SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40

Derek Jackson


After a new ballpark opens, much is quickly forgotten about the hard political wrangling, late-hour negotiations and grunt work needed to get the facility approved and funded.

Florida Marlins

Such will likely happen in Miami, where a new venue is under construction for the Marlins after more than a decade of fruitless pursuit. But Derek Jackson is among a key group of executives who helped rescue the ballpark deal from several near-fatal scrapes and likely saved MLB in South Florida.

Jackson, a former attorney in MLB’s labor relations office, came to the Marlins in 2003. By his own admission, he did not fully understand upon arriving the gravity of the club’s uphill fight for public aid for a new ballpark.

Age: 34
Titles: Vice president and general counsel
Team: Florida Marlins
Education: A.B., economics, cum laude, Duke University, 1996; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1999
Family: Single
Career: Counsel, MLB labor relations, 1999-2003; joined the Marlins in 2003.
Last vacation: Home to Maryland for 2009 Christmas holidays; last real vacation was December 2006 to Italy
Favorite book: "Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?: How Reginald Lewis Created A Billion-Dollar Business Empire," by Reginald Lewis
Favorite movie: "The Godfather"
What’s on your iPod? Almost everything R&B, jazz, hip hop, 80s and 90s rock and pop, and gospel receive the most airtime
Pet peeve: People who nag or are overly worrisome
Greatest achievement: Obtaining a new ballpark deal for the Marlins after 5-plus years of pursuit and negotiations
Greatest disappointment: Not making the playoffs since I arrived in November 2003!
Fantasy job: Owning a sports team
Executive you most admire: George Bodenheimer
Business advice: Take advantage of every opportunity you receive, always put your best foot forward, and kick open any door that presents itself to you, even if it is just barely cracked.

Unpopular previous team ownerships and a 1998 gutting of a defending World Series championship team had left fans and politicians cold to the idea of public assistance to build a new Marlins ballpark. A politically tense working relationship between the city of Miami and Dade County, and competing private interests such as a legal challenge from former Philadelphia Eagles owner and South Florida car mogul Norman Braman, only heightened the toxic environment pitted against the Marlins.

But over time, the club and MLB successfully convinced the local governments of the pressing need for a new ballpark in Miami, notably because of the club’s revenue limitations and competitive disadvantages in the stadium it now shares with the Miami Dolphins. Buttressed in part by a pledged team contribution of $155 million, Jackson played a critical role in closing the deal with the city and county governments and seeing the project through to its final agreements.

Jackson also oversees the club’s contract management and general legal affairs and was involved in the club’s recent agreement with the MLB Players Association to boost payroll as the Marlins approach the planned 2012 opening of the new ballpark.

“Being part of a team is like being in a family,” Jackson said. “It feels like you’re really a part of something. We feel like we have a big future in front of us, particularly with a state-of-the-art ballpark on the way.”

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