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SBJ/March 21-27, 2011/Forty Under 40
Forty Under 40
Published March 21, 2011, Page 50A
JOE FARAONI / ESPN
That ESPN has entrusted two of its most important relationships to LaPlaca speaks to the expansion of her role in Bristol, Conn., where she is ESPN’s main contact for both leagues and golf’s majors.
Whether it’s meeting the NFL about the network’s “Monday Night Football” wish list next season (as she did during Super Bowl week in Dallas) or fielding calls from ESPN staffers asking what — exactly — ESPN holds the rights to, LaPlaca has become the most visible executive on the NFL and NBA accounts.
“I approach these as partnerships,” LaPlaca said. “This is not about just dealing with a contract. Relationships like this can help you in dealing with those league partnerships.”
Typical was Dec. 11 — a Saturday night — when LaPlaca was at a holiday dinner with her programming staff. As she was leaving, she noticed an e-mail from Cathy Yancy, NFL senior director of NFL broadcasting. The e-mail was short and to the point: “Call me, ASAP.”
She called Yancy at 10:45 p.m. Yancy told her that a snowstorm was forcing the NFL to move the Giants-Vikings game that had been scheduled for Sunday afternoon to Monday night. Then the Metrodome’s roof collapsed overnight under the weight of the snow.
What followed was two days of negotiations to see what rights ESPN would have from the game, which was going to be broadcast by Fox in the local markets. LaPlaca ran point on all the negotiations, from detailing highlight rights to figuring out broadband rights.
“Leah has a seat at the table for every negotiation between the NFL and ESPN,” Yancy said. “She has a very significant and respected role at ESPN, yet is always willing to roll up her sleeves and dig into even the smallest of issues.
“As large a company as ESPN is, if you mention the name Leah, people there know just who you are talking about.”
Title: Vice president, programming and acquisitions
Education: B.S., Duke University; M.A., University of Texas; MBA, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
Family: Husband, Chris; daughters, Gracie (4) and Lucy (2); step-daughter, Lisa
Career: Chimpanzee researcher in Uganda and Texas; manager at the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; joined ESPN in 2002
Last vacation: Italy
What's on your iPod: It ranges from U2, Lady Gaga and Sugarland to The Laurie Berkner Band for my kids.
||Guilty pleasure: "Glee"
Best stress release: Massage
Pet peeve: Arrogance
Greatest achievement: Sounds clichéd, but somehow managing to keep my daughters happy and healthy while working in a dynamic, 24/7 career
Fantasy job: African wildlife park manager
Business advice: Always be mindful of relationships. How you handle yourself in one situation will certainly factor into your ability to be successful in a future one.