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Volume 21 No. 1

Game Changers

Talented people are the driving force behind all successful industries. The sports business is no different. But far too often, the stories in SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily focus on the stories of successful men. This week, we tell the stories of women in the sports business — women with broad, deep, and varied responsibilities and oversight who contribute to the success of the industry in multiple ways.


Women today are clearly having an impact in sports through positions of leadership, but challenges remain.

The following are results of the Turnkey Sports Poll taken in September. The survey covered more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.

Have you, during your professional career in sports, had a female executive as your direct supervisor?

Yes 49%
No 50%
No response 1%

Compared to other industries (e.g.: financial services, telecommunications), do women in sports face more challenges achieving success in the business of sports?

More 54%
Same 37%
Fewer 5%
Not sure / No response 4%

Source: Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal. Turnkey Intelligence specializes in research, measurement and lead generation for brands and properties. Visit

They may be the force behind significant projects or driving operational change. They may be the ones developing new approaches in marketing and media, or spearheading initiatives getting noticed and worth watching. As a group, they are executives whom people are talking about and looking up to as agents of change, as well as key decision-makers who are shaping sports investments and programs at their respective organizations. Some have been doing it for years; others are relative newcomers to the industry.

They are our inaugural class of “Game Changers: Women in Sports Business.”

In addition to telling their stories, which appear on the pages that follow, each Game Changer completed a survey aimed at getting to know more about her. Select answers appear with each story. Each woman also was asked to provide us with a photograph that showed her holding, or pictured with, something of significance to her. Some women selected elements from their work environment. Others looked to family or other outside interests. Each selection was unique.

Of course, the collection of names here is by no means a complete list of notable women working in sports. There’s no doubt that the sports business is rife with talented women taking the lead across all areas of the industry, and many of these women have had their stories told in our pages previously. The talents of Katie Blackburn, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Jacqueline Parkes, Bea Perez, Jennifer Storms and others have been documented through our annual Forty Under 40 award list. The accomplishments of Val Ackerman and Donna Lopiano have been recognized in our Champions program, and pioneer Billie Jean King was honored with our Lifetime Achievement Award last year. There’s ISC’s Lesa France Kennedy, who was profiled in a front-page story, and there’s Heidi Ueberroth with the NBA and Kathy Carter at MLS/SUM, who have been regularly featured in both SBJ and SBD.

Our goal here, with Game Changers, is to shine a light on a group of women — some you might know, others you might be reading about for the first time — who follow in the progressive and innovative heritage of these colleagues. They offer new solutions, ideas and perspectives that will change the sports business in the years to come.

Stacey Allaster, WTA
Lisa Baird, U.S. Olympic Committee
Kathy Behrens, NBA
Ann Wells Crandall, N.Y. Road Runners
Jane Geddes, WWE
Jill Gregory, NASCAR
Ilana Kloss, World TeamTennis
Julie Roe Lach, NCAA
Danette Leighton, Pac-12 Conference
Sheila McLenaghan, PGA Tour
Marla Miller, MLB
Kathryn Olson, Women’s Sports Foundation
Michelle Wilson, WWE
Anne Worcester, New Haven Open
Jeanne Bonk, San Diego Chargers
Karen Bryant, Seattle Storm
Jeanie Buss, Los Angeles Lakers
Casey Coffman, MSG
Pam Gardner, Houston Astros
Tery Howard, Miami Dolphins
Amy Latimer, Boston Bruins/TD Garden
Cheryl Levick, Georgia State University
Sarah Mensah, Portland Trail Blazers
Chris Plonsky, University of Texas
Janet Marie Smith, Baltimore Orioles
Amy Trask, Oakland Raiders

Karen Brodkin, Fox Cable Networks
Amy Cohen, Comcast Sports Group
Rosalyn Durant, ESPNU
Laura Gentile, ESPNW
Christina Miller, NBA Digital/Turner Sports
Rebecca Schulte, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic
Susan Stone, MLB Network
Melinda Witmer, Time Warner Cable

Michelle Berg, Team Epic
Amy Erschen, The Marketing Arm
Kit Geis, Genesco Sports Enterprises
Tamera Green, GMR Marketing
Hillary Mandel, IMG Media
Lisa Murray, Octagon Worldwide
Sue Rodin, WISE/Stars & Strategies
Jill Smoller, William Morris Endeavor
Circe Wallace, Wasserman Media Group
Paula Yancey, PC Sports
Cindy Davis, Nike Golf
Tina Davis, Citigroup
Lauren Hobart, Dick’s Sporting Goods
Jane Kleinberger, Paciolan
Jackie Woodward, MillerCoors

Cohen grew up cheering for Philly teams, then entered
the city’s sports world when she went to work for
Amy Cohen
Comcast Sports Group
SVP, General Counsel

Comcast has a simple strategy when it comes to local team rights. In many markets where it operates a regional sports network, it looks to share equity in the channel with the local teams. Comcast believes such a scenario aligns the teams’ interests with the network’s interest. That’s where Amy Cohen comes in.

Cohen has been with Comcast since 1996, when Comcast started its local sports strategy. As the head of Comcast SportsNet’s legal department, Cohen has been instrumental in crafting these types of complex deals. Most recently, Cohen was in the middle of the deal to give the NBA Celtics up to a 20 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet New England in exchange for a 20-year rights deal extension through 2038. She also was a central figure in recent negotiations with the NBA on issues affecting multiple Comcast RSNs, such as the boundaries of TV territories, and has been overseeing legal matters for Versus for the past two years, as well.

— John Ourand
  • Crowning professional achievement: Building a great business and legal affairs team.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: I am disappointed that the industry still lags behind others in terms of recognition and advancement of women.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Laissez-faire/delegatory, mixed with an occasional dose of autocracy.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Jon Litner, president of Comcast Sports Group. After working closely with him on the launch of SportsNet New York, he showed belief and confidence in me in promoting me to my current position.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Annika Sorenstam. She has achieved great success on and off the course while at the same time raising a family.


“Not only does Amy understand all facets of the television business and what makes sports teams and leagues tick, but she has proven herself to be a creative problem solver and an accomplished relationship-builder — all while forcefully advocating and protecting Comcast’s interests.”

  • Bill Koenig, NBA executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel

Erschen draws daily creative inspiration from a painting
that her children did for her.
Amy Erschen
The Marketing Arm
Senior Vice President

Amy Erschen joined The Marketing Arm as a senior vice president in 2003 and since then has helped increase the company’s sports marketing opportunities in the Olympics, NBA, NFL, NASCAR and NCAA. Most recently, Erschen has worked on State Farm and MLB’s “Go To Bat” campaign, which offers participants a chance to win a trip to the 2011 World Series and a donation from State Farm for one of 40 charities. Erschen said she enjoys working with clients like State Farm and Frito-Lay because they are brands she feels “make a difference in people’s lives [and] a true impact on the community.”

Especially in today’s challenging economic climate, having community service in mind — along with an overall consideration for her clients’ needs — has been key to Erschen’s sustained success.

“The connection between a sports property and a brand … it’s got to be more authentic and honest nowadays than ever before,” Erschen said. “It has to really seem natural so the consumers don’t think it’s an indulgence and that the brands aren’t being wise with their spend.”

— Katherine Zdrojeski
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: “You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar.” My mom was right: Whether selling an idea or just getting through the day, it’s easier, it’s effective and it’s more fun if you can do it with a smile. 
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: A coach who wants to see her entire team succeed. 
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My dad. He coached my youth teams for 10 years, and that example taught me how to lead a team with the right balance of heart, passion and determination. He also encouraged me to pursue a marketing degree.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Kathy Carter, president of Soccer United Marketing. She combined two passions of mine and is helping to grow the sport and the impact women can make in the industry.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Not spending too much time watching ESPN when I should be helping my kids with homework.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Laugh a little more and not take it all too seriously.


“Amy’s success is a testament to her hybrid approach of account service strategy and sensibility with creative vision and desire to create new solutions.”

  • Todd Fischer, manager of national sponsorships, State Farm

Latimer got a chance to spend some time with the
Stanley Cup after the Bruins’ championship, and hopes
to do it again and again in the coming years.
Amy Latimer
Boston Bruins/TD Garden
SVP, Sales and Marketing

Over the past two years, Boston’s TD Garden revamped its premium-seat offerings to include new purchasing options for first-time buyers in both the arena’s balcony and in a converted suite space called The Boardroom. Amy Latimer, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Boston Bruins and TD Garden, was involved in every step of the strategy, from surveying clients and partners, to conceptualizing new seating options and selling the product. Latimer started with the Garden as director of marketing before ultimately switching to sales, overseeing both ticket sales and sponsorships, over her career with the organization. “I felt like I interacted with more women in marketing or projects related to charitable parts of the team and less in sales,” Latimer said about her early days working in sports in the mid-1990s. “I think that is something that has changed. Our sales force is about 50-50, and it’s not by design. There are more qualified women applying for sales positions.”

— Fred Dreier
  • Crowning professional achievement: Being part of the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: The 2005 NHL lockout. They canceled the season on my birthday.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received?: Work smarter, not harder.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Empower my team to make decisions. Make mistakes, enjoy success.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Not controlling the on-ice product.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Value of teamwork.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Perfect my golf game.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Fitted for my 10th Stanley Cup championship ring.


“Amy is incredibly articulate and has the ability to introduce complex ideas and synthesize them down to the basics. And she’s one of the brightest in the room when we are discussing revenue generation at the team level.”

  • David Peart, Pittsburgh Penguins senior vice president, sales and service

Trask serves on the Animal Rescue Foundation board
but takes on a more menacing look when stalking the
Raiders sideline.
Amy Trask
Oakland Raiders
Chief Executive Officer

Amy Trask may be the most senior woman in the NFL as CEO of the Oakland Raiders, but her view of the world comes from football, not gender or business.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is I am a businessperson who happens to be in the business of football,” Trask said. “I am a football person. I consider myself a football person who operates in a business capacity. I love this game.”

Her signature initiative in the past year was getting every non-playing member of the organization, including the head coach, involved in selling season tickets, an imperative for the blackout-riddled franchise.

She joined the organization in the 1980s as a lawyer but quickly moved beyond that role, ultimately gaining the CEO title in 1997.

— Daniel Kaplan
  • Crowning professional achievement: Winning the AFC championship game in January 2003.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Losing the Super Bowl in January 2003.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Hard work matters.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Communicative, cooperative and collaborative.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Al Davis.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Intelligence, coupled with passion, commitment and desire.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Wearing lots of Super Bowl jewelry.


“She is a really tremendous and forceful advocate for the interest of the league and, in particular, the Raiders. She is not afraid to speak up and challenge convention.”

  • Matt Higgins, New York Jets executive vice president, business operations

Running is more than a business for Crandall, for whom
staying healthy and active is a priority.
Ann Wells Crandall
New York Road Runners
EVP, Business Development and Strategy

The ING New York City Marathon has long been a premier event in the world of distance running, but Ann Wells Crandall has turned the race into a global marketing platform for major brands. Crandall is executive vice president of business development and strategy for the New York Road Runners, which organizes the event. She came to the organization in 2001 after stints with the NBA, DirecTV and Time magazine. During her tenure, she’s brought on blue-chip partners such as Nissan and Subway as well as international brands and tourism boards to help expand the race’s footprint abroad. Sponsor activation dollars for the event have tripled in the last five years. She’s also helped the race grow from being a one-day occasion to a yearlong property, with special events built around race registration, training and the New York Road Runners’ 54 other races during the year. “Selling vertical events as single events was not going to last forever; it was not going to help us grow,” Crandall said. “Now, there are so many different opportunities for racers and partners to get involved, when you add it up, it’s an expansive engagement platform.”

— Fred Dreier
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My father, Jack Crandall. He was the business manager for the Elmira Red Sox baseball farm team, a diehard New York Giants and New York Knicks fan who tirelessly watched hours of tennis, golf, NBA basketball and football with me.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Jeanie Buss. Her passion and hard work in a men’s world and as a leader in the NBA inspires me.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: My height. (Crandall is 5 feet 2 inches.)
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Semi-retired, but running my own business, which includes strength training/Pilates and nutrition education by day, Spanish wine bar by night.


“Ann is focused and passionate and is willing to think outside the box to the benefit of her partners.”

  • Jamie Robinson, managing director, Alliance Marketing Partners, which oversees activation for NYRR partner Dunkin’ Donuts

While in Spain in the ’80s, Worcester entered a local amateur tennis event, borrowed a racket and promptly won the championship trophy, which she holds in the photo.
Anne Worcester
New Haven Open
Tournament Director

When Anne Worcester took over running what’s now the New Haven Open at Yale after years in senior management within women’s tennis, she recalls then-ATP Properties President Larry Scott telling her she would be the world’s most overqualified tournament director. Such was the reaction when the former WTA Tour CEO, director of worldwide operations for the Virginia Slims Tour, and managing director of the Women’s Tennis Council headed one tourney instead of 60. Worcester was at the forefront of many fundamental issues in women’s tennis, including the fight for equal prize money, and she helped make women’s tennis economically viable by significantly expanding sponsorship and TV revenue.

Worcester these days would much prefer to talk about the 5,000 New Haven kids the tourney has helped channel through grassroots tennis programs, and she is helping to market the city as CMO of Market New Haven. Overqualified? Few tournament directors of either gender have as much experience with players, events, TV and sales on a domestic and global scale as Worcester. If all that talent has accrued to one tourney and city, so be it.

— Terry Lefton
  • Crowning professional achievement: Re-establishing the viability of women’s tennis, but I’m just as proud, if not more so, of the grassroots program we have that’s put 5,000 inner-city kids through tennis programs.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: February 1997: Women’s tennis was increasingly strong and competitive, yet the chairman of Wimbledon called me to officially decline the WTA Tour’s request for equal prize money.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received?: Find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. My father gave me that, but I think it came from Confucius.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Usually I would say it is the ups and downs of the economy, but this year, we had an earthquake and a hurricane during the week of the tournament.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Healthy. [Worcester is recovering from breast cancer.]


“Anne has a big heart and a big work ethic. It’s never just business to her; she really cares and it shows.”

  • Stephanie Tolleson, former IMG senior corporate vice president

Coffman’s drive isn’t limited to the workplace.
Casey Coffman
Madison Square Garden Co.
SVP, Corporate Strategy and Development

Achieving a top executive post at a major, multiteam sports and entertainment organization is a goal held by many in sports business. Casey Coffman has accomplished this twice, first as chief operating officer at Hicks Sports Group (Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars), and now as senior vice president of corporate strategy and development for Madison Square Garden Co.

Coffman said teamwork is essential in her post and that her experience with sales and marketing matched with her legal background — she was senior division counsel to Minute Maid Co. — have given her the skills to thrive at companies that own multiple properties.

“Having someone play the role of quarterback when you have a lot of resources at your disposal is very important, and I’ve played that role,” Coffman said. “Because I’ve experienced a lot of the areas, I can understand what each person brings to the table.”

— Fred Dreier
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Always wanted to start at shooting guard for the New York Liberty.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received?: My mother used to say, “There is no mess that can’t be cleaned up.”
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Teamwork, open communication and collaboration.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My father has always had the most important influence on my career. He has provided the perfect balance of offering strong and sound advice while providing me the room to take chances and make my own decisions.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Condoleezza Rice. While she’s not technically in sports, I hear she has a good golf game.
  • One attribute I look for in hiring is …: International experience.
  • If I had to do it over again, I would …: Have worked more on my jumper.


“Her job scope and accomplishments both with the Stars and now with the [New York] Rangers and MSG have evolved far beyond the typical legal sphere. She is a creative and dedicated business person who prides herself in crafting innovative solutions to difficult business problems.”

  • Bill Daly, NHL deputy commissioner

Levick’s high-energy approach helped create a football
program at Georgia State in Atlanta.
Cheryl Levick
Georgia State University
Director of Athletics

Cheryl Levick will go down as the athletic director who brought football to Georgia State University. And while she’s just as passionate about the Panthers’ 17 other sports, she’s OK with that identity.

Levick is reminded how important it was to create a football program at the school in the heart of Atlanta almost every time she encounters an alum.

“I knew there would be a lot of excitement around football here, but what I didn’t expect were the alums, typically older, graying, who touch my arm and have tears in their eyes,” Levick said. “They’ve waited for decades to have a football team of their own that they can brag about at the office. It just touches my soul every time that happens.”

Levick, who came to Georgia State in 2009, has spent the better part of 25 years in athletic administration at several schools, but being at the forefront of so much change in an urban campus environment has been an experience unlike the rest.

“We really are at the pulse of the city,” Levick said. “We utilize every part of being here, and our students like the fast pace. I love it.”

— Michael Smith
  • Crowning professional achievement: There are two: winning 44 national championships during my administrative tenure at Stanford University; starting and launching GSU football.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Every time one of my student athletes does not graduate.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: High energy, high expectations, fast-paced with attention to detail.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: (1) Alex Pifer, my 4-foot-11-inch physical education teacher in high school. She is the reason I am in this business. (2) Jerry Porras, author of “Built to Last,” longtime friend and mentor from Stanford University.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Having enough money and resources to compete at the highest level in athletics. We are always fundraising.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Strong work ethic and positive energy.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have adjusted my educational track and gotten a J.D. after my master’s in athletic administration. I enjoy contracts and legal work.


“Cheryl Levick has come into the Atlanta sports marketplace and built very close relationships and she’s well-respected by those of us in the Atlanta college sports community. Her knowledge, spirit of partnership, and dedication to Georgia State athletics is admirable and commendable.”

  • Gary Stokan, CEO/president, Chick-fil-A Bowl

Plonsky has helped steer Texas through the changing
college landscape.
Chris Plonsky
University of Texas
Women's Athletics Director

When a team of representatives from the University of Texas traveled last month to meet with their counterparts from the University of Oklahoma in an effort to keep the Big 12 Conference together, three key officials were part of the mission. UT President Bill Powers was accompanied by Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds and Women’s AD Chris Plonsky.

While Powers and Dodds have been front and center during recent talks about lightning-rod topics like conference realignment and the Longhorn Network, Texas hasn’t made a move without the input of Plonsky, who carries the dual role of running UT’s women’s sports as well as serving as director of external services for both the men’s and women’s programs.

Plonsky has been linked to any number of jobs in college sports and even jobs related to her other passion, golf, but she has stayed at Texas for 23 years, carving out a place as one of the school’s most influential administrators. She played a hands-on role with the formation of the Longhorn Network, working day to day with multimedia rights partner IMG College and media partner ESPN to establish the groundbreaking channel. She also oversees Texas’ monstrous licensing department, which has generated more royalties than any other Collegiate Licensing Co. school for the last six years.

— Michael Smith
  • First job: Selling hot dogs in concession stands at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: I never utilized my journalism degree to write-report on sports full time at a big daily newspaper or at Sports Illustrated (latter was a dream from junior high on).
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Sheila Johnson, vice chair and managing partner, Washington Mystics.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have not spent as much time playing hoops and learned to play golf earlier than age 32.


“She knows that every dollar she helps us generate for Texas is a dollar she and DeLoss Dodds can turn into a better quality academic and athletic experience for UT’s student athletes. It is that passion for the student athletes that drives Chris.”

  • Tom Stultz, senior vice president, managing director, IMG College

Miller, with Turner’s Lenny Daniels, put MLB images in subway cars in New York City, where she has roots.
Christina Miller
NBA Digital, General Manager
Turner Sports, SVP, Strategy, Marketing and Programming

Christina Miller has seen her industry profile rise this year. In June, she was named general manager of NBA Digital, duties that were added on top of her job as senior vice president of strategy, marketing and programming for Turner Sports. The additional responsibility also comes after NBA Digital registered blockbuster results in terms of viewership off last year’s highly rated NBA season. Still, running NBA Digital as part of Turner’s partnership with the NBA is just part of her responsibilities with the network. Miller also is closely involved in the marketing of the NCAA’s March Madness, which this year found Turner and CBS pairing to broadcast each game of the tournament live across four networks for the first time. Throw in Turner’s MLB, NASCAR and PGA Tour coverage, and it’s a job that has elevated Miller’s visibility and reputation in managing a wide portfolio of major sports properties.

— John Lombardo
  • Crowning professional achievement: Being part of the team that brought you this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament across four television networks with one branded, unified voice for the first time.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: You have two ears and one mouth; spend more time listening.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Choose smart, kind people, take calculated risks and have fun.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: David Levy.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Venus Williams. As an athlete and entrepreneur, she is truly impressive and she has emerged as a modern day Billie Jean King. ... She is an entrepreneur who is true to herself, building her brand for the long term and continuing the battle for equal pay for women that Billie Jean championed for so long.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Smart and kind; one without the other does not do well in the workplace.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have started working for [Turner Sports COO] Lenny Daniels sooner.


“Christina has proven herself to be a leader in sports and entertainment marketing. Her strategic approach consistently delivers results that help drive business for Turner Sports and its partners.”

  • Jacqueline Parkes, chief marketing officer, Major League Baseball

Davis keeps the bib that her father wore when he caddied for her at the 1983 U.S. Women’s Open. The time with her dad is one of her most cherished memories.
Cindy Davis
Nike Golf

Cindy Davis in 2005 boldly called Nike the company that’s the future of golf. The Nike Golf president isn’t backing away from that claim a bit.

“Whatever category Nike enters, we bring a ton of energy and innovation,” Davis said. “You can see the evolution of golfers becoming athletes, and Nike has had a lot to do with golf becoming more of an athletic endeavor. I think we’re on the path to becoming the outright leader in this category. We’ve got great stories to tell.”

Davis’ story is one that isn’t told often enough. Since joining the company in 2005, she has led the Nike division through periods of slumping golf participation and the Tiger Woods scandal, global expansion of the game, and new corporate relationships with Lucas Glover and Anthony Kim. She has led the charge to bring new materials and performance wear into Nike’s apparel line.

And when it comes time to test the equipment, Davis, a former Furman University golfer, is quick to grab a club.

“I play golf, I love golf,” she said. “It’s important to stay connected to the sport.”

— Michael Smith
  • First job: Territory representative for Hallmark Cards.
  • Crowning professional achievement: Turning a small business (Arnold Palmer Golf Co.) around and selling it to the benefit of investors and high-profile namesakes.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Transparent, collaborative, strategic, disciplined and heartful.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Charlie Mechem, former LPGA commissioner and adviser to Arnold Palmer, who has been a constant mentor and guiding influence throughout my career.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach, because of her focus and intensity.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Changing the status quo.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Able to say that I’m still learning.


“I have the utmost respect for her heart and determination. She has been a game-changer in a male-dominated field and has earned the respect of the entire industry.”

  • Mark Steinberg, partner, Excel Sports Management

Wallace delights in surfing and daughter Ava, who is
now 9.
Circe Wallace
Wasserman Media Group
Senior Vice President

Circe Wallace has been a pioneer in the field of representing action sports athletes, starting in the business 13 years ago after a career as a pro snowboarder. Today, she represents 12 action sports stars, including Olympic gold-medal-winning snowboarder Torah Bright and Olympic bronze-medal-winning snowboarder Scotty Lago. She also is the longtime agent for X Games gold-medal-winning street skateboarder Paul Rodriguez, for whom she renewed a deal with Nike this year that includes the “P-Rod” line of shoes and apparel.

Wallace has developed action sports shows for MTV and BET, and she has produced some of the most successful films in action sports, such as “That’s It, That’s All,” featuring snowboarder Travis Rice, another client. This year, she served as executive producer on “Art of Flight” which premiered Sept. 7, and also features Rice.

— Liz Mullen
  • First job: Starbucks barista in Seattle. I was 15 and had to lie about my age. There were only 10 stores then. I was assistant manager by 16 in a kiosk store in downtown Seattle. I loved it.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: From my mom; she told me this advice when I had just had my child. I was concerned about losing my edge in my career. She told me, “This baby is coming into your world. Bring her with you into your grand adventure.” My daughter has been such an inspiration and a grounding reality.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Engaged, determined and compassionate.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Get a law degree and go to design school.


“[Circe] has been incredible at identifying and managing emerging talent and building really creative programs around them. She is creating opportunities across all media, which is really critical in action sports.”

  • Arn Tellem, Wassmeran Media Group principal

Leighton balances Pac-12 matters with the challenge of
being the best mom possible to her 7-year-old.
Danette Leighton
Pac-12 Conference
Chief Marketing Officer

Since becoming the Pac-12’s first chief marketing officer in April 2010, Danette Leighton has played a prominent role in the new-look conference taking its place on the national stage. The addition of Colorado and Utah to the former Pac-10 meant a wholesale rebranding of the conference. To fuel that effort — and to increase the visibility of the member schools — Leighton established the first bicoastal media tour with the conference’s football coaches, and she’s worked to create more exposure opportunities for the programs east of the Mississippi River.

Leighton credits conference Commissioner Larry Scott for allowing her “the autonomy necessary to help make his vision come to life.” And despite rumors of the conference adding more schools in the changing landscape of college sports, Leighton said she remains focused on “making sure the work we’ve done to rebrand our conference continues and the story we’re telling remains consistent for us across both the networks as well as our conference.”

— Katherine Zdrojeski
  • First job: Public relations intern, Pac-10 Conference.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: I put my heart, soul and passion into building a strong brand with the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs (as vice president, business operations). I developed incredible relationships with fans, staff and the players. Having to fold the team is by far my biggest disappointment.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Don’t be afraid to fail. As a marketer, it is imperative that you always look to innovate and take smart risks. If you are afraid to fail, you will be challenged to create, and your end product will be diluted.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: How to best navigate the challenges of parenting in today’s world so that I can be the best mother possible to my 7-year-old daughter.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Passion, and a “team-first” mentality.


“Danette has had a major impact on the trajectory of the Pac-12 in a short period with her creativity, passion and inspiring leadership.”

  • Larry Scott, Pac-12 Conference commissioner

Family plays a starring role in Mandel’s life, right down to her coffee mug.
Hillary Mandel
IMG Media
SVP, programming and distribution

At a time when international barriers are being routinely broken down, Hillary Mandel is at the forefront of presenting sports programming worldwide. As senior vice president of programming and distribution at IMG Media, Mandel in the past year has been influential in selling Wimbledon’s rights package to the multiple platforms of ESPN and bringing the Rugby World Cup to NBC and network television for the first time. She also had a hand in securing for the ACC its rights deal with ESPN as well as the renewal for Izod IndyCar Series with ESPN.

An IMG employee since 1997, Mandel says her background as both a buyer and seller provides her a wealth of knowledge when brokering negotiations.

“It’s becoming apparently clear that there is a lot of desire for live sports,” said Mandel about the current state of rights fees in the market. “The popularity of the major sports is leaving a large wake for the niche sports.”

— Ryan Baucom
  • First job: HBO, as a researcher in programming.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: There is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Respectful and passionate, inclusive and collaborative, we win and lose together.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Barry Frank. He gave me the opportunity; a seat at the table with total access. He’s been an unwavering champion and endorser of my ability and success.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Pat Summitt. She’s shattered the record book in terms of championships, season wins and trips to the Final Four. The personal strength and will it takes to restart that engine every year and continuing to strive, improve and grow when you’re at the top — she’s truly inspirational.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Intellectual flexibility.


“Hillary is innovative in seeking solutions that work for all parties. She has the ability to distill very complex issues and work hand in hand to resolve them. She is a very good listener, asks the right questions and then works toward making a deal as opposed to creating barriers that prevent deals from being consummated.”

  • John Wildhack, ESPN EVP, programming and acquisitions

Kloss, originally from South Africa, and King met Nelson
Mandela in 2008. Both King and Mandela “are an
inspiration on how I believe people should lead,” Kloss
Ilana Kloss
World TeamTennis
CEO and Commissioner

When Ilana Kloss emerged as a young pro tennis player in the 1970s, she had to be inventive, and not just on the court. A white native of South Africa, apartheid sanctions made competing internationally challenging.

“If I couldn’t get a visa, I had to figure it out,” Kloss said. “That’s why I am a good problem solver.”

Relationships she forged with players, including her now partner Billie Jean King, eased her way. Since 1985, Kloss has worked for King’s brainchild, World TeamTennis, serving in the last decade as its commissioner.

She inherited her marketing skills from her father, a traveling salesman, learning that people who generate revenue always have a job. That’s why she is relentless pushing for WTT.

“If someone says no,” she said, “it means they just don’t have enough information.”

— Daniel Kaplan
  • First job: Selling tournament program books at the South African Open tennis championships at the age of 11.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: To be a good listener and stay in the solution.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Be part of the team and lead by example.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Billie Jean King. She created an opportunity for me and hundreds of thousands of others, of both genders, to pursue their dreams in a field where they were passionate and highly skilled.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Being a small, U.S.-based, independently owned business in a global fractured sports environment where you have to compete on so many levels to innovate and move the game forward.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Someone who is a problem-solver and can generate revenue.


“In business, everything starts with integrity, and that is very important to Ilana: integrity, honesty and accepting responsibility. She keeps her word. More than anything else, she wants to make a positive difference both in our sport and in the lives of others.”

  • Billie Jean King, World TeamTennis co-founder

Woodward (center) leads the media and marketing services group at MillerCoors.
Jackie Woodward
VP, Media and Marketing Services

The framed Vince Lombardi photo hangs on the wall in Jackie Woodward’s office. The words in it: “Confidence is contagious.” Another framed quote in her office comes from Colin Powell: “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

The words that are among Woodward’s favorites reflect the energy she puts into every idea in MillerCoors’ sports and entertainment marketing, where the vice president leads marketing, media and business affairs for the MillerCoors brands. She’s been in that role the last three years for MillerCoors and the last five-plus years for Miller, going back to pre-merger days.

Her persistence has been evident in many areas of MillerCoors’ marketing, from its recent sponsorship buys in the college space to the company’s five-plus years of Hispanic marketing initiatives through Mexican soccer that are starting to pay off with greater sales and a strong brand awareness within that demographic. Three-quarters of MillerCoors’ total TV advertising spending in 2010, about $214 million, was dedicated to sports, highlighting the company’s emphasis there and Woodward’s passion for marketing through sports, something she showed for years previously at McDonald’s, guiding their global efforts.

“Our properties and partners are the intersection where brands meet consumers,” she said. “Sports is a force multiplier for many of our brands. They have to come to life and have a personality, and sports is often where that happens.”

— Michael Smith
  • First job: Assistant account executive at GolinHarris Communications, responsible for managing the McDonald’s All-American High School Band program.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Nothing takes the place of persistence.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Paul Schrage, the first CMO of McDonald’s. He’s a marketing pioneer who knows the smell of a great idea and is unafraid of risk.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Finding good ideas. The business operates much the same way it did when I first got into it 25 years ago. There are far too few people who have breakthrough, imaginative new ways to connect sponsors with fans.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Try to spend some time working at a chocolate company, to complete my guilty pleasures trifecta. A delicious Big Mac and a great tasting Miller Lite — all that’s missing is a little chocolate for dessert.


“Jackie has a unique ability to see well beyond the traditional sponsorship and advertising model to truly develop meaningful business partnerships.”

  • Keith Wachtel, senior vice president, integrated sales, NHL

Geddes, on the water with children Karson and Madison, is charting a new course to the WWE after playing and working with the LPGA.
Jane Geddes
VP, Talent Relations

Jane Geddes built a career with the LPGA, first as a player — winning two major championships — and then as an executive. Starting in 2006 as an intern, she worked her way up to be named senior vice president of tournament operations and player services in January 2008. She brought to that post her perspective as a former player, understanding the athletes’ concerns and working to reform procedures on their behalf. She served as the LPGA’s representative during the ultimately successful initiative to include golf in the 2016 Olympics. She also spearheaded the implementation of a new on-site scoring system used at tournaments, as well as the league’s new qualifying requirements.

Now, she’s shifting gears, taking on a new challenge with a new organization: the WWE. Geddes was scheduled to begin her new path this month, bringing with her the knowledge and experience she gained at the LPGA to help a new group of athletes, with a focus on sports and entertainment.

— Theresa Manahan
  • First job: McDonald’s cashier and burger flipper.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: When I first started working at the LPGA, Libba Galloway (then general counsel) gave me a one-word piece of advice: listen. I am not sure I will ever fully succeed at doing so, but I know that I work hard at it every day.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Anti-micro-managing team player who expects 100 percent in return.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Heidi Ueberroth. Heidi has transcended any gender bias by succeeding in a sports landscape that has been decidedly male-dominated for many years.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: The preconceived notion that my past life as an athlete diminishes my ability to work and succeed in the business of sports and entertainment.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Whether that person has a personality that will mesh with my team.


“Jane is one of the rare athletes that was able to parlay her success in her sport to being a respected business executive. [She] has always had tremendous drive and passion for whatever she is doing. I have always respected that.”

  • Mark Steinberg, partner, Excel Sports Management

At Kleinberger’s Paciolan, clients include Cal-Irvine and Southern Cal.
Jane Kleinberger

As co-founder of Paciolan, Jane Kleinberger oversees North America’s second-largest ticketing company, behind only Ticketmaster in total sales. Thirty-one years after Kleinberger’s moonlighting job in computer programming at Southern Cal resulted in a ticketing deal with that school, Paciolan now has more than 500 clients generating about $3.5 billion in sales.
Marketing a business model where the facility controls its ticketing brand, Paciolan is a leader in the college space, with more than 100 NCAA Division I ticketing agreements. More than 70 of those deals are with Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

Moving forward, Paciolan continues to expand its business in the area of social media and secondary ticketing after signing deals in 2010 with Facebook specialist Buddy Media and with StubHub. In addition, Paciolan recently introduced a new CRM system for its clients to get a comprehensive view of their customer base and develop more opportunities to generate revenue.

Paciolan, Kleinberger said, is profitable, debt-free and well capitalized due in large part to Comcast-Spectacor, its privately held owner.

“We have been very blessed that the market continues to respond well to the model and the company,” she said.

— Don Muret
  • First job: Pizza maker, cashier at Bellissimo’s Pizza in Cincinnati.
  • Crowning professional achievement: Convincing Dave Butler, a highly accomplished technology CEO, to join and lead Paciolan in 2005.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Ask a fair price for a great product, then over-service your customers and exceed their expectations.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: All about teamwork: collaborative, supportive, aggressive, accountable.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Former college athletic director and football coach Jack Lengyel. Twenty-five years ago, Jack had specific questions to ask about our systems. From that moment forward, he engaged me to help him understand this then-new area of ticketing automation and then went on to introduce me to other college athletics luminaries.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Billie Jean King. She broke barriers and paved the way for so many women to come.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: A positive attitude. A manager and leader must have the true belief, as well as the talent, to lead and serve their customers and staff effectively.


“I compare Jane with Phil Knight, Kevin Plank and all those important people who have brought the business side to college athletics. She leads by example and is one of the most positive people I have ever met.”

  • Kevin Anderson, athletic director, University of Maryland

Smith played a key role in the development at Camden
Yards, then led revenue-producing renovations at
Fenway Park.
Janet Marie Smith
Baltimore Orioles
VP, Planning and Development

For years an iconic name in the sports facility business, Janet Marie Smith is still turning underutilized and outdated facilities into gleaming revenue machines.

Smith first played a key role more than 20 years ago, with the development of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In so doing, she helped redefine industry expectations of sports architecture for a generation. Since then, she has had a major hand in the creation of Turner Field, significant multiyear renovations of Fenway Park, and redevelopment of the Orioles’ Sarasota, Fla., spring training facility, Ed Smith Stadium.

Now, Smith has come full circle, returning her attention to Camden Yards as it celebrates its 20th anniversary next spring and pursues a more targeted refreshing. Far from simple efforts, each of these projects has involved a major rehabilitation element and direct integration into the venue’s surrounding neighborhood.

“These projects are all different, but in many ways the basic questions are all the same,” Smith said. “How do we extend the useful life of these facilities? How can we breathe new life into them? How do we make them more contextual with what’s around them?”

— Eric Fisher
  • First job: Typing letters for the “Sun ’n Sand” hotel the summer after 10th grade in an effort to grow convention business in downtown Jackson, Miss.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received?: Learn to write, learn to listen, learn to speak in public. There are many talented designers and project managers who can’t always get their point across due to limited communication skills.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Search for facts, listen to different viewpoints, don’t fear decision-making.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Larry Lucchino, who hired me for the Camden Yards project and the Fenway Park renovation. He has the ability to think three steps ahead of everyone else, challenges you to put your best ideas out there for discussion, and encourages you to defend them first to him, then the rest of the world.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Jane Chastain, Donna de Varona, Jeannie Morris, Phyllis George, Jayne Kennedy, Lesley Visser — any of the first women in sports broadcasting.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Do it again, but I would be fluent in many languages so I could do it all over the world.


“Her sports venues have a sense of place and time. They connect with the history and deeper emotions of our relationships with sports and community. In many respects, Janet’s true genius is her ability to build a bridge between generations through the structure of a sporting venue.”

  • Alan Rifkin, Maryland attorney and longtime outside legal counsel to the Baltimore Orioles

Buss, at the Lakers’ 2010 ring ceremony, is well-acquainted with the O’Brien Trophy.
Jeanie Buss
Los Angeles Lakers
EVP, Business Operations

Jeanie Buss, the longtime executive vice president of business operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, had a leading role earlier this year in pulling off one of the biggest local TV deals in sports: the Lakers’ reported 20-year, $3 billion deal with Time Warner. Buss has said one of the things she’s most proud of from the deal is that it’s creating two regional sports networks — one in English and one in Spanish — each of which will have original content. The daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, she has worked for her father’s companies since 1981 and has attended the NBA board of governors meetings as an alternate governor since 1995. She also is a member of the NBA’s labor committee, giving her a key role in the negotiations for the league in the ongoing NBA lockout.

— Liz Mullen
  • What is the best advice you've ever received?: 1) My dad stressed that there is no substitute for education; 2) Tommy Lasorda said never complain about your problems because “half the people don’t care and the other half are happy you have them”; and 3) I met Jane Fonda when I was 18. I weakly shook her hand, and she grabbed it and said, “Give people a strong handshake so they will remember you.”
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Safety of all sports fans when gathering for a live event. No fan should ever be put at risk or danger when they buy a ticket to enjoy a game.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Laila Ali.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is : Keeping balance when so much is about winning and losing.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Integrity; have to be able to trust the people I work with.


“Her commitment to Lakers fans and to the NBA is second to none. In all of my dealings with her, I found her to be a savvy and creative business partner with a keen focus on innovating to better engage and entertain our viewers.”

  • Melinda Witmer, Time Warner Cable EVP, chief video and content officer

Bonk loves football, andshe doesn’t like to lose.
Jeanne Bonk
San Diego Chargers
Chief Financial Officer

Jeanne Bonk remembers her first NFL owners meeting in 1991, when roll callcame to the San Diego Chargers and she answered, causing heads to turn. Topleague ranks had few women at that time, so the higher-pitched voice stood out.Not so much today, Bonk said, adding that she never feels as if she is a woman in theNFL — just a top finance executive. “I don’t feel that I am treated any differently,” shesaid. In fact, Bonk said, she makes it a point not to join any women-in-sports groups,feeling that women can prove their worth individually.

Her job is all things financially Chargers, whether that’s trying to get a new stadiumor overseeing business and player contracts. A Southern California native, she grew upplaying tennis and softball (one year collegiately), but she has learned to love footballso much that her peers know never to call her the morning after a loss.

— Daniel Kaplan
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Life is not fair (courtesy of my dad) — helps me to accept things as they are and focus on the positive.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Trying to look at things from other peoples’ perspectives so I can come up with the best solution to a problem.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Being friendly the day after a loss.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: The CFO for the Super Bowl champion San Diego Chargers.


“Jeanne is one of the mostdedicated and loyal individualsany organization couldhave. Over the last 20 years,she has done an incrediblejob. Her knowledge of theNFL and the total Chargersoperation is unmatched.”

  • Dean Spanos, chairman and president, San Diego Chargers

Gregory, with nephews (from left) Tate, Blake and Reid Hall, would like to manage an overseas event.
Jill Gregory
VP, Industry Services

Jill Gregory left her home state of California in 2003 to take a job working on Nextel’s new NASCAR sponsorship. She hasn’t turned back since. The woman who at the time knew little about racing has become one of the most important executives in the sport. She played a critical role in guiding Nextel as it converted the Winston Cup into the Nextel (now Sprint) Cup. She later joined the sanctioning body in a pioneering role overseeing its industry marketing department. At the request of NASCAR chief marketer Steve Phelps, Gregory has worked to transform the industry marketing division into one that works more closely with the sport’s various constituencies. She started by trying to gain the trust and support of teams, then expanded to tracks, and soon will add a group that will support drivers. The division’s primary purpose is to give each group research to assist its sales efforts, along with sponsorship leads and marketing resources. The result has been gains for the individual groups but also for NASCAR as a whole.

— Tripp Mickle
  • First job: Retail employee in the pro shop at a tennis club in Modesto, Calif.
  • Crowning professional achievement: The transition of Winston Cup to Nextel Cup.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: I have managed or worked on many major sporting events … but all have been here in the U.S. I haven’t enjoyed the experience of being immersed in an event overseas, from an inside perspective, and if I had a career miss, that would be it.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Robin Roberts. I have heard her speak several times and have been very impressed, but have never had the opportunity to meet her.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Time management.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Attention to detail.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Owning and running a winery in California.


“She’s always had a good grasp of the sponsor issues and what a sponsor expects, but she’s worked hard to understand the team dynamics and the dynamics inside NASCAR. It’s made it easier for us to surface issues of concern and for them to communicate more effectively with the teams.”

  • Ben Schlosser, chief marketing officer, Richard Childress Racing

Smoller’s list of big clients includes Serena Williams.
Jill Smoller
William Morris Endeavor
Senior Vice President

There have been many female sports agents through the years, but few have represented the level of male sports athletes that Jill Smoller has. Since 1997, Smoller has worked with Rick Fox, Dennis Rodman and Pete Sampras. This year, she negotiated a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal for Kevin Garnett with Chinese shoe company Anta rather than him renewing a deal with his longtime sponsor Adidas.

Smoller, who started in the mailroom at ICM but now is senior vice president of William Morris Endeavor, is the longtime agent of Serena Williams and has represented Michelle Wie, as well. In addition, she represents Olympic gold-medal-winning track star Allyson Felix, who is expected to again compete for the U.S. in London next year.

Smoller keeps her list of athlete clients short, and when sports and entertainment grew together, Smoller was one of the first agents to take her athletes into the entertainment space, including negotiating film and television deals for Rodman and Fox.

— Liz Mullen
  • Crowning professional achievement: My involvement with client Serena Williams in opening two secondary schools in Africa with HP, and representing superstar athletes across a multitude of sports.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Waking up to a 6 a.m. phone call and learning that my first client, Florence Griffith-Joyner, had passed away.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: It’s OK to listen and not contribute if you have nothing important to add.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Mark McCormack.


“Jill Smoller goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to being an agent. … When I was hospitalized earlier this year, Jill was one of the first people I called. She was there for me throughout that entire ordeal that shook up my life.”

  • Serena Williams, 13-time Grand Slam tournament champion

Lach’s photo of her father’s fishing boat in her hometown of Pinckneyville, Ill., reminds her of the importance of roots and family.
Julie Roe Lach
VP, Enforcement

It didn’t take long for Julie Roe Lach to hit the ground running once she was promoted to vice president of enforcement with the NCAA in late 2010. Completing her ascent from intern in the enforcement department out of college, Lach, 36, took the job at a time when rules violations were being found at some of college sports’ most high-profile programs. In response, she spent six months on the road, getting feedback from coaches, athletic directors and school presidents on how the NCAA can prioritize its authority and educate its constituents. The twofold goal: Help prevent schools from committing rules violations, but also make sure the investigation process is as efficient as possible when it’s needed.

The end result was a restructuring in July that saw the enforcement department add a branch for information development that will complement the investigative and processing divisions already in place. Lach, overseeing a 55-person department, also points to what she calls an “information hub” that would have the group better use technology to gather, retrieve and store case information to help analyze investigations in real time and move them along faster.

— Ryan Baucom
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Keep your head down and work hard. Every once in a while, look up to make sure you are headed in the right direction, but ultimately, the job needs to get done.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: My little girl, who is 22 months old. Either she is crying for “Mommy” because she can’t find her pacifier, or I wake up and need to check on her to make sure she’s OK.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Committed to the all-around development of the person.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Getting away from work. Working in sports is a privilege. However, sports is also incredibly interesting not just to those who spend our careers in the field, but also to the casual or committed fan. It’s hard to take a break sometimes.


“Anyone who has known Julie Roe Lach for very long knows that she will be very fair, but they also know she will be very tough — and she prepares herself for every situation that might arise. … There is no question Julie will change the way in which NCAA enforcement is both operated and perceived.”

  • Mark Emmert, President, NCAA

Symbols of two big presences in Brodkin’s life: a photo of
son Quincy Beckett (named for Red Sox pitcher Josh) and
her father’s letterman jacket from Penn State.
Karen Brodkin
Fox Cable Networks
Senior Vice President

As a senior vice president at Fox Cable Networks, Karen Brodkin has been in the middle of some of the biggest deals in sports media this year. She quarterbacked Fox Sports’ rights bids for everything from the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences to the Olympics and Wimbledon.

But the one that may have the longest impact is the one Brodkin fashioned with The Ultimate Fighting Championship in August. Though Fox had been contemplating a mixed martial arts deal for years, Brodkin crafted the final agreement in a frenetic 36 hours. The resulting deal is one of the most complex ever struck by Fox, involving several platforms: Fox, FX, Fuel and digital. The deal also is unique in that it brings the biggest mixed martial arts group to broadcast television for the first time.

Brodkin, who started her career as an entertainment lawyer, has been with Fox since 1998 and has gained a reputation as one of the most thorough negotiators in the business.

— John Ourand
  • Crowning professional achievement: Being a part of the team that launched the Big Ten Network in 2007.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: That my dad passed away before he saw me close some of the biggest deals of my career.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received: Don’t forget to use spell check, and check your moral compass every day.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Missing deadlines, and sending my son to school with non-eco-friendly stuff in his lunch box.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Serena Williams: She’s a smart, savvy marketer off the court.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: The ability to multitask all day long, combined with a very good sense of humor.


“Karen is the consummate deal closer. She has a great understanding of how business and law intersect at multiple levels and in various disciplines. Plus, it’s fun negotiating against her.”

  • Woodie Dixon Jr., general counsel and vice president of business affairs, Pac-12 Conference

Bryant’s daughterLindsay, 3 1/2,inspires her momto find the rightwork-life balance.
Karen Bryant
Seattle Storm
President and CEO

As president and CEO of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, Karen Bryant is oneof the league’s most dynamic executives. She has led the Storm to twoWNBA titles and was instrumental in the team in 2010 securing its marqueejersey sponsorship deal with Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Under Bryant’sleadership, the team has signed a slew of additional new deals that have boostedthe Storm’s sponsorship revenue by 200 percent in the last year. The team had a90 percent season-ticket renewal rate leading into the 2011 season, as well.

Bryant also had a hand earlier this year in the league hiring its new president,Laurel Richie. Bryant met Richie at a local function and immediately referred herto league executives. A few months later, Richie was hired by NBA CommissionerDavid Stern to lead the WNBA. It’s those efforts and instincts that have helpedBryant become regarded as one of the league’s top managers.

— John Lombardo
  • Crowning professional achievement: Tie: Being part of launching women’s professional basketball in Seattle (Seattle Reign of American Basketball League in 1996); two-time WNBA champion (2004 and 2010).
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Pacific Northwest losing the NBA SuperSonics.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Eagerness to learn and grow.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: The mother of a 13-year-old daughter who still likes me.


“Karen comes at [her job] withher own love of the sport, and shebrings her own personal as well asprofessional passion to her work, andthat is very evident to everyone whohas worked with her over the years.”

  • Darlene Corkrum, senior vice president, chief marketing officer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, a team partner

Olson has climbed in her career and recreationally. Here
she hikes at Capitol Peak near Aspen, Colo.
Kathryn Olson
Women's Sports Foundation

Kathryn Olson has been on the Women’s Sports Foundation’s board of trustees since 2005, but a year and a half ago she became CEO of the nonprofit organization.

“I always felt at some point in my life I would want to work for the nonprofit side and hopefully make a bigger difference in the lives of children and society,” Olson said. That perspective stems from Olson, prior to taking the reins of the foundation, having worked as senior vice president and chief marketing officer for LeapFrog and for Shutterfly, as well as in senior marketing positions for Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Nordstrom and Gatorade.

Olson said her goal as CEO of the foundation is “to see that every girl that wants and needs access to physical activity has the opportunity to play.” Programs such as the GoGirlGo! initiative help make that access possible, along with the foundation making travel and training funds available for aspiring athletes.

— Molly Hogan
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Reach higher than you think is possible.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Empowering; creator of purpose-driving vision; sense of humor.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Billie Jean King. She has long been a champion for social change and equality and is the absolute definition of a pioneer in business and life.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: I have the opportunity to meet so many phenomenal women in sports at the foundation’s awards gala and at events throughout the year. If given the chance, I’d like to meet several male athletes with daughters and discuss how to get more dads engaged with our mission.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Intellectual curiosity.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have been a collegiate soccer player and pursued a career in the field of veterinary or internal medicine. I’d like nine lives.


“There are so many pieces to the work of the Women’s Sports Foundation mission … and [Kathryn] has the unique ability to engage this bigger team as she works every day to advance the lives of girls and women through sports.”

  • Nancy Hogshead-Makar, senior director of advocacy, Women’s Sports Foundation

Behrens met Nelson Mandela while with other league
representatives on a Basketball Without Borders initiative
in Africa.
Kathy Behrens
EVP, Social Responsibility and Player Programs

Kathy Behrens directs the NBA Cares program, the league’s philanthropic umbrella that launched in 2005 and since then has given out $165 million in charitable contributions, participated in 628 “legacy” projects and contributed 1.7 million hours of service time around the world. It’s a far-reaching list of social contributions, but most significant to Behrens of late was last season’s partnership with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to create public service announcements featuring NBA players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley. The campaign brought heavy attention to issues rarely publicly addressed in professional sports and points to Behrens’ thoughtful leadership of the NBA Cares program as the league continues to fulfill NBA Commissioner David Stern’s mission of social responsibility.

— John Lombardo
  • First job: Assistant teacher at a school for kids with special needs.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: My 4-year-old twins.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: I would love to play a round of golf with Annika Sorenstam. I have always admired her world-class talent, business savvy and commitment to philanthropy.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Saying "No" to the people who request tickets.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: A sense of humor.


“Kathy is low-key and all business. She has a vision of what NBA Cares stands for and she makes it happen. She is not afraid to try new ideas and she is the quiet voice behind the success.”

  • Caryl Stern, president and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF

The game ball proves Geis’ MVP status at Genesco Sports Enterprises.
Kit Geis
Genesco Sports Enterprises
Senior Vice President

Kit Geis loves negotiating, perhaps never as much as when in 2000 she went from marketing director at the New York Mets to Genesco and had to finish buying a sponsorship for Pepsi she began selling for the team. Of course, she completed it without incident, a testament to the boundless zeal and dedication she brings to any assignment. “She’s the most important woman in my life I’m not related to,” jokes Genesco CEO John Tatum. “Seriously, she’s my MVP: most valuable and most versatile.’’ After the Mets, Geis established Genesco’s East Coast office, “starting in my basement,” she said, and helped make it one of the country’s top sports agencies through a heady mixture of guts, guile and marketing acumen. “An agency has to make itself indispensable,’’ Geis said. “That means finding what allows a brand to work best with a property and executing supporting retail promotions. For Pepsi, [it’s] viewing occasions that are reasons to stock up. For Verizon, it’s all information-based. The secret is finding that link.”

— Terry Lefton
  • First job: Ad sales for Golf magazine.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Not winning that certain piece of new business and just knowing we could have done the best job.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Never say “We’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work.”
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Mark Bingham hired me at the Mets and away from the publishing world. That solidified my career path in sports.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Billie Jean King. A real pioneer.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Keeping up with clients’ businesses, inside and outside the company.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Office experience, writing skills and a get-it-done attitude.


“She’s just got this incredible energy and passion that never wavers. She’s just always working hard and with great purpose. As a result, all the clients she worked with loved her.”

  • Mark Bingham, executive vice president, sales, New York/New Jersey 2014 Super Bowl Host Committee; was senior vice president, marketing and broadcasting, at the New York Mets when he hired Geis there as director of marketing.

Gentile holds balls from three U.S. Open
Championships held on Long Island that she and
her father attended together.
Laura Gentile
Vice President

Laura Gentile’s top piece of advice to women entering the industry is to exude confidence. “If you have confidence in yourself,” she says, “people tend to have confidence in you, and if you carry yourself in a strong, positive way, people tend to follow your lead.”

After three years at ESPN as a vice president in the office of the president, ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer charged Gentile with a challenging task: Create an attractive platform for a female sports audience that can shine a light on women’s sports. Gentile spent the better part of the two years that followed trying to understand the differences in women as consumers and how to craft a platform that highlights women and issues close to them.

The resulting espnW debuted as a blog in December 2010 before becoming an enhanced website in April. Since that launch, espnW saw particularly notable gains in July, with the Women’s World Cup tripling traffic to the site. And Gentile thinks the best is yet to come. “We’ve always thought that there is a global opportunity when it comes to this platform,” she said. “We definitely think there’s opportunities internationally for the business we are creating.”

— Theresa Manahan
  • First job: The ultimate service job: waitressing.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: When I didn’t get my first job out of college at Grey Advertising. I was devastated at the time.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received?: “No one is indispensable.” — from my mom.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Lead by example, with enthusiasm.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Nancy is not in the traditional sports business, but she has used sports as a platform to raise the profile of an important cause and get millions of people to care and take part.


“ESPN can move the needle like few organizations can, and if Laura can successfully harness the company’s formidable capabilities in support of espnW’s mission, women’s sports have much to gain.”

  • Val Ackerman, WNBA founding president

Hobart, a veteran of consumer packaged goods, finds
decisions can quickly become action in retail.
Lauren Hobart
Dick's Sporting Goods
SVP, Chief Marketing Officer

Lauren Hobart might not have the expected background of someone who is chief marketing officer at Dick’s Sporting Goods, but spending 14 years as a Pepsi marketer has given her insights to take on the new challenge. Among those points of knowledge is that creating consumer demand is far easier when there’s an unending passion for your product.

“This is a growth company, but I was also really attracted by the fact that it was all about sports,” said Hobart, who joined Dick’s in February. “For a marketer, the power that sports gives you is enormously seductive.”

Like any new CMO, Hobart is in the midst of consumer research to determine the brand vision for Dick’s, which is in the middle of rapid expansion. The work isn’t quite done, but Hobart said that what makes Dick’s unique is its dedication to servicing elite athletes. “We get all kinds of customers, but that’s the aspiration for all of them,” she said.

The new brand vision won’t be complete until next year. Until then, Hobart is reveling in the differences between consumer packaged goods and retail marketing. “The ability we have [at Dick’s] to impact change just a week after you make a decision is much different from consumer packaged goods,” she said. “That’s what makes it exciting.”

— Terry Lefton
  • First job: Loan officer at Chemical Bank.
  • Crowning professional achievement: Our PACE program at Dick’s for baseline concussion testing. We are very proud of being able to get baseline data for a million kids so far.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Never working outside of North America.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Give a consistent effort, make it your best, and don’t over manage.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Former Pepsi N.A. CEO Dawn Hudson and CMO Dave Burwick. They taught me everything I know about marketing.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Mia Hamm. She changed the way Americans see women and soccer.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Take more time off after business school.


“A smart, strategic, marketer who knows how to build a brand. She brings a good combination of focus and vision to Dick’s.”

  • John Tatum, Genesco Sports Enterprises CEO, who worked with Hobart as a client when she was at Pepsi

Baird stayed her course during a first year at the USOC
that was less than smooth sailing.
Lisa Baird
U.S. Olympic Committee
Chief Marketing Officer

During her first year at the U.S. Olympic Committee, Lisa Baird had three different bosses, but her approach to overhauling the organization’s marketing strategy stayed the same. She wanted to add new partners, develop events that made the U.S. Olympic team relevant outside the two weeks of the Games, and improve the group’s new media strategy. Her commitment to those key areas has begun to pay off and improve the overall health of the USOC.

Since Baird joined the organization in 2009, the USOC has added a host of blue-chip sponsors, including Procter & Gamble, Deloitte, BP and BMW. Perhaps the most encouraging sponsorship signing was Kellogg Co., which returned as a partner this year after dropping its sponsorship in 2008.

Baird has worked with those partners to activate earlier in the year and encouraged them to develop marketing programs that generate donations for the USOC. She also created a 100-days-out promotional event for the Vancouver Games in which partners were able to set up booths in New York’s Rockefeller Center and promote their support of the USOC.

Her latest effort is focused on overhauling the USOC’s new media strategy. The organization has been using Facebook more in recent marketing efforts and plans to unveil a revamped website in early 2012.

— Tripp Mickle
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Keep the fan or customer first and you’ll never go wrong.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Paul Tagliabue.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Billie Jean King.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Keeping ahead of the innovation curve and being smart in investing limited resources.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Having a deep skill, whether that’s being a great communicator or strategic thinker. Being passionate about sports isn’t enough.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Exercise more patience so that I could learn more and not simply try to achieve.


“She’s elevated the United States Olympic Committee to be on the same marketing thought process as the NFL, NBA, NASCAR and other big boys. She understands corporate CEOs’ business and she’s creating assets that make the USOC more professional in the marketplace.”

  • Rob Prazmark, founder of 21 Marketing and a longtime Olympic sales executive

Murray has made a career of big events, and she has
the credentials to prove it.
Lisa Murray
Octagon Worldwide
EVP, Chief Marketing Officer

After 22 years developing and activating marketing programs for Octagon clients, Lisa Murray isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Yes, she’s still planning programs for large clients, like MasterCard and Allstate, and at big events, like the FIFA World Cup and the Sugar Bowl. But you can also find her in the parking lot at those monster events, holding a sign that guides clients on and off the buses and through mazes of hospitality.

Murray once wanted to be Ralph Nader, “until I found out,” she said, “you had to be a lawyer.’’ The legal profession’s loss has been marketing’s gain. “I’m a classic agency person,’’ Murray said, “focused on passion and results, and I’m very hands-on.’’

Clients and co-workers laud her devotion. “Lisa has taught that dedication to our entire organization, and it’s one of the main reasons we have so many long-standing clients,’’ said Jeff Shifrin, president, Octagon Marketing North America. “Everything we do on the client side has Lisa’s fingerprints on it.’’

— Terry Lefton
  • First job: Working in the advertising department at Gimbels in New York City.
  • Crowning professional achievement: I’ve measured my life against the World Cups I have worked on. That’s up to seven now, and each one has been more of a “Wow.”
  • What is the best advice you've ever received: Learn to be a critical listener. The source escapes me (probably because I hadn’t mastered the technique yet) but the concept stuck. In an age of fleeting, 140-character messages, critical listening is, well, critical to survival — much less success.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Brazil’s first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, to discuss her views on the opportunities and prospects for dynamic economic and social change as a result of Brazil hosting both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: It is a 24/7 business, especially since we are a global agency.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: People that are proactive.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Be fluent in another language and much more proficient in golf. Both are vital skills in this business.
  • Ten years from now I hope to be …: An alum of SBJ’s 60 Under 60.


“A client’s dream come true. Lisa is a hard worker, very strategic, but not afraid to do whatever it takes. She can see angles no one else does.”

  • Mava Heffler, vice president, marketing and communications, Emcor Group; former sponsorship chief at MasterCard

Miller (center) with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden at the 2009 World Series.
Marla Miller
SVP, Special Events

MLB’s All-Star Game is perhaps the one such event among sports’ showcase games that still has importance and growth — and has not devolved into a meaningless exhibition. Marla Miller is a key reason why.

Miller first oversaw an expansion of the midsummer classic into a five-day cavalcade that, beyond the game, itself includes a well-attended FanFest, a Futures Game featuring promising minor leaguers, and a Home Run Derby that is ESPN’s most-watched event each summer. After a series of attendance and revenue records were set, Miller then led a deft shift to boost the event’s power as an instrument of community involvement. The All-Star Game now generates more than $5 million in annual donations to various national and local causes. It featured President Barack Obama in St. Louis in 2009.

The playoffs and World Series have in recent years seen a similar spike in reach and depth, also under Miller’s leadership.

“The idea was to go beyond the ballparks and use these events to make a major impact in the various communities,” Miller said. “It started with a basic idea of what other ancillary activities we could add [to the All-Star Game] and now takes on a much larger thematic approach.”

— Eric Fisher
  • First job: Internship at Grey Advertising.
  • Crowning professional achievement:  2008 New York All-Star summer.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Wanting every Major League Baseball All-Star Game to be better than the last one.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: No job too tall, no job too small.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Preparing for the unexpected — from weather issues to local politics that impact our events.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Loyalty.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have been born 20 years later so I could have majored in sports management. The closest I got to studying the business of sports in college at NYU was attending a guest lecture by Howard Cosell


“Marla and I spent a great deal of time together [planning the 2011 All-Star Game], and I quickly realized how strong, smart and prepared she is. She is a strategist and a problem solver. All of MLB’s special events appear to be finely tuned, and they are because Marla is at the helm.”

  • Derrick Hall, Arizona Diamondbacks president and chief executive

Witmer took up hoops to play with her kids and discovered she has a knack for shooting free throws.
Melinda Witmer
Time Warner Cable
EVP, Chief Video and Content Officer

No company has made bigger inroads in the sports media business in the past eight months than Time Warner Cable.

Under the direction of the company’s chief video and content officer, Melinda Witmer, Time Warner Cable snatched the rights to the Los Angeles Lakers from Fox Sports Net and was instrumental in helping the Pac-12 Conference come up with a plan to launch six regional channels next August. Witmer set up a new division, called TWC Sports, to handle the company’s relationships in the sports community and staffed it with three industry veterans: David Rone, Mark Shuken and Dan Finnerty.

As the top programming executive at the country’s second biggest cable operator, Witmer also has been at the forefront of cutting carriage deals with sports networks like ESPN and Fox Sports that contemplate TV Everywhere.

— John Ourand
  • First job: Tennis instructor.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received: Fred Dressler told me to trust my instincts and “just make it up.” “Trust me,” he said, “the other guy is just making it up, too.”
  • What keeps you awake at night?: The endless opportunities presented in our business today. There is a great atmosphere of intense competition and entrepreneurialism in the business today that just lights me up.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Family. I come from a family of rabid sports fans, married another, and gave birth to two more. They really do help me understand our customers who are sports fans, what moves them, and what really matters about sports.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Creativity and judgment, but they have to be someone I would want to be in the trenches with.


“Melinda is an incredibly tough negotiator and a deft problem solver who is constantly looking for creative win-win scenarios in any negotiation. In addition to being very good at what she does, she’s a great person — which is an added benefit considering the amount of time it takes to get deals done in our business.”

  • David Preschlack, ESPN executive vice president, affiliate sales and marketing

Berg has mementos from achieving a major
out-of-the-office goal, finishing a half marathon.
Michelle Berg
Team Epic
Executive Vice President

Michelle Berg calls herself the “eclectic marketer,” given all the experiences she has had in her 20-plus years in the sports industry. She has covered everything from media planning to promotions, sponsorship marketing to brand management.

Berg currently is executive vice president at Team Epic and has been with the company for the past 10 years. Her biggest accounts are also the company’s biggest accounts: AT&T and JPMorgan Chase. AT&T signed on with Team Epic in 2001 when it was still known as Cingular Wireless, and Berg has been the lead for the company since day one, working directly on its relationship with the NCAA, Major League Soccer, and both the SEC and ACC in college sports. As for JPMorgan Chase, Berg’s primary charge with that company comes from its $30 million annual deal with Madison Square Garden, announced last year.

— Molly Hogan
  • First job: Assistant media planner, Ketchum Advertising, New York.
  • Crowning professional achievement: My promotion to a new position within Team Epic as executive vice president.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: I haven’t yet been to an Olympic Games.
  • What was the best advice you've ever received?: As a career person, wife and mother, that I have to be satisfied doing the best I can at work and home, and accepting that neither is going to be perfect.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Knowing that I have a 6 a.m. flight and have to get up at 3 a.m. in order to make it.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Professionally, it would be Monty Kiernan. He was an early mentor in my career and is a close friend and guide even today. Like my parents, he encouraged me to stretch beyond job labels or titles and show those in my organizations that I can do more.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Personality fit. Would I like to hang out with this person?
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Planning a trip to an Olympic Games.


“As a client, you want an agency partner who’s going to deliver on the immediate needs of the business but also challenge you to stretch into new areas. Michelle knows how to achieve that balance. … It’s the right combination of working ‘in’ the business and ‘on building’ the business.”

  • Eric Fernandez, MediaLink senior partner; former sports marketing executive at AT&T

Wilson has rung up achievements in several sports.
Michelle Wilson
Chief Marketing Officer

Michelle Wilson has been an innovator throughout her career in sports marketing.

While at the U.S. Tennis Association, she played a key role in the implementation of blue courts at the U.S. Open, something that let the tournament “own a color” among the other Grand Slam events, she said. Prior to that, innovation was key in Wilson working to build the upstart XFL from step one. As vice president of marketing for the league, Wilson led the XFL to become, as she noted, the first pro sports league to sell season tickets online. The league also implemented the X-Cam — technology now frequently seen at sporting events and referred to as the “fly-over” camera.

But like all true innovators, Wilson believes her crowning professional achievement will be her next one. And that achievement is already fast taking shape, with the recent announcement of a WWE-branded network to debut in 2012.

— Katherine Zdrojeski

  • First job: Chemical engineer at Johnson & Johnson.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: There not being a second season for the XFL.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received?: Manage your own career because no one will manage it for you.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Everything during the week and nothing during the weekend.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Lesa France Kennedy, because she has been instrumental to International Speedway Corp.’s continued growth through her leadership, hard work and perseverance in the face of personal adversity.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: The over-reliance on tradition and lack of innovation.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: A sense of urgency.


“Michelle was a driving force behind the resurgence of the U.S. Open into a mainstream sports and entertainment spectacle and gained the respect of everyone from the boardroom to the locker room.”

  • Arlen Kantarian, former chief executive of pro tennis, U.S. Tennis Association

Gardner has developed the Astros’ business over the second half of their nearly 50-year history.
Pam Gardner
Houston Astros
President, Business Operations

The Houston Astros this year endured their worst season ever on the field, and a proposed sale to local businessman Jim Crane stands in some doubt. But over the past 23 years, Pam Gardner has helped guide the team into one of baseball’s steadiest, most solid performers.

Under Gardner’s leadership, the Astros have posted 10 seasons with attendance of more than 2.5 million fans, and the club boasts baseball’s second-largest ballpark naming-rights deal, generating an estimated $6.4 million per year for Minute Maid Park. A new regional sports network in partnership with Comcast and the Houston Rockets is forthcoming, as well. All of this has happened without a World Series title, a mega media market such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, or a history of top-tier payroll spending.

“We’ve worked very hard at building a brand here,” said Gardner, who has been asked to stay on with Crane if and when the deal closes. “There wasn’t much history here with the team when we arrived. We saw a big opportunity to start fresh and create a real affinity for baseball here.”

— Eric Fisher
  • First job: Clerk at a Ben Franklin dime store during high school.
  • Crowning professional achievement: Actually, two: negotiating the Houston regional sports network deal with the Houston Rockets and Comcast; and being part of the design and construction of Minute Maid Park.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Coming up short in the 2005 World Series.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Tough but fair; collaborative with high expectations for success.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Drayton McLane, owner of the Houston Astros, because he gave me the opportunity.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Work harder at life balance. It has been “all in” for me, which means there are personal sacrifices.


“Pam not only possesses the acumen and experience comparable to the top business executives in baseball, she also treats people — ranging from colleagues around the league [to] co-workers and fans — with respect and a very open and honest attitude. Pam is a thought leader, willing to express her opinions and highly respected around baseball.”

  • Brooks Boyer, Chicago White Sox senior vice president

Yancey escapes from the facilities biz at the family’s property in Iowa.
Paula Yancey
PC Sports
President/Majority Owner

Paula Yancey, over the past 12 years, has served as an owner’s representative for developing AT&T Center, FedEx Forum, Sprint Center, KFC Yum! Center, and her latest project, the $168 million Haymarket Arena under construction in Lincoln, Neb. Yancey works with the arena designers, builders, engineers and subcontractors to ensure the facilities are completed on time and on budget. It was 18 years ago when she joined Project Control in San Antonio, parent company of PC Sports, in a marketing and administrative support role. Six years later, she was working on the NBA Spurs’ arena after the club hired the company’s PC Sports group to represent its interests. And earlier this year, Yancey bought 51 percent of Project Control, giving her majority ownership of the overall venture along with her continued involvement with its sports group.

— Don Muret
  • Crowning professional achievement: Opening the KFC Yum! Center one month early.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: That I wasn’t irreplaceable.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Tough, fair; expect dedication from everyone on a project.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Lesa France Kennedy. She has such great composure and fortitude to be where she is and have faced such adversity.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Garnering respect at the start of a project.


“If you don’t have people like Paula, there is a huge disconnect between the architect and the guy out there swinging a hammer. She knows when to have a smile on her face and when to go toe-to-toe with you.”

  • John Sparks, general manager of Barclays Center, former general manager at AT&T Center

Schulte, with husband Ray, hopes to watch 2-year-old Ryan in sporting events someday.
Rebecca Schulte
Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic
SVP, General Manager

Rebecca Schulte came to Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic in 2005, just as the regional sports network was losing the rights to the staple of its summer schedule, the Baltimore Orioles, to a rival regional sports network. What Schulte has done in the ensuing six years is keep the Comcast-owned RSN relevant in a sports market without any MLB rights and with an NBA team, the Washington Wizards, that has been one of the league’s worst. Schulte has strengthened the channel’s relationships with other local teams. Notably, Schulte picked up rights to the NFL Ravens in August, helping the channel re-establish a foothold in Baltimore. Schulte also has been active securing summer rights with Washington’s MLS and World TeamTennis clubs, D.C. United and the Kastles, respectively.

— John Ourand
  • First job: Growing up in Los Angeles, I did some acting along with my twin sister. It was mostly small parts, but it was my first experience in television.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received: Work for the job you want, not the job you have. It is a challenge to consistently improve your performance, regardless of position, and seek opportunities for growth.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Tracy Dolgin, president and CEO, YES Network.  
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: A passion for making great television.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Still be producing great sports television, but also attending sporting events that my son is playing in.


“I’ve worked with Rebecca for more than four years, and it was evident from the outset that she was committed to building partnerships and delivering the best possible broadcast product to sports fans in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore markets.”

  • Ted Leonsis, founder and chairman, Monumental Sports & Entertainment

Durant has raised the ESPNU banner, as well as the
channel’s exposure.
Rosalyn Durant
VP, General Manager

When Rosalyn Durant was named ESPNU’s vice president and general manager in 2008, she had a simple mandate: Expand the network’s programming lineup and persuade executives in Bristol to put more focus on the channel. This college football season has showed the fruits of those labors.

ESPNU is in its second year with a bolstered lineup of programs. It picked up the first hour of ESPN’s popular Saturday morning college football studio show, “College GameDay,” which expanded to three hours, and it chose Erin Andrews to host. The result has been the largest live-game viewership in ESPNU’s history over the past two years, on the theory that people tune in for the pregame and stay with the channel through the games that follow. Generally ESPN’s fourth pick on the college football schedule (behind ABC, ESPN and ESPN2), ESPNU’s college football viewership has outperformed offerings from FX and Versus this season.

In the three years since Durant has been running ESPNU, the channel, which launched in 2005, also has seen its distribution rise, from 25 million to 73 million homes.

— John Ourand
  • What is the best advice you've ever received: Do something that makes you uncomfortable every day. You’ll learn more and have more fun.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Good TV.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Empowering; provide direction, support and sufficient rope.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is: Fearlessness.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Play more, and enjoy the moments.


“The extraordinary growth of ESPNU, both in terms of content and distribution, over the last two years is due in large part to Roz’s leadership. She understands what it takes to fulfill ESPNU’s mission and goes about it with quiet determination.”

  • Mike Slive, commissioner, Southeastern Conference

Mensah stands with son Davis, 11, outside the Rose Garden, which received gold LEED certification.
Sarah Mensah
Portland Trail Blazers
Chief Operating Officer

As one of the most successful and respected executives in the NBA, Sarah Mensah plays a huge role in shaping the Portland Trail Blazers’ brand while also driving its business. Portland has sold out the Rose Garden since December 2007, and since that year, the team has seen its ticket revenue more than double. Sponsorship revenue is up double digits in the past year, as well. Mensah also is willing to push new business frontiers: Consider that the Blazers were the first team to stream games live on their website. But it’s the team’s community influence that has notably grown under Mensah, who joined the Blazers in 1993. The Blazers are a founding partner of the Green Sports Alliance. Since that group’s broad North American launch earlier this year, 80 teams and venues have joined the alliance. Mensah also was an integral part of the Blazers achieving gold LEED certification status for the Rose Garden in 2010.

— John Lombardo
  • First job: Production coordinator for local NBC affiliate KGW-TV.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My current boss, Larry Miller, who has been a mentor and the most significant contributor to my career in sports.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Billie Jean King, because she is this amazing icon of what it means to achieve as a female in a predominately male environment.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Do everything the same, except maybe to start my family earlier. My son is turning 12, and I feel old at 46.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: At a professional sports presidents meeting (either NFL, NBA or MLB) with a lot of other women there who are running teams. I’d also like to be able to have achieved the ultimate: winning a championship and turning a profit all at the same time.


“[Sarah] has got an extremely demanding schedule and she is on everyone’s radar screen, but she makes you feel important.”

  • Don Pearson, regional president, Wells Fargo Bank, a team sponsor

McLenaghan’s golf ties extend to her college days, when she played on Princeton’s team.
Sheila McGlenaghan
PGA Tour
SVP, Customer Relations

The events, dinners and meetings that Sheila McLenaghan runs represent the connection that sponsors often associate with the PGA Tour.McLenaghan is the senior vice president for customer relations at the tour. On some days, she’s “Julie McCoy,” cruise director. Other days, she’s conductor of the PGA Tour philharmonic, leading a well-orchestrated series of events that keep the tour’s partners happy and engaged.

During a recent week at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, McLenaghan’s group ran the event that honored the Payne Stewart Award winner; an executive golf outing for tournament sponsors Coca-Cola and the Southern Co.; a meeting of the tour’s official marketing partners; and the Sunday night FedEx Cup after-party. Those events are intended to thank sponsors for their support, update them on the business of the tour and give them an opportunity to network.

In all, McLenaghan’s team of four in customer relations (she also manages 16 people in the travel department) coordinates more than 25 major events a year. It requires her to work closely with the tour’s marketing team to keep partners entertained and informed on the tour’s business.

“It’s a combination of things,” she said. “Sometimes we’re saying ‘Thanks’ to sponsors for their support. At some events, it’s more senior-level people from sponsors playing golf. We’re making sure there’s good interaction between their folks and our folks. A lot of it is providing the best environment possible for relationship-building.”

— Michael Smith
  • First job: Assistant at Ohlmeyer Communications in New York City.
  • Crowning professional achievement: Grand opening gala at TPC Sawgrass a week after the new clubhouse opened. I’m pretty sure the paint was still wet.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Never assume; it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Collaborative.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My parents. They helped me figure out how to channel my interest in golf and business into a wonderful career. 
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: People outside the sports business have a hard time believing it’s really work.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Intelligence.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: More fit and more well-read.


“Sheila brings great wisdom and a wealth of experience. The PGA Tour has been rated at the very top amongst its peers at client service due in part to her hard work and dedication. She understands why companies activate PGA Tour assets and has their best interest at heart.”

  • Scott Seymour, Octagon senior vice president/managing director, golf

Allaster’s family accompanied her during her induction into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame.
Stacey Allaster
Chairman and CEO

Stacey Allaster’s first job in tennis was as a youngster cleaning the courts at her local club, earning just enough money, she said, to buy a soda.Allaster has a bit more change in her pocket these days as head of the WTA, having moved up the ranks tirelessly to the group’s corner office. As the head of the top pro sport for women, Allaster says it’s important for a woman to be in charge of the circuit, even if that has not always been the case.

“The fact I am female, it is a little easier for some of our younger athletes to sit with me and open up,” she said. “Sometimes, they are not as comfortable when it is a male.”

— Daniel Kaplan
  • Crowning professional achievement: Becoming chairman and CEO of WTA.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Losing my trusted, right-hand, incredibly talented colleague and friend David Shoemaker to the NBA, where he is now CEO of NBA China.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Get sales experience if you want to succeed in the sports industry.
  • What keeps you awake at night?: Player, staff and fan safety.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Dutchy Doerr, my first tennis coach. Dutchy introduced me to the sport, launched my teaching pro/club management jobs during college, and created networking opportunities to secure my first full-time job with the Ontario Tennis Association.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Integrity, and respect for others.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have my family earlier in life.


“No executive is more committed to her constituents than Stacey is to hers. She brings a rare combination of creativity, forthrightness and pragmatism to her role at the WTA, and this is why she is one of the great leaders in sports.”

  • Gordon Smith, USTA executive director and COO

Rodin says a Mets game with granddaughter Claire is a grand-slam day.
Sue Rodin
WISE, Founder
Stars & Strategies, President

Sue Rodin said there was a time at the beginning of her career in sports that she had a business question and was in search of a group of women executives specifically in the sports industry who she hoped could help provide an answer. Upon learning no such group existed, Rodin set out to start one, and in October 1993, at Mickey Mantle’s in New York City, the first meeting of Women in Sports and Events was held. Rodin was expecting about five people to attend; 60 women came together to share stories and advice.

Since then, WISE has grown as a nonprofit group to have 10 chapters around the country and more than 1,000 members, in turn leading to thousands of networking relationships and jobs for women in sports. In 1996, Rodin started her second venture in sports, Stars & Strategies. The agency both at its launch and continuing today aims to specialize in women’s sports marketing and management.

— Molly Hogan
  • First job: I was trained to teach history at the secondary level, but after graduate school there were no jobs, so I was a fifth-grade teacher at a public school in Queens, N.Y.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: “Shift happens.” The only given is change; the best we can do is control how we manage it.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Collaborative (more “we” than “me”) and focused on solutions.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Melinda Witmer, Time Warner Cable. I would like to hear about her career path, her business challenges and her goals.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have started in business earlier.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Having fun with the grandkids, traveling and celebrating the Mets’ World Series victory.


“I admire her ability to galvanize an incredibly large group of women to organize chapters to help other women professionally network. … She found a need far greater than her own and it has blossomed to a sustainable association.”

  • Buffy Filippell, TeamWork Consulting president

Stone, with son Ethan, 10, and daughter Sophie, 8, helped MLB Network make a successful launch.
Susan Stone
MLB Network
SVP, Operations

When Susan Stone, MLB Network senior vice president of operations, arrived in 2008 as the 10th employee, the channel wasn’t much more than a business plan, a Secaucus, N.J., studio in need of significant renovations, and the source of significant industry chatter. Now, the channel is in about 65 million U.S. homes, the most of any league network, and it boasts a high-end production standard for both live-game and studio programming that is envied around the sports TV business. Among Stone’s accomplishments have been helping manifest the outlet’s distinctive look and feel, including the baseball field-themed Studio 42, as envisioned by MLB Network President and CEO Tony Petitti and others.

“The launch brought out such a great collaborative, team-building spirit,” said Stone, a veteran of sports TV with prior stops at NBC, CBS and the NFL Network. “And even now, there’s never any slack in the standards. But there’s still a ton of opportunity in front of us and more we want to do.”

— Eric Fisher
  • Crowning professional achievement: The launch of MLB Network on Jan. 1, 2009 — a lifetime of work crammed into six months.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received: Don’t worry about the next job, but be the best at the job you currently have.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Ken Aagaard, whom I’ve worked with at almost every phase of my career and recommended me to Tony Petitti at MLB Network.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Donna de Varona. She was a trailblazer for all women who followed in the sports broadcasting industry.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Taking my daughter, Sophie, to college.


“I’m grateful that I’ve been able to work with Susan twice in my career, first at CBS and now at MLB Network. Susan is a total pro who handles every project with enthusiasm, expertise and a calm demeanor. She’s to be credited for helping to make the launch of MLB Network so successful.”

  • Tony Petitti, MLB Network, president and CEO

Green has a reputation for developing the young talent that she surrounds herself with at GMR Marketing.
Tamera Green
GMR Marketing
VP, Group Account Director

Tamera Green has protégés everywhere. All told, more than 100 people in the sports business got their start courtesy of the GMR consulting executive. Step into a NASCAR shop, the sanctioning body’s headquarters or one of almost two dozen agencies servicing the sport, and you’ll likely find one.

Green has a reputation for identifying and developing new talent in the sports industry. Her management style, which is big on delegating and supervising the work of new hires, allows young people to take chances, generate ideas of their own and implement the best ideas for GMR’s corporate clients.

Over the years, her employees have had a hand in launching such innovative programs as Gillette’s Young Guns, which featured some of NASCAR’s up-and-coming drivers promoting the company’s line of razors and skin care products, and Best Buy’s Retailgate, a 12-market hospitality program that brings top retail customers to the track.

It’s programs like these that have stood out during Green’s two-decade career in sports.

— Tripp Mickle
  • First job: Cashier at Winn-Dixie.
  • Crowning professional achievement: Helping Charlotte and Jerry Richardson win an NFL expansion franchise.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: Seeing Jim Beam end its NASCAR sponsorship.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Max Muhleman, because he gave me a chance to work in sports and taught me how to convince people to say yes. 
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Heidi Ueberroth, because of her global responsibilities at the NBA.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Creating measurement metrics to show success with marketing programs.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Good judgment. I give hypothetical scenarios and evaluate the decisions people make.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Have relaxed more early in my career. I wanted to do so well at times that I let pressure build, and with hindsight, I recognize things work out if you do the best you can.
  • Ten years from now, I hope to be …: Teaching a class on the side. The professors who taught me the most were the ones with real experience, and I’d like to share my experience.


“A lot of the principles Tamera taught — simple things like honesty, working hard, being in early, going home late, leading by example and developing client relationships — are principles I’ve used to grow our business now that I manage a team of my own. She’s clearly an outstanding manager, and those principles you’ll see in anyone who worked for her.”

  • Harper Lee, vice president, HB&M Sports

Howard, with the Dolphins’ Super Bowl trophies, has
worked to keep her team tops in technology.
Tery Howard
Miami Dolphins
SVP, Chief Technology Officer

For 13 years, Tery Howard has kept the Miami Dolphins on the cutting edge in technology. As the team’s chief technology officer, Howard leads the charge for developing new platforms aimed at enriching the fan experience at Sun Life Stadium, a building the Dolphins own and operate. Those systems include FanVision, the mobile technology firm owned by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross; a cashless concessions and gift card rewards program; and a new deal with Dreams, a tech firm hired to improve the club’s online retail shop.

Sun Life Stadium boasts one of the world’s largest point-of-sale installations under one roof, with about 750 devices processing transactions. It also was one of the first NFL venues to install digital menu boards, in 2007. Making sure all new technology operates in a stadium setting is a monumental task that keeps Howard and her staff of 20 busy in south Florida.

Her most recent assignment is chairing a team committee to explore new ways to expand digital commerce through all platforms, including social media, to produce more revenue for the club and the facility. “It’s thinking outside the box and being creative, looking at what others are doing in the industries — not necessarily in sports, but on the entertainment side,” Howard said.

— Don Muret
  • First job: Manager of shipboard systems and operations, Carnival Cruise Lines.
  • What is the best advice you've ever received: Understand that failure is acceptable and if managed properly it will ultimately breed success. Fear to innovate is unacceptable.
  • In 10 words or less, how would you describe your management style?: Ensuring staff has tools needed to be efficient and effective.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Stephen Ross. Stephen has a passion for innovation, believes in achieving best-in-class on all fronts of our business and has an unwavering commitment to his staff. He is a visionary leader.
  • Woman in sports business you'd most like to meet: Stacey Allaster at WTA. Her accomplishments and the impact she has made at the WTA have been impressive and innovative.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is: To ensure the individual has a passion for what they will embark in, is capable of working in a team environment, and a willingness to learn.


“Tery has an understanding of emerging technologies to drive business … with an ability to effectively communicate those changes for the team and the facility. She is an A player.”

  • Joe Bailey, partner with consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles; former CEO of Dolphins Enterprises

Davis has taken a crash course in the Olympics as Citi
prepares for London.
Tina Davis
SVP, Corporate Sponsorship and Marketing

As the daughter of an Air Force major, Tina Davis lived in Spain and Japan growing up, but her time in Europe and Asia never overlapped with an Olympics. Next year’s Summer Games in London will be her first Olympics, and she is doing everything she can to get ready for it.

Citi earlier this year signed an agreement to become the official bank of the U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC, and the company is scrambling to put together a marketing plan to take advantage of those assets prior to the opening ceremony next July. Davis, who is heading that effort, has taken a crash course in the Olympics. She has learned everything from what the International Olympic Committee does to how many international sports federations exist.

“You don’t just create an Olympic pin,” said Davis, who was at Wieden+Kennedy before joining Citi. “You have one for 100 days out; you have one for the opening ceremonies. That was a new lesson.”

Davis is trying to take all of those lessons and use them to help Citi as it looks to make the most of its USOC partnership. The company, at the direction of Davis and chief brand officer Dermot Boden, is in the process of trying to evolve from using sports sponsorships as a media platform for exposure to using them as a means to engage with customers more deeply, to boost employee morale, and to drive business across its divisions, from employee relations to government affairs.

— Tripp Mickle
  • Crowning professional achievement: At R&R Advertising, I put together a presentation for the Las Vegas tourism business that my boss called the best presentation he’d ever seen, and it played a role in convincing Las Vegas tourism to begin to look at customer segmentation.
  • What is the best advice you’ve ever received?: If there is an issue and you need to go to your superiors, take a breath before saying “The sky is falling,” and come in with a solution or point of view. Learn to manage up. 
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: My first female boss was Christine Steele at Livingston & Co. We were working on the California antismoking campaign, and she encouraged me to always stand strong in my point of view and helped me have confidence that my point of view mattered. She encouraged me to be creative in my job and inspired me to become a writer.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Billie Jean King, who is the trailblazer for women in sports and sports business. I also respect Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America,” who has evolved from athlete to journalist to national news anchor and credits her sports background as a major factor that contributed to her success.
  • One attribute I look for when hiring is …: Passion.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would …: Be a writer — fiction or poetry.


“I miss her. … She had an ability to put things in perspective very quickly, and she could galvanize a room around an idea. It may take a bit, but I assume she’ll be running Citi before long.”

  • Dan Wieden, co-founder, Wieden+Kennedy