SBJ/December 19-25, 2011/Year End

Newsmakers

Big Year In Titletown
Mark Murphy
Photo by: Getty Images

President, CEO
Green Bay Packers

Murphy’s year to remember began with a Super Bowl victory, followed by a key role in the NFL’s labor committee. Now, Murphy is overseeing a significant renovation of Lambeau Field and directed the fifth stock sale in the team’s history. Could another title be headed to Titletown in February?

Making A Move
John Swofford
Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler

ACC commissioner

Swofford pulled off the surprise of the year when he lured Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two flagship schools, out of the Big East. At a time when expansion was in season and the ACC might have appeared vulnerable to the SEC, Swofford went on the offensive and secured a 14-school roster that solidified the conference’s future and enabled it to go back to the negotiating table with ESPN.

The Negotiator
Jeffrey Kessler
Photo by: Gort Productions

Global litigation chairman
Dewey & LeBoeuf

Kessler was a controversial voice of the players in the NFL and NBA labor talks, serving as outside counsel. As a young lawyer, he pioneered the strategy of unions decertifying in order to gain access to antitrust laws as a weapon during labor disputes. That strategy largely played out again with this year’s NFL and NBA talks, and helped push negotiations toward a resolution.

Big Apple Hangover
Fred Wilpon
Photo by: Getty Images

Owner
New York Mets

Wilpon’s Bernie Madoff hangover continues. Wilpon won a legal victory reducing his potential liability from other Madoff victims, but a promising equity deal with hedge fund manager David Einhorn fell apart. Still strapped for cash, Wilpon at once faces declining attendance at Citi Field amid diminished on-field hopes, he’s had to decrease ticket prices for the third straight year, and just saw perhaps his best player sign with rival Miami.

On the Frontline
Billy Hunter
Photo by: Getty Images

Executive director
National Basketball Players Association

Hunter spent much of the year on the defensive as the NBPA battled with the league over a new labor deal. It was a tumultuous process for Hunter, who faced criticism from his own players. Fewer than half of the union’s 400 members voted on the deal, so the jury is still out on just how well the agreement will play out for NBPA members, and what effect it will have on Hunter’s future.

Stepping Into The Open
Rick Welts
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images

President and COO
Golden State Warriors

In May, respected industry veteran Rick Welts grabbed the national spotlight by becoming the first high-profile sports executive to announce he is gay. Later in the year, Welts made more news by leaving his job as president of the Phoenix Suns and accepting a similar post with the Golden State Warriors, saying he wanted to align his personal and professional life. He now looks to create strong business results in a market with great upside.

A Tiger Will Follow
Mark Steinberg
Tiger Woods reverses roles and joins the gallery as Steinberg attempts a putt.
Photo by: Photo by:US PRESSWIRE / ALLAN HENRY

Agent
Excel Sports Management

Has any agent with one client ever generated this much buzz? Tiger Woods’ representative acrimoniously parted ways with IMG and took his star golfer with him to Excel Sports Management, sending waves throughout the golf industry. He has since added Matt Kuchar, signed Rolex and Fuse Science to sponsor Tiger, and appears well on his way to building a strong golf business at Excel.

Owning up
Tony Stewart
Photo by: Getty Images

Owner, driver
Stewart-Haas Racing

Zero. That was how many wins Tony Stewart had going into NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Three months later, he had five. The fifth and final win came in dramatic fashion, with Stewart making 76 passes to clinch his third NASCAR championship. It made him the first owner-driver to win a title since Alan Kulwicki in 1992, and played a large role in ESPN’s 15 percent increase in ratings for the Chase.

On The Leaderboard
Chubby Chandler
Photo by: Getty Images

Agent
International Sports Management

The engaging and outspoken agent had a roller-coaster year that saw him develop perhaps the deepest roster of global stars and become the talk of golf. Through his ties on the European Tour, Chandler has built a roster that includes Darren Clarke, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood. But the usually chipper ISM leader was stung when Rory McIlroy dropped him in October.

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