SBJ/September 12-18, 2011/Franchises

Mannion looks to rebuild Palace

Once a model NBA franchise, the Detroit Pistons have struggled of late through a protracted team sale, a sinking economy and a lousy club on the court.

Enter Dennis Mannion, an industry veteran who was hired last week by new Pistons owner Tom Gores as president of the team and of its parent company, Palace Sports & Entertainment, to restore luster to the franchise.

Mannion
Mannion, president of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2007 to 2010, comes to a Pistons organization with plenty of challenges and recent changes. The team averaged 16,660 fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills last season, down 11 percent from the previous season and a long way off from the more than 20,000 fans per game the Pistons averaged just a few seasons ago.

The team has parted ways with several top executives over the last two years. Gores, a Michigan native who runs Beverly Hills, Calif.-based private equity company Platinum Equity, bought the team in April for an undisclosed sum. Mannion replaces Alan Ostfield as president and will report to Gores and to a five-man operating committee.

Mannion began his job Tuesday and said that while he doesn’t expect further staff cuts, one of his first tasks will be a reorganization of the 220-member Palace Sports & Entertainment staff.

“I think the staff size is appropriate for the business, but we need to get people swimming in their own lanes,” Mannion said. “It is a matter of clarifying roles inside the structure. We have to work on getting ticket numbers to a more healthy position.”

Mannion began interviewing for the Pistons job in late July and was offered it in late August. Turnkey Sports & Entertainment represented the Pistons in the executive search. The NBA lockout, in its third month, was not an issue in taking the job, he said.

Mannion’s arrival in Detroit marks a return to the NBA for the 52-year-old, who had a short stint as senior vice president for the Denver Nuggets and the NHL Colorado Avalanche. He also worked as senior vice president of business ventures for Baltimore Ravens from 1999 to 2007, and was vice president of marketing for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1982 to 1997.

“We have to tighten up the programming and we have to create an experience above and beyond game day,” Mannion said about his plans in running the Pistons. “I think we have to really make a strong move beyond straight up ticket and sponsorship sales.”

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