SBJ/Dec. 14, 2009/Special Report
The 50 most influential people in sports business
Published December 14, 2009
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.