SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40

Thad Sheely


With New Meadowlands Stadium scheduled to open in a matter of weeks, Thad Sheely may be forgiven for chuckling about the dark days of the summer of 2005. That’s when, after five years of effort, the New York Jets’ dream of a Manhattan stadium flamed out amid unexpected political opposition and pressure from Madison Square Garden.

New York Jets

“At the time, it definitely felt like failure,” Sheely said. “In retrospect, the position we are in today is the best position for the Jets.”

That summer, the Jets had no backup plan, and their lease was running out in four short years. Mere months later, the team had struck an alliance with the New York Giants, and on April 10 of this year, the club’s vision will be realized with the stadium’s first event, a lacrosse game.

Age: 38
Title: Executive vice president, stadium development and finance
Team: New York Jets
Education: B.A., urban studies, Columbia College, 1993; MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 1998
Family: Wife, Gabrielle; son, Ben, 2
Career: Manhattan DAs office, 1993; Prudential Securities, public finance, 1994-1996; Miami Heat, 1998-2001; joined the Jets in 2001
Last vacation: Nantucket, summer 2009
Favorite book: "The Power Broker," by Robert Caro
Favorite movie: "Glengarry Glen Ross"
What’s on your iPod? Lou Donaldson to James Brown, podcasts from Bill Simmons and TED conference, audiobooks from Malcolm Gladwell and Richard Dawkins
Pet peeve: Cufflinks
Greatest achievement: Professionally, kickoff at the new Jets stadium in 2010
Greatest disappointment: Losing NYC2012 Olympic bid
Fantasy job: Travel photographer for National Geographic
Executive you most admire: Mike Bloomberg Success and leadership in two very different worlds
Business advice: Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.

Jay Cross spearheaded the Jets’ stadium effort as the team’s president. When he left for a real estate job two years ago, Sheely assumed responsibility for the team’s stadium operations.

It was Cross who brought Sheely to the Jets in 2001. Sheely got to know Cross when Cross worked for the Toronto Raptors while the club was developing Air Canada Centre. Sheely worked for Prudential Securities, one of the lenders.

Sheely left to get a degree at Stanford business school and interned with Cross at the Miami Heat to help the team with the financing of its new arena. By the end of the summer, Cross offered Sheely a full-time job.

Sheely chose to go back to school, but the Heat job was still his when he graduated in 1998. When Cross left for the Jets in the fall of 2000, Sheely wasn’t far behind.

Now, Sheely has seen through the most expensive stadium in U.S. history, the only facility to house two NFL teams.

“I am in the sports business because it is a business and not because it is sports,” Sheely said. “Sports is the X factor that allows you to do things that you couldn’t do elsewhere.”

Back to 2010 Forty Under 40 list.

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