SBJ/20100913/This Weeks Issue

Industry vet Stevenson exiting WMG

Wasserman Media Group consulting chief Gary Stevenson is leaving the firm, effective immediately. The move comes a little more than three years after he sold the OnSport consultancy he founded to WMG.

Senior vice president Malcolm Turner will assume Stevenson’s title as principal of WMG Consulting, and will remain in New York City.

“I sold the business because at some point in time, I wanted to make a transition,” Stevenson said. “I felt like this was a good time and I’ve been talking about this to  [WMG founder and CEO Casey Wasserman] for some time. The agency business is not where I want to finish my career.”

Gary Stevenson says, “I’m a
big believer in change,” and
that he isn’t retiring.

Stevenson said he feels comfortable leaving his unit, which he noted has grown a minimum of double digits every year. The group consults with media and sports properties, representing 30 percent of its revenue, along with corporate consulting, the remaining 70 percent. Stevenson added that the consulting group now encompasses 80 people and is well-integrated with clients that came in from the WMG side, like T-Mobile.

Other large consulting clients include American Express, Nationwide, Northern Trust and Travelers. Project work for the unit has included securing RadioShack’s relationship with Lance Armstrong, while properties using WMG consulting include MLS, the College Football Hall of Fame and Major League Soccer.

“I’m a longtime member of the Gary Stevenson fan club,” said Wasserman, adding that it was the consulting unit’s best year to date. “But we didn’t buy the business just to get Gary. We bought it because he built a business that was much more than just Gary Stevenson. It’s a great culture, with talented people besides him. Frankly, those are the only kinds of businesses you would want to buy.”

The latest reshuffle at WMG comes soon after it hired MLB sales chief John Brody to head a new sales division. However, both Wasserman and Stevenson said the moves were unrelated, though they both anticipate Brody will work closely with the consulting practice.

Through his 30-year career, which included being president of the marketing and media group at NBA Properties, executive vice president for business affairs at the PGA Tour, and chief operating officer of Golf Channel, which he helped launch, Stevenson has shifted directions every eight or 10 years.

“I’m a big believer in change. I think there should be term limits on commissioners,” he said. “New ideas are good for sports and clients. Everyone benefits from a new perspective.” As for his next stop? “I’m going to whatever’s next,” said Stevenson. “I don’t have an exact plan. But I am not retiring.”

Stevenson said he will continue to teach the Business of Sport at Duke University.

Both Wasserman and Stevenson speculated that they might work together again. Stevenson mentioned a possible Los Angeles NFL franchise (a project to which Wasserman has sometimes been linked) and a potential U.S. World Cup bid as two intriguing projects.

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