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Volume 21 No. 2

People and Pop Culture

Johns Hopkins University promoted Grant Kelly to director of athletic development.

Xavier University promoted Bryan McEldowney to athletic communications assistant and video coordinator and hired Michael Hill II as assistant director of athletic communications. Hill was assistant director of communications and Internet services and design at Florida Gulf Coast University.

World Sport Group named Sarah Clements as director of operations for the WTA Championships. Clements led industry relations and business operations for the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Premier Sports Management promoted Mike Goff to president.

Shamrock Sports & Entertainment hired Andy Labesky as director of events and operations and Kevin Hooks as promotions manager. Labesky was game presentation manager at Georgia Tech, and Hooks was an account executive for the Buffalo Bills.

Back9Network named Ahmad Rashad as executive producer and on-air host. Rashad was co-host at Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive.”

PlayOn! Sports named Monisha Longacre to the newly created position of chief product officer. Longacre was vice president of portfolio management and strategy for The Weather Channel.

Entercom Boston hired Kevin Graham as brand manager for WEEI. Graham was program director and afternoon drive co-host at KFAN-AM in Salt Lake City.

USA Hockey named Scott Zelkin manager of officiating development.

The WTA promoted Melissa Pine to championships tournament director.

The UFC named Tracey Bleczinski head of consumer products. Bleczinski was vice president of consumer products and apparel for the NFL.

Saffron Digital named Enda Parker as sales manager EMEA. Parker was a sales executive for Brightcove.

You Can Play named former NFL player Wade Davis executive director.

Awards and Boards
Rugby Canada named Brian Burke to its board of directors.

People news
To have your personnel announcements included in the People section, please send information and photos to Brandon McClung at 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202, or email them to Electronic photos must be a jpg or tiff file for Macintosh, 2.25 inches wide at 300 dpi. Color only, please. News items may also be sent via fax to (704) 973-1401. If you have questions, call (704) 973-1425.

Women have always been an important part of the picture at Premier Partnerships, says Randy Bernstein (center), taking key roles in deals like the Portland naming-rights deal.

    Premier Partnerships recently sold the naming rights for the Portland Trail Blazers’ home arena, the Rose Garden, to Moda Health. Playing a major role for Premier in securing the 10-year, $40 million deal were Uzma Rawn, senior director of corporate marketing, and Erin Prober, director of marketing services.
    It was the latest deal for Premier in which its female employees have played a key role, but that’s not surprising; Premier for years has looked to mentor and develop women sports executives within its ranks. Along with Rawn and Prober, Premier employs on its 16-person staff Stephanie Cheng as vice president of marketing services, Christina Shaffer as director of corporate partnerships, Kaitlyn Beale as manager of corporate partnerships, and Caryn Rosoff as a revenue and property consulting analyst.
    SportsBusiness Journal staff writer John Lombardo spoke recently with Premier President and CEO Randy Bernstein about his company’s commitment to mentoring women sports executives.

How have women executive roles in the industry changed of late, and what impact are those changes having?
When I started in sports in 1982 … women had certain roles and men had certain roles, and it was always so odd to me. It was almost that if you knew about sports or players in sports and you were a man, you got the key positions. Really at the time, it stereotyped women into administrative positions despite the fact that women had the skill sets that were as good, if not better in many cases, than men in key executive positions. I am not surprised at all that women are finding a place at the top of organizational charts across many sports organizations. What is surprising is that it took so long. It comes down to opportunity. Title IX was all about opportunity on the field, but there is no such thing as Title IX in private enterprise in selecting employees. However, smart business leaders today are starting to understand what my business partner, Alan Rothenberg, and I have known for a long time.

What issues still remain?
Sports overall is a very small industry where people know each other and have access to key positions because of relationships. The issue is making sure that the younger generation of women who don’t have those long-term relationships are not overlooked. It comes down to mentorship and opportunity. It is incumbent upon men and women at higher levels to provide access to an expanding amount of job opportunities.

What has Premier Partnerships done in mentoring women in the industry?
We provide opportunities for women to play key roles across the board from a sales perspective. Historically, those jobs have been led by men, and we know we have equal opportunities for women to sell at the highest levels. When you see women involved in naming rights, it is not by accident. We knew early on it would pay off. They get intense training on what it takes to become successful.

What is the biggest hurdle women face in not just getting into the business but in making their mark?
Uzma [Rawn] said that “when people hear about me selling [the Blazers’ naming-rights deal], I want to sell four or five more, because I don’t want anyone to think it was a fluke.” The biggest hurdle is making sure that women are given the benefit of the doubt that when they succeed, it is not just a fluke. It is because of the hard work and talent.

Michael Williamson wanted to be an astronomer but was told he looked more like a banker. Lucky for him, he liked numbers — and that’s lucky for D.C. United, too. As the club’s COO and CFO, Williamson helped lock down the team’s term sheet with District of Columbia officials to build a new stadium, an endeavor arguably in the making since D.C. United first took to the turf 17 years ago.

You only get one shot at building a stadium. We want to make sure we get the right partners and team together — make sure we have people who are innovative and outside-the-box thinkers.

A turning point for the deal: It all started with the change in ownership group last July. Having that partnership, especially with the expertise Jason [Levien] brings to the table, we were able to sit down with the District. We identified all the challenges and, piece by piece, started to develop solutions together. It was that approach that really made the change. The ability to privately finance the stadium, that’s something that would not have likely been possible without the addition of Jason and Erick [Thohir].

About the early discussions: There’s a lot of stops and starts, different administrations, different municipalities. There were real conversations happening with different locations, but that’s something the new ownership made very clear: Their focus was building the soccer stadium in the District of Columbia. We are D.C. United, not Baltimore United. They made very clear that was their priority, so we focused on that. Definitely, there was a lot of different levels of progress over the years, but at no point did we have what we have today: a term sheet signed in the mayor’s office.

A memorable moment: The night before the announcement — up to that point, we had to keep everything pretty much under wraps, including with our staff — I brought in the digital team and informed them there was going to be a press conference the next day, and we basically have eight hours to put together an entire website redesign. There was shock, definitely.

A mentor’s lesson: From my mentor, John Koskinen, recently nominated by President Obama to be the IRS commissioner: You don’t need consensus in decision-making, but you do need buy-in from people. You want to make sure everyone at the table has their voice heard.

— By correspondent Vandana Sinha

David Egdes’ day at the U.S. Open is the tennis business equivalent of a five-set match. On a recent Friday, Egdes, Tennis Channel’s senior vice president for tennis industry relations, opened the morning at Nasdaq before diving into a full day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, escorting players to and from on-set interviews, talking to agents and sponsors, and even getting to watch a little tennis.

All photos by Fred Mullane / CameraworkUSA