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Volume 24 No. 179

People and Pop Culture

Former tennis player JAMES BLAKE on Thursday was hired as ATP/WTA Miami Open Tournament Dir, where he will be "in charge of player relations, media, broadcast and tournament improvements and innovations," according to Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. Longtime Tournament Dir ADAM BARRETT "remains" as Exec Dir. The Miami Open will be "played on Key Biscayne for the last time" March 19-April 1 before moving to Hard Rock Stadium in '19 (MIAMI HERALD, 1/12). The Miami Open is owned and operated by IMG, which also represents Blake (THE DAILY). In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis writes tennis player TOMMY HAAS has "excelled in a similar role" to the one created for Blake for the ATP/WTA BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. Blake will have a "busy March, doing commentary for Tennis Channel during the BNP Paribas tournament before taking on his new duties in Miami" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 1/12).

RORY MCILROY is selling his mansion in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for $12.9M. McIlroy is "moving just five minutes away to the exclusive Bear's Club," where he has bought the former home of ERNIE ELS. In '13, McIlroy purchased the Palm Beach Gardens home for $9.5M. It has more than 10,000 square feet of living space and includes an "adjacent empty lot that the golfer also purchased." The house was built in '10 and has "six bedrooms, nine bathrooms" and a "synthetic putting green by the pool" (, 1/5).

FIELD OF DREAMS: Dodgers OF MATT KEMP has listed his mansion in the Heritage Hills neighborhood of Poway, Calif., for $7.95M. The 15,884-square-foot home was "headed for the auction block last year" before Kemp "elected not to proceed with the sale." The roughly four-acre estate includes a "tennis court, an infinity-edge swimming pool and a six-car garage." A separate pool/guesthouse "contains a gym and Roman steam spa" (, 1/11). 

ENTER THE MATRIX: Former NBAer SHAWN MARION is selling his house in Dallas for $5.9M. Highlights of the home include a "wood paneled office, EPIC upstairs game room, theatre, home gym, 2 wet bars, 2 laundry rooms, downstairs guest suite, temperature controlled wine room, private indoor lounge, resort-style outdoor pool, and a 4-car garage that holds up to 8 vehicles." The home was built in '08 and sits on a 2.99-acre lot (, 1/8).

: TNT’s KENNY SMITH has listed his home in Encino, Calif., for $3.595M. The two-story house features "vaulted and beamed ceilings, light wood floors and skylights for a bright and airy feel." The 6,106 square feet of interior space has six bedrooms and eight bathrooms and includes an "open-plan living room." A movie theater has its "own wet bar, bathroom and balcony" (, 1/10)....Former NFLer JOSELIO HANSON has bought a home in Woodland Hills neighborhood of L.A. for $2.3M. Built in '15, the contemporary house "takes in panoramic cityscape and mountain views." Approximately 5,700 square feet of "sleek living space includes four bedrooms and five bathrooms" (, 1/8)....Canadiens D SHEA WEBER listed his home in Nashville for $1.85M. The 7,387-square-foot home includes "five bedrooms, four full bathrooms and two half-baths." It sits on a "nearly" one-acre lot (, 1/11)....Royals P IAN KENNEDY has sold his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., for $1.71M. Set on nearly an acre in a "gated equestrian community," the home includes "six bedrooms, six bathrooms" and 6,360 square feet of living space (, 1/8).

Hornets President & COO FRED WHITFIELD has long been a staple in the Charlotte community, and this weekend he will balance a two-game homestand with several local philanthropic efforts ahead of MLK Day. The Hornets host the Jazz on Friday night ahead of a Saturday night tilt against the Thunder, and Whitfield will be at Spectrum Center for both matchups before a jam-packed Monday. He spoke to THE DAILY about his holiday plans, how he spends his time during home games and his focus on giving back to his community. 

THE GOOD STUFF: Ahead of our game against the Jazz, on early Friday afternoon I’ll meet with the new Superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District to discuss our partnership around education. Then ahead of Saturday’s game, I’ll participate in a panel discussion -- the “MLK: 3D Leaders Panel" -- which we’ll host in the early afternoon with students from six local high schools in under-served neighborhoods in Charlotte. That’ll be a lot of fun to get in front of those high school kids and tell them how we got to where we are in our career and how important education is. 

HERE COMES THE THUNDER: Saturday is one of the nights this season where we’ll wear our Classic Edition uniforms, the teal pinstripe look from the original Hornets. I was a season-ticket holder with the old Hornets, so I remember them well. Our fans have been clamoring to get that back just as much as they did for the name itself. We’re expecting a complete sellout what with RUSSELL WESTBROOK, PAUL GEORGE and CARMELO ANTHONY coming in. Right before the game, I’ll do an interview with Fox Sports Southeast’s STEPHANIE READY and MATT CARROLL to discuss some of the initiatives we have on the horizon. Sunday will be a family day for me, and I’ll be locked in on all the NFL playoff games. I’m a Panthers man through-and-through. Have been since Day 1, so really don’t have any favorites. Just love watching come playoff time. 

JERSEY IN THE RAFTERS: Monday is a special day for me for several reasons. Obviously, there’s the MLK holiday, which I start every year by attending the McCrorey YMCA prayer breakfast at the Charlotte Convention Center. I haven’t missed one in my 12 seasons here. So I’ll start the morning early with that, then I’ll watch our 12:30pm game against the Pistons on TV. After that, I’ll drive to my hometown of Greensboro and go back to see my high school retire my basketball jersey that evening. Looking forward to getting back to Southeast Guilford High School for their game and the halftime unveiling. It’ll be emotional because I’ve been out of high school for 40 years, and it’ll be great to see my old teammates, who all have committed to come back. With it being a neighborhood school that I was bused to every day, it’ll be awesome to get to spend the evening there. 

ALL ABOUT THE FANS: I’ve been here 12 seasons and I’ve never actually sat and watched the game. I prefer to stand in our team tunnel, which leads back to our locker room and our two premium clubs. It allows me not only to watch the game, but also interact with our customers. I try to look at it as if I’m hosting a party at my home. The last thing I want to do is go find a comfortable chair and sit down. I make it a point every night to welcome them during pregame -- say hello and let’s have a great night. I also spend a considerable amount of time in the second half of games visiting suites and connecting with our customers there. 

OFF THE COURT: Ilios Noche and Art’s BBQ & Deli are a couple of my family’s favorite restaurants around Charlotte. As far as TV goes, I’m a lawyer by trade and one of my personal favorites is "LAW & ORDER," which we watch a ton of around our house, along with "THE FIRST 48."

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The Rays promoted the following: MELANIE LENZ to Chief Development Officer; JEFF TANZER to VP/Ticket Sales & Service; and ERIC WEISBERG to VP/Marketing & Creative Services. The team also named JIM PREVITERA Senior Dir of Game Operations & Security, PATRICK SMITH Senior Dir & Controller and MICHAEL WEINMAN Dir of Game Presentation & Production (Rays)....The Cubs promoted Dir of Baseball Operations SCOTT HARRIS to Assistant GM, Assistant to the GM JEFF GREENBERG to Dir of Baseball Operations and Assistant GM SHIRAZ REHMAN to Assistant GM/Strategic Initiatives (Cubs).

EXECS: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club promoted Exec VP & COO JOSH RUBENSTEIN to President & COO (, 1/10)....The NHL Kings named JEFF HINK Senior Dir of Security for the club and its Toyota Sports Center practice facility in El Segundo (THE DAILY)....The Univ. of Tulsa named Texas Associate Dir of Applied Performance ERICH ANTHONY Assistant AD/Athletic Performance (, 1/10)....Marketing firm Pivot Agency named former NBA Kings Dir of Corporate Sponsorships BRIAN HASTINGS VP/Business Development (Pivot)....Minnesota-based brand activation agency Modern Promos named BILL SLUBEN VP/Growth Strategy. He will be based in Atlanta (Modern Promos).

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Steelers investor THOMAS TULL on Thursday said that he and his family are moving from L.A. to Pittsburgh full time and that his holding company, Tulco, "will be headquartered" in Pittsburgh as well (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/12)....ESPN's STEPHANIA BELL will be the first woman inducted into the Fantasy Sports Writers Association HOF (, 1/10)....Golfer INBEE PARK, a South Korea native, received calls about "playing a role in the ongoing festivities" leading up to the Pyeongchang Games, but Park will not participate in any as she is "too busy preparing" for the '18 season (, 1/11)....Steelers QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER has “completed at deal” to open a 7,100-square-foot restaurant in a building now under construction near PNC Park (, 1/11)....VENUS WILLIAMS has started dating investor NICHOLAS HAMMOND (, 1/11). 

Start the new year by submitting your entry for the Sports Business Awards.
Entries are being accepted through Friday. This year’s categories are:

Sports Team
Sports League
Sports Event
Sports Executive
Athletic Director
Sports Media
Digital Sports Media
Sports Social Media
Mobile Fan Experience
Talent Representation
Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services
Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services
Sports Event and Experiential Marketing
Sports Sponsor
Sports Facility
Sports Technology
Sports Breakthrough

To submit an entry, click here.