SBJ/Dec. 20-26, 2010/2010 Year in Review


The Oligarch:
Mikhail Prokhorov
Owner, New Jersey Nets

The Russian billionaire became the first foreign owner of a major U.S. sports franchise by taking over the Nets. He has brought a mix of flamboyance and panache to the league, and is already putting his own stamp on the team in making his Nets a more international franchise. In the summer, the team held a clinic in Moscow, it has created a Russian team website, and has signed a sponsorship with Russian vodka brand Stolichnaya. He's also been going one-on-one with Mark Cuban, putting himself in rare company of an owner not afraid of mixing it up.

The Big Winner:
Chip Ganassi
Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing

Just a few years ago, the very existence of Chip Ganassi Racing was in question. Ganassi shuttered a money-sucking NASCAR Sprint Cup team in midseason and failures on the track seemed to outnumber successes. No one, except maybe Ganassi, saw what was coming in 2010. Ganassi's new Sprint Cup driver, Jamie McMurray, started the year by winning the Daytona 500, then followed it up in the summer with a win at the Brickyard 400. In between, Ganassi drank from the milk bottle when his IndyCar driver, Dario Franchitti, won the Indianapolis 500, cementing the team owner as the year's biggest winner in motorsports.

The Outsider:
Randy Bernard
CEO, IndyCar Series

After a 15-year career building a business around bulls at the PBR, Bernard left to build a business around autos at the IndyCar Series. Though he was quick to admit he knew nothing about motorsports, his arrival stirred the corporate marketplace. Several new partners pointed to new leadership as a reason for partnering with IndyCar, and more than 14 new sponsors signed up this year. Even General Motors returned. Bernard's stamp on the sport will be clear in 2011 when the series trims some tracks from its schedule and returns to markets such as Milwaukee.


The Newcomer:
Michael Whan
Commissioner, LPGA

When Whan moved into his job at the LPGA in January, he took a more defensive position, focused on damage control because sponsors and tournament owners were upset at former Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. Over the last several months, he's taken a more offensive-minded approach. The former Procter & Gamble executive and golf fanatic has pushed the LPGA as a unique international property that invests back in its tournament owners and sponsors, making it much more customer and partner-friendly than it was known before.

The Negotiator:
Pat Riley
President, Miami Heat

Riley is the mastermind behind this summer's stunning free agency frenzy that brought LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade in Miami. It has been a rocky start for the Heat, but the deal of the decade would never have happened if not for Riley's sterling reputation as a master motivator and for building winning teams and organizations.

The New Boss:
Michael Jordan
Owner, Charlotte Bobcats

Already oft-pegged as the NBA's greatest player of all time, Jordan took his legacy in a new direction, closing on a $275 million purchase of the Charlotte Bobcats in March. What happens when the most marketable U.S. athlete, ever — a man who still graces the cover of an NBA video game, seven years after leaving the court — puts his own time and money into a franchise that has languished since birth? The Bobcats made the playoffs for the first time last season and this year all their business metrics are up. But they have a long way to go and the MJ legacy is clearly affixed to the team's future success.

The Change Agent:
Scott Blackmun
CEO, U.S. Olympic Committee

At the start of the year, the USOC was in disarray and Olympic constituents demanded new leadership. The arrival of Blackmun as the organization's new CEO brought order to the unsettled organization. Blackmun spent the year drawing on his calm demeanor and previous experience as a USOC general counsel to show constituents and partners that the USOC had changed. The organization went on to sign a new partnership with BMW, sign a financing agreement with the IOC, and partner with NBC to sell a combined sponsorship and advertising deal for the first time.

The Dealmaker:
Chuck Greenberg
Owner, Texas Rangers

For a while Greenberg insisted all was well with his bid to buy the Rangers from a debt-strapped Tom Hicks, while just behind the scenes, chaos was everywhere. But many months, contested maneuvers and a dramatic, high-stakes auction later, Greenberg, team President Nolan Ryan and their partners emerged with the club in a $593 million deal. And with a World Series appearance and a bold new operating plan, four largely sour decades of Texas baseball are becoming a thing of the past. The contentious transaction, however, sullied the image of MLB in the financial community, and is believed to have a played a role in the departure of league President Bob DuPuy. Greenberg persevered through it all and now can focus on the business at hand.

The Quiet Mogul:
Stan Kroenke
Owner, St. Louis Rams

Kroenke likes to stay under the radar, but good luck with that now that he's bought the Rams. Kroenke has transferred operational control of his Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche to his son to comply with NFL ownership rules, but he still owns the MLS Colorado Rapids and is the largest shareholder in Arsenal of the English Premier League. The possibility of the Rams relocating back to Los Angeles has often been mentioned, but it's hard to figure that Kroenke, a Missouri native, would take the NFL out of St. Louis.

The Breakup:
Frank and Jamie McCourt
Owners, Los Angeles Dodgers

The McCourts began nearly seven years ago with promise and hope ­— a high-energy, power couple aggressively seeking to revive a landmark MLB franchise. And with four playoff appearances in six years and big increases in many business metrics, all seemed well. But a bitter divorce and legal battle for control of the franchise exposed an ugly reality behind the once-glittering facade. The long-term direction of the franchise, and who will own it, remains decidedly unclear, and may not be fully known for years.

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