In a significant restructuring at MLS, former Pac-12 Enterprises President GARY STEVENSON has been named President & Managing Dir of the league's new business unit, MLS Business Ventures. MLS President MARK ABBOTT has been given additional responsibilities and the added title of Deputy Commissioner. Stevenson, a 30-year sports industry veteran with experience also at the NBA, PGA Tour and Golf Channel, will join MLS next month. He will oversee all commercial and revenue areas for MLS and Soccer United Marketing, including media and broadcasting, marketing, content and digital. Stevenson will report to MLS Commissioner DON GARBER; SUM President KATHY CARTER and MLS CMO HOWARD HANDLER will report to Stevenson. “Gary’s vast experience in the sports and entertainment world, along with his deep understanding of the media landscape, will play a pivotal role in growing key areas of our business and forming new partnerships,” Garber said in a statement. Stevenson in a statement added, "It is an exciting time for Major League Soccer and I believe the league and Soccer United Marketing are poised for tremendous growth. ... I look forward to doing my part to help MLS grow its fan base and media value, as well as expanding the commercial value of soccer in the region.” Abbott, who has been MLS President since '06, will manage all areas of league operations and competition, including product strategy, player relations, strategic planning and communications. He will also lead a new business development group to identify new areas of opportunity for MLS and SUM.
People and Pop Culture
NYRA yesterday named CHRISTOPHER KAY President & CEO, and his "lack of experience in Thoroughbred racing was not viewed as a negative by the board," according to David Grening of the DAILY RACING FORM. Kay's background with "dealing in complex issues such as land privatization was enough to convince" the board. Kay, who will take over the position on July 1, will become the "first permanent president and CEO at NYRA since CHARLES HAYWARD was fired in May 2012 as the result of a takeout scandal." Kay was "chosen from a pool of more than 100 prospects that were interviewed" by executive search firm RSR Partners. RSR Managing Dir JOHN KEITT said that of that group, "only 28 were racing executives." He added that the racing execs he interviewed "did not have 'the requisite skills' to handle the complexity of the NYRA job." Keitt, when asked if he would hire a COO to run the day-to-day racing operations at NYRA, said, "It’s going to be one of the first things I look at." Grening noted Kay "held executive positions with Toys 'R' Us and Universal Parks and Resorts" before his time with Trust for Public Land (DRF.com, 6/18). In New York, Paul Post reports the job is "expected to pay $300,000, plus up to $250,000 in performance-based incentives." NYRA has been "run by a three-person management team since late April, when President ELLEN MCCLAIN left to pursue new opportunities" (THE SARATOGIAN, 6/19).
ON THE AGENDA: BLOODHORSE's Teresa Genaro wrote, "Among the issues facing NYRA is the future of Aqueduct Racetrack, the re-privatization of the organization following a three-year state takeover, and the possible opening of full-scale casinos in the state, currently under discussion in Albany." Kay said he "fell in love" with horse racing when he went to the track for the first time at age 19 (BLOODHORSE.com, 6/18). Kay said of his priorities with NYRA, "Number one, the Board has provided us with a three-year strategic plan, so I’m going to follow that strategic plan, and execute it. And, to summarize that, number one is going to be to enhance the guest experience for our racing fans and to recruit others to become new racing fans. The second is the re-privatization; to work with the kind of people we have at the table and with state government, and the third is just to improve the quality of racing and purses at every racetrack we operate" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 6/18).
Redskins Owner DAN SNYDER's Red Zone private equity firm has "sold Johnny Rockets, its oldies-themed burger-and-milkshake chain, for an undisclosed amount after six years of ownership," according to Thomas Heath of the WASHINGTON POST. A Sun Capital spokesperson said that an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners "purchased the 300-unit chain this month." Red Zone hired North Point Advisors earlier this year to "find a buyer." DC restaurant broker TOM PAPADOPOULOS said that he "did not fully understand the strategy behind Snyder’s purchase of Johnny Rockets." But he added, “I think he was going to put it in his Six Flags parks." Heath notes Red Zone "has restaurants in 17 Six Flags parks and on 11 Royal Caribbean cruise ships" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/19).
RUBBING ELBOWS: In Boston, Shanahan & Goldstein note Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT and his girlfriend, RICKI LANDER, were "hanging out with JAY-Z" in N.Y. Monday at "the 10th anniversary party for the rapper’s 40/40 Club." Kraft was in N.Y. to give the "keynote address at an Ernst & Young event" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/19).
Canucks VP/Hockey Operations & Assistant GM LAURENCE GILMAN is likely to rack up some serious frequent flier miles in the near future, as the Canucks last week announced a new affiliation agreement for an AHL team about 3,000 miles from Vancouver in upstate New York. While the exact management structure for the newly named AHL Utica Comets is still undetermined, he said, "We intend to have someone there handing the day-to-day operations." Gilman spoke to THE DAILY earlier this week about how the NHL's new CBA will challenge front office execs, the prophetic words of a former boss, and where to get the best fresh fish off the English Bay.
My time at work is spent thinking about...
We have been a team that has operated at the upper end of the NHL salary cap system, and I have spent a great deal of time on a day-to-day basis thinking about how our team is going to maximize our efficiency within the salary cap system, exploit the window that exists with our team given the maturity level of our core players.
Working with the new rules...
Leading up to the expiration of this collective bargaining agreement, I think that teams and general managers developed a very good understanding of the last agreement and really got better at making player personnel decisions earlier, with respect to a player’s evolutionary history. As the years moved forward, there were less the supply of players on July 1, the number of unrestricted free agents available on July 1 dwindled. What’s going to be interesting now, is that the supply of players is currently not that big, but at the same time, there may be a secondary supply of players because some other high level players may be bought out.
Best advice I've ever received...
When I started in the business, in Winnipeg in 1994, the President and Owner of the Winnipeg Jets was a gentleman by the name of BARRY SHENKAROW. At the time I was hired as a young attorney and I was actually hired in the finance department and was going to be working with the general manager JOHN PADDOCK and be involved in player contract negotiations and managing their salaries. What Barry said to me at the time, he was very prophetic, he said, “What we’re doing here with you -- by bringing a lawyer into the hockey operations world -- is revolutionary. However, the future of this industry is going to involve people like you. People who have law degrees, business degrees. They will be the future people running these franchises." ... And nearly 20 years later every team has someone with my background -- educational or business.
First media I consume each day...
The first thing I do in the morning is I fire up Twitter. Particularly because I work on the west coast which is three hours behind the east coast, I find out what has happened in the sports world and in the business world and the news world overnight. I think it’s the most efficient source of information gathering that I could find.
Smartphone of choice...
An iPhone 5, and I was a reluctant iPhone user at first. However, I now find it to be an indispensable item in my life. I travel an immense amount, whether it’s with the hockey team or on scouting trips or recently in getting our minor league system up and running, and I find that the applications that they have, particularly with respect to travel applications, things like TripAdvisor and Yelp!, help me find hotels and good meals wherever I need to go.
When the weather is nice, an awesome spot to capture what the city is all about is to go to a place called Go Fish!, which is owned by a high-end restaurant here, but it is a shack that they operate adjacent to Granville Island where you can go down to the docks and buy fresh fish. If the weather isn’t perfect, the next option for Vancouver would be to go for sushi. And the city has such a plethora of fantastic sushi places that I’d be hard pressed to name any particular one. My usual order is, I’m a cone guy, so I like a spicy tuna cone or a spicy spider cone.
When I have downtime...
I spend it with my wife and kids. I travel so much for so many things that there’s nothing better for me than spending an hour on the soccer field watching my son play or being in the gym for a couple hours watching my daughter compete in rhythmic gymnastics. The rules in my house are such that once I come in through the front door, we don’t talk a lot of hockey.
Too painful to watch...
Last year when we were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings after losing in Game 7 the year before, I was angry during the Cup Final and didn’t watch based on principle. This year, I find that my mental position is different, and I don’t have as much anger, but I’m experiencing longing to get back to the level that our team was at in 2011. So I have watched most of Game 1 and Game 2 and I expect that I will continue to watch this series as it unfolds.
Madison Square Garden Co. named former Topps President & CEO RYAN O’HARA to the newly created role of President of Content, Distribution & Sales. O’Hara will have responsibility for the MSG Media division, the company’s overall technology area and its marketing partnership division. He will begin July 1 (MSG).
EXECS: EPL club Newcastle United Managing Dir DEREK LLAMBIAS “has resigned from his position with immediate effect.” The “shock announcement” follows the club yesterday naming JOE KINNEAR Dir of Football (London INDEPENDENT, 6/19)....The Univ. of Maryland-Baltimore County named Univ. of Missouri-K.C. AD TIM HALL to the same position. UMKC Senior Associate AD CARLA WILSON “will serve as the Kangaroos interim AD” (K.C. STAR, 6/18)....The Canadian Olympic Committee named former Canadian women's hockey player FRANCE ST-LOUIS Assistant Chef de Mission for the ’14 Sochi Olympics (CP, 6/18)....Wellness wear company AlignMed named former Reebok President & CEO ROBERT MEERS CEO (AlignMed)....The Utah Sports Commission named DAVID SIMMONS BOD Chair, replacing J. STEVEN PRICE. The Commission also named JAMES SORENSON Vice Chair/Private Sector, WAYNE NIEDERHAUSER Vice Chair/Public Sector, PETER MOUSKONDIS Treasurer and STEVE MILLER Head of the Strategic Advisory Committee (SLTRIB.com, 6/18).
Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former NBC Sports Group Chair DICK EBERSOL yesterday received the WISE Champion Award "for his support of women in sports." WISE was to present the award at its awards luncheon in N.Y., honoring Ebersol for "expanding TV coverage of women's sports during the Olympics since the mid-1990s." The award is given annually to a male exec. Coca-Cola's SHARON BYERS, StubHub's DANIELLE MAGED and espnW's CAROL STIFF received Women of the Year awards (AP, 6/18).
ARMCHAIR QUARTERBACK: S.F.-based startup digital sports outfit Sqor has named former NFLer BRETT FAVRE to its BOD. Sqor is a sports social platform that seeks in part to forge a niche with unfiltered, original content from pro athletes. The alignment was brokered in part by Favre's agent, BUS COOK, who also is connected to Sqor CEO BRIAN WILHITE. Favre, like other Sqor BOD members, will have an equity stake in the company, and will serve as a product ambassador and counselor. Favre earlier this spring contributed NFL Draft analysis for Sqor (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
NAMES: UFL Sacramento Mountain Lions Owner PAUL PELOSI has "dumped as much as" $50M into the defunct league, including $4.4-9.5M last year (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/18)....Cavaliers Owner DAN GILBERT will return as a speaker at the Techonomy conference in Detroit on Sept. 17 (FREEP.com, 6/18)....49ers QB COLIN KAEPERNICK last night was the keynote speaker at the Rochester Press-Radio Club's annual charity dinner. Kaepernick said, "Chase your dreams. No matter how big they are, no matter what people say about your dreams, chase 'em" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 6/19)....NBC's TONY DUNGY is writing a book with his wife, LAUREN, and author NATHAN WHITAKER titled "UNCOMMON MARRIAGE: WHAT WE'VE LEARNED ABOUT LASTING LOVE AND OVERCOMING OBSTACLES TOGETHER." The book is "expected to be available" on Feb. 11 (INDYSTAR.com, 6/18)....Tigers P JUSTIN VERLANDER congratulated his brother BEN with a new Range Rover last week after signing a new contract with the team (DETROITNEWS.com, 6/18)....Orioles P MIGUEL GONZALEZ and his wife, LUCIA, on Monday gave birth to a baby girl, named LEAH (BALTIMORESUN.com, 6/18).