SBJ/October 10-16, 2011/Game Changers

Game Changers: Pam Gardner

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HOUSTON ASTROS
Gardner has developed the Astros’ business over the second half of their nearly 50-year history.
Pam Gardner
Houston Astros
President, Business Operations

The Houston Astros this year endured their worst season ever on the field, and a proposed sale to local businessman Jim Crane stands in some doubt. But over the past 23 years, Pam Gardner has helped guide the team into one of baseball’s steadiest, most solid performers.

Under Gardner’s leadership, the Astros have posted 10 seasons with attendance of more than 2.5 million fans, and the club boasts baseball’s second-largest ballpark naming-rights deal, generating an estimated $6.4 million per year for Minute Maid Park. A new regional sports network in partnership with Comcast and the Houston Rockets is forthcoming, as well. All of this has happened without a World Series title, a mega media market such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, or a history of top-tier payroll spending.

“We’ve worked very hard at building a brand here,” said Gardner, who has been asked to stay on with Crane if and when the deal closes. “There wasn’t much history here with the team when we arrived. We saw a big opportunity to start fresh and create a real affinity for baseball here.”

— Eric Fisher
  • First job: Clerk at a Ben Franklin dime store during high school.
  • Crowning professional achievement: Actually, two: negotiating the Houston regional sports network deal with the Houston Rockets and Comcast; and being part of the design and construction of Minute Maid Park.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Coming up short in the 2005 World Series.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Tough but fair; collaborative with high expectations for success.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Drayton McLane, owner of the Houston Astros, because he gave me the opportunity.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Work harder at life balance. It has been “all in” for me, which means there are personal sacrifices.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“Pam not only possesses the acumen and experience comparable to the top business executives in baseball, she also treats people — ranging from colleagues around the league [to] co-workers and fans — with respect and a very open and honest attitude. Pam is a thought leader, willing to express her opinions and highly respected around baseball.”

  • Brooks Boyer, Chicago White Sox senior vice president
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