and continued to push into new areas such as in-market online game streaming. And perhaps most importantly, DuPuy was a key figure in the sport’s substantial expansion this year in its charitable efforts.
2010 will include a FIFA World Cup, which should be good news for Adidas, the world’s leading soccer equipment brand. The global recession has battered sporting goods brands, as consumers stopped spending and retailers cut inventory. Adidas head Herbert Hainer has to balance those economic realities with a stable of renowned sports brands, including Adidas, Reebok and TaylorMade Adidas Golf. But having spent eight years in sales and marketing at brand management pioneer Procter & Gamble, Hainer has the experience and influence to make it all work.
The Yankees are back on top with a World Series championship and a new stadium generating unprecedented revenue, even after some embarrassing early-season hiccups with the premium-level seating. And Hal Steinbrenner, much like his father George, is striking fear into the hearts of opponents, but for very different reasons than his once-combustible predecessor. The Yankees, under Hal’s steady leadership, have become a coolly efficient and effective machine that at once continues to set the game’s economic standard while running a much smarter and more likable baseball operation.
Tim Brosnan is entrusted with baseball’s off-field business. As an executive whose tenure at MLB exceeds those of Commissioner Bud Selig and President/COO Bob DuPuy, he’s also the institutional memory of MLB’s business, controlling key relationships in broadcasting, licensing, internationally and at the MLB Network. Expressed in baseball parlance, Brosnan’s a five-tool player who, while known for his blunt style, also has a reputation as an astute negotiator and a man most of the industry wants in their foxhole rather than in the enemy camp.
George Pyne has led even further diversification of IMG in recent years by establishing unique positions in both motorsports and college sports, in addition to all of the other sports the agency touches. IMG has brought Danica Patrick into its athlete representation fold and guided her exploration of NASCAR as an alternative to the IndyCar Series, while also striking a marketing relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing. In the college space, the company’s partnership with the NCAA again provides IMG a unique position from which to influence marketing-related events with the governing body.
Smart, savvy and a tough negotiator, Adam Silver stands as the heir apparent to David Stern. Silver has the trust of all 30 NBA team owners given that in the past year he’s forged innovative digital rights agreements and played a major role in expanding the league’s global business. Now, owners will turn to him as a key player in the league’s collective-bargaining talks, which are expected to bring big changes.
MLB.com already held the unofficial title as the most developed and lucrative league-run Web site. But MLBAM’s frenetic run of activity this year under Bob Bowman, particularly for the MLB.com At Bat application on the iPhone and historic in-market streaming deals with the Yankees and Padres, only stretched baseball’s digital lead over its competitors. While others are still experimenting with select live games and highlights to mobile devices, MLBAM this summer began deploying the full league schedule live to the iPhone, and the company remains a deeply influential voice in the monetization of digital content.
Jeff Shell’s clout is expected to grow much larger when Comcast finally assumes control of NBC. The veteran media executive almost certainly will land a top role in the new venture. In his five years at Comcast, Shell has slowly built an interesting sports portfolio. His strongest sports asset by far is Comcast SportsNet, which operates 10 regional sports networks. Shell also has built up Golf Channel and Versus, two channels that should see the biggest benefits from Comcast’s NBC venture.
John Henry’s biggest news in 2009 personally was his marriage to Linda Pizzuti, and the reinvigorated Henry recorded another year with several professional successes as well, even as he saw the archrival Yankees win the World Series and faced challenges with his Florida investment company. The Red Sox sellout streak is alive and well at nearly seven years, and the club remains a powerful force within baseball. Roush Fenway Racing posted its first Daytona 500 win, Fenway Sports Group continued to expand, even after the departure of President Mike Dee, and Fenway Park landed the upcoming 2010 NHL Winter Classic.
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The executive who convinced ESPN to pay $1.1 billion per year for “Monday Night Football” was at it again in 2009. In the middle of the worst economic recession in a generation, Steve Bornstein convinced CBS, Fox and NBC to agree to shell out more money to extend their NFL deals. Oh, and the little network he oversees finally signed Comcast to a deal to surpass the 50 million-home distribution mark and launched the hugely popular NFL RedZone channel. Bornstein remains an integral leader at the NFL; he is tight with Roger Goodell and key owners, who all trust his broad understanding of sports media and his track record of success.
There was a time when Casey Wasserman’s name was always in the press. A month rarely passed without Wasserman Media Group making a major acquisition or deal. But that time has passed, and Wasserman has become less front and center in the world of sports. Still, he remains more plugged into the business movements of entertainment, media, politics and sports than anyone his age, and there’s little doubt he’ll be making news again in the future.
A man who knew little to nothing about soccer a decade ago has become one of its biggest evangelists today. He has pushed the country’s premiere domestic league into new markets and expanded its ownership ranks. He also is an influential member of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s board. But Don Garber’s primary concern, MLS, is far from profitable and its television ratings are a fraction of other major professional sports, leaving much work to be done.
Wright (left) & AlbardaMarkWrightVice President, Media, Sponsorship & ActivationAnheuser-BuschMaartenAlbardaVice President, Global ConnectionsAnheuser-Busch InBev
Evidence of the organizational changes at the world’s biggest brewer is the fact that this is the third straight year with new names representing the company. The purse strings within the
U.S.are still in the hands of familiar people in St. Louis led by Anheuser-Busch President Dave Peacock, while longtime sports veteran Mark Wright saw his role increase during the past year. Maarten Albarda’s inclusion is based on potential, since he started at Anheuser-Busch InBev in September and set up camp in New York to take the lead on global sponsorship and media.
The sight of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen this offseason casting off the surly Jay Cutler and getting ready to give Brandon Marshall the boot before the wide receiver found his way must not have been comforting for the NFLPA. Bowlen is the lead owner negotiator for the NFL as the league heads into contentious labor talks. So if the taciturn Bowlen is in no mood to accommodate his own star players, it’s hard to see him compromising with the union when the league’s position is that the current labor deal is squeezing ownership.
Going beyond the four straight Sprint Cup championships with his driver Jimmie Johnson and his overall dominance of the sport for the last two decades, Rick Hendrick has established himself as the voice of the NASCAR team owner. When other owners, drivers and crew chiefs have a difficult career or personal decision to make, it’s not unusual for them to consult with Hendrick, whose reputation for generosity makes him one of the most respected figures in the sport. Not only has he built the Yankees of NASCAR, Hendrick still has the ears of the people he beats every week.
Levine (left) & Nuchow
Michael Levine and Howard Nuchow, hired in 2007 to oversee the Hollywood talent agency’s entry into sports, have helped build one of the most powerful athlete and sports property representation firms in the world. CAA represents more than 500 athletes, including some of the biggest stars in U.S. sports — among them LeBron James, Sidney Crosby, Tony Romo and Jimmie Johnson — as well as clients such as the New York Yankees, Madison Square Garden, Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona. CAA has a lot of top executives, but it’s ultimately Levine and Nuchow who must sign off on any sports deal.
For years, Scott Boras has been regarded as the most powerful agent in any sport in
America. He gained that reputation by negotiating record-setting contracts and moving the market for MLB players. This year Boras set another record, negotiating a four-year, $15.1 million rookie contract for Stephen Strasburg. He also has been vocal about MLB clubs’ ability to pay for players in a tough economy, even entering into a war of words with MLB labor chief Rob Manfred.
Long (left) & EnglandTomLongPresident and Chief Commercial OfficerMillerCoorsAndy
EnglandChief Marketing OfficerMillerCoors
MillerCoors was created in 2007 to battle Anheuser-Busch’s commanding 50 percent domestic market share. So it is with some swagger that MillerCoors marketers talk about “acting like a 30-share player.” Tom Long, from the Miller side of the house, and Andy England, from Coors, are taking advantage of the synergies every merger promises, but few deliver. MillerCoors is now the top spender on ESPN, where A-B was a founding advertiser. Insiders tout Long’s vision and strategy as complementary to
England’s day-to-day marketing and budgetary responsibilities, which include supervising dozens of team deals, along with NFL and NASCAR league rights.
Jeff Pash has long been the quiet, behind-the-scenes general counsel of the NFL. But after the owners struck in 2006 what they soon saw as an unbalanced CBA, Pash was pulled from behind the curtain into a leading role. Pash, a brilliant lawyer who was a late cut for the commissioner’s job, is the main NFL negotiator on the contentious CBA talks. It’s a role he may not necessarily have wanted, some say, but one that places him in the thick of one of the biggest sports business stories going.
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Shortly after a change in ownership in 2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning considered changing its concessions provider. But the new owners reversed after calculating the costs of dropping Delaware North Sportservice. After all, what if they need to call on Delaware North’s chairman for a favor? The decision underscores the sway Jeremy Jacobs holds in sports. It’s not just that he’s the chairman of the NHL’s board of governors and one of Commissioner Gary Bettman’s closest confidants, he’s also at the helm of one of sport’s biggest concessionaires, making him one of the most connected owners in pro sports.
Few sports brands have quickly and efficiently captured the attention of youths the way Under Armour has since Kevin Plank founded the company in 1996. The competition has noticed. Under Armour is a fraction of Nike’s size, but any company that replicates Nike’s long-demonstrated ability to retain its “cool” cachet, while counting sales in the hundreds of millions, makes Nike worry. Rapidly engineering a touchstone sports brand makes Plank and UA powerful; building a brand that troubles even the quietly cool “behind the berm” at Nike makes them influential across the sports and marketing landscapes.
Michael Adams, the immediate past chairman of the NCAA’s executive committee, used his position to establish his voice nationally on a number of issues. While he garnered the most attention for bringing up the prospects of an NCAA-run football playoff, Adams also became one of the most influential college administrators for speaking out on the role of the president in intercollegiate athletics. While he’s been replaced in the chairman’s seat by Ed Ray, the president from Oregon State, Adams evolved into a leading candidate for the president’s job at the NCAA and his voice will continue to be heard as a major influencer in the college space.
Condon (left) & Dogra
Tom Condon and Ben Dogra run the most powerful athlete representation practice in the most popular sport in
America. Among their more than 140 NFL players are such stars as Drew Brees, Peyton and Eli Manning, Adrian Peterson, Tony Romo, Shawne Merriman, Mario Williams and LaDainian Tomlinson. With the 2010 season likely to be an uncapped year, Condon and Dogra could be especially influential in determining what happens to the market for player contracts this offseason.
The brother of former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. technically owns the majority of the family-owned business, even though he prefers to keep a behind-the-scenes role. Additionally, Jim France holds a non-executive position as chairman of the board for International Speedway Corp., the France-run track business that nicely complements the NASCAR business. All of that leaves Jim in a position to be the ultimate decision-maker in any situation, but he leaves most of those calls to Brian France in NASCAR and Lesa France Kennedy, ISC’s president, on the track side.
Coke is the world’s most recognized brand and the most widely available branded consumer product on the planet. Nonetheless, it must adjust to a changing marketplace that sees full-calorie drinks as less important, while water, low-cal offerings and “new age” beverages rise in prominence. Underscoring the growing significance of off-shore markets is Katie Bayne, an Australian who’s held the North American CMO post since 2007. With a sports portfolio that includes FIFA, the Olympics, the NBA and the NCAA, along with one of the biggest budgets in consumer marketing, Bayne’s charged with reminding consumers that Coke is still it.
de Picciotto (left) & DudleyPhilde PicciottoPresident of Athletes & PersonalitiesOctagonRickDudleyPresident and CEOOctagon
While its competitors generate more headlines and tout more star power, Octagon quietly remains a smart player in the business. That can be traced back to the leadership of Rick Dudley and his top executive, Phil de Picciotto. Dudley hires smart people and the result is a smart agency that gets things done. From international assignments around this summer’s World Cup, to the launch of Twackle.com, to a deep and broad global talent roster led by de Picciotto, Octagon is well-respected and consistently in the conversation.
As all four major pro leagues face the possibility of a work stoppage in 2011, Billy Hunter is the only sports union head who has previously led a CBA negotiation. In fact, Hunter led the players through the 1998-99 NBA lockout. As negotiations are ongoing, Hunter has made it clear he wants owners to talk about revenue sharing and not expect players to solve the problems affecting small-market teams.
Michael Weiner takes over what is arguably the strongest union in sports with unprecedented support of the membership, who voted 1,055-4 to elect him earlier this year. But with allegations that owners may have colluded to keep a lid on free agency the past two years, an ongoing investigation into the free agent market, and upcoming collective-bargaining agreement talks, the former MLBPA general counsel faces many challenges.
As head of the country’s biggest regional sports network, it would be easy for Tracy Dolgin to sit back and revel in the enormous viewer numbers that YES Network posts with its Yankees games. But Dolgin’s year was punctuated by two moves that showed he remains a trailblazer in the regional sports field. He was the first to sign a live streaming deal with MLB Advanced Media. And YES Network has moved further than any other RSN in terms of setting up a national network, cutting several small deals that have added yet another revenue stream.
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Much like the industry itself, our ranking of the 50 most influential people in sports business evolves constantly. It’s the nature of such lists, what keeps them interesting, and what makes them still challenging six years into the process of determining who most influences the North American sports business.
Think of it as broadening the list. And we’ve done it on two fronts this year.
First, we’ve expanded the reach of the executives who make the top 50 by putting more of an international stamp on it, highlighted mostly by this year’s No. 1, Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee, but also with FIFA’s Sepp Blatter cracking the list for the first time. The idea hasn’t changed, and the rankings are still North American focused. We’re simply recognizing the importance of both the Olympics and World Cup to the overall American sports landscape, no matter how internationally focused those events and their leaders are.
The world is getting smaller and smaller, and the decisions of these international executives are having a larger and larger influence on the American sports business. That, no doubt, will only increase as our rankings continue to evolve.
Secondly, and more noticeably, we’re recognizing the idea that oftentimes influence among major properties and brands is shared among more than one executive, and thus for the first time we’ve made exceptions for executive pairings with a handful of spots.
In the first five years of our 50 Most Influential list, we were adamant that the list be limited to 50 individuals, often to the detriment of one person or another among some extremely influential and powerful pairings in our industry. Charlie Denson kept making the cut from Nike, which unfortunately — if not unfairly — left little room for Mark Parker. The same could be said for the power-agent duo of Tom Condon and Ben Dogra. Condon kept making the list based on his years as one of the top agents in the NFL, despite Dogra being an equal partner in their CAA Football offices.
After years of debate — literally, considering this wasn’t a new discussion — we decided to broaden our thinking on how influence is spread across the industry. That led to 10 exceptions — so yes, that means our top 50 executives list this year actually features 60 names. That doesn’t mean next year the list will grow to 100 names.
With both of this year’s changes, it simply means we’re more accurately recognizing where the influence falls.