Six proven leaders in the industry
A mix of negotiators and visionaries who have excelled in virtually every corner of the sports industry makes up the 2013 class of The Champions: Pioneers & Innovators in Sports Business. The award recognizes the architects and builders of sports, and this year’s honorees include a group that any organization would love to have on their side of the table, both in terms of negotiating skill and being able to figure out the future.
■ Donald Dell, a negotiating expert who played a major role in the evolution of both pro tennis and sports marketing in general;
■ Rosa Gatti, one of the voices behind ESPN’s unmatched ability to tell its own story as well as provide a blueprint for diversity;
■ Roy Kramer, a visionary in the college sports world whose decisions have proved to be decades ahead of their time;
■ Harvey Schiller, a true sports business renaissance man if there ever was one;
■ Ron Shapiro, arguably the original baseball power agent; and
■ Pat Williams, a builder of successful NBA franchises for the last 45 years.
They join an exclusive group of entrepreneurs, risk-takers and colorful personalities as the fourth installment of The Champions. Each will be honored during a special ceremony April 3 at the IMG World Congress of Sports in Naples, Fla., and will share their story from a career that helped shape the sports business industry.
As one of the first sports agents, Dell co-founded ProServ and, along with IMG founder Mark McCormack, he is considered one of the fathers of both sports marketing and the sports agency business. During the golden age of tennis, Dell represented stars such as Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. He co-founded the ATP and is vice chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
It’s impossible to talk about the history of ESPN without talking about Gatti, a communications executive who joined ESPN in 1980, soon after it launched. During the 1970s, Gatti was one of the few women in sports, working in the athletic departments at Brown and Villanova. Those early experiences played a major role in Gatti’s career. She founded ESPN’s diversity committee in 1992, and it’s not a coincidence that ESPN has one of the most diverse staffs of any company in sports.
Kramer was a coach and administrator who became one of the most influential figures in college athletics. As the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference from 1990 to 2002, Kramer expanded the conference to 12 schools with the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina in the early ’90s. He also formed the first conference championship football game and created the vision for the controversial Bowl Championship Series that, like it or not, for the first time in the history of college football ensured that No. 1 would play No. 2 at the end of the season.
The Citadel graduate and former chemistry professor at the Air Force Academy has a résumé stacked with jobs in virtually every area of the sports industry. In college sports, he was the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference for four years (1986-1990), a member of the NCAA executive committee and president of the Western Athletic Conference. In the Olympic world, he was executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1990 to 1994, and has served as president of the International Baseball Federation. He was also president of Turner Sports from 1994 to 2000 and chairman and CEO of YankeeNets from 2000 to 2002.
Known best as the agent for baseball Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr., Jim Palmer and Kirby Puckett, Shapiro used that platform as a means to expand beyond the realm of sports representation, establishing himself as a sought-after expert in all forms of negotiation. The consulting firm he founded in 1999 has trained more than 350,000 executives and other professionals in negotiation. In recent years, Shapiro has expanded the firm’s programs to offer sales training, including seminars for staffs at professional sports teams.
Williams has spent nearly 50 years in sports, mostly in the NBA where his contributions have put him into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He began his NBA career in 1968 as business manager for the Philadelphia 76ers. In 1969, at age 29, he joined the Chicago Bulls as general manager. He later returned to the Sixers as general manager, where he won an NBA title in 1983. He then played an integral role in bringing the NBA to Orlando and has been a leading executive with the Magic since the franchise’s inception in 1987. His success as an executive also has made Williams an acclaimed motivational speaker.
For the first time, SportsBusiness Journal/Daily will profile each of these honorees and tell their impressive stories in separate issues, beginning with the Feb. 4 issue and running through the March 11 issue. In addition, the six Champions will be honored on April 3 at the IMG World Congress of Sports in Naples, Fla.