SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Game Changers

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  • Game Changers: Women in Sports Business

    Women have been front and center for some of sports’ premier story lines in 2012.

    June marked the 40th anniversary of the landmark federal legislation known as Title IX. The year also brought us the London Olympics, with no shortage of headlines from American athletes succeeding at the Games.

    Women similarly have been newsmakers throughout the ranks of sports business this year. For these women, however, 2012 serves as simply another year of leadership, development and success. Such is the nature of sports business today, where women are regularly shaping the investments and programs that make teams, leagues and companies thrive.

    It’s these accomplishments, and those making them, that are at the heart of “Game Changers: Women in Sports Business.”

    This is the second year that SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily have produced Game Changers. Our goal, just as it was last year, is to tell the stories of women in the sports business — women with broad, deep, and varied responsibilities who contribute to the success of the industry in multiple ways. In so doing, we aim to highlight individuals whose stories perhaps have not been told. Some of the women you might know; others you might be reading about for the first time.

    To be sure, Game Changers is not the only occasion annually on which we focus on successful women in sports. Our Forty Under 40 and Champions programs both serve to tell stories of women having an impact on the industry. The influence of women in sports can be seen in our news stories on a regular basis, as well.

    The annual publication of Game Changers, however, we hope can serve as a point for discussion in the industry. In fact, that conversation has already started.

    In speaking with members of last year’s class of Game Changers recently, several executives shared messages they received at this time last year, upon our 2011 issue being published:

    “For all of us who were considered and ultimately selected, it was uplifting to become familiar with the vast number of women who are making a difference in the industry and in so many varied ways.” — Chris Plonsky, University of Texas

    “It was great to see some of the communication that started between the honorees, and I hope to continue to build stronger relationships as a result.” — Jill Gregory, NASCAR

    “In addition to other members of the 2011 class, I also received messages from many colleagues and business associates, some whom I hadn’t been in touch with for some time. Also, for the [survey] question relating to ‘What woman in sports business would you like to someday meet?’ I had answered Lesa France Kennedy. Her office reached out to me as well, which was a great surprise.” — Paula Yancey, PC Sports

    There were also messages such as this, aimed at the Class of 2012:

    “Remember, you were chosen for the way you think about our business. Continue to challenge existing ideas and find new ways to create revenue and opportunities for your business.” — Jeanie Buss, Los Angeles Lakers

    “You always want to be alert and nimble — that will keep you a step ahead. When you are in a leadership position, it’s important to help others and create leadership opportunities. There is always a positive payoff in that. Use your platform to motivate, inspire and elevate others.” — Ilana Kloss, World TeamTennis

    “I believe that receiving the recognition as a Game Changer in the industry carries a responsibility to be an active mentor to other women (and men) in the sports business, and [I] encourage this year’s class and those to follow in future classes to get involved. We all lead very busy lives, but it is vitally important that we help others in the industry.”— Michelle Berg, Team Epic

    For this publication, in addition to telling their stories, each Game Changer completed a survey aimed at getting to know more about her. Select answers appear with each story on the pages that follow. Each woman also was asked to provide a photograph that showed her holding, or pictured with, something of significance to her. Some women selected elements from their work environment. Others looked to family or other outside interests. Each selection was unique.

    Together, these women are bringing ideas, solutions and perspectives to the sports business that will have an effect for years to come. They are the 2012 Class of Game Changers: Women in Sports Business.

    ORGANIZATIONAL DRIVERS
    Renie Anderson, NFL
    Kim Brink, NASCAR
    Kerry Chandler, NBA
    Rana Dershowitz, U.S. Olympic Committee
    Katy Feeney, MLB
    Julie Grand, NHL
    Karen Leetzow, NASCAR
    Wendy Lewis, MLB
    Allison Melangton, Indiana Sports Corp.
    JoAnn Neale, MLS
    Tracy Perlman, NFL
    Laurel Richie, WNBA
    Carol Sawdye, NBA
    TEAM LEADERS
    Dawn Aponte, Miami Dolphins
    Jessica Gelman, Kraft Sports Group
    Tara Green, Center Operating Co.
    Mary Owen, Buffalo Bills
    Marian Rhodes, Arizona Diamondbacks
    Staci Slaughter, San Francisco Giants
    Jana Smoley, Reno-Tahoe Open
    Tyler Tumminia, The Goldklang Group
    Gillian Zucker, Auto Club Speedway

    MEDIA MOVERS
    April Carty-Sipp, NBC Sports Regional Networks
    Andrea Ching, CNN News Networks and Turner Digital Ad Sales 
    Marie Donoghue, ESPN    
    Christine Driessen, ESPN
    Jennifer Love, NFL Network
    Lydia Murphy-Stephans, Pac-12 Networks
    Rita Tuzon, Fox Networks Group

    BRAND BUILDERS
    Dana Allen, Competitor Group Inc.
    Jennifer Bazante, Visa
    Sharon Byers, Coca-Cola
    Beth Hirschhorn, MetLife
    Danielle Maged, StubHub
    Laurie Tucker, FedEx

    AGENCY STRATEGISTS
    Kelli Hilliard, IMG College 
    Micky Lawler, Octagon
    Heidi Pellerano, Wasserman Media Group 
    Mary Scott, Matter Inc. 
    Ann Wool, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment
            
    Game Changers, Class of 2011

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  • Game Changers: Allison Melangton

    Photo: ERIC BREECE
    Melangton holds a photo of the 32 students who
    delivered Super Bowl bid submission documents
    to NFL team owners in 2008. The students then
    worked with the host committee for four years on
    community projects.
    Allison
    Melangton
    Indiana Sports Corp.
    President

    After serving as NBC’s associate producer for gymnastics at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Allison Melangton returned to Indiana to assume her role as president and CEO of the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee. It was a position she accepted the day before flying to China.

    Melangton’s involvement with the sports culture of Indianapolis began in 1983, when she accepted the position of transportation coordinator for USA Gymnastics. She worked her way up to vice president before joining Indiana Sports Corp. in 1994. As senior vice president of events, Melangton was a key player in Indianapolis’ successful bid in 2008 for the 2012 Super Bowl. She then spent the next three years with the host committee developing programs that would both mobilize and achieve a lasting effect in the community.

    Melangton says her ability to “build and mold a team” is a quality she relies on when planning major events. She used that strength when faced with thousands of eager Super Bowl volunteers. Her desire to engage the community resulted in more than 12,000 hand-knit scarves and more than 30,000 welcome cards decorated by elementary students for volunteers and visitors.

    Melangton is one of only two women to serve as president of a Super Bowl host committee (along with Susan Sherer, in Detroit in 2006). Outside of Indianapolis, her ongoing involvement with NBC’s Olympic gymnastics coverage has earned her four Emmy Awards. After completing her final duties as president of the Super Bowl Host Committee on July 19, Melangton headed to London the next day to work her fifth Olympics as an associate producer for NBC. It’s a role she plans to continue at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

    She began her new position as president of Indiana Sports Corp. on Sept. 4 and hopes to see the Super Bowl return to Indianapolis in 2018.
    — Anna Hrushka
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: From Jack Swarbrick, 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee board of directors member and Notre Dame athletic director: Fifteen years ago, Jack told me to “learn to be comfortable in silence.” I have used that wisdom many, many times in negotiations and discussions by not filling the air with talking and letting silence stand till I had formulated the response in my mind.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Don’t rush a decision to meet a deadline. Ask for an extension to do the due-diligence homework required and critical-thinking evaluation to determine the right outcome.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Sheila Walker, former gymnastics coach and director of events at the U.S. Olympic Committee. Sheila was my gymnastics coach at Colorado State University and then my supervisor during an internship and temporary employment at the USOC when I was in my early 20s. She was an exceptional role model for a young woman and took the responsibility of mentoring young professionals very seriously.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Donna Lopiano. She recognized the untapped potential of women in all aspects of sports, on the field and off the field, and was a trailblazer in creating future opportunities for women like myself.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Catching up on personal reading. The last four years have been dedicated to Super Bowl-related reading. I just read [Gov.] Mitch Daniels’ “Keeping the Republic” and Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts.”

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Allison is a pleasure to work with. Her genuine, low-key approach belies her competitiveness, and she gets big things done in a big way. She mobilized this community in an unprecedented way, and the result was the best Super Bowl week in the history of the game.”

    • Pete Ward, Indianapolis Colts COO

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  • Game Changers: Andrea Ching

    Photo: BEN WINKLER
    Ching (shown here with son Miles, 2) and husband Ben
    Winkler were awaiting the birth of their second child, a girl,
    at press time.
    Andrea Ching
    CNN News Networks and Turner Digital Ad Sales
    SVP, Marketing and Promotions
    For Andrea Ching, success is measured by creating what she calls “meaningful screen experiences” for sponsors and advertisers. Exhibit A for her this past year was March Madness Live, the popular Turner-run site delivering live streaming of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. “We’ve found a nice formula that has the best of digital but is also complementary of TV while letting sponsors add value,” Ching said.

    Ching knows about creating the digital connection between consumers and sponsors. Prior to joining Turner in 2008, she spent 11 years at Ogilvy & Mather — including time at the agency’s Neo@Ogilvy digital arm — working for a roster of blue-chip clients. Now, she is earning high marks for creating additional marketing programs across all of Turner’s digital assets, including NBA.com.

    “Sponsors want deep integration that is also organic,” Ching said, “and it’s for us to tread that fine line between what is too much and what is meaningful.”   
    — John Lombardo
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Learn from your mistakes and then let go of them.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: David Levy. It is an education every day to see how he operates and leads.
    • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Serena Williams. She’s a fierce competitor and entrepreneur who goes her own way, successfully.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Also my biggest advantage: I don’t have a traditional background for sports business.
    • My vision of success is …: Getting paid to do what I love, while still balancing a good amount of time to spend with family and friends.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Reading: fiction and nonfiction. I read about 75 books a year. Reading helps me to recharge and bring new perspectives to life and work.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Andrea has overseen and developed some of the most creative and strategic sponsored executions in the industry, notably around the NBA and NCAA March Madness. As multiscreen marketing continues to emerge, her intelligence, collaborative approach and creative expertise will continue to be an invaluable asset to our team and Turner overall.”

    • Greg D'Alba, president, CNN News Networks and Turner Digital Ad Sales and Marketing

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  • Game Changers: Ann Wool

    Photo: TOM WOOL
    Wool, with son Marlon (left) and daughter Natasha, credits
    team-building for Ketchum’s success.
    Ann Wool
    Ketchum Sports & Entertainment
    Partner, Managing Director

    Ann Wool can’t quite choose her favorite moment from the London Olympics. Perhaps it was the satellite interviews that her Ketchum Sports & Entertainment crew organized for volleyball player Kerri Walsh, gymnast Jordyn Wieber and swimmer Rebecca Soni — all gold medal winners. Maybe it was the brand work Ketchum did with Kellogg’s and Oakley. Either way, Wool had a major presence at the Olympics, and it came just 11 years after she helped bring Ketchum into sports. Wool started Ketchum’s sports and entertainment wing in 2001 with zero employees and one client, Visa. Today, she has a staff of 35 and an undisclosed number of major clients, from the organizing committees for the forthcoming Sochi and Rio Olympics to IBM, Russell Athletic and Wendy’s.

    Wool credits the success to choosing the right team. “We spend a lot of time working and traveling together, so you get to know somebody extremely well,” Wool said. “We’ve got to like and respect each other, and be very passionate about what we’re doing.”
    — Fred Dreier
    • What is the best advice youve ever received?: Pick your battles carefully. Don’t waste time to win a point and lose sight of what’s important to make progress.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Trust your gut.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My dad. Throughout his career, he was highly regarded for having unshakable integrity, for treating people with respect, and for being successful by working damn hard and earning everything through perseverance and not trying to take shortcuts.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: We are always looking for people who thrive in a team environment and people who have great listening skills. It is fundamental to being a good counselor.
    • Outside of work and family, Im spending a lot of my time on …: My big resolve for 2012 is making sure I get a daily four-mile run in before the kids get up. It’s my time for thinking and planning my day.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “There is an immediate level of trust in Ann that you get from the minute you meet her. She has great stories to go along with each piece of counsel she provides. Not only is this comforting as a client, but it is inspiring as a woman in this business to have such a well-respected colleague in the industry.”

    • Jessica Weidensall, director of global public relations, World Triathlon Corp.

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  • Game Changers: April Carty-Sipp

    Photo: NANI ZI WANG
    Carty-Sipp’s interest in visual arts extends to photography.
    April
    Carty-Sipp
    NBC Sports Regional Networks
    SVP, Creative Services and Brand Integration

    In August, Comcast’s eight regional sports networks started rolling out an on-screen look that aligned them more closely with network parent NBC. That meant a new logo that incorporated the NBC peacock. It also meant new graphics and music designed to give the RSNs a distinct NBC feel. So far, the switch has been seamless, thanks to April Carty-Sipp, who oversaw the rebranding of the eight networks, plus one more that launched in Houston this month.

    The job was more complicated than simply adding a peacock to network logos, said Carty-Sipp, who last week announced she is leaving her post to take a job as vice president of programming for Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV. She had to combine the existing logos for Comcast and NBC to create one new logo for the RSNs. She also had to revamp everything from set design to graphics at each of the networks.

    “The biggest challenge was tying all of these logos into one and make it a cohesive brand,” she said.
    — John Ourand
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Jon Litner. He’s a great sounding board and has taught me how to think strategically.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Jllian Michaels. She’s a business entrepreneur as well as an excellent motivator and role model for healthy living.
    • My vision of success is …: Enhancing the viewing experience for our audience with informative and entertaining graphics and formats.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Taking photographs and cooking.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “April and her team have been a talented and creative force that has enabled us to create a meaningful connection with the fans we serve.”

    • Jon Litner, NBC Sports Group president

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  • Game Changers: Beth Hirschhorn

    Photo: JENNIFER ALTMAN / METLIFE
    For Hirschhorn, with Giants owner Steve Tisch (left) and
    Jets owner Woody Johnson, the MetLife Stadium represents
    more than signage.
    Beth Hirschhorn
    MetLife
    EVP, Global Brand, Marketing and Communications
    It has been only a year since the formal announcement of MetLife’s naming-rights deal with the New Jersey stadium that the NFL Giants and Jets call home. Super Bowl plans for 2014 at the venue are not close to being set. Still, Beth Hirschhorn, MetLife executive vice president of global brand, marketing and communications, has something to talk about — but she knows it will need more definition to have the impact MetLife wants, especially in an insurance category, where marketing spending has escalated to an astounding $3 billion a year. “We’re already the most-viewed brand of any NFL stadium sponsor, but it has to be about more than signage,” Hirschhorn said. Now the heavy lifting starts. “We’ve seen the kind of improvement we wanted as far as adding dynamism to a brand that was already considered strong and trusted,” she said. “Now it’s about creating an engaging experience for all the people who walk through the stadium [2 million a year] with complementary brand attributes. … It really is amazing how much this industry has woken up to marketing, but the challenge is to spend smart. Anyone can spend more.”
    — Terry Lefton
    • Crowning professional achievement: MetLife Stadium is certainly the most visible, but to me it is really the overall portfolio of reimagined properties and products for MetLife.
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: A problem well defined is 80 percent solved.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: If you’re doing work you believe in and you’re good at it, you will always succeed.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: A constant stream of decisions and executions with a destination in mind.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Russ Herz, my mentor and boss at JPMorgan Chase (now retired). He was hard on me, but I learned so much from him.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Most people not realizing that sports marketing is less about sports than it is about marketing.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Imagination.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Beth is very sharp and rational. She doesn’t find reasons not to do something. When we asked her about the stadium entitlement, she was willing to devote time and resources. Other people said no first before they even knew why. She was willing to think it through.”

    • Mark Lamping, Jacksonville Jaguars president, formerly MetLife Stadium president and CEO

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  • Game Changers: Carol Sawdye

    Photo: NBAE
    Sawdye played a crucial role in the development
    of the NBA’s revenue-sharing plan as part of its CBA.
    Carol Sawdye
    NBA
    EVP, Chief Financial Officer

    Playing a pivotal role in negotiating the NBA’s new collective-bargaining agreement proved to be quite an accomplishment for Carol Sawdye, who jumped into the labor issue almost from the moment she joined the NBA as chief financial officer in June 2010. It was a heady experience for the accounting and finance industry veteran who before joining the NBA worked for eight years at the Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom law firm. Prior to that, she spent 17 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

    “My job initially was to prepare the league and the teams for the worst, which was that we would be out for a full season,” Sawdye said. “There were incredibly sophisticated scenarios in the planning and modeling of new deals. Being part of the negotiations was an incredible experience.”

    Sawdye’s baptism by fire into the NBA also proved her mettle within the sports finance industry. “I jumped into the fire, but what a great way to get to know everyone,” Sawdye said. “It was a great accelerated way to bond with the owners.”

    Sawdye’s time at the NBA will be short, however. She’s leaving the league next week to return to PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she’ll be vice chair and chief financial officer and will be involved in the firm’s sports and entertainment practice, as well.

    — John Lombardo
    • Crowning professional achievement: Being a critical part of the NBA team that negotiated a highly successful financial arrangement as part of the new collective-bargaining agreement.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: Never having worked for an extended period of time overseas — yet.
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Listen and be prepared before you speak. It is hard to take back words once they have been spoken.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Take calculated risks. Life is too short to settle.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Whether the candidate is a relationship-builder. It is very important and difficult to teach.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Health and fitness. I love biking and running, especially when I travel.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Carol easily is one of the best minds in sports finance and she played a critical role in our most recent revenue-sharing discussions and the plan we enacted. She also played a vital role in our CBA negotiations, which required her to aggregate in a detailed way, never done before, the finances of all 30 teams and the league.”

    • Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner

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  • Game Changers: Christine Driessen

    Photo: COURTESY OF CHRISTINE DRIESSEN
    Driessen and her husband enjoy the atmosphere at the U.S.
    Open last month.
    Christine Driessen
    ESPN
    EVP, Chief Financial Officer

    Christine Driessen has influenced virtually every deal ESPN has cut during her career at the network, but her importance goes way beyond the company’s deep pockets. Driessen’s charge is to develop bids that will help ESPN get sports rights while also making sure that the company doesn’t bid too much as the competition to win the rights moves along. “I am there to give a realistic view to counter the rabid enthusiasm for all things sports,” Driessen said. And ESPN’s top executives use Driessen’s counsel. She goes into each negotiation with a bid that ESPN can’t go over, a calculation that’s become increasingly difficult to make as more rights get thrown into the mix. “We hate when we don’t get the rights,” she said.
    — John Ourand
    • Crowning professional achievement: Recognizing the potential in a startup 24-hour sports company and having the courage to take the job as controller at that company back in 1985.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My father, who as a sole proprietor understood the value of delivering a product/service that was needed at the highest level of quality, and in return demanding a commensurate value for that product/service.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Dealing with individuals who don’t realize the potential they have to positively influence today’s youth through sports.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: I get to dabble a little in gardening, because I love the outdoors, but my children and husband are my priority along with my job at this point in my life.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Christine’s experience, knowledge and judgment are indispensable to ESPN. She plays a key role in any big decision we make, here in the U.S. or on a global scale.”

    • John Skipper, ESPN president

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  • Game Changers: Dana Allen

    Photos: LESTER CACHO; SCOTT DRAPER (inset)
    Allen’s work can quite literally include the trenches.
    Dana Allen
    Competitor Group Inc.
    SVP, Business Development

    Marathons and triathlons require coordination among government agencies, local businesses and national sponsors. Dana Allen is the glue that holds these parties together for the Competitor Group’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon and TriRock Triathlon events. Allen, who has 15 years of experience in event management, first negotiates deals with the host cities, explaining to politicians the economic impact created by major endurance events. She then helps the events evolve from the boardroom to the starting line. “Cities and tourism offices are feeling the squeeze from the economy,” Allen said. “I’m having to do a good job explaining what real ROI is and that having a major international event can be a game-changing event.”

    A collegiate track runner, Allen started her career with IMG, selling sponsorships for running races and motorsports events. She moved on to play a major part in bringing the 2003 UCI Road World Championships to Hamilton, Ontario, before later transitioning to oversee the collection of events known as the Canada Running Series. Allen said sports event management is a great arena for women hoping to dive into sports business. “Women tend to be strong in project-management positions,” Allen said. “There are a lot of women with tourism, hospitality and project-management backgrounds in running.”
    — Fred Dreier
    • Crowning professional achievement: The successful execution of the 2003 road world cycling championships.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: Not listening to my gut and taking a job where my passions weren’t being fueled.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Therese Quigley, former athletic director at McMaster University (Canada) for encouraging me to pursue my passion for sports business.
    • Woman in sports business youd most like to meet: Stacey Allaster, CEO of the WTA (and fellow Canadian).
    • My vision of success is …: Being in a job that you choose and love.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Running and enjoying good wine.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Dana listens to all the partners and hears everybody’s needs and then expresses herself honestly. There are some things that can be done, and others that can’t, and she’s up front and honest with everybody.”

    • Kevin Smith, director, St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, who works with Allen on the local Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon event

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  • Game Changers: Danielle Maged

    Photo: GERALDIN ABDOO PHOTOGRAPHY
    Maged’s favorite team is the New York Jets, and she is a
    self-professed “frustrated lifelong Knicks fan.”
    Danielle Maged
    StubHub
    Global Head, Partnerships and Business Development
    Danielle Maged has seen StubHub evolve from a renegade brand to the preferred choice of ticket buyers on the secondary market. Now the company’s global head of partnerships and business development, Maged’s ties to the business date to 2002, when she worked for the company as a consultant after stints with Madison Square Garden, ESPN International and the NBA. She joined StubHub full time in 2006. One year later, she played a lead role in StubHub signing a landmark five-year deal with MLB Advanced Media to be Major League Baseball’s exclusive secondary ticketing provider.

    Under Maged’s leadership, StubHub now has more than 70 secondary ticketing deals with teams and colleges in the U.S. and overseas. Those deals are separate from the business individuals bring to the company by putting their tickets up for resale on StubHub.com. When the company launched in 2000, an average of four tickets was purchased each day. This year, the company is on pace to sell one ticket every second. “We took a dialogue that has previously existed between a team or a venue and a season-ticket holder and ticket buyer and inserted ourselves squarely in the middle of this,” Maged said. “We were considered a very disruptive link in the chain.”
    — Don Muret
    • Biggest professional disappointment: That the New York Knicks made their Cinderella run to the NBA Finals in 1999 when I was working at Madison Square Garden but couldn’t pull off victory. I am a frustrated lifelong Knicks fan.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: A fulfilling career is not necessarily linear. Always be open-minded about opportunities, take chances early in your career, and be ready to take the less-traveled path.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Bea Perez from Coca-Cola. I continue to be utterly impressed with her career, risk-taking and apparent balance.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: The natural tension between how things were done before and the impact of a disruptive link to an existing value chain.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “She impressed me from day one with her strong work ethic, intelligence and ability to always make work fun; a wicked sense of humor. She is a technological leader among sports executives.”

    • Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner

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  • Game Changers: Dawn Aponte

    Photo: MIAMI DOLPHINS
    Aponte, in the Dolphins’ draft room, is one of few women in the football side of the business.
    Dawn Aponte
    Miami Dolphins
    EVP, Football Administration

    Dawn Aponte is one of the few women on the football side of the business in the NFL, handling all player transactions at the Miami Dolphins. Nevertheless, she says her largely unique position has been a non-issue as she’s worked her way up through the ranks in the sport. “I have been afforded tremendous opportunities,” she said. “There really aren’t many females who work solely on the football side. Katie Blackburn of the Bengals comes to mind.”

    Ironically, Aponte got her start when she filled in for a family friend on maternity leave from the New York Jets in 1991. She went back to college at the University of Delaware that fall, but the Jets asked her back, and she ultimately won a full-time job there. She departed in 2006, spent three years at the NFL as vice president of labor finance, and after a brief stop at the Cleveland Browns, she landed at the Dolphins in 2010. There, she handles all player contracts and CBA matters and, she said, interacts with just about every department in the league.

    — Daniel Kaplan

    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: From my mother: “Life isn’t always fair; it’s what you make of it.”
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Concern yourself with the things that you can control.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: It starts with a clear vision that is carried out through effective communication and accountability.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Bill Parcells, for providing me with opportunities and support in an area of the industry (football operations) that I feel not many people would have done.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: The transient nature.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Integrity.
    • My vision of success is …: Ever-evolving.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “With her unique background working at both the team and league level, Dawn has been an invaluable resource to everyone in the Dolphins organization. … Dawn has done a great job managing the strategic planning for our salary cap, player negotiations and football operations budgets. Working closely with [general manager] Jeff Ireland and [head coach] Joe Philbin, she has been instrumental in building a strong foundation for the Miami Dolphins.”

    • Stephen Ross, Miami Dolphins owner

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  • Game Changers: Gillian Zucker

    Photo: AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY
    Zucker leads the charge at Auto Club Speedway’s
    Lefty’s Family Fun Day & 5K.
    Gillian Zucker
    Auto Club Speedway
    President

    Gillian Zucker grew up wanting to be a sports reporter. As a student at Hamilton College in New York, she spent a day shadowing a reporter from The (Utica) Observer-Dispatch as he covered a minor league hockey game. Though she went to the game to observe the reporter, she wound up more fascinated by the minor league team’s top marketer, who was throwing Frisbees into the stands. The next day, she called the team and asked for a job. She went on to work in minor league baseball for seven years before landing in NASCAR, to which she brought an enthusiasm for engaging crowds and growing fan bases.

    In her current role as the president of Auto Club Speedway, she has developed a children’s reading program that has helped the California track over the past seven years double the number of families who bring their kids to races. She also began hosting an annual Hispanic festival and marketing to the local Hispanic community. Those efforts have helped increase the percentage of Hispanic spectators for races from 8 percent to 40 percent of the total crowd.

    — Tripp Mickle
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: My father once told me, “Don’t take to heart the negative things people say about you. Most of the nice things they say aren’t really true, either.”
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Put people first, and the projects will take care of themselves.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Bill France Jr. He was tough, demanding and brilliant.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: The right attitude. Aptitude can be taught.
    • My vision of success is …: Creating lasting memories for fans at our facility that they could not have anywhere else.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Gillian was a driving force in IndyCar’s return to Southern California this year. In fact, if not for her relentless pursuit of a race, I don’t think we would have had our finale there. She’s dedicated to the success of Auto Club Speedway, and her passion is contagious. She’s one of the best promoters in motorsports.”

    • Randy Bernard, IndyCar Series CEO

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  • Game Changers: Heidi Pellerano

    Photo: PEDRO BONILLA
    Pellerano worked on pro-jects involving the B-1 bomber
    before moving to sports.
    Heidi Pellerano
    Wasserman Media Group
    SVP, Multicultural Marketing
    Heidi Pellerano took an untraditional route to a career in sports business, starting out 18 years ago as a consultant at Anser, where she worked on projects involving the U.S. Air Force’s B-1 bomber. When she sought to change careers, she was met with resistance. “Few people were willing to take a chance on me because they only saw me as an engineer trying to work in sports,” said Pellerano, whose challenging experience inspires her to mentor young professionals.

    Ultimately, she found her way in. She worked as coordinator of player programs for the WNBA and later moved on to consulting firm OnSport. She was there when the firm was acquired by Wasserman Media Group in 2007. Today, with Wasserman, she drives business development efforts in the multicultural marketing space and leads Wasserman’s Miami office, which opened in March. “The new office expands our services to our clients, diversifies our team and opens new lines of business,” Pellerano said.

    A native of Puerto Rico, Pellerano is also managing Wasserman’s expansion efforts into Latin America, focusing on market analysis and strategy development.
    — Christopher Botta
    • What is the best advice youve ever received?: My grandfather and my mom reminded me that, “To those who much is given, much is expected.”
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Having great vision, seamlessly moving from 10,000 feet to 100 feet to see every angle and perspective.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Sheila Johnson. As a minority and a woman, I would love to learn how she has done it all.
    • My vision of success is …: Seeing my team continue to move up in the sports industry and being sought after for being insightful, strategic and great leaders.
    • Outside of work and family, Im spending a lot of my time on …: My couch. I love sports, movies (especially a good thriller), and I highly recommend “Castle” and “The Big Bang Theory.” And yes, I still miss “Lost.”

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “When I worked with her on the Nokia account, I saw Heidi had a unique ability to walk into a meeting, create the strategy, and give all the credit to her team. She is a rare individual in the sports and entertainment business. Everybody loves her.”

    • Tracy Hartman, former senior vice president of global partnerships, AEG

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  • Game Changers: Jana Smoley

    NEIL LOCKHART
    Smoley, with sons Nick, 6 (left), and Jake, 7, has
    succeeded in getting word out about the
    Reno-Tahoe area.
    Jana Smoley
    Reno-Tahoe Open
    Executive Director
    When Jana Smoley was asked three years ago to run a PGA Tour event in Reno, Nev., she wasn’t exactly sure why she was the lead candidate. “I had to stop and ask, ‘What exactly do I bring to the table?’” she said. “But the more I thought about it, the more I understood what a great way this is for us to tell the rest of the world about Reno-Tahoe.” Three years into the job as tournament director for the Reno-Tahoe Open — she’s the only female tournament director on tour — Smoley has convinced herself what everyone else apparently knew: that hiring her was a good idea. Under her leadership, the tournament has created new partnerships, such as the one with Loudmouth golf apparel, and it has kept its prize money strong despite the absence of a title sponsor. Instead, the tournament is supported by a slew of local sponsors who share Smoley’s view that the event is a great way to tell the rest of the world about Reno-Tahoe.

    “What it’s really about is having someone who is passionate about this area, who understands what makes this area so cool, and telling the world about it,” Smoley said. “The tournament really is an amazing asset for a community that used to be known for ‘Reno 911.’”    

    — Michael Smith
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: From my dad: He always used to say, “Separate, then tackle them one at a time” — focus on separating the smaller concerns within the big picture and attack these more manageable-sized issues one by one.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: The economy.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Being solution-oriented. Finding someone who can identify the issue, accept a challenge for what it is, dissect it, and then find a good solution is invaluable to me. Hard work matters.
    • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Communicative, cooperative and collaborative.
    • My vision of success is …: Growing, winning, being the best you can be, and having some good laughs along the way.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “When we were seeking a new executive director for the Reno-Tahoe Open three years ago, the PGA Tour knew we needed a person with strong leadership qualities who would bring a tremendous amount of energy to the event. We also sought a person with a creative mind, strong sales and marketing background, and the passion to turn the Reno-Tahoe Open into an event the community is very proud of. In Jana Smoley, we found just that person.”

    • Andy Pazder, PGA Tour executive vice president and chief of operations

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  • Game Changers: Jennifer Bazante

    Photo: STEVE MALLER PHOTOGRAPHY
    Bazante helped Visa reach new heights for the London
    Olympics.
    Jennifer Bazante
    Visa
    Head of Global Brand Marketing
    When Visa’s marketing team reviewed its “Go World” creative ahead of the 2012 Olympics, Jennifer Bazante, the company’s head of global brand marketing, felt like something was missing. The campaign didn’t feel complete.

    The longtime Visa executive, who began her career with Colgate-Palmolive in South America, pushed her marketing team and the company’s agencies to develop another TV spot. The push resulted in Visa’s agency in Brazil, BBDO, developing the idea for an ad that showed Olympian David Boudia diving from the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. It became one of the most recognizable spots in Visa’s 2012 “Go World” campaign, and it was an example of the marketing instincts that put Bazante at the head of the company’s most extensive global Olympic marketing effort to date.

    “We never would have had that spot without Jennifer being a driving force in making it a reality,” said Matt Kauffman, Visa’s head of Olympic and NFL management. “She was able to mobilize the teams and agencies and say, ‘We have a great campaign, but there’s something missing here.’”  
    — Tripp Mickle
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Listen a lot. Know that you never stop learning and embrace this. Be aware you can always improve on what you have done, and look for ways to do it better. Build a strong network of people you trust and you can bounce ideas off of and cultivate those relationships.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Knowing how to provide guidance to prioritize and focus on the things that are the most important. Everything else is a distraction.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: A great attitude. A lot of hiring has to do with chemistry, and it is very important that there is a connection between the person and the environment.
    • Outside of work and family, I'm spending a lot of my time on …: Road cycling. I rode my first metric century a week before the 2012 Olympics and felt like an Olympian in my own way.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “She has exceptional interpersonal skills and she builds really strong relationships with her team and her external partners. It’s very genuine, and if you take that approach, you have so much more success with what you’re building; people want to work with you and want to work for you. That’s a big reason she’s so successful.”

    • Jeremy Lewis, industry director, Facebook

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  • Game Changers: Jennifer Love

    Photo: SAL COCCO / NFLN PRODUCTION MANAGER
    Love, responsible for the creative look and feel of NFL
    Network sets, joins “GameDay Morning” at the Super Bowl
    in Indianapolis.
    Jennifer Love
    NFL Network
    VP, Coordinating Director

    Jennifer Love was one of the first half-dozen people hired to launch NFL Network in the summer of 2003, working as a coordinating director. Today, she oversees set design, works with the graphics department, and handles almost anything that touches the creative look and feel of the network’s shows.

    Sports TV production and directing can be a man’s world, but Love doesn’t see it that way. “The majority of people are men, and I can be in a meeting with 20 men and I am the only woman,” Love said, “but I don’t think about it.

    “The people I know don’t temper their language,” she added, laughing.
    Before the NFL, Love worked at Fox Sports on football, hockey and baseball, working with industry titans David Hill and Ed Goren. But it took the jump to the NFL to get her career fully launched. “I’ve never looked back,” she said of her time at the league’s network.
    — Dan Kaplan
    • Crowning professional achievement: Being a key participant in the launching of two sports networks: Fox Sports and NFL Network.
    • What is the best advice youve ever received?: “Don’t make career decisions based on the paycheck.” Bob Levy (of Fox Sports), May 2003.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Never lose sight of being a role model to the young women with whom I work — and always wear sunscreen.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Taking ownership of the success or failure of a project, but also understanding that the ultimate success is a result of teamwork.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Two people. First, David Hill in 1994, because he took a chance in hiring a young woman with a background in entertainment to help launch Fox Sports. And second, Steve Bornstein in 2003, because he took a chance hiring a former associate director to help launch NFL Network as their first and only director.
    • Woman in sports business youd most like to meet: Pat Summitt. Although she had an amazing and successful career coaching women’s college basketball, it’s her current battle with Alzheimer’s that will define her legacy and touches me in a very personal way.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Jen was one of our earliest and best hires. … She has had a profound effect on the look, feel, and ultimately the growth and success of the NFL Network. Jen is a worthy role model for all women and men looking to make an impact in the sports media world."

    • Steve Bornstein, NFL Network president and CEO

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  • Game Changers: Jessica Gelman

    Photo: DAVID SILVERMAN
    Gelman with the Patriots’ AFC Championship ring,
    her Ivy League title ring, her wedding ring and the net
    from her record-setting Harvard basketball team.
    Jessica Gelman
    Kraft Sports Group
    VP, Customer Marketing and Strategy

    When Jessica Gelman was at Harvard B-school in 2001, her business case assignment paired her with the New England Patriots, who were looking for ways to make the best use of their new stadium beyond game days. After she and her group presented recommendations to Patriots management, the team offered her a job working on the project, which evolved into what is now Patriot Place, a 1.3 million-square-foot dining, shopping and entertainment complex. “I feel very fortunate that the Krafts recognized the value [of analytics] and decided to not only hire me, but create a position for me,” said Gelman, now a vice president across all Kraft Sports Group properties. “They’ve charged me with pushing analytics and thinking about our business that way. One of the biggest challenges I saw when entering the sports industry is finding the right opportunity to bring a different approach. I have that here.”

    Gelman, who led Harvard to two Ivy League basketball championships as a point guard, also has had a hand in the growing acceptance of analytics across sports as co-chair of the well-received MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

    — Bill King
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: “Act as if.” No matter what you feel — tired, upset, disappointed — act as if you are at your best. From Kathy Delaney-Smith, my college basketball coach.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Don’t settle, follow your passion — and invest in Google.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Billie Jean King. She has had as big an influence on society (founding the Women’s Sports Foundation) as she has in business (founding a league and association).
    • My vision of success is …: To have impact, be respected by those closest to me, and fully embrace life’s experiences.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: The next MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and co-chairing the Harvard Basketball Friends Group.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Jessica is an extremely well-rounded professional. She excels at analytics and then translating the results of her analysis into operationals. She is an invaluable member of our team.”

    • Jonathan Kraft, New England Patriots president

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  • Game Changers: JoAnn Neale

    Photo: GREG BARTRAM / MLS
    “Of all our policies, I believe our diversity programs
    have had the most impact.”
    JoAnn Neale
    MLS
    EVP, Human Resources, Administration and Social Responsibility

    JoAnn Neale has been with MLS since 1998, when she joined the league as general counsel. While she has a wide range of actions and involvements to her credit, it’s her efforts in diversity and with MLS W.O.R.K.S., the league’s social responsibility platform she created in 2007, that make her most proud. “Of all our policies, I believe our diversity programs have had the most impact,” Neale said. “We are committed to diversity on and off the field. Our programs address an important issue in this country.”

    Neale leads the league’s administration department and manages the strategic and legal oversight of MLS’s human resources staff. As for MLS W.O.R.K.S. — which focuses on charitable giving, health and wellness, education, and environmental issues — Neale has developed the program into one of sports’ most effective community outreach initiatives.

    The combined efforts have enabled Neale to have an effect both inside and outside the league office.

    “JoAnn is smart, talented and possesses a strategic mindset that influences many key issues within our organization,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “I deeply value her counsel and appreciate her passion and dedication to our company.”

    — Christopher Botta
    • Crowning professional achievement: Creating the strategic plan for the formation of MLS W.O.R.K.S.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: The United States not being chosen to host World Cup 2022.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: That it is equally important to like and respect the people with whom you work as it is to enjoy what you do.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Don Garber. He has been a tremendous mentor and supporter of work-life balance.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Billie Jean King, for everything she accomplished on the court as well as for gender equality.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Not being able to work with all of the worthy social causes that reach out to us for support.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “JoAnn is a key member of MLS’s excellent leadership team that has so successfully stewarded the incredible growth of the league. She and her group provide us at the club level with terrific support. Her imprimatur on MLS W.O.R.K.S. has made it one of the most impactful community outreach initiatives in sports.”

    • Mike Golub, Portland Timbers COO

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  • Game Changers: Julie Grand

    Photo: DAVID DOW / NHL IMAGES
    Grand is proud of the league’s work in player safety,
    especially elements around the rink.
    Julie Grand
    NHL
    SVP, Deputy General Counsel

    Julie Grand’s most pressing concern this year has been collective bargaining with the NHL Players’ Association, but her efforts over 13 years at the league are on display at every NHL game. An expert in the fields of player health and safety, Grand has regulated league medical standards and requirements while acting as a watchdog for the NHL in the area of sport-related concussions. She serves on the NHL/NHLPA Concussion Working Group, which was recognized by the National Academy of Neuropsychology for its accomplishments in concussion research and management.

    Grand is responsible for the implementation and standardization of netting in arenas, the flexibility in the glass and boards around the rink, and the installation of curved glass near teams’ bench areas, all of which have lessened player and fan injuries. She also directed the implementation of a leaguewide electronic medical record system in 2006-07, making the NHL the first major sports league to do so.

    Grand oversees litigation involving the league, but she sees her work in player and fan safety as a major source of pride.

    “Providing the safest environment possible is something we take very seriously,” Grand said. “Knowing you are able to make a difference in that area can be extremely gratifying.”

    — Christopher Botta
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Be well-prepared, and you will feel confident going into any situation.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Juggling how I plan to spend each day, with the issues that arise for our clubs and within the league on a daily basis.
    • My vision of success is …: To earn and maintain the trust, confidence and support of those with whom I work, and for whom I work, based on my work product.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Attention to detail.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Exercising to reduce stress, keep my mind sharp and my body healthy.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “From the perspective of an outside lawyer, Julie is a delight to work with. She is indefatigable and she cares about her job and her clients. I once worked with her on a case in St. Louis, around the time Julie was getting married. She was so dedicated to her work that she missed the bridal fittings. We had to tell her to fly home and start preparing for her own wedding.”

    • Shepard Goldfein, partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

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  • Game Changers: Karen Leetzow

    Photo: MIKE MEADOWS
    Leetzow and eldest daughter Kelsey with adopted
    pets, Beamer and Bentley.
    Karen Leetzow
    NASCAR
    VP, Deputy General Counsel

    NASCAR likes to give Karen Leetzow the difficult work. Since joining the sanctioning body as its first trademark lawyer in 1999, Leetzow has worked on matters ranging from a 2002 antitrust lawsuit brought by a shareholder of Speedway Motorsports Inc. to driver Jeremy Mayfield’s positive drug test to the organization’s recent acquisition of the American Le Mans Series. She was named NASCAR’s deputy general counsel in 2008 in large part because she’s adept at learning areas of the law in which she has no formal training or experience and she’s able to provide expert legal counsel on matters big and small.

    Leetzow loves solving problems, and her passion for doing so has been a major reason she made the leap from a specialized, trademark attorney to NASCAR’s top legal adviser. “Reinventing myself in that way and being what the company needs, and the company being happy with the work I did — that feels good,” Leetzow said.

    — Tripp Mickle

    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Bill France Jr. He treated me like I deserved to be at the table before I deserved to be there. Having an iconic figure see that in you is empowering.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Mary Carillo. She’s principled and often critical of the sports she covers, but always fair.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: All the short men who want to hear that they are actually tall.
    • My vision of success is …: The love of my friends and family.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Visiting as many of the UNESCO World Heritage sites as I can.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “She’s been involved in just about every contract that we’ve got. She’s been involved in numerous litigations we’ve been involved in. For some reason, she seems to attract the difficult assignments. She does a great job, and when you do good work, people keep coming back to you.”

    • Jim France, NASCAR vice chairman

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  • Game Changers: Katy Feeney

    Photo: JESSICA FOSTER / MLB PHOTOS
    Feeney holds a charm bracelet made from her
    grandmother’s passes to the Polo Grounds from
    1919 through 1930.
    Katy Feeney
    MLB
    SVP, Scheduling and Club Relations

    Katy Feeney quite possibly has the most thankless job at Major League Baseball.

    In the bull’s-eye of team and fan criticism seemingly as much as Commissioner Bud Selig, Feeney runs point on creating the league’s master schedule. That means annually balancing a seemingly impossible set of varied and often-conflicting demands from MLB, the MLB Players Association, individual teams, local jurisdictions and venue operators. “If I can make everyone unhappy, I’ve done my job,” Feeney said half-jokingly.

    Feeney is the daughter of the late Chub Feeney, former president of the National League and a longtime executive of the New York and then San Francisco Giants. Despite her upbringing within baseball, she did not envision a career in the sport, instead planning to become a teacher. A temporary assignment as a secretary in the NL public relations office in 1977 has ultimately grown into a role as one of the most experienced voices in the game. “I sort of accidentally fell into [baseball],” she said. “The idea was to go for a year. Thirty-five years later, it’s been a long year, as I often say. But it’s been amazing to have seen all the changes that have happened.”

    — Eric Fisher
    • Crowning professional achievement: Winning the Fishel Award (in 1994, for public relations excellence), which was voted by my peers.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My father, since he hired me, giving me a chance in a profession I never expected and for which I was not trained, and gave me my first promotion, adding responsibilities and ensuring I stayed longer than the original year I promised.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Billie Jean King. She made her voice heard.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Figuring out a balance between the business side and the baseball side of the game.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Theater, a bit of volunteering, learning Spanish and tap dancing.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “There is no one in our game who knows how to meet the vast challenges and intricacies of our schedule — from spring training, through 2,430 regular-season games, through the World Series — better than Katy does. I rely on her expertise and her experience in a number of areas, because she always keeps the best interests of our clubs in mind. Katy has served the National League and Major League Baseball with excellence for decades, and she is truly a pioneer for all women who aspire to executive careers in sports.”

    • Bud Selig, MLB commissioner

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  • Game Changers: Kelli Hilliard

    Photo: ZOOMWORKS
    Hilliard, who directs IMG College’s award-winning training,
    is a devoted Dawgs fan.
    Kelli Hilliard
    IMG College
    SVP, Events, Entertainment and Development

    IMG College has been formed over the past five years through the merger of three different companies. That’s a lot of culture shock for any business and its employees. As IMG College President Ben Sutton brought these groups together, he turned to one person specifically to smooth out the rough edges: Kelli Hilliard. Sutton worked with Hilliard for more than 15 years at ISP Sports, where Hilliard carried the unique title of chief people officer. Now, working at IMG College as a senior vice president, she has only added to those responsibilities. Not only does she lead the company’s award-winning training, but she’s also taking on an evolving events and entertainment division that runs client-facing hospitality.

    “Kelli has been an extraordinary proponent of our professional development that literally touches every IMG College employee,” said Roger VanDerSnick, the company’s chief marketing and sales officer.

    IMG College this year has hired 188 employees and will bring on close to 150 more next year. In the first year of working at IMG College, each employee receives 340 hours of training from the program Hilliard oversees. These boot camps and sales combines are the kind of executive coaching that has helped the University of Georgia fanatic win several awards from Training magazine.
    — Michael Smith
    • What is the best advice youve ever received?: Don’t waste time on what could have been.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Surround yourself with good, honest people and never forget to keep family, faith and friends close to your heart.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Not having unlimited access to premium tickets, sideline passes and parking passes for our corporate clients.
    • Outside of work and family, Im spending a lot of my time on …: Running, reading, serving my community and church family, and a newfound interest in cooking.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “She is one of the most creative people I’ve ever been around. She’s got an idea a minute.”

    • Ben Sutton, president, IMG College

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  • Game Changers: Kerry Chandler

    Photo: NBAE
    Chandler enjoys Take Our Kids to Work Day with NBA
    employees’ children.

    Kerry Chandler
    NBA
    EVP, Human Resources

    With multiple international offices and some 250 employees located overseas, Kerry Chandler’s job as NBA executive vice president of human resources is increasingly global. “We are doing everything we can to support the NBA with respect to the huge global growth,” Chandler said.

    Overseeing that growing global space as part of a job managing NBA human resources that total nearly 1,000 league employees is just one more challenge met by Chandler, who came to the NBA in 2007 from The Walt Disney Co. Over the past year, she has had to deal with human resources issues related to the lockout that delayed the start of last season. Among those issues: Some 400 jobs across the NBA’s 30 teams and its league office were cut over the course of the lockout. Chandler this year will be working to implement new management-level programs designed to further integrate overseas employees into the NBA’s brand. “It is a deep dive to help them understand our brand more,” Chandler said.

    — John Lombardo
    • Crowning professional achievement: Moving to Hong Kong in 2006 to be the head of human resources for Hong Kong Disneyland.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: Very early in my career, I witnessed a senior executive tell a blatant lie. Prior to that, I never envisioned that as a possibility.
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Don’t take your job for granted. Never forget: No matter how good you are, the company can go on without you.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Have a point of view and express it, but know when to hold and know when to fold. Be authentic, have a strong backbone, and communicate in straight talk — with kindness.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: It’s a three-headed person: David Stern, for demonstrating the real meaning of diversity by appreciating authenticity in leadership and allowing me to be me; George Bodenheimer, for his career coaching, incredible leadership and support of me; and John Rose, for bringing me into the industry by recommending me as his replacement as head of human resources for ESPN.
    • My vision of success is …: Working hard and playing hard. The former allows the latter, and without the latter, why bother with the former?
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: The beach.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Kerry is a fantastic coach and champion of our employees. She has brought to us an enormous amount of innovation and new ideas for our programs. She is a straight-talker who through her actions and policies has demonstrated unparalleled commitment to the diversity and development of our employees.”

    • Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner

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  • Game Changers: Kim Brink

    Photo: COURTESY OF KIM BRINK
    Away from her marketing duties, Brink works
    on The Proper Possible Movement, her nonprofit
    startup company.
    Kim Brink
    NASCAR
    Managing Director, Brand,
    Consumer and Series Marketing

    Kim Brink has a track record of transforming brands.

    When General Motors tapped her to become director of advertising and promotions at Cadillac in the 1990s, the brand was struggling with an aging consumer base and plummeting sales. She was charged with developing a campaign that appealed to young consumers but didn’t estrange loyal customers.

    In 2002, Cadillac unveiled “Break Through,” a series of spots around its XLR, CTS and Escalade lines that featured Led Zeppelin’s frenetic “Rock and Roll.” The campaign is credited with boosting Cadillac sales 16 percent that year and reducing the average age of CTS buyers from 65 to 55 by 2005.

    Nearly a decade later, Brink is trying to achieve a similar feat at NASCAR. The sanctioning body last year hired her as managing director of brand, consumer and series marketing in hopes she could help it develop new marketing initiatives that appealed to young and multicultural consumers but didn’t estrange NASCAR’s aging and loyal fan base.

    “It’s like trying to thread a needle,” Brink said, “but that’s what I like to do.”

    —Tripp Mickle
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Don’t think you can control your future. You can’t imagine what is around the corner.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps. He embodies the values I admire in effective leaders.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Virginia McCaskey, owner of the Chicago Bears, because I think at age 89 she would have tremendous stories to tell, wonderful perspective and probably some real good advice on how to succeed in the sports business.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: A lack of patience with the status quo and a curious mind.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “In a way, marketing is like a sport. You’ve got to understand the competitive landscape, your assets, your team, your competition. The best marketers have great situational awareness of the competitive landscape and [are] able to deploy their assets in the best light. Kim is very, very skilled at that. At GM, she could work with the agencies, the dealers, the team at Cadillac and get alignment behind the marketing activities. She’s really going to plus-up the entire effort in terms of visibility and connecting with the fan base at NASCAR.”

    • Mark LaNeve, COO, Global Team Ford, WPP Group

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  • Game Changers: Laurel Richie

    Photos: SHANA WITTENWYLER; NBAE (INSET)
    Richie values her relationship with WNBA players.
    She presented Tamika Catchings (above) with the MVP
    trophy last year.
    Laurel Richie
    WNBA
    President

    Laurel Richie came to the WNBA in May 2011 with no background in professional sports, but the marketing industry veteran has proved to be a quick study. Since taking over the top spot at the WNBA, Richie has steered the league to several key benchmarks. Among those is its groundbreaking marquee sponsorship with Boost Mobile, a multiyear agreement that notably put the company’s logo on WNBA jerseys but also includes a raft of other activation.

    “This year is the first of Boost Mobile’s full activation, and I couldn’t be happier,” Richie said. “People are seeing the deepening of the partnership.”

    Now, Richie is setting her sights on growing the WNBA’s fan base, particularly in the wake of a 2012 season that saw average attendance dip to its lowest point since the league began in 1997. Under Richie’s leadership, the league this year promoted the success of the WNBA-dominated, gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team. The WNBA also helped celebrate (and activated around) this summer’s 40th anniversary of the federal Title IX legislation.

    “The focus is now about getting more people engaged and attracting more people to experience the league,” Richie said. “There is opportunity in the outreach.”

    — John Lombardo
    • Biggest professional disappointment: That my mom passed away before I joined the WNBA.
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Mahatma Gandhi: You must be the change you want to see in the world.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Creating an environment where good things can happen — where people feel inspired to do their very best work.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Learning the ins and outs of a new industry.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Traveling the globe in search of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Laurel has brought to the WNBA years of experience in corporate branding and management, and her commitment to empowering women has been unwavering during her tenure at the WNBA. She is extraordinarily passionate about growing the league.”

    • Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner

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  • Game Changers: Laurie Tucker

    Photo: COURTESY OF LAURIE TUCKER
    Tucker directs FedEx’s brand strategy, but plans to be in full
    fan mode for Denny Hamlin at Homestead this November.
    Laurie Tucker
    FedEx
    SVP, Corporate Marketing

    When FedEx’s NASCAR driver, Denny Hamlin, takes the last lap at Homestead next month, Laurie Tucker most likely will be shouting at the top of her lungs. Tucker spends most of her days directing the FedEx brand strategy, but she allows herself to be a fan once in awhile, too. “Expect to see me at Homestead when Denny claims his [Sprint Cup] championship trophy,” Tucker said. “I haven’t missed Homestead since we got into NASCAR eight years ago. I’ll go out on a limb with Denny and say, ‘This is our year.’”

    Tucker has been with FedEx for 34 years, and she’s worked in a variety of roles throughout the company, including customer service, finance and IT. Now, she directs millions in marketing spending each year, notably in NASCAR and the PGA Tour, where she negotiated an extension to title the tour’s FedEx Cup earlier this year.
    — Michael Smith
    • What is the best advice youve ever received?: Make the main thing, the main thing — knowing how to focus on what is most important and give it priority.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Don’t be as concerned about being liked as being effective. Women have a tendency in business to be peace-makers and collaborators, but we have to also have conviction and determination, which may mean ruffling a few feathers for the sake of getting business results.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Joe Gibbs inspired me before I ever met him. They just don’t get any finer than Coach Gibbs.
    • Woman in sports business youd most like to meet: Danica Patrick. I’d love to get to know more about what inspires her to compete in her sport and what drove her to switch from open-wheel racing.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Laurie oversees far more than FedEx’s sports portfolio, so she has a great perspective in determining the role that sports plays in the overall marketing mix. Laurie is a great leader and motivator. When someone that senior and influential in the organization is intimately involved, it helps make sponsorships more effective.”

    • David Grant, principal, Team Epic

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  • Game Changers: Lydia Murphy-Stephans

    Photo: KELLEY L. COX / KLCFOTOS.COM
    Murphy-Stephans put a personal touch on Pac-12
    programming.
    Lydia Murphy-Stephans
    Pac-12 Networks
    EVP, General Manager

    On the set of the Pac-12 Networks’ magazine show “Conference of Champions,” a trophy case sits in the background. When the show debuted in August, there was one slight problem: The network didn’t have any trophies to fill the case. A show about champions needs trophies on the set, so Lydia Murphy-Stephans, the network’s general manager (and a former Olympic speedskater), brought a box of trophies from home to give the set a more authentic look. It’s one of just a few boxes she’s gotten around to unpacking since she was hired 10 months ago to launch a national network and six regional networks.

    “This is so unique because it’s not one network, it’s seven networks, and it was being fast-tracked to condense 18 months of preparation into nine months,” Murphy-Stephans said. “It’s been challenging, invigorating, exciting, collaborative. It’s been pushing out the boundaries wherever we can.”

    It also gives Murphy-Stephans, who skated in the 1984 Olympics, the opportunity to present a balance of programming that’s roughly half men’s sports and half women’s sports.

    “It shows, first of all, what really strong women’s sports we have in the Pac-12,” she said. “And on the 40th anniversary of Title IX, we’re seeing the effects of what can happen when young girls are encouraged to participate in sports. And it’s all happened organically. We looked at our strongest programming schedule, and this is how it came out.”
    — Michael Smith
    • Crowning professional achievement: Being a part of the senior management team responsible for overseeing the launch of the Pac-12 Networks and now being the head of the networks.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: Being told I wasn’t considered for a promotion because I was a woman
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Jim McKay. For all his successes, fame and travels, he remained a vulnerable, humble and genuinely nice person.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is: Being one of the few women in a leadership position.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Commitment.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Lydia was the perfect choice for us to run the Pac-12 Networks. Her vast experience in programming and production at both established and new networks was just the right combination for us. It certainly doesn’t hurt that she was an Olympian on top of all that.”

    • Gary Stevenson, president, Pac-12 Enterprises

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  • Game Changers: Marian Rhodes

    Photo: JON WILLEY / ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
    Rhodes presides over an award-winning workplace
    culture.
    Marian Rhodes
    Arizona Diamondbacks
    SVP, Chief Human Resources
    and Diversity Officer

    Marian Rhodes and the Arizona Diamondbacks have generated an employee culture widely acclaimed as one of the very best within sports and among Arizona-based companies at large. Recognized locally as one of the Best Places to Work by the Phoenix Business Journal (a sister publication of SportsBusiness Journal) for five straight years, the D-Backs under Rhodes have created a progressive work environment frequently copied around the game. There are staff meetings structured more as late-night talk shows, complete with high-profile guests, that take full advantage of team President Derrick Hall’s outgoing demeanor; roundtable sessions between management and staff focused on developing team culture; and a staff dress code under which employees are regularly wearing apparel with team insignia.

    Formerly with the St. Louis Cardinals, Rhodes also oversees Diamondbacks University, the club’s staff learning and development platform. “What we have sought very hard to do is build a culture where employees are not only encouraged but pushed to try new things,” Rhodes said. “We want to be the case study that others follow.”

    — Eric Fisher
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Always set goals and have dreams, because without them, you don’t live, you only exist.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Work should be a priority but not my top priority.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Being able to recognize the goals of the organization as well as those of your most valuable assets, the employees, and effectively blend the two for success.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Setting yourself up to succeed even if success is defined by aspects that are out of your control (i.e., wins and losses). Find a way to win even when you lose.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Traveling, seeing new places, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures — and, most importantly, shopping.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “She knows how important having a first-class workplace culture is to me personally and to the D-Backs organizationally. With that in mind, she has created and coordinated employee benefits, events and programs that are nationally recognized and have made us stand out.”

    • Derrick Hall, Arizona Diamondbacks president and CEO

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  • Game Changers: Marie Donoghue

    Photo: ESPN IMAGES
    Donoghue’s work on ESPN Films’ “30 for 30” series
    combines her love of film and sports.
    Marie Donoghue
    ESPN
    SVP, Global Strategy, Business Development and Business Affairs
    Marie Donoghue would be part of a group like this based on her work in helping ESPN negotiate sports rights deals with the biggest professional leagues, including the NFL and MLB. But it’s her work in building some of ESPN’s newer businesses that fully shows the level of influence she has in Bristol.

    Donoghue oversees ESPN Films and ESPN’s social media strategy, responsibilities that she says take up about half her time. Currently, that means guiding ESPN Films’ next releases for its “30 for 30” documentary series, which is ramping up again this  fall. And with social media, that means trying to figure out the best way to deal with a constantly changing medium.

    “People are still trying to figure out how to make a lot of money on it,” Donoghue said.  
    — John Ourand
    • Crowning professional achievement: NFL/ESPN Digital deal in March 2010. Several years in the making, it laid the rights groundwork for our overall NFL renewal in 2011.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: Mobile ESPN the business. Still, the innovative and forward-focused product is still paying dividends across our company.
    • What is the best advice youve ever received?: From a partner at my old law firm: “Nobody will remember if your work is an hour late. They will remember if it has mistakes.”
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: To quote George Bodenheimer: Effective business leaders make people around them better.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: John Skipper. As he has been my boss for 11 years, I have been able to watch up close his dynamic leadership, compassionate management and unlimited intellectual curiosity.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is: No offseason at ESPN.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Marie’s technological and business savvy, coupled with a keen intellect, make her contributions invaluable as we develop medium- and long-term strategy and create new businesses that allow us to grow.”

    • John Skipper, ESPN president

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  • Game Changers: Mary Owen

    Photo: COURTESY OF MARY OWEN
    Owen (left) spends time with her aunt, Mary Wilson,
    at a Buffalo kickoff event.
    Mary Owen
    Buffalo Bills
    EVP, Strategic Planning
    Mary Owen is one of the most high-profile team executives in sports, representing the Buffalo Bills at NFL ownership meetings and taking a central role in the club’s initiative to play games in Toronto. Owen got her start with the Bills in large part because her aunt, Mary Wilson, is team owner Ralph Wilson’s wife. But since joining the team full time in 2000 after graduating from the University of Virginia, Owen has moved quickly through the ranks, winning herself not only key duties at the Bills, but also with Ralph Wilson’s philanthropy.

    She finds herself so busy she sometimes has to skip her other passion, running triathlons. “Sometimes,” she said laughing, “work just gets in the way of life.”

    — Daniel Kaplan
    • Crowning professional achievement: Building our fan base and regionalization program in Toronto and southern Ontario.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: Losing great people because we weren’t able to provide them with the right opportunity to grow.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Keep track of the people you meet. Sports business is a small world and gets smaller as you progress in your career.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Heidi Ueberroth. I would love to learn more about her experiences and how she views the opportunity for other professional sports to expand globally.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: The unpredictability of wins and losses.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Mary is extremely driven to excel and be the best in everything she takes on. … We are proud of all she has accomplished in her career thus far — including the recent completion of her MBA studies — but what I love most about Mary is her sense of humor, common sense, and her dedication to be there for her family and friends.”

    • Mary Wilson, Owen’s aunt and wife of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson

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  • Game Changers: Mary Scott

    Photo: COURTESY OF MARY SCOTT
    For Scott, with daughter Regan, success includes a happy family.
    Mary Scott
    Matter Inc.
    Managing Director

    In her first job in sports, more than 20 years ago, Mary Scott learned a lot while working in the sales group at Katz Communications. Most of all, she figured out what she did not want to do.

    “It was a great entrée in the sports industry,” Scott said, “but I realized ad sales was not the career track for me.”

    Ever since, Scott has made her mark as one of the leading communications practitioners in the business of sports. At Matter, she oversees global offerings, including the firm’s Olympic and soccer business, and manages programs for Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Samsung and IBM. She has managed global on-site marketing communications teams at every Olympics since the Sydney Games in 2000. Other clients have included NBC, Adidas, Pepsi, Puma, the Women’s Sports Foundation, the PGA Tour, Sports Illustrated and the New York City Marathon.

    Prior to joining Matter, Scott spent five years at the NFL, where she handled corporate communications on behalf of NFL Enterprises, the media development and technology arm of the league and its teams. She said her career gains can be attributed, at least in part, to an enormous drive. “I’m a very competitive and passionate person,” she said.

    — Christopher Botta
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: My father, whom I admire greatly, often told me, “Work hard and recognize that you can only control the things you can control, and know when to let things go.”
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Continuing to showcase and prove the true breadth and power of communications and engagement in the overall marketing mix. It’s a challenge I embrace.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Passion.
    • My vision of success is …: Happy clients, staff and family — ideally all at the same time.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Finding more time for personal growth (reading, working out, community service), and I’m an avid cook and love trying out new recipes.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “The first word that comes to mind when I think of Mary is tenacious. She will out-work anyone, and she will work smartly, with a purpose. She does not like to lose. But above all the diligence, creativity and resourcefulness, she’s a great person. There’s a reason why if you ask anyone in our business, they all like to work with Mary.”

    • Chris Widmaier, managing director of corporate communications, U.S. Tennis Association

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  • Game Changers: Micky Lawler

    Photo: OCTAGON
    Lawler got her start in tennis by answering an International
    Herald Tribune ad for a job in 1986.
    Micky Lawler
    Octagon
    Managing Director, Tennis
    Micky Lawler is Dutch; she grew up living in Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia and Kenya; and she attended school in both France and Belgium. When she then moved to New York in search of work, she did so hoping for — surprise, surprise — a job as a translator for the United Nations. No such job, however, came available to her, so she returned to Europe and worked as an English teacher. In 1986, she answered an ad in the International Herald Tribune for a communications position at the predecessor group to the ATP. She got the spot, and ultimately she would travel 48 weeks out of the year for the job. Two years later, she landed at Octagon’s predecessor company, where she quickly moved up through the ranks as an agent. Today, she runs all of tennis for Octagon and serves on the WTA board of directors from her home in — Northern Virginia.
    — Dan Kaplan
    • What is the best advice youve ever received?: The best advice I have ever received was from watching my father, who headed up the consumer electronics group at Philips. We lived in eight countries on three continents growing up. As a result of my father’s leadership, entire cities were lit, factories founded, manufacturing opportunities created and re-created. … He enjoyed successes by being open to change and was flexible enough to make course corrections. His biggest strength was his ability to empathize with people and truly understand the best interest of the greater good.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My grandfather was a soccer player who worked for Philips as well. In his days, the best soccer players also had jobs, so my grandfather played for the Philips team and worked in the radio division. He used his name in soccer to recruit men to work in the underground resistance against invaders in World War II. My grandparents saved hundreds or more Jewish lives by sending secret convoys into the night to the homes of friends and family who would keep the persecuted safe at great risk to themselves. My grandparents acted on the belief that excellence in sports had to be used as a platform to make a real difference to humanity.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Micky is an incredibly smart woman who possesses the business instincts, acumen and vision to have been one of a handful of people to play a key role in the growth of our sport over the past 25 years. She consistently demonstrates integrity, honesty and loyalty in every aspect of her life that has propelled her to be a great leader beyond tennis and sport.”

    • Stacey Allaster, WTA chairman and CEO

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  • Game Changers: Rana Dershowitz

    Photo: NATHAN DERSHOWITZ
    Dershowitz was an archaeology major in college
    and enjoys visiting sites around the world.
    Rana Dershowitz
    U.S. Olympic Committee
    General Counsel

    Rana Dershowitz has built a reputation as an attorney who can see both the big picture and the small details that are critical to the future of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Nothing exemplifies her eye for both better than her work revising the USOC’s bylaws in 2010. The organization’s board voted to change its governance structure following an independent review led by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The board turned to Dershowitz — who had joined the group in 2007 after six years at Madison Square Garden — to write a series of revisions that expanded the board by four members and extended board members’ terms. Those changes were central to a plan that has brought stability and improved governance to the USOC.

     — Tripp Mickle
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: From my parents: strongly encouraging me to make sure I explored a wide range of interests and possibilities before settling on a course of study or career path.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Remember to stop and reassess every few years.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Frank Murphy, then senior vice president of basketball operations for the New York Knicks (while I was in-house counsel).
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Jeanie Buss. She must have a fascinating perspective on women in sports business.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “I’ve always really appreciated her ability to think through how a given decision will impact the parties at a negotiating table in practice, as well as her ability to think about the logic and rationale behind the positions that are taken by other parties with a view towards reaching an agreement that works for everyone involved.”

    • Peter Zern, Covington & Burling

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  • Game Changers: Renie Anderson

    Photo: ESTHER NISANOVA / NFL
    Anderson is surrounded by football but keeps her daughters Callie and Kate close.
    Renie Anderson
    NFL
    VP, Business Development, Sponsorship and Media Sales

    Sports property sales is still seen as a boys club, but after six years at the NFL, Renie Anderson has grown comfortable with that characterization. “Most of my competition at other leagues is still going to be men, and I’m still going to run circles around them,” Anderson said with a laugh. “It has gotten to be a more level playing field, but each deal has its own dynamics. P&G [signed in 2009] took three years start to finish. It’s about patience and persistence.”

    Anderson grew up on a farm in Kentucky and did not plan on a career in sports, but eight years with the Arena Football League, starting as assistant to then-Commissioner David Baker, set her on a path on which she’s still running, helping to score deals with the likes of Bridgestone, Marriott, Papa John’s and USAA. And with the NFL’s senior vice president of sponsorship and media sales, Keith Turner, having departed for Univision this summer, business development at the country’s biggest sports property is currently being run by a woman — so maybe it no longer is a boys club?

    — Terry Lefton
    • Crowning professional achievement: Renewing Bridgestone, since they were one of the first deals I worked on here, and the fact I am working here. My dad is a farmer in a Kentucky town of 3,400, and now I have an office on Park Avenue and am working for the NFL. That’s a change.
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Dave Baker always told me “No job is too small,” and I still take that to heart.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Intelligence and tenacity.
    • My vision of success is …: Making sure my family is happy and healthy.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: “Downton Abbey.” I am addicted.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “I have done two sizable NFL sponsorship deals with Renie [for USAA and Marriott], and she does a great job of balancing the league’s interests with those of the client buying NFL rights. That is not an easy balancing act, but she does it skillfully.”

    • David Abrutyn, managing director, senior vice president and head of IMG Global Consulting

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  • Game Changers: Rita Tuzon

    Tuzon, with daughter Sophia and classmates, champions public school education.
    Rita Tuzon
    Fox Networks Group
    EVP, General Counsel

    Rita Tuzon’s role at the Fox Networks Group goes well beyond sports. As the group’s general counsel, she oversees a staff of 50 whose jobs include doing everything from developing retransmission consent deals to deciding what is too racy for Fox’s prime-time shows. But Tuzon is finding that she’s spending an increasing amount of time on sports these days. “Fox continues to see itself as a leader in sports,” she said. “It’s an integral part of who we are.”

    She oversaw the legal team assigned to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership situation last year, when Fox’s TV rights came into dispute. (She describes managing Fox’s interest during the team’s bankruptcy proceedings and its eventual sale as her “pet project.”) She also has a hand in furthering Fox’s established team relationships, such as those with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels.

    — John Ourand
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: If you approach problems with a “glass half full” mentality, you will always find your path to a solution.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Effective business leadership requires clear communication, valuing relationships, and the willingness to make principled decisions and take responsibility for them.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My department colleagues at Fox in the 1990s who were disinterested in sports and focused on entertainment, leaving our expansion in sports all for me.
    • My vision of success is …: Getting the right results for our businesses, and being present and engaged for my family.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Supporting public school education.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Rita and our legal team do an incredible job of helping us sift through the myriad of issues we face in today’s ultra-competitive environment. She does far more than provide legal advice. She is a terrific partner on all our business issues.”

    • Randy Freer, co-president, Fox Sports

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  • Game Changers: Sharon Byers

    Photo: GUERRY REDMOND PHOTOGRAPHY
    Byers, an Auburn graduate, is the force behind Coke’s
    marketing efforts on college campuses.
    Sharon Byers
    Coca-Cola
    SVP, Sports and Entertainment Marketing Partnerships

    Coca-Cola is affiliated with more than 700 sports properties, including the NCAA, NBA, Olympics, NASCAR and LeBron James. Yet, years after earning her last degree, it is college campuses where the company’s Sharon Byers is focusing. Effectively attacking the many-headed hydra that is college marketing isn’t easy, especially since Coke has ties to more than 400 colleges, but it is an area with high consumption of Coke products and a place where consumers make brand decisions that last a lifetime. “This is a market where the target is tough to reach and very tricky, but that makes the challenge worthwhile,” said Byers, a 25-year Coke marketer.

    Coke’s roster of entertainment properties is also top shelf, starting with “American Idol.” Byers’ next challenge is to combine the marketing power of entertainment and sports, the two most powerful “passion points” for most consumers. “Historically, companies have used sports and entertainment separately, but people don’t consume them separately,” Byers said. “Now the question is one of blending them into something even more compelling.”
    — Terry Lefton
    • Crowning professional achievement: Getting Coca-Cola to focus on the college channel. Ten years ago, we didn’t have any brands interested; now, they all are there.
    • What is the best advice youve ever received?: My parents taught me that a career is a long time, and while people may say “no” to you, you should always hear “maybe.”
    • People who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Bea Perez, chief sustainability officer; and Alison Lewis, senior vice president, marketing, North America. Both women I admire; two who have good work/life balance and have given terrific coaching to me.
    • One attribute I look for in hiring is …: Eagerness and openness for change.
    • My vision of success is …: To be well-respected and viewed as an innovator.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Animal rescue.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Sharon is engaging, personable, genuine, and she really understands partnerships. The amount of programs we do together is testimony to all that.”

    • Mark Tatum, NBA, EVP of global marketing partnerships

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  • Game Changers: Staci Slaughter

    Photo: 2012 SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
    Slaughter spends some stadium time with sons Ben
    (left) and Jake.
    Staci Slaughter
    San Francisco Giants
    SVP, Communications
    There are the usual demands of a head of communications for an MLB team, and then there are the additional challenges Staci Slaughter has faced.

    Slaughter has been on the front lines for three of the most hotly debated issues in recent baseball history: the financing and construction of AT&T Park, Barry Bonds and his position as the sport’s all-time home run king, and the current territorial battle surrounding the Oakland A’s proposed move to San Jose. A World Series title in 2010 further amplified Slaughter’s demands and profile, as will next spring’s World Baseball Classic final at AT&T Park.

    Slaughter did not start her career in sports, instead working for former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan. She joined the Giants in 1996 to help with the ballpark development on what was designed to be a temporary assignment. Sixteen years later, Slaughter is a key voice in the club’s executive leadership.

    — Eric Fisher
    • Biggest professional disappointment: Games 6 and 7 of the 2002 World Series.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Larry Baer. He has been a mentor to me and he opened the door for women to join the management ranks within the Giants.
    • My vision of success is …: Raising two healthy and happy sons with my husband, Jamie.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Working to preserve and protect the Golden Gate National Parks and running through those parks.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “She’s involved in all of our strategy, all of our marketing, all of our community work, all of our overall corporate thinking. She’s a huge talent and invaluable to this organization.”

    • Larry Baer, San Francisco Giants president and CEO

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  • Game Changers: Tara Green

    Photo: LAYNE MURDOCH
    Bringing strong ties to the Dallas sports community,
    Green has been a change agent for Center Operating
    Co. sales.
    Tara Green
    Center Operating Co.
    Chief Revenue Officer
    Tara Green’s job is to shake things up at American Airlines Center, to improve sluggish sales of premium seats and sponsorships.

    Center Operating Co., the firm that runs the Dallas arena for the NBA Mavericks and NHL Stars, created the position of chief revenue officer last year, 10 years after the facility opened in 2001. Green was hired to take on that new challenge.

    Green has strong ties to the local sports industry. She spent three years with the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee as vice president and chief operating officer. Prior to that, she worked 11 years in sports marketing for the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    “The arena is one of the busiest in the country, with 190 events annually,” said Green, thinking back to her start at Center Operating Co., “but we were facing a recession and the opening of Cowboys Stadium; the Stars did not have an owner and were in bankruptcy; the NBA was headed for a lockout. A lot of negative influences.”

    Twelve months later, in her role as what she calls “change agent,” Green has hired new sales representatives and signed deals for new CRM, email marketing and prospect-management systems, embracing new technology to give staff the tools they need to sell more suites and club seats.

    “We have sold more suites to this point than we did all of last year,” Green said. “I feel good about where we started and how we’re pacing for our renewals.”

    — Don Muret
    • Crowning professional achievement: Being a part of the different bid committees that won the rights to the first Super Bowl, NHL All-Star Game, NBA All-Star Game and three Olympic trials in North Texas.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: The record-breaking ice and snow storm that hit North Texas during Super Bowl XLV. Just goes to show that no matter how much you plan for every situation, something can always happen.
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Keep everything in perspective.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Donna Lopiano. She has paved the way for women on the field and in the boardroom.
    • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Self-motivation.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “She has the biggest Rolodex, with numbers of the CEOs of many of the big companies in town; a great list of community leaders. … She is a person of great integrity, smart [and] articulate.”

    • Brad Mayne,  president and CEO, MetLife Stadium; former president and CEO, Center Coperating Co.

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  • Game Changers: Tracy Perlman

    Photo: ESTHER NISANOVA / NFL
    Perlman’s priorities include yoga, her goddaughter
    and football.
    Tracy Perlman
    NFL
    VP, Entertainment Marketing and Promotions

    Tracy Perlman started working for the NFL 20 years ago, when the Internet was a government project and NFL Sunday Ticket was something that got you into a game. How things have changed. “It was almost like a family business,” Perlman said.

    With the NFL now as much a media business as a football-event company, marketing is considerably more hand-in-glove. Perlman is the one integrating the NFL with the rest of the entertainment scene. “We want to be so embedded that it’s authentic,” she said. Like when you turn on “The Office” and they’re playing NFL fantasy football. Or when NFL stars like Drew Brees and Tim Tebow appear on “The Biggest Loser.”

    The Super Bowl halftime concert, another staple that didn’t exist when Perlman started, has become her oeuvre. U2’s poignant 9/11 tribute at Super Bowl XXXVI and Prince’s unforgettable set, delivered in a driving rainstorm, at Super Bowl XLI (he closed with “Purple Rain”) are her favorites. “Prince appeared in Pepsi’s ad for the show, and U2 gave us access to their music beforehand,” she said. “They both gave great shows and sold lots of music afterwards. Cooperation can take something as big as [the] Super Bowl and make it even bigger.’’   

    — Terry Lefton
    • Crowning professional achievement: Closing down Times Square after 9/11 for our concert in 2002, which started our Kickoff ritual.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: I have never watched a Super Bowl; too busy running around during the game.
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Never be afraid to speak your mind at a meeting.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Roger Goodell, who always asked me along the way how long I wanted to be here and where I wanted to be. Twenty years later, we’re both here.
    • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Marta Karolyi.
    • My vision of success is …: A staff that is just as successful to share it with.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Health and fitness. The shock of turning 40 a few years ago has me doing yoga almost every day.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “It’s almost incomprehensible to think about the level of planning and execution Tracy is responsible for on the biggest stages in sports. She does it all with a smile and somehow still has time to spend with sponsors to find out what’s going well and where the areas for improvement are.”

    • Kern Egan, founder and principal at Haymaker, the former Richards Sports & Entertainment, which has NFL sponsor Bridgestone as a client

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  • Game Changers: Tyler Tumminia

    Photos: THE GOLDKLANG GROUP (2)
    Tumminia is an avid horse rider in her spare time.
    Tyler Tumminia
    The Goldklang Group
    Senior Vice President

    Tyler Tumminia knew that fans attend minor league baseball games for many reasons. She understood their motivations. But she never knew who was who. To sort that all out, Tumminia, senior vice president for minor league baseball operator The Goldklang Group, developed the Be Your Own Fan marketing program, introduced in 2010 by Goldklang’s four teams. Fans who sign up choose a group — networker, family, super fan, giveaway hound, or others — and get color-coded wristbands to mark them as members. Throughout the season, they receive targeted emails that include coupons and other incentives. The teams get contact info as well as insight into why each fan comes. “I kept hearing all the time that it’s not only the person who loves baseball who comes to the games,” Tumminia said. “It’s not just stat-heads and people who want to see the players. There were demos we might be missing out on.”
     
    Tumminia’s own connection to baseball runs deep. She is the daughter of longtime Chicago White Sox scout John Tumminia, and earlier this year she married Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.

    — Bill King
    • Biggest professional disappointment: I haven’t been able to figure out how to keep rain away on game days.
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: My parents always reminded me of the FDR quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
    • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: Stop whatever you are doing at the time and laugh.
    • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My father. He has taught me invaluable lessons about the sport on and off the field.
    • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Finding new avenues to be creative.
    • Outside of work and family, I’m spending a lot of my time on …: Training my new horse.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “If you look at global brands today and their marketing strategies, a growing number have adopted similar campaigns [to Be Your Own Fan]. That’s a credit to Tyler’s vision.”

    • Jeff Goldklang, managing director, The Goldklang Group

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  • Game Changers: Wendy Lewis

    Photo: E. LEE WHITE
    Lewis holds her newest prize possession: a baseball
    signed by members of Team Uganda after the Little
    League World Series.
    Wendy Lewis
    MLB
    SVP, Diversity and
    Strategic Alliances

    MLB Commissioner Bud Selig often says baseball is a social institution with social responsibilities. Wendy Lewis, his senior vice president for diversity and strategic alliances at MLB, is often where the rubber meets the road on his remarks. Lewis runs the league’s thriving Diverse Business Partners program, helping expand the game’s reach to minority- and female-owned businesses. This past summer, Lewis spearheaded the league’s first Diversity Business Summit, a one-day event aimed at further expanding baseball’s pool of minority and women employees and vendors. The summit, more than a half-decade in the making, drew representatives from all 30 MLB teams, MLB Advanced Media, MLB Network and 10 minor league clubs. And in part through the efforts of Lewis, MLB has earned four consecutive top marks in racial diversity in hiring from the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.

    “The commissioner has embraced my group and made this a very big deal,” Lewis said. “I feel very blessed to have that kind of institutional trust, and having that trust made a big impact in how we’re able to reach the businesses and communities we serve.”

    — Eric Fisher
    • Crowning professional achievement: The launch and successful implementation of the MLB Diversity Business Summit.
    • Biggest professional disappointment: Not having my dad present when I received one of the 2011 WISE Women of the Year Awards. We had planned for it, but he passed away prior to the ceremony. He was there in spirit.
    • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Faith is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.
    • How would you describe effective business leadership?: Being as committed to ROP (return on people) as you are to ROI (return on investment).
    • Women in sports business you’d most like to meet: The moms of the Ugandan Little League World Series team. The story of the players is priceless. I would love to congratulate their families and hear their stories of overcoming obstacles as well as living with the unique celebrity of their children.

    WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

    “Wendy’s been an absolute innovator with regard to helping minorities get employment in the sport, getting more minorities in and selling their goods and services. It’s something we need to do more of, and she’s been an absolute tower of strength as we go after that.”

    • Jerry Reinsdorf, Chicago White Sox owner

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  • Game Changers: Class of 2011

    The following executives were recognized last year in the inaugural class of Game Changers: Women in Sports Business

    ORGANIZATIONAL DRIVERS


    Stacey Allaster, WTA, Chairman and CEO
    Lisa Baird, U.S. Olympic Committee, Chief Marketing Officer
    Kathy Behrens, NBA, EVP, Social Responsibility and Player Programs
    Ann Wells Crandall, N.Y. Road Runners, EVP, Business Development and Strategy
    Jane Geddes, WWE, VP, Talent Relations
    Jill Gregory, NASCAR, VP, Industry Services
    Ilana Kloss, World TeamTennis, CEO and Commissioner
    Julie Roe Lach, NCAA, VP, Enforcement
    Danette Leighton, Pac-12 Conference, Chief Marketing Officer
    Sheila McLenaghan, PGA Tour, SVP, Customer Relations
    Marla Miller, MLB, SVP, Special Events
    Kathryn Olson, Women’s Sports Foundation, CEO
    Michelle Wilson, WWE, Chief Marketing Officer
    Anne Worcester, New Haven Open, Tournament Director

    TEAM LEADERS

    Jeanne Bonk, San Diego Chargers, Chief Financial Officer
    Karen Bryant, Seattle Storm, President and CEO
    Jeanie Buss, Los Angeles Lakers, EVP, Business Operations
    Casey Coffman, Madison Square Garden Co., SVP, Corporate Strategy and Development
    Pam Gardner, Houston Astros, President, Business Operations
    Tery Howard, Miami Dolphins, SVP, Chief Technology Officer
    Amy Latimer, Boston Bruins/TD Garden, SVP, Sales and Marketing
    Cheryl Levick, Georgia State University, Director of Athletics
    Sarah Mensah, Portland Trail Blazers, Chief Operating Officer
    Chris Plonsky, University of Texas, Women’s Athletics Director
    Janet Marie Smith, Baltimore Orioles, VP, Planning and Development
    Amy Trask, Oakland Raiders, Chief Executive Officer

    MEDIA MOVERS

    Karen Brodkin, Fox Cable Networks, Senior Vice President
    Amy Cohen, Comcast Sports Group, SVP, General Counsel
    Rosalyn Durant, ESPNU, VP, General Manager
    Laura Gentile, ESPNW, Vice President
    Christina Miller, NBA Digital, General Manager; Turner Sports, SVP, Strategy, Marketing and Programming
    Rebecca Schulte, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, SVP, General Manager
    Susan Stone, MLB Network, SVP, Operations
    Melinda Witmer, Time Warner Cable, EVP, Chief Video and Content Officer

    AGENCY STRATEGISTS

    Michelle Berg, Team Epic, Executive Vice President
    Amy Erschen, The Marketing Arm, Senior Vice President
    Kit Geis, Genesco Sports Enterprises, Senior Vice President
    Tamera Green, GMR Marketing, VP, Group Account Director
    Hillary Mandel, IMG Media, SVP, Programming and Distribution
    Lisa Murray, Octagon Worldwide, EVP, Chief Marketing Officer
    Sue Rodin, WISE, Founder; Stars & Strategies, President
    Jill Smoller, William Morris Endeavor, Senior Vice President
    Circe Wallace, Wasserman Media Group, Senior Vice President
    Paula Yancey, PC Sports, President/Majority Owner

    BRAND BUILDERS

    Cindy Davis, Nike Golf, President
    Tina Davis, Citigroup, SVP, Corporate Sponsorship and Marketing
    Lauren Hobart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer
    Jane Kleinberger, Paciolan, Co-Founder
    Jackie Woodward, MillerCoors, VP, Media and Marketing Services

    Note: Listings reflect companies and titles held as of October 2011.

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