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SBJ/Dec. 14, 2009/Special Report
The 50 most influential list, 21-30
Published December 14, 2009
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.