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Volume 24 No. 156

People and Pop Culture

FanDuel co-Founder & CEO NIGEL ECCLES is "leaving the company and stepping down" from his role as Chair of its BOD to start an esports company, according to Kurt Wagner of RECODE. Yesterday was Eccles' last day at FanDuel. He had been "kicking around new startup ideas" ever since FanDuel and DraftKings "agreed to a merger late last year." Eccles was "set to be the chairman of the new joint company but he was not going to be CEO." That deal "fell through in July after the government threatened to block it to prevent the two companies from forming a monopoly." Eccles' replacement as CEO is MATT KING, who "served as FanDuel’s CFO for three years," ending in '16. He then "left and spent a year at insurance broker Cottingham & Butler before returning to FanDuel to become its CEO." King is "taking a board seat." Former Dish Network Vice Chair CARL VOGEL and former Fox Sports Head Of Business Operations DAVID NATHANSON are "also joining the board" (, 11/20).'s David Purdum noted Eccles founded FanDuel in '09 and is "considered the 'Godfather of daily fantasy sports' by some in the industry." Under his direction, the company "rose to the top of the daily fantasy industry" alongside DraftKings (, 11/20). Eccles tweeted of his departure, "Excited but a little bit sad to be leaving @fanduel today. It has been an amazing 8 years. Really excited to see how Matt King and the team drive the company in 2018 and beyond. For me I'm building something awesome in eSports. Watch this space" (, 11/20).

EXOS, the firm known for training NFL draft prospects, has formed a long term partnership with BridgeAthletic, a startup software company which counts coaches, trainers, physical therapists and athletes as clients. Financial terms were not disclosed. Under the agreement, EXOS will provide training videos and methodology to BridgeAthletic, which was founded in '13 by MICHAEL SHARF, a former All-American water polo player at Cal, and NICK FOLKER, previously the Cal Dir of Aquatic Performance. EXOS Founder & President MARK VERSTEGEN said the agreement helps the performance training company to carry out its mission of optimizing athletic performance all over the country. “Not only will EXOS coaches be able to better scale their reach, but individual athletes and industry practitioners will also be able to use the platform to access EXOS methodology,” Verstegen said. BridgeAthletic works with over 250 elite organizations including teams across every pro sports league and Power Five NCAA conference, as well as a number of NGBs and youth organizations.

A week before ESPN is slated to lay off more than 100 staffers as part of company-wide cost-cutting moves, the company parted ways with one of its top ad sales execs. Exec VP/Global Advertising Revenue & Sales Operations ERIC JOHNSON has left ESPN, ending a tenure that started in '99, but an ESPN source said Johnson's move is not part of the coming layoffs. Johnson, who reported to President/Global Sales & Marketing ED ERHARDT, oversaw global ad sales for ESPN’s TV, print, digital media, audio and syndication. Johnson will remain an advisor to Erhardt for an undetermined amount of time, but it is not clear what Johnson’s next step will be. Johnson did not return a text message, and ESPN would not comment (John Ourand, Staff Writer).

EXECS: GSW Esports LLC -- which is owned and operated by the Warriors -- named Yahoo Esports Head of Operations HUNTER LEIGH to the same position. He will report to Warriors Assistant GM KIRK LACOB (Warriors)....USL club Sacramento Republic FC Dir of Football GRAHAM SMITH has resigned. Smith has "been with the club since its inception" in '14 (, 11/20)....The Philadelphia-based Int'l Association of Golf Administrators named Utah Golf Association Exec Dir BILL WALKER to the same position (, 11/20).

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CASEY WASSERMAN is among those "leading UCLA's search" for a new football coach, along with AD DAN GUERRERO, Senior Associate AD/External Operations JOSH REBHOLZ and Fox' TROY AIKMAN. UCLA fired JIM MORA on Sunday (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/21). Meanwhile, Auburn has appointed a "six-person advisory committee and a search firm" to help find a new AD to replace JAY JACOBS. The committee, chaired by school trustee GAINES LANIER, will include PGA Tour player JASON DUFNER, women's golf coach KIM EVANS, former gymnast ADRIENNE LEE, finance professor BEVERLY MARSHALL and trustee QUENTIN RIGGS, a former Auburn football player (, 11/20).

GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE: The only known jersey from JACKIE ROBINSON's '47 rookie season sold for $2.05M in Heritage Auctions' "Heroes of Sport" auction on Sunday. The price bested Heritage's previous auction record of $573,600 for a '55 game-worn jersey of SANDY KOUFAX (Heritage Auctions)....The No. 99 jersey Yankees RF AARON JUDGE wore when he broke BABE RUTH’s 96-year single-season record for the most homers for a Yankee at home on Sept. 30, 2017, “went for $90,676.95 at auction by Steiner Sports” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/21).

NAMES: Newark-based Hobby's Deli named a sandwich after Devils C NICO HISCHIER "shortly after" the team selected him No. 1 in the '17 NHL Draft. The sandwich features grilled chicken, raw onion, lettuce, tomato and Swiss cheese "on a hard roll with mayonnaise and honey mustard" (, 11/18)....Cavaliers VP/Ticket Sales & Service DIONNA WIDDER was named to Crain’s Cleveland Business' “Forty under 40” list (CRAIN’S CLEVELAND BUSINESS, 11/20 issue)....MARIA SHARAPOVA is “under investigation by Indian police for cheating and criminal conspiracy after the collapse of a luxury housing project that she endorsed.” The firm behind the development is “alleged to have taken millions of dollars from homebuyers before the project folded” (AFP, 11/21)....Basketball HOFer JERRY COLANGELO is a principal for JDM Partners in Phoenix, which has formed a company that has “filed a zoning application to develop" a "nearly 2 million-square-foot mixed-use project called La Via on a site in Scottsdale” (, 11/21)....Liquor wholesale company Breakthru Beverage Group, co-owned by Blackhawks Chair ROCKY WIRTZ’ family, yesterday said that it “will merge” with Texas-based Republic National Distribution to “create the country’s second-largest liquor distributor.” Wirtz will serve on the new company's BOD (CRAIN’S CHICAGO BUSINESS 11/20 issue)....Musician JAKE OWEN will receive a sponsor’s exemption to play in the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open benefitting golfer BRANDT SNEDEKER’s foundation on May 21 (AP, 11/20).

Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum

December 6-7, Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan

Current student athletes, including three National Football Foundation William V. Campbell Trophy finalists, will discuss their life-changing experiences as high performing student athletes.

Guest Moderator:
Jack Ford, Emmy and Peabody Award-Winning Journalist and Board Member, National Football Foundation

Chayse Capps, University of Oklahoma
Justin Jackson, Northwestern University
Brad Lundblade, Oklahoma State University
Cassie Pantelas, Seton Hall University
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State University

To view the complete PROGRAM AGENDA and the SPEAKER FACULTY, please go to