SBJ/February 27-March 4, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Daniel Orum, president and CEO, San Jose Giants

In his post-technology phase, executive returns to sports

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

On a whim three decades ago, Daniel Orum approached the Oakland A’s for an internship. Now he is the president and chief executive officer of the Class A San Jose Giants. In between, he took a detour away from sports and found plenty of success in the technology and digital industry. Now, Orum says, “I’m pretty much burned out on the technology phase. It’s still a big part of my life and what I do, but I sort of lost my passion for it.” Orum plans to use his expertise in technology and his entrepreneurial spirit to create new excitement with the Giants, an already successful franchise that posted a team record in attendance last season.


Age: 57
New title: President and chief executive officer, San Jose Giants
Previous job: President, AFAR Media
First job: Driving tractor in the peach fields of the Central Valley in California
Education: Kinesiology, University of California, Davis (1977); master’s degree in kinesiology, Chico State (1980)
Resides: San Jose
Grew up: Berkeley, Calif., and various small towns in the Sacramento Valley
Executive most admired: Steve Jobs
Brand most admired: Apple
Favorite vacation spot: Glenbrook, Nev.
Last book read: “Pirate,” by Ted Bell
Last movie seen: “The Grey”
Favorite movie: “Gladiator”
Favorite band/musician: I’m pretty eclectic in my music taste. I like Ray Charles, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Lady Antebellum …


What is the biggest challenge in your new position?
The biggest challenge I think is growing. Figuring out how to move to the next level of success. That’s tied to a lot of things. We have a great stadium, but it has constraints. We need to figure out how to fit more people into our experience. We need to take our sponsorships to the next level. And working with the San Francisco Giants, we want to try and build and establish Giants baseball in a big way.

What is the biggest risk you've taken in your career?
Leaving America Online at a time when it grew from 1 million subscribers to 5 million to launch a joint venture, knowing that America Online was going to be a huge, giant, behemoth success and that I jumped into doing a joint venture that had some funding but no guarantees. So I think I kind of traded pure financial success for the passion of doing something great from a product standpoint. … No regrets. Look at AOL today. I’m a happy camper, working in baseball, having a great time.

What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
Working with the Oprah Winfrey team and relaunching her digital Web experience. It was an opportunity to work with one of the greats in the media business and her team and to play a critical role in sort of reinventing how they tackle digital media.

What is your biggest professional disappointment?
[Parts of] working for Oxygen. It was disappointing because the people who ran it were TV executives, and back then in the Internet it took months to conceive an idea and get it running. We couldn’t marry the two businesses very well and didn’t perform very well at launching new ideas.

What career advice do you have for people wanting into this industry?
Follow your passion. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll find a way to do it. Just have the willingness to jump in at the bottom. I think most of the people I know that got into sports did it that way. It’s a select group of people that get to do these jobs. You really have to be passionate about it to go after it.

What is one story you are continuing to watch in sports today?
Tim Tebow and the high-pitched tension between those who want him to succeed and those who want him to fail.

What is one element that you would like to change about the sports industry?
Eliminate the designated hitter in the American League.
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