SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Game Changers

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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