SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/Forty Under 40

Forty Under 40



Photo by: AVI GERVER
Mike Ondrejko’s expertise in marketing premium seats helped push revenue to new heights at a pair of billion-dollar sports projects.

Ondrejko is chief operating officer of Legends Sales and Marketing, a firm that major league teams and colleges hire to sell suites and club seats for newly constructed and renovated arenas and stadiums.

In San Francisco, where the 49ers outsourced premium sales to Legends for their new stadium in Santa Clara, Ondrejko saw a gap to be filled in the premium model. He advised 49ers CEO Jed York to build some larger suites and a second club level on one side of the stadium. His recommendations helped the 49ers generate $100 million in new revenue after stadium architect HNTB made the necessary adjustments to the building design.

Before that effort, during his tenure at Madison Square Garden as senior vice president of corporate hospitality, Ondrejko suggested developing an all-inclusive club at stage end instead of building 10 suites he knew would be a struggle to sell long-term due to their smaller size and location. Working with Brisbin Brook Beynon, MSG’s architect, Ondrejko helped develop the 174-seat Madison Club, where premium patrons buy two to six seats in a larger group setting. The club opened in October, and by January it was sold out, with season-ticket packages starting at $42,500 a seat annually for Knicks and Rangers games.

Ondrejko has learned from some of the best in sports business, starting with the group at Palace Sports and Entertainment. It was in Detroit where Ondrejko first worked with Chad Estis, now president of Legends and his boss. Their careers went down similar paths to Tampa, working for the Lightning under Palace ownership, and in Cleveland for the Cavaliers. They separated for a few years (Ondrejko at MSG, Estis with the Dallas Cowboys), before reconnecting at Legends.

Ondrejko has been at Legends since June 2011. He has helped expand the company’s business, especially on the college side, by signing deals with Stanford, Nevada, Fresno State, SMU and Ohio. At those five schools, Legends oversees all season-ticket sales and suite sales.

“Mike is the best identifier, manager and developer of [sales] talent I’ve ever seen,” said Scott O’Neil, former president of MSG Sports. “He is equally skilled at recruiting. Mike is one of the few people I’ve ever lost where I thought … ‘I can’t believe he’s gone.’”

— Don Muret



Age: 36
 Title: COO
COMPANY: Legends Sales and Marketing
EDUCATION: B.S., business, LeMoyne College
FAMILY: Wife, Kate; sons, Luke and Shane; daughter, Quinn
CAREER: Palace Sports & Entertainment (1998-2002), Cleveland Cavaliers (2002-09), Madison Square Garden (2009-11), Legends (since 2011)

HOW DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?: Trying to focus on being present. When I’m at work, I’m all in. When I’m at home, I’m all in.
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE RECEIVED: Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching. Sing like nobody’s listening. Live like it’s heaven on Earth.
WORST ADVICE RECEIVED: Show me the money. (The focus should be on perfecting the process.)
TWITTER HANDLE: @Drejko11
FARTHEST TRAVELED FROM U.S.: Shanghai
STRESS RELEASE: Playing hoops
PET PEEVE: Tardiness
GUILTY PLEASURE: FIFA 13 on the iPad
FANTASY JOB: High school hoops coach / greenskeeper for the local muni
FAVORITE MOVIE LINE: “And I know what I have to do now. I’ve got to keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” (“Cast Away”)
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