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Volume 20 No. 46
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Forty Under 40: Voices from the past

We asked past Forty Under 40 winners to share their thoughts on the award along with advice for the Class of 2013. Following are their comments.

What memories do you have of your selection as a Forty Under 40 recipient?

The best memory was receiving all the congratulatory phone calls, letters and emails from across the industry; notes from longtime clients, colleagues, former co-workers and friends. But what really stood out were all the notes and phone calls from other Forty Under 40 alumni welcoming me to the group. It gave you a real sense that it wasn’t just an individual honor but that you were joining a special group of great people from across the sports business community.

WINNER: 2008
JOB THEN: GMR Marketing, SVP and group account director
JOB NOW: GMR Marketing, EVP

I gathered a large group of friends that I had met through the business to that point — which included clients, buyers, colleagues, and even some competitors — to help celebrate the occasion. And we all had a blast, which is what makes it so memorable for me, since I consider my network and friends to be the most important ingredient in my career. We are lucky people who enjoy working together. I believe working in this business is a privilege.

WINNER: 2006, 2007, 2008
JOBS THEN: Van Wagner Sports Group, president (2006); CAA Sports, co-head (2007, 2008)
JOB NOW: CAA Sports, co-head

Attending the Forty Under 40 ceremony at the Waldorf in NYC with my wife, parents and co-workers was great fun. I won while I was at Miller, so we had a few cold Miller Lites to celebrate.

WINNER: 2002, 2003
JOB THEN: Miller Brewing Co., director, sports and event marketing
JOB NOW: Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, president

As a part of the first class back in 1999, I guess my first thought is I now have more in common with your Champions [program] than Forty Under 40 recipients in terms of age. That said, it remains a true honor to have been a part of the inaugural class. The most lasting memories are the quality of the people and experiences shared with those who have become a part of the Forty Under 40 club.

WINNER: 1999, 2000
JOB THEN: MasterCard International Inc., VP, U.S. sponsorships and events (1999); MasterCard North America, VP, sponsorship and event marketing (2000)
JOB NOW: Sporting News, president/publisher

I received so many wonderful notes of encouragement from others in the industry. The one I remember most came from a young woman I had never met who indicated that she was inspired by my success.

WINNER: 2008
JOB THEN: Wasserman Media Group, senior vice president
JOB NOW: U.S. Golf Association, senior managing director, business affairs

“I remember being rejected for several years before I was accepted as a recipient. It made the award that much more exciting knowing how hard it was to be accepted. I also remember chatting with Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, in line to go on stage to receive our awards.”

— Jeff Fluhr
WINNER: 2006, 2007
JOB THEN: StubHub, co-founder and CEO
JOB NOW: Spreecast, founder and CEO

“My favorite memory of my Forty Under 40 selection was attending the award ceremony with my parents, who traveled from Chicago to attend. It was a great chance to thank them for all of their support and guidance.”

— Chris Russo
WINNER: 2000, 2001, 2002
JOB THEN: NFL, SVP, new media and publishing
JOB NOW: CR Media Ventures, president

“I remember Georgetown getting beat by the Ohio University Bobcats in the first round of the NCAA tournament and Dikembe [Mutombo] and I suffering all the Ohio U grads in attendance. I also remember Abe [Madkour’s] incredible monologue when he somehow made fun of 40 people in less than 40 minutes.”

— Alec Scheiner
WINNER: 2010
JOB THEN: Dallas Cowboys, SVP and general counsel
JOB NOW: Cleveland Browns, president

“I have fond memories of my Forty Under 40 selection, even though it was eons ago. Back then there was no dinner … just a call from John Ourand.”

— Jeff Shell
WINNER: 1999, 2000, 2001
JOB THEN: Fox Sports Net, president (1999); Fox Cable Networks, president and CEO (2000, 2001)
JOB NOW: NBCUniversal International, chairman

What advice would you give to the members of this year’s Forty Under 40 class about being selected for this distinction?

Don’t mistake this recognition as any type of personal validation. If we are fortunate enough to find ourselves in a job in sports with big responsibility and visibility across the industry, then we should realize that the Forty Under 40 is first about the brand, club, team, league or agency we represent; second the success of our business; and then maybe, finally, how we handle the role we have being out front as the focus for these collective efforts. But make no mistake: Whoever is sitting in your chair at this time next year will be given the same consideration for the award that you have been given this year. It’s a good lesson to learn early in our careers.

WINNER: 2001, 2002
JOB THEN: Gatorade, VP, sports and event marketing
JOB NOW: Arsenal FC, chief commercial officer

First, remember that your selection is really a selection of the team and organization that you are a part of, not a trophy that puts you individually on a pedestal. Second, don’t take the award for granted, but use the honor to motivate yourself to tackle the next challenge ahead. You owe it to you and your team to do this. Third, don’t get comfortable or complacent. Find an opportunity to keep innovating or to do something disruptive. Put yourself in a space that is changing rapidly and that is perhaps a little (or a lot) ambiguous — these are the environments where you can create real value in the long haul.

WINNER: 2005
JOB THEN: Yahoo Sports, general manager
JOB NOW: Bleacher Report, CEO

The main message I would pass along to this year’s recipients of this prestigious award is, do not diminish the honor — and enjoy the experience to create and enhance the relationships with your peers. Being named to the Forty Under 40 class provides you with a rare opportunity to share a bond with the past, present and future recipients that you will enjoy throughout your career.

WINNER: 2001
JOB THEN: Buffalo Bills, VP, business development and marketing
JOB NOW: Buffalo Bills, president and CEO

No matter what department you work in, no matter your role or area of expertise, you are all stewards of the brand, which is never to be taken for granted. You have a responsibility to your fans, for they are the true owners of the game. If you are constantly focused on their needs and find motivation through their approval, you are exactly where you should be. That’s what makes sports so rewarding. You can walk through an arena and instantly see fans enjoying the experience you helped to create. If you get a sense of reward from that fan’s enjoyment, and it pushes you to do more and raise the bar, you will go far. Most importantly, have fun. If you aren’t enjoying your work, it will show.

WINNER: 1999
JOB THEN: NHL Enterprises LP, VP, consumer products marketing
JOB NOW: NHL, EVP, marketing

“My advice is to have a blast that night [at the awards event], and realize lots of people are happy for you and proud of you. Thank everyone you can, especially your parents. Be honored that you are being recognized, but also be your own judge as to how you are doing — and within that judgement consider criteria such as happiness, balance, fun, friends, family, personal growth and giving back.”

— Ray Clark
WINNER: 2001, 2002
JOB THEN: The Marketing Arm, founder and CEO
JOB NOW: The Marketing Arm, founder and CEO

“First, enjoy yourself. Use the honor as an opportunity to reflect upon, appreciate and thank the mentors, colleagues, family members and others who have supported you in your career and without whom your success would not be possible. Second, take advantage of the incredible network of co-honorees whom you will meet. It truly is a phenomenal group. I have forged many meaningful professional and personal relationships with my Forty Under 40 ‘class,’ and there is not a day that goes by where I don’t leverage what I have learned from one (or more) of these colleagues.”

— Jamie Zaninovich
WINNER: 2010
JOB THEN: West Coast Conference, commissioner
JOB NOW: West Coast Conference, commissioner

“The best advice I would give is borrowed from a quote that I really like: ‘You cannot ensure success, but you can deserve it’ ­— John Adams.”

— Bob Myers
WINNER: 2011
JOB THEN: Wasserman Media Group, managing executive, basketball management
JOB NOW: Golden State Warriors, general manager

“The individual recognition is nice, but finding a way to have enduring success with a team of people, company or brand is much more rewarding.”

— David Baxter
WINNER: 2001, 2003
JOB THEN: Reebok, COO, sports licensed division (2001); Reebok, president, sports licensed division (2003)
JOB NOW: Adidas, president, sports licensed division

“Put your iPhone down, breathe, and smell the roses just for one night. It’s a time to develop relationships with the leaders in sports. Accomplishments should be appreciated and should motivate us all to forge even more change in our business.”

— Tim Pernetti
WINNER: 2008
JOB THEN: CBS College Sports Network, EVP, content
JOB NOW: Rutgers University, director of athletics

“The advice I would give anyone in this year’s class is just to meet as many of the other winners as you can and stay in touch. Obviously, you’re surrounded by a lot of talented people. You’ll probably know half of them, but spend some time to get to know someone you don’t already know, and stay in touch with them.
“There will be business ideas that come out of it.”

— Paul Johnson
WINNER: 2006
JOB THEN: PGA Tour, VP of new media
JOB NOW: PGA Tour, SVP, strategic development, digital media and entertainment