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Volume 20 No. 41
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Closer look at Reinsdorf’s influence, achievements

Jerry Reinsdorf is the first team owner to receive our SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Lifetime Achievement Award. He joins previous recipients Peter Ueberroth (2009), Billie Jean King (2011) and Paul Tagliabue (2012) in being recognized with our highest distinction. When we were discussing possible candidates for this year, a number of names were in the mix, but we kept coming back to Reinsdorf. Many knew about the success of his organizations, but we felt there was a great story to tell about this man from Brooklyn, and his social contributions, as well as the respect he earned and carried among his peers. This is the type of legacy we seek when choosing our honoree. I hope after you read Bill King’s look at the man and his career you will see why we wanted to tell his story. We are looking forward to honoring him in person on Wednesday night at the Sports Business Awards in New York, where he will be introduced by ESPN Executive Chairman George Bodenheimer, Reinsdorf’s longtime friend.

Jerry Reinsdorf joins elite trio

Peter Ueberroth
Billie Jean King
Paul Tagliabue
We changed our process this year and, for the first time, are featuring an extensive profile of our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient leading up to the award presentation. We believe that

readers who may not have attended the live event have missed out on the amazing stories and accomplishments that fill the ballroom on the night the honoree is recognized. So I turned to King and his editor, Tom Stinson, for this assignment and thought I’d share with you some of Bill’s thoughts from the project. The following are Bill’s words:

It was a privilege, because he’s done so much. And a challenge, because he’s done so much. Fortunately, Jerry tells a great story. My part was just to listen and watch.

To prepare, I spent a couple of weeks reading everything I could find about him, going all the way back to when he bought the White Sox, and talking to people to get some more context before I went to see him. I was in Chicago for two days. The first was at the ballpark, watching a game with him from his suite. A great scene. After that game we did the bulk of what you’d consider the interview, in his office — although all the time you spend around someone shapes the story. The next day I spent the afternoon at the Bulls offices at the United Center, and then I caught a cab over to the ballpark to meet up with him to chat for another hour. We rode to the Bulls playoff game together, which I knew would be another scene I’d use. I spent that game with him in the suite — yet another scene. And then after everybody was gone we sat and watched the postgame press conferences and talked a little more. He was incredibly gracious with his time and his reflections, and he was relaxed and candid. When we were done and the traffic had cleared, he offered to drive me back to the hotel. In fact, he assumed he was driving me back to the hotel. You’ll get why that’s relevant when you read the story.

I knew he was smart. Everybody talks about his ability to grasp complex issues quickly. But his recall for details is astonishing. I asked him a really open-ended question when we shifted to talking about the Bulls: What are your most vivid recollections of those six championships? He went year by year through them all, including play by play of the key stretches. Detailed play by play. Stuff like “Phil called timeout” and how much time was on the clock. He was that way with everything. The details of the games, and the seasons, are like the song track to his life. You could tell how much they meant to him.

His office is like a wing in Cooperstown. The Jerry wing. Bats and balls and seats and other mementos. And photos and photos and photos and photos. The first time you go in, he points out that everything in there was a gift. Everything in there is connected to him in some way.

Bill will share more on the background of this story in our newsroom blog, On The Ground, and in a video this week posted on our website. I’ll leave you with the final thought he shared with me:

“When Jerry Reinsdorf cares, he cares deeply. About baseball. About basketball. About people. I think that’s where the loyalty comes from. At times, it’s come back to bite him. But that’s him. It’s like everybody else said. That’s Jerry.”

> CHOOSING THE WINNERS OF OUR SPORTS BUSINESS AWARDS: I hope to see many of you Wednesday night. A few notes about how we select the Sports Business Award winners, which will be revealed for the first time exclusively at the event, and how to follow us on Twitter for real-time updates. First, the editorial staff of SBJ/SBD reviewed hundreds of submissions that were entered and considered during the eligibility period of March 1, 2012, through February 28, 2013. From that internal research, we unveiled on March 18 the 74 nominees across the 15 different categories. These nominees include 30 companies or individuals being nominated for the first time. Once the nominees were selected, we followed the process that we have used for the last two years: We invited outside, independent judges to decide the winners. We believe this outside perspective clearly establishes these awards as “industry” recognition. This year, a new group of 14 judges was selected; experienced and knowledgeable executives in the sports business who were asked to sit on various committees. All the judges received research and video files on the nominees, and earlier this month, over two days in New York, the committees met and deliberated on 13 of the 15 categories. Athletic Director of the Year and Executive of the Year were selected solely by an SBJ/SBD editorial committee.

There was fun, intelligent debate and discussion, and after thorough deliberations, secret votes were cast until every category had a winner. The identity of the judges will be revealed at the awards celebration and in Thursday’s issue of SBD and next Monday’s issue of SBJ. These individuals committed a great deal of time and energy to this process, and we’d like to thank them for being so dedicated to this process and serving the industry; their contributions make the awards program stronger and more transparent.

Meanwhile, if you can’t make the event, follow us on Twitter — our handle is @SBJSBD — and check our newsroom blog, On The Ground, for highlights from the Red Carpet, interviews, a complete list of winners and other news from an exciting night in sports business. You can find links to the blog at the top of the and home pages.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at