SBJ/Dec. 14, 2009/Special Report

The 50 most influential list, 31-40

Executive Vice President of Media, NFL
President and CEO, NFL Network
Change from 2008: Not ranked

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.

Chairman and CEO
Wasserman Media Group
Change from 2008: -5

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.

Change from 2008: -1

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) & Albarda
Vice President, Media, Sponsorship & Activation
Vice President, Global Connections
Anheuser-Busch InBev
Change from 2008: Newcomers

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.

Denver Broncos
Change from 2008: +10

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.

Hendrick Motorsports
Change from 2008: Not ranked

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
CAA Sports
Change from 2008: +11
CAA Sports
Change from 2008: Newcomer

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.

The Scott Boras Corp.
Change from 2008: +4

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) & England
President and Chief Commercial Officer
Chief Marketing Officer
Change from 2008: Newcomers

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.

Executive Vice President and General Counsel
Change from 2008: Newcomer

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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