Grizzlies' Levien Discusses Ownership's Visibility, Challenges Of Small Market
Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien recently discussed several issues surrounding the Grizzlies, including the team’s "unprecedented start, ownership’s new plans for business and basketball operations, and just how important it is" for team Owner Robert Pera to have a high profile in Memphis, according to Michael Sheffield of the MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Below are excerpts from the Q&A:
Q: How will you address the challenges of being in a small market like Memphis, as far as sponsorships and ticket sales? Do you have any plans on how to increase corporate partnerships locally?
Levien: One of the advantages we have is we’re the only professional sports league in town. ... Right now, we’re trying to figure out the right relationships and how the Grizzlies can help other businesses grow. We’re figuring out everything from food service to the concerts we’re going to promote to parking. We want to create a better experience from the moment a ticket holder leaves their house to the moment they get home.
Q: How long will the ownership group be prepared to lose money, and how will you supplement losses?
Levien: There’s a lot of pressure on us and a lot of focus on making this a viable business that is breaking even, if not profitable. A big path to doing that is growing the pie with more revenue, more season ticket holders and more suite holders.
Q: You recently initiated several personnel moves with DC United that included the departure of long-term employees. Can you explain the reasoning behind those moves? Will you take a similar approach in Memphis?
Levien: I always say with DC United, the reasoning was about optimizing the growth of the business and pivoting to a new way of doing things. We wanted to bring in some fresh ideas and some new people. There’s not really a correlation here.
Q: NBA owners range in visibility from (Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban, who is everywhere, to (San Antonio Spurs owner) Peter Holt, who is pretty low-key. How important do you think visibility is for ownership?
Levien: Robert and I agreed that the visibility would be much more me than him. We also agreed that we wanted local ownership to be a big part of that in strategizing how to do business in Memphis the right way. You’ll see Robert here and engaged, and he’s very involved in the organization (MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/4 issue).