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Volume 24 No. 117

People and Pop Culture

Since signing with the Warriors, KEVIN DURANT has "become a fixture in powerful" Silicon Valley circles, "breaking bread with, receiving intel from, and sometimes coinvesting" beside execs like Apple CEO TIM COOK and VC firms like Andreessen Horowitz, according to a cover story by Jon Steinberg of S.F. MAGAZINE. Through an umbrella corporation -- Durant Co. -- Durant and his agent, Roc Nation Sports' RICH KLEIMAN, have "acquired equity stakes in no fewer than 30 young companies." This is not an "entirely new idea," as a "constellation of current and former NBA stars" recently have also "made a raft of investments in startups of all sizes, shapes, and sectors within the tech industry." But none of these athletes has "infiltrated the highest echelon of the industry or forged as many symbiotic relationships with Valley luminaries as rapidly, or with as much quiet determination, as has Durant." Durant said of the early part of his career, "I had to do the Gatorade stuff, I had to do McDonald’s, I had to do so much stuff that I didn’t want to do.” Steinberg notes the "demands of too many endorsement deals -- a high of 13 at one point, now whittled down to 3 or 4 -- took their toll." Durant: “I hated photo shoots for stuff that I didn’t even use. And then Rich came in and simplified my whole life, and now the only stuff I’m doing is because I want to do it." Kleiman in '15 "sought out JAY-Z’s approval to drop the rest of his Roc Nation client list and focus all of his attentions" on Durant. Kleiman "still represents Durant as a player agent under the umbrella of Roc Nation Sports," but Durant Co. and a content-development arm called 35 Media is an "independent entity" (S.F. MAGAZINE, October '17 issue).

Zebra Technologies VP & GM of Location Solutions JILL STELFOX is abruptly leaving the company after nearly five years. Stelfox, who is due to leave at the end of the month, played a significant role in the development of the Zebra Sports operations, including a large-scale partnership with the NFL for RFID-based player tracking that this year expanded to include the ball. The Zebra Sports business will now become part of the company’s Visibility & Mobility operation led by Senior VP BILL BURNS. He will be aided by VP/Sports Business Development JOHN POLLARD and Dir of Operations JOHN BACON. Zebra officials did not comment on the reasoning behind Stelfox' surprise departure. Zebra’s contract with the NFL runs through the '18 season, and discussions are underway toward an extension.

MSG Co. has hired Twitch VP/Esports NICK ALLEN as head of its competitive gaming division. He will be responsible for expanding MSG's presence in the space, as well as with operating Counter Logic Gaming, the team that MSG acquired a controlling stake in last month. Allen, who will also serve as CLG COO, will work alongside CLG Founder & President GEORGE "HOTSHOTGG" GEORGALLIDIS to find new ways to grow the brand, as well as form new marketing partnerships, develop media rights and create live ticketed events. Allen in his role with MSG will oversee broader esports initiatives, the company's relationships with game publishers, leagues and entities across the industry, including the nascent NBA2K esports league, as well as in the creation of esports events and content at MSG-owned venues. MSG Sports Exec VP JORDAN SOLOMON in a statement said, "Nick brings with him an extensive knowledge of esports and a deep set of relationships developed through overseeing some of the industry’s most popular events, and he has created initiatives that have continued to grow the gaming community. His vision for the esports space will be an invaluable asset." At Twitch, Allen was responsible for executing the streaming site’s global esports strategy, negotiating developer partnerships and building and managing its esports team, which handled league operations and marketing esports programs and initiatives. Previously, he was the Riot Games Esports Operations Manager. Allen will begin his new role with MSG on Oct. 2.

Name: Kip Elliott

Position: Twins Exec VP, Chief Administrative Officer & CFO

Where I’m from: Fredericksburg, Iowa

Where I call home: Hudson, Wis.

Focusing on right now: Certainly postseason preparation is in full swing. We’ve got a pretty veteran group, so most people have been through it several times. In the previous decade we went a lot. We’ve got some pretty significant capital projects that are going to occur at Target Field again. Ownership has been really good about always trying to do some new things. So, we got that going on and then that translates into some short-term and long-term cash planning that we have to do to pay for those products.

Best advice: I’m an Iowa farm kid, so my parents were always saying “work hard and try to be the hardest worker in the room,” but also “be good to people and try to stay humble.” They followed the mantra of not needing to be the loudest voice in the room, but try to be the most thoughtful voice in the room.

A must for a new hire: The most important skill or quality to have is always communication. Most successful people tend to always be very good communicators. You’ve got to be able to speak, you’ve got to be able to write, you’ve got to be able to listen.

Exec I admire most
: Former U.S. Bank CEO RICHARD DAVIS. It’s kind of a cool life story. He started as a teller when he was 18, 19 years old, I think, and worked his way up through the banking industry. But the qualities that I admire the most in Richard was he was an excellent communicator. Real engaging guy and just a sincere, humble person. He is one of those guys that if you’re in a room with him he just makes people feel good about themselves.

Best book I’ve read this year
: I’m more of a periodical guy, I just kind of keep up on current events. But I just started reading MICHAEL USEEM’s “THE LEADERSHIP MOMENT.” It’s a collection of true stories about some unique leadership moments. I’m a self-help or nonfiction guy. I don’t really read fiction.

Talking tech: In baseball, there’s a focus on virtual reality right now. You can see that’s going to be a big thing in the coming years. It probably gets fans closer to the game, right? It’s a way to feel like you’re more part of the game. I’m sure 5-10 years from now, we’ll be amazed what is happening with virtual reality. You’re just seeing it getting started now.

Must-have music: I’m an old rock & roll fan -- SPRINGSTEEN, SEGER, MELLENCAMP -- those kinds of artists. And then also country, I’m a pretty big country fan. KENNY CHESNEY, ERIC CHURCH, JASON ALDEAN, ZAC BROWN BAND.

Food for thought: The Twin Cities’ food scene is pretty good for the size of the city that it is. There’s a lot of good choices, but I tend to be a little more traditional. I’m usually a steak and cabernet guy.

First thing in the morning: I live far away from the ballpark. So to beat traffic, I usually try to get out the door pretty early. I go down to the ballpark, I work out in the morning and that gets my day kicked off. Then I shower up and hit the office.

Day in the life
: It is relatively unpredictable. A lot of meetings where you’re trying to implement the various plans you have or dealing with the latest financial issues. A lot of things as it relates to budgets and protractions, etc. tend to tie into my day. Sports teams, we’re really pretty small companies. So, we don’t really have that much staff. Everybody tends to wear a variety of hats. That’s what makes it fun.

How I unwind
: I have three kids, the two oldest are boys who are both in college. My daughter is a sophomore in high school. So, most of my life -- and my wife’s life -- has been spent going to their activities, and that really has been our social life for quite a long time. The oldest boy still plays baseball in college, so we spend some time going down there and our daughter swims year-round. If it’s not kids activities, it's hanging out with friends on the deck or outside having a beer or wine.

Pro Football HOFer DAN MARINO and members of the NHL Panthers yesterday joined a group at BB&T Center to "load up almost two dozen trucks" of supplies which would "soon head south toward the Florida Keys" for those affected by Hurricane Irma. The Panthers "collected over 80 palettes worth of supplies such as dry goods, bottled water and clothing by holding relief drives at their arena and training facility." The Panthers and JetBlue "teamed up for a free food truck event last week which handed out close to 20,000 meals with no strings attached" (MIAMI HERALD, 9/20). Employees from the Magic, NBA G League Lakeland Magic and ECHL Orlando Solar Bears spent about an hour yesterday "packing thousands of meals for children impacted" by Irma. The group included Magic Chair DAN DEVOS and CEO ALEX MARTINS (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/20).

ACTIONS MATCHING WORDS: Eagles DE CHRIS LONG will "donate his first six game checks of the season to fund a pair of seven-year scholarships to middle school students in his hometown of Charlottesville, Va." The scholarships will be "administered by Long’s alma mater, St. Anne’s-Belfield School, which will award them to two members of the Boys & Girls Club of Central Virginia." Long in a statement said that the white supremacy marches held in Charlottesville during the summer "spurred him and his wife MEGAN to set up the scholarships" (, 9/19).

GIVING BACK: Canadiens LW JONATHAN DROUIN has made a donation to the Fondation du Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) of $500,000 (all figures C) spread out "over the next 10 years." He will also work with CHUM to help raise another $5M (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 9/20). Drouin's contribution is "substantial," and his intention to "get other people involved in the cause is just as important" (, 9/19).

Cubs VP/Marketing ALISON MILLER has left the club after five years. Club sources described the departure as fully amicable and planned for several months as Miller seeks a new position with more direct budget responsibility. A search for Miller’s successor is now ongoing. Miller, a former General Mills exec, arrived at the club in ’12 and oversaw the branding, fan research, promotions and in-game entertainment (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).

NOT SO FAST: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority Exec Dir SCOTT MCKIBBEN signed a three-year extension paying him $300,000 a year along with a $500 a month car allowance. McKibben had a "verbal agreement to take a similar position" with the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, which runs Levi's Stadium. However, the Coliseum JPA Board of Commissioners on Friday "offered a deal he could not refuse" (, 9/18).

: Former Bills GM DOUG WHALEY has joined Impellia, which "develops software and sensor technology that can be used for injury prevention and performance enhancement." As Senior Sports Business Adviser, Whaley "will advise the company on what technology may be useful to pursue and develop from the team perspective." He said of the move, "Right now, it’s a short-term deal. It’s something to keep me busy, keep my mind engaged, keep me around the game, but not in the game." Impellia was co-founded in '15 by former NFLer CHARLIE BATCH (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/18 issue).

: Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment and the Lightning named Feld Entertainment VP/Financial & Strategic Planning CASEY RODGERS CFO. Rodgers will report directly to CEO STEVE GRIGGS (TBEP)....Monumental Sports & Entertainment named MLSE Dir of Global Partnerships PATSY COYLE VP/Global Partnership Retention (THE DAILY)....Hospitality outfit Tailgate Guys named Vivid Seats Senior VP/Partnerships A.J. MACHOSKY Senior VP/Sales & Business Development (Tailgate Guys)....SMG named Flash Entertainment VP/Projects TONY CIMA Senior VP/Stadiums & Arenas (THE DAILY)....United Entertainment Group Senior VP BRIAN WALKER announced his last day with the company will be this Friday (THE DAILY)....Americrown & ISC named Single-A Carolina League Lynchburg Hillcats GM/Food & Beverarge ARJUN SURESH Senior Dir of Concessions (THE DAILY)....Texas Motor Speedway named Dallas/Ft. Worth-based Spectrum Sports anchor/producer BRIAN SANDLER Broadcast Media Relations Manager (TMS).

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Warriors GM & President of Basketball Operations BOB MYERS' alma mater, Monte Vista High in Danville, Calif., declared yesterday to be "Bob Myers Day." While Myers "took the banners in the library and autographs and Q&A sessions with students that went along with the event in stride, he couldn't handle the t-shirts." Myers said, "The t-shirt thing has me all screwed up ... I don't know what to make of that." The t-shirts featured a cartoon of Myers and the Larry O'Brien trophy and were "handed out to students." Myers: "Am I getting more comfortable with (the attention)? Probably not ... I don't really know what to make of that. Anonymity is a good thing" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/20).

: Forbes released its list of 100 greatest business minds, and  included on the list are AEG Chair PHIL ANSCHUTZ, Trail Blazers and Seahawks Owner PAUL ALLEN, Falcons and Atlanta United Owner ARTHUR BLANK, A's Exec VP/Baseball Operations BILLY BEANE, Cavaliers Owner DAN GILBERT, Cowboys Owner JERRY JONES and Jaguars Owner SHAHID KHAN (, 9/19). Forbes last night "held its 100th anniversary bash" at Pier Sixty in N.Y. Among those in attendance were Jones and Gilbert (, 9/19).

NAMES: NFL line judge and former VP/Officiating CARL JOHNSON is "under investigation in Louisiana after a woman accused him of being violent toward her multiple times." Johnson is "reportedly denying the accusations." The woman told TMZ that she "reached out to the league in March." Johnson was "on the sideline" during Eagles-Chiefs this past Sunday (, 9/19)....Steiner Sports Founder & CEO BRANDON STEINER has launched “PROJECT X,” a TV show for aspiring entrepreneurs. It will be hosted by Steiner and air on his Facebook page (Steiner Sports)....The TRUMP administration has tapped former NFLer JOHNATHAN HOLIFIELD to “lead a White House initiative” for historically black colleges (L.A. TIMES, 9/20)....Global Sports Financial Exchange named actor ZACK WARD CEO, where he will “run a new stock-like exchange that allows fans of the NHL and other pro sports leagues to buy and sell their favorite teams.” Ward starred as Scut Farkus in “A CHRISTMAS STORY” (, 9/19)....Sources said that former NFLer CHARLES TILLMAN “recently began training to join” the FBI (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/20)....Blue Equity has acquired N.Y.-based full-service chef representation management company Two Twelve Management (Blue Equity).

AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises conference and Ticketing Symposium

Oct. 11-13: Omni Atlanta CNN Center, Atlanta

Added to the Program

20 Questions with Josh Logan, Director, Championships & Alliances, NCAA

Hear How the NCAA Is Implementing Ticketing and Marketing Strategies to Increase Attendance and Revenue for 90 NCAA Championships in 23 Sports Across 3 Divisions

Featured Presentation: Paul Zikopoulos, Vice President, Cognitive Big Data Systems, IBM

Artificial Intelligence: How Machinery and Big Data Are Shaping the Future

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