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Volume 24 No. 158

People and Pop Culture

Longtime NHL exec KEN YAFFE is leaving the league after 19 years. NHL Deputy Commissioner BILL DALY yesterday informed staff of Yaffe’s decision to leave his position as Senior VP/International. Daly wrote, “He has been instrumental in the growth of our game internationally ... and in bringing NHL regular season games both to Japan and to various countries throughout Europe. He has faithfully served me as a trusted advisor in our international dealings for years, and has assisted the League in establishing and maintaining good relations with the international hockey community.” Yaffe, who will leave the NHL March 30, joined the league in '93 shortly after GARY BETTMAN was named commissioner. He most recently oversaw the international media, event, sponsorship and licensing businesses and previously directed the league's fan development and events and entertainment activities. Yaffe said, “I’ve had a tremendous run here and am a huge fan of the sport. This has been way more than a job for me and my plan is to stay in the game.” Yaffe said he is looking at short-term project work in hockey and interested in long-term opportunities as an advisor in hockey with a team, sponsor or product developer.

Witt/Kieffer, a 40-year old executive placement firm, is opening a sports practice that will focus on placing execs in non-profit organizations and athlete foundations. Witt/Kieffer consultants GREG SANTORE and SCOTT SETTE will head the practice. The duo sees the sports practice as an expansion on its current university work, which entails placing college presidents and provosts. Sette said, "The world of sports is growing exponentially and a lot of our clients are saying there's so much going on in sports that they need help navigating this world. We're reacting to that." Santore said that he has spoken to sports agents and attorneys who have said that athletes looking to start foundations often do not know how to set those organizations up. Santore: "We think it's a worthwhile investment to help them find the right person to start it from scratch. That's not to exclude friends, family, etc. It's just to help." The work will extend to professional sports team and league foundations, as well. There will be a team of a half dozen placement execs at Witt/Kieffer working on the effort.

The SEC promoted Associate Commissioner GREG SANKEY to Exec Associate Commissioner & COO. Sankey will oversee daily operations for the conference and the promotion "could make him a candidate to eventually replace SEC Commissioner MIKE SLIVE" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 3/20)....Madison Square Garden Co. promoted MSG Entertainment Senior VP/Legal & Business Affairs BETH COLLINS to Corporate Senior VP/Business Development (MSG)….IndyCar promoted TONY GEORGE JR. to Firestone Indy Lights Dir, replacing ROGER BAILEY, who is retiring. George previously served as Manager of Business Development for the developmental series (, 3/20)….Global Spectrum named KEITH VASKE GM for the Tsongas Center at the Univ. of Massachusetts-Lowell. Vaske was previously Dir of Operations for Chaifetz Arena at St. Louis Univ. The company also named TRENT MERRITT GM for the Sun Dome at the Univ. of South Florida. Merritt was previously GM for the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario (Global Spectrum)….Slippery Rock Univ. named Southeast Missouri State Univ. Assistant AD/Business Affairs TORRY ROLLINS Associate AD (Slippery Rock)....Former Cox and Charter COO MAGGIE BELLVILLE has been named the first ever Exec Dir for the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (THE DAILY).

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In Pittsburgh, Taryn Luna reports Pirates Owner BOB NUTTING will "charter a bus" to return the Baldwin High School softball team home Sunday from a Cal Ripken Experience softball tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The players were "left in limbo without a way home when Direct Air shut down operations last week and cancelled their return flight from Myrtle Beach to Pittsburgh" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/21).

Forstmann's art collection features works from
artists such as Chaim Soutine

NAMES: Auction house Sotheby's yesterday announced that this spring it will "sell about 50 works of art" owned by the estate of the late IMG Chair & CEO TED FORSTMANN, with an estimated value of $75M (, 3/20)....Houston police officer RAYMOND PEREZ, who has accused MLS Dynamo G TYLER DERIC of assault, yesterday "filed a civil suit" against the team, D WARREN CREAVALLE, F WILL BRUIN and MF ALEX DIXON. The suit, filed in the District Court of Harris County (Texas), alleges the defendants "assaulted the plaintiff and are guilty of negligence" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/21)....Keeneland Race Course and bourbon distillery Maker’s Mark announced that former NFL and Univ. of Kentucky QB TIM COUCH will be featured on a commemorative bottle to benefit the UK Health Care's Gill Heart Institute. It is the 16th year the organizations have partnered to offer a charitable bottle (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 3/21)....Boxer FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR. has "paid all of the medical bills -- currently in excess of $49,000 -- for 10-month-old AUSTIN YORK, who was born with a rare heart abnormality known as hypoplastic right heart syndrome" (, 3/20)....Aerosmith bassist TOM HAMILTON and Red Sox DH DAVID ORTIZ have teamed up to support the '12 YouthCare Spring Gala April 26 at Boston's Four Seasons hotel (BOSTON HERALD, 3/21)....Izod IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix in St. Petersburg organizers announced yesterday that current "DANCING WITH THE STARS" contestant JACK WAGNER and his partner ANNA TREBUNSKAYA will serve as grand marshals for the season-opening race on Sunday, which is set to air on ABC (, 3/20).