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Volume 21 No. 1
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Handler consults at MLS as CMO Findlay departs

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Russ Findlay, a veteran PepsiCo and Unilever marketer, is out after less than a year as Major League Soccer’s first chief marketing officer.

Former NFL marketer Howard Handler, who has been consulting with the league for several months, is handling marketing matters and is operating as the league’s de facto CMO. The league sent out an internal email earlier this month saying Findlay was leaving and Handler would handle marketing duties in the transition.

Whether Handler takes the CMO title officially won’t be known until an examination of the league’s marketing plan.

“Howard’s been a great asset so far and he’s hit the ground running,” said MLS

Commissioner Don Garber. “But we’ve got a lot of thinking to go through as we continue to build out our organization. We’re really evaluating what kind of resources and assets we need to put into marketing overall.”

Handler, who did not return a phone message, worked with Garber at the NFL before Garber took the top MLS job in 1999. The commissioner tapping into Handler’s expertise echoes the move he made bringing in former NFL marketer Doug Quinn in 2004 to head Soccer United Marketing.

Handler was last with Madison Square Garden, where he was executive vice president of marketing and sales from 2009-11. He also brings an entertainment marketing background to MLS, as he has held various marketing jobs with EMI Music, MTV and Broadway Video, along with Virgin Mobile and Quaker Oats.

Marketing responsibilities at MLS have been in disparate hands at MLS. Since Mark Noonan left as executive vice president of marketing and fan development in 2004, responsibilities have been shuttled between Quinn; Dan Courtemanche, executive vice president of marketing and communications; and current SUM President Kathy Carter.

Findlay’s exit comes as Will Wilson, MLS’s executive vice president of international business and special events, left to join Wasserman Media Group in a deal that also brought Wasserman the representation to likely top NFL draftee Andrew Luck, who is Wilson’s nephew (see related story).