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David Andrews is celebrating his 20th season as president and chief executive officer of the American Hockey League. In two years, he hopes to celebrate something else: his retirement.
“After this season, I’ll be here for two more, and then someone else will have the job,” said Andrews recently, while watching an AHL game at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.
Andrews presents the Calder Cup to Grand Rapids Griffins captain Jeff Hoggan last June.
Photo by:COURTESY OF THE AHL
What wasn’t known at the time is that the extension would be his last multiyear deal before moving into a consultant’s role when the contract expired. While that change might ultimately happen now one year later than the original plan of 2015, it’s clear that Andrews sees his next chapter ahead.
“We’ve been talking a lot lately, and it’s almost certain that we’ll extend the deal by one year — and one year only,” Andrews said. “The 2015-16 season will be it for me.”
And if that’s the case, AHL team owners say his departure will be a significant loss for the league.
“Dave is the best-kept secret in professional sports,” said Syracuse Crunch owner and governor Howard Dolgon, who purchased the franchise the same year Andrews took over the league. “He can easily be the commissioner of the NHL, NBA or any other major league. That’s how good he is.”
Dolgon, one of the eight members of the AHL executive committee, said the subject of finding a successor for Andrews isn’t a topic the group is eager to discuss.
“Every time the committee talks about a plan, it always comes around to, ‘How can we get Dave to stay around another year?’” Dolgon said with a laugh.
But Andrews seems intent on retiring in 2016. He does not wish to have another full-time job, preferring to serve as a part-time consultant to the AHL.
“I don’t feel like I have to get to the NHL to fulfill my career,” Andrews said. “I’m very satisfied by what I have been able to accomplish in the AHL.”
The accomplishments are vast. Under Andrews’ watch, the AHL has become the top development league in North America for the NHL. In 1994, the league had 16 franchises; today, it has 30. (Of those 30 franchises, 13 are NHL club-owned; 17 are independent.) In his 20 years as president, Andrews has overseen 95 changes for teams in NHL affiliation and 63 ownership changes. Annual league revenue has increased from $25 million in 1994 to $120 million last season, according to the AHL.
When Andrews started as president, about half of the players in the NHL had played in the AHL as part of their development. “Now, we’re knocking on the door at 90 percent,” Andrews said, “and every current NHL referee has worked in our league first.”
The most dramatic move in Andrews’ tenure came in 2001, when the AHL absorbed six teams from the folded International Hockey League — its lone competition as the highest level of minor league hockey. Those six teams also brought key media and population centers to the AHL, with the franchise additions coming from Chicago, Houston, Milwaukee, Utah, Manitoba, and Grand Rapids, Mich.
“That deal does not get done without the spirit of cooperation that Dave demonstrated throughout a very difficult process,” said Mark Chipman, chairman and governor of the Winnipeg Jets, who represented one of the transferred IHL franchises in its dealings with Andrews and the AHL while he was an executive with the Manitoba Moose. “The AHL had the upper hand, without question, in the deal, but Dave never acted like it. He was a peacemaker, a facilitator. He convinced everyone in both leagues that merging was best for all of the clubs so we could be the best developmental hockey league in the world. He was right.”
In addition to serving as the AHL’s liaison with Gary Bettman and the NHL on experimenting with rules changes (see box) — “We’ve told the NHL, ‘If we can be of help, we will, as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the integrity of our competition’” — Andrews has created plenty of lasting changes for his own league. Visors were made mandatory for all players in 2006. The AHL All-Star Classic was started in Andrews’ first season, with the traditional All-Star Game being supplemented by the kind of fan-interactive and skills-competition events now seen throughout sports on all-star weekends. The AHL Hall of Fame was created under Andrews’ watch, in 2005. Andrews also has negotiated six collective-bargaining agreements with the Professional Hockey Players Association, keeping the league open for business during the NHL lockouts of 1994-95, the entire 2004-05 season and 2012-13.
Andrews does it with a staff of just 14 full-time employees. When he began, in 1994, the staff count was eight. “We have as many teams as the NHL and play just as many games as the NHL, so our staff carries a heavy load,” Andrews said.
But it is getting close to that point for Andrews to spend more time on the sailboat he cherishes, and to dote on his two grandchildren (with two more on the way) that he loves even more. Andrews estimates that he spends at least 100 days a year on the road, doing the majority of trips via automobile. “I lease my cars — every one one of them, for two years,” Andrews said. “In two years, I easily run up over 60,000 miles.”
“You can say it’s crazy to do the same job for 20 years like I have,” Andrews added, “but it’s very challenging, and there are always different challenges. It’s never boring.”
The PGA Tour has launched a call center from its Florida headquarters to sell tickets for four of its tournaments.
A staff of 12 newly hired sales executives began work last week in a repurposed section of the media center at TPC Sawgrass, the golf course that hosts The Players Championship. They’re charged with making 100 or more phone calls a day to current and former ticket buyers in an effort to increase sales.
Sales manager Scott Gordon (standing) and salespeople work in the PGA Tour’s new call center.
Photo by:STAN BADZ / PGA TOUR
A centralized sales center selling across multiple events is something the tour has never had before.
The tour brought in Troy Tutt from the New York Yankees to oversee the effort. Tutt, the tour’s senior director of national sales, oversaw premium and suite sales for the Yankees for the past three years. He previously worked with the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers on ticket sales.
“This is something we’ve been wanting for years,” said Eddie Carbone, tournament director of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. “It’s great to have people who know our product and can reach out to customers in our database. I think it’s got a lot of potential.”
Tutt came on five months ago and then brought on sales manager Scott Gordon to have direct oversight and help train the sales staff. Tutt worked with Gordon in Cleveland. They went through an intensive search for entry-level sales executives and made hires from late last year into early January.
The tour picked these four tournaments because they are operated by the tour’s championship management group. While most PGA Tour events have a local nonprofit in the tournament’s market to manage the tournament, 10 others are run out of the tour’s championship management office in Ponte Vedra Beach.
“The goal is to grow this and expand it across more tournaments,” Tutt said.
Each PGA Tour tournament has a local dedicated sales staff, but some might be as small as one or two people and their focus is almost always on the premium inventory, such as hospitality and pro-am spots. A growing number of tickets are simply sold online with no direct communication between the tournament and many of its customers.
The Cadillac Championship is like many tournaments — it has no one full-time whose primary responsibility is to sell tickets, and the tournament typically brings in three to four volunteers to process orders.
The tour’s new outbound sales center will give these events a proactive approach they’ve never had.
“This direct contact gives us a chance to, first of all, thank fans, but also to find out what they think and educate them on what kind of ticket packages are available,” Tutt said. “If they’ve been buying a grounds pass, maybe there is an upsell opportunity that makes sense, such as shared hospitality or an upgraded space with air conditioning.”
■ How will your new role complement the commissioner’s? Is it too simplistic to say Adam Silver’s purview will be basketball matters and yours will be the business side of the NBA?
■ What do you see as the principal areas of growth for the NBA?
TATUM: Global, certainly, but more broadly, media. Across all business lines internationally, in sponsorships, merchandise, there’s opportunity internationally.
■ Some people I’ve talked to took note of the fact that you are the first non-attorney in a while with a big title at the NBA.
TATUM: We have plenty of lawyers (laughs). The companies that I’ve worked for: Clorox, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, along with the marketing and sales experience I have — that’s a solid foundation for my [new] job, which is all about growing our business. You don’t have to be a lawyer to do that.
■ How much of a learning curve do you anticipate when dealing with matters outside of marketing?
TATUM: As someone from the marketing side, the best thing about the recent changes here is that our senior executives are all the best at what they do. All my direct reports have been here from 10 to 20 years and it’s a great group. … As for the teams, we’re off to Sacramento and San Francisco this week. I have relationships with all of our teams, not only in the NBA, but the WNBA and the D-League. I intend to get out on the road and see as many of our teams as soon as possible. I’ll also work with Amy Brooks and TMBO to help create more ticket sales, build our fan bases and marketing programs at the club level. Those are the most fundamental long-term drivers of our businesses.