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Volume 22 No. 19
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Forty Under 40


Matt Higgins’ first day as press secretary for then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2000 should have been a great day. At 26, he was becoming the youngest person to ever hold that job.

His mother, though, died the same day after a long health battle. So he was press secretary, going to Fordham law school at night and coping with family tragedy.

Anyone who knows Higgins, though, knows he would find a bright side.

“Giuliani gave her a funeral like a head of state,” he recalled, trying to leaven the memory.

Higgins is not afraid to speak his mind, whether it’s about his own battle with cancer or what deals he thinks the NFL should allow teams to pursue. That’s why it was no surprise last month when he became the first team executive to publicly talk about his club’s plans in the event of a lockout.

He was a primary force behind the league’s move to allow scratch-off lottery sponsorships, and he is at the forefront of the Jets’ social media push. The team is the NFL’s tops on Twitter, thanks in part to Higgins’ über Twitter presence (@mhigginsjets).

He began his career as a cub reporter at the Queens Tribune, a weekly newspaper in the New York borough. His column on helping people solve their problems with government caught the notice of the Giuliani administration.

After moving quickly through the administration’s ranks, he departed to help run the redevelopment of lower Manhattan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, before joining the Jets in 2004. He also is responsible for owner Woody Johnson’s fundraising efforts on behalf of Republican candidates.

In the days between the team’s playoff victories in Indianapolis and New England, he and Johnson were fundraising in Israel.
But his primary duty is to sell stadium inventory and promote the Jets brand. And when it comes time to tell stories like how the team will handle a lockout, Higgins is still the go-to PR man.

Age: 36
Title: Executive vice president, business operations
TEAM: New York Jets
Education: B.A., political science, Queens College; J.D., Fordham Law
Family: Wife, Michele; son, Matthew Jr.; daughter, Collette
Career: Held several positions in Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s communications department; named vice president of communications of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. following 9/11, and eventually COO in 2004; joined the Jets as vice president of strategic planning; eventually promoted to EVP
Last vacation: Paris

What's on your iPod: The XX, Pearl Jam,
Passion Pit, Arcade Fire, Eminem
Guilty pleasure: Leaving my house at the
Jersey Shore, getting in my boat and heading to
lower Manhattan, docking at the north cove and
walking to Tribeca
Best stress release: Running some unnatural distance at 5:30 a.m.
Pet peeve: When the iPad tries to finish my sentences for me and makes me sound like an idiot
Greatest achievement: Losing 50 pounds and running the marathon in the same year
Fantasy job: CIA director
Business advice: Pick up the hot potato; when it cools off, you get to eat it.