Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 42
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Forty Under 40

When Sporting KC was about to lose Kei Kamara, one of the club’s best and most popular players, on a short-term loan to Norwich City of the English Premier League in late January, Robb Heineman wanted to get in front of the story. So the president, CEO and co-owner of Sporting Club, the team’s parent organization, wrote an open letter to fans that was posted on the club’s website and linked on Twitter, explaining why Kamara was loaned and how the decision could lead to Sporting KC retaining him long term.

“Through social media, we’re trying to give fans a sense of ownership,” Heineman said. “They’re not just fans, but they help shape some of the decisions that we make. They deserve to know why we made decisions like the one with Kei.”

The move was typical of Heineman, whose leadership extends to Sporting Innovations, a software company focused on technology solutions for the sports industry. The company has collaborated with Cisco Sports & Entertainment on a product called StadiumVision Mobile that streams video to mobile devices in stadiums.

“We love Robb’s passion and entrepreneurial spirit,” said David Holland, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Sports & Entertainment’s Solutions Group. “The turnaround that club has experienced is a testimony to how big Robb had to think and how far he was willing to go in order to succeed.”

Heineman took over as CEO of the soccer franchise in 2006. The club, which was rebranded as Sporting KC in 2010, has qualified for the MLS playoffs in the last two seasons.

In January, Sporting KC signed a five-year deal with Ivy Funds that is the first revenue-generating jersey sponsorship in the club’s 16-year history. Last season, the team sold out 16 of its 17 games, and all 34 of its stadium suites are sold out through the end of the 2013 season. The franchise’s transformation has drawn national media coverage, but so have its challenges. Perhaps most notable among those is the need to find a new stadium naming-rights partner to replace Livestrong after Lance Armstrong, the charity’s chairman, confessed to performance-enhancing drug use.

Heineman plans to confront all challenges, and expand new business in Kansas City, where he moved 12 years ago.

“I’m a lifer,” said Heineman, who was raised in South Dakota. “This community is what I’m all about. I very much want to stay here forever.”

— Christopher Botta

Age: 39
Title: President, CEO and co-owner
ORGANIZATION: Sporting Club (parent company of Sporting Kansas City and Sporting Innovations)
Education: BBA, finance, University of Notre Dame
Family: Wife, Amber; daughter, Katherine; son, Charles
Career: Investment banking, mobile commerce, private equity, sports ownership management (including being co-owner, with family, of Sioux Falls Skyforce)

How do you strike a work-life balance? Have a “job” that seems like life.

Best business advice received: Follow your heart; it knows what you really want to become.
Worst advice received: Sell Amazon at $80/share
Farthest traveled from U.S.: Dubai
Stress release: Running
Pet peeve: False modesty
Guilty pleasure: Dark chocolate
Favorite movie line: “Vegas, baby!” (“Swingers”)