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Volume 20 No. 41

Forty Under 40

ETHAN CASSON, San Francisco 49ers
JESSICA GELMAN, Kraft Sports Group
TUCKER KAIN, Los Angeles Dodgers
JOE KARLGAARD, Rice University
JOSH KROENKE, Denver Nuggets/Colorado Avalanche
NATE APPLEMAN, 360 Architecture
JOHN SHEA, Gatorade
JARED SMITH, Ticketmaster
ARACELI VILLEGAS, Golden Boy Promotions
CHRIS WUJCIK, Anheuser-Busch
JEREMY CAREY, Optimum Sports
ED KIERNAN, Engine Shop
WILL PLEASANTS, Wasserman Media Group
DONTE SCOTT, Jack Morton Worldwide
JOSH SWARTZ, Relativity Sports
IGOR ULIS, Omnigon
BESS BARNES, CBS Sports / CBS Sports Network
ERIC CONRAD, Univision
JIM DELORENZO, Time Inc./Sports Illustrated
DAVE FINOCCHIO, Bleacher Report/Turner Sports

FORTY UNDER 40 GIVING THANKS: Members of this year’s class talk about the people who have influenced their professional development along the way.



League: NFL
Title: SVP, sponsorship and
partnership management
Age: 39
Where born: Morganfield, Ky.
Education: Ole Miss (B.A., journalism)
Career background: Variety of positions, culminating in sales director, at the AFL, 1998-06; NFL: manager, business development, 2006; director, business development, 2007; VP, business development, 2011; SVP, since 2013
Family: Husband, Chris; daughters, Callie (6) and Kate (5)

Favorite app: NFL Mobile (I’m a company woman!).
Favorite way to unwind: Hot yoga.
Guilty pleasure: “The Mindy Project” on Fox.
Worst habit: I check my email every time my phone buzzes. I can’t turn it off. If I see a red light or hear an alarm, I’m on it.
Cause supported: Thumbs Up for Lane Goodwin Childhood Cancer Foundation.
I have a fear of … : Letting down my family and letting down the team; big balancing act.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Bungee jump a few times, but when I lived in New York City, I used to ride my bike everywhere, and that was scarier.
2014 will be a good year if … : We measurably grow our business and the businesses of our partners.

Renie Anderson is one of the most powerful women in sports sponsorship, but some of her sales skills were honed at the most fundamental of levels: selling Girl Scout Cookies in her native Kentucky. So perhaps that’s why among those endorsing Anderson’s sales skills on LinkedIn is one Callie Hamner, aka Granny.

“I could really move some boxes,” recalled Anderson in an interview seven floors above Broadway during the recent New York Super Bowl, where NFL sponsors were activating their rights along Super Bowl Boulevard.

These days, of course, the prices of what Anderson is selling are somewhat higher. The sales and service group she heads has more than 20 employees and, including the media sales group, she is guiding an in-house sales and marketing staff of about 60, serving 26 NFL corporate sponsors. “I love the chase, I love the process, and I love discovering the right business solutions,” Anderson said.

“[Renie] has an amazing ability to work collaboratively,” said Brian Rolapp, NFL Media chief operating officer. “Moving forward, our sponsorships are going to look a lot different, and she’s never stuck in the ‘This is the way we’ve always done it’ rut.”

Ask Anderson about being a woman in the boys club of sports sponsorship, and she quickly shrugs off the notion that it’s a handicap. “It’s tougher being a Southerner around here,” she said with a laugh.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

And any woman or man would love to attack what’s on Anderson’s plate this NFL offseason. The list includes a push into sideline integration with Surface, selling a presenting sponsorship across the NFL’s opening week of games and complementary pushes into youth marketing, and selling more inventory on the NFL’s well-viewed sidelines.

In a few years, Anderson may get some additional “in-house” sales assistance. “When it comes to selling Girl Scout Cookies, my daughter’s a machine,” she said. “She doesn’t need any help from me.”

— Terry Lefton



League: NHL
Title: VP, deputy general counsel
Age: 36
Where born: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Education: University of Michigan (B.A.), Fordham University School of Law (J.D.)
Career background: Associate, Proskauer Rose LLP; director (legal recruiter), Smythe Masterson & Judd
Family: Husband, Brad; sons Noah (5) and Andrew (3)

Favorite app: NHL GameCenter.
Favorite way to unwind: Exercising and, in particular, running.
Guilty pleasure: Foot massages.
Worst habit: Expecting too much from people.
Causes supported: Traumatic brain injuries, strokes, AVMs.
Person in the industry I'd most like to meet: Kim Ng.
I have a fear of … : Being underwater — even while snorkeling.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Hard to pick: Skydiving, climbing Kilimanjaro, bungee jumping in Tanzania, running a marathon.
2014 will be a good year if … : My family is healthy and my husband continues to recover from his stroke.

Through smarts, work ethic and a desire to tackle new projects, Jessica Berman has been credited with helping establish long-term labor peace between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association. The two sides finalized a 10-year collective-bargaining agreement in January 2013 after a year of planning and negotiations.

“I went into the process telling myself, ‘This is a year where I’m going to work very hard, give it my all, and make the most of it,’” said Berman, who started with the NHL as senior counsel in 2006 after 3 1/2 years at Proskauer Rose. “For a labor lawyer, it was a dream situation.”

Berman now handles the implementation of many of the new aspects of the CBA, including player pension plans and drug-testing provisions. She also represents the league in contract negotiations, grievance arbitrations and player disciplinary hearings.

“Jessica has an unbelievable work ethic,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “She is constantly in search of taking on more, expanding her knowledge base. She views each day as an opportunity to be better than she was the day before.”

For example, during the CBA talks, Berman immersed herself in all of the information available on the issue of defined benefits in pension plans. “I took that as my own so I could be a trusted source for the league and for the NHLPA,” Berman said.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

She credits the work environment created by Daly and by David Zimmerman (NHL executive vice president and general counsel) for her ability to flourish at the NHL. “We are truly a collaborative group,” Berman said. “Bill and David embolden us to take responsibility and to take on challenges. The lawyers here are not in silos, not divided by specialties. It’s an ideal atmosphere for professional development.”

In addition to her work with the NHL, Berman in 2012 was elected to the board of directors of the Sports Lawyers Association.

Said Daly, “Jessica has a tremendous opportunity to achieve long-term excellence in the sports industry, particularly in our organization.”

— Christopher Botta

Amy Brooks

League: NBA
Title: SVP, team marketing and business operations
Age: 39
Where born: Sacramento
Education: Stanford University (B.A., political science and communication), Stanford Graduate School of Business (MBA)
Career background: Marketing for a startup software company, Diba; product manager at Sun Microsystems; management consultant at Bain & Co.; joined the NBA in 2005 as a director in the global marketing partnerships department; transferred to TMBO in 2007
Family: Husband, Jon; daughters, Audrey (5) and Natalie (3)

Favorite apps: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, NBA Game Time.
Favorite way to unwind: Playing basketball or golf.
Guilty pleasure: Binge-watching Netflix programming.
Worst habit: Overchecking messages on my phone.
Groups supported: Right To Play, A Better Chance.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: I would have loved to have met “Pistol” Pete Maravich. I used to try to practice his ball-handling drills growing up.
I have a fear of … : Snakes.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Shark cage diving with my husband in South Africa.
2014 will be a good year if … : I don’t make platinum on any airline or hotel.


Amy Brooks has been leading the NBA’s team marketing and business operations department only since last July, but the league senior vice president feels as if she has been on the job far longer than that.

She began her career at the NBA in 2005 and for years has been a key player in the league’s collaborative approach to working with its teams.

When she was promoted to her current job last summer, it was a natural fit for the former Stanford basketball player who earned her MBA at the Palo Alto school, as well. It also put her into a job that has been a springboard to prime team positions for her predecessors. Chris Granger (now Sacramento Kings president) and Scott O’Neil (now Philadelphia 76ers CEO) most recently held the job Brooks has now.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

“I feel like I have been doing this job for a long time,” Brooks said. “It all starts with maintaining the collaborative relationships we have with our teams and growing those relationships.”

The Sacramento native’s job calls for her to manage some 40 employees who help drive business at not just the 30 NBA teams, but also the WNBA and D-League franchises.

One particular point of emphasis for Brooks has been developing a partnership with the Disney Institute to help teams improve the in-arena fan experience. She also is continuing to guide teams in using more analytics in selling tickets and sponsorships.

“We are doubling down on analytics to help teams make data-driven decisions and to know as much about our customers as possible,” she said. “The other thing is storytelling. We have a fantastic game. It is all about telling the right story to the right people at the right time.”

Said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver:  “Amy is the ultimate point guard. What makes her unique is that she brings a consulting background honed outside of sports combined with a Stanford MBA that has made her best in class in the business. She is an extraordinary teammate both for the people she leads in her group and the team businesses that are her clients.”

— John Lombardo


Organization: NCAA
Title: Managing director, championships and alliances
Age: 37
Where born: Portland
Education: Princeton University (B.S., public policy, international affairs), Indiana University (M.A, higher education administration)
Career background: PGA Tour intern (summer 1998); NCAA intern (1998-99); NCAA associate director, membership services (1999-2003); NCAA associate director, baseball and football (2003-06); NCAA director, baseball and football (2006-13); current position since 2013
Family: Wife, Tamara; children Brianna (10) and Simone (7)

Favorite app: Next Issue.
Favorite way to unwind: CrossFit.
Guilty pleasure: Just Pop In popcorn.
Group supported: Play Ball Indiana.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Mark Parker.
I have a fear of … : Not keeping up with my Princeton classmates.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Hiking, climbing and zip lining in Puerto Rico.
2014 will be a good year if … : We continue to run NCAA championships in a new/different/better way for our student athletes and fans.


Damani Leech oversees NCAA championships for baseball, volleyball, ice hockey and FCS football. The competition between the teams is the show, and rarely does it disappoint. But managing four such high-profile championships is just the start of the job description for Leech.

“Based on what people typically get to see, they tend to really underestimate what it takes to pull off a championship and how many people it takes,” Leech said. “We have working groups of 10 to 20 people in our office working on each of these events year-round. And as soon as you


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

finish one, you begin working on next year’s.”

Leech’s job is to negotiate the contracts with the host cities and then make sure everything runs smoothly at the site. He runs point at each event, coordinating committees of people that oversee team shuttles, hotels, weather delays, security and schedules, as well as cultural experiences away from the competition venue for the athletes.

“In the national office, there’s no fight song or school colors,” he said. “Wins for us are providing events that are once in a lifetime.”

After his football-playing days at Princeton were done, Leech thought his future would be on a campus rather than at the NCAA. But as he pursued his master’s degree at Indiana, he interned at the NCAA in nearby Indianapolis. More than a decade later, he’s still there.

He began by working on the College World Series and has since added oversight of the Frozen Four and the other championships.
“I did my senior thesis on Olympic drug testing, and I guess I’ve always thought in terms of being a problem-solver,”  Leech said.  “After a couple of summers of working in investment banking, I knew I wasn’t passionate about that. So I got a part-time job in the Ivy League office licking stamps and clipping newspaper stories, in the pre-Internet days. That’s when the light bulb went on for me.”

— Michael Smith



League: NBA
Title: SVP, business and strategic development
Age: 36
Where born: New York City
Education: University of Pennsylvania (B.A.), Columbia Business School (MBA)
Career background: Bear Stearns, media and entertainment investment banking; Cablevision Systems Corp., VP, finance; NBA, special assistant to the commissioner
Family: Wife, Rachel; children Charlotte (3) and Marcus (4 months)

Favorite apps: Spotify, Waze, Kayak, NBA Game Time.
Favorite way to unwind: Spending time with my family, playing golf and watching a basketball game.
Cause supported: Lustgarten Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.
I have a fear of … : Heights, crowded rooms and running out of gas on the LIE.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Heli-skiing in the Alps.
2014 will be a good year if … : I can help Adam [Silver] grow the global basketball game, and personally would love to break 90 on Bethpage Black.

As a kid growing up in New York, Andrew Lustgarten likely knew more about sports marketing than most youngsters, given that he’d talk business with his father, Marc, who was chairman of Madison Square Garden.

“My father was an early person in the regional sports business. I’d sit at the table with my dad, and we’d talk,” Lustgarten said. “That was my real entry into the business.”

Those early lessons have paid off handsomely, as Lustgarten now works for the NBA as senior vice president of business and strategic development. It’s a job he has held since 2012 and one that has given him insight and a key role into nearly every one of the league’s major business initiatives.

Lustgarten began working for the NBA in 2007, as a special assistant to former NBA Commissioner David Stern, whom Lustgarten first met when he was a kid attending the 1987 All-Star Game in Chicago. Fast forward two decades, and Lustgarten joined the league after working in investment banking followed by a stint working at Cablevision. His first job at the NBA was to help raise capital for NBA China. This year, he will play a key role in helping the league negotiate a new media deal while also pushing ahead the league’s international growth efforts.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

“I always say that I do a good job when I make other people look good,” Lustgarten said. “If [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver or [Deputy Commissioner] Mark Tatum looks good, I know I am doing my job right.”

Said Silver: “Andy has a vast knowledge of complex business forecasting methods and his efforts on our behalf have been crucial in our negotiations over the last CBA, the formation of our revenue-sharing plan, and the identification of innovative business approaches to grow our business globally. He is extraordinarily smart, insightful and strategic.”

— John Lombardo


Organization: NFL Players (NFLPA)
Title: EVP, general counsel
Age: 34
Where born: Cincinnati
Education: University of Michigan (B.A., economics, Near Eastern studies), University of
Chicago (J.D.)
Career background: Law clerk for Judge Denise Page Hood, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan (2004-05); Latham & Watkins LLP, associate (2005-07); Patton Boggs LLP, associate (2007-09); NFL Players Inc., associate general counsel (2009-10), VP, business and legal affairs (2010-13), current position since September 2013
Family: Wife, Bayan Jondy; daughter, Amany (7); son, Hasan (5)

Favorite apps: Uber, WorkFlowy, Evernote, PBS Kids.
Favorite way to unwind: Watching mindless action movies.
Guilty pleasure: Checking my phone even when I don’t need to.
Worst habit: I check my email every time my phone buzzes. I can’t turn it off. If I see a red light or hear an alarm, I’m on it.
Group supported: Unity Productions Foundation.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Mark Cuban.
I have a fear of … : Needles.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Volunteering to do relief work in Kosovo in 2000 and Turkey in 2012; also happens to be the most rewarding thing I’ve done.
2014 will be a good year if … : Michigan football and basketball win it all. And the Tigers, Lions, Pistons and Red Wings too. Also if Detroit emerges from bankruptcy with a plan that is fair to retirees and puts the city on firm financial footing into the future.


Asked to describe Ahmad Nassar, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith didn’t hesitate. “Driven, earnest, brilliant, funny and family man,” Smith said.

As executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel of NFL Players, the NFLPA’s for-profit licensing and marketing arm, Nassar has overseen every major legal and business issue for the commercial side of the largest union in sports. Nassar was the lead negotiator for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl television contract with ESPN as well as all sponsorships related to the annual January game, which features players vying to be drafted into the NFL. He is the lead negotiator for NFL Players’ licensing agreements with Nike, Topps, Panini, YouTube and Fanatics. He also led negotiations on NFL Players’ 10-year commercial agreement with the NFL, a deal that was negotiated at the same time as the collective bargaining-agreement that ended the NFL lockout in 2011.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

That deal, Nassar said, is one of the things he is most proud of, as it is paying NFL Players about $40 million a year and that amount is expected to continue to increase. Nassar estimates the agreement ultimately will bring NFL Players about $500 million over the lifetime of the deal.

“It’s a better deal for the players overall … in both a financial sense and an opportunistic sense,” Nassar said, noting the new agreement allows for a wider range of sponsorship activation with NFL players, not just on a national level, but also on a local basis.

When you meet him in person, Nassar comes across as soft-spoken, pleasant and approachable. But beneath that exterior, Smith said, is a razor-sharp mind.

“Ahmad is not only a great, smart lawyer, but he is brilliant in the way in which he can analyze and pull apart complex issues and provide that type of complete analytical rigor to a complex problem,” Smith said. “And that is something that doesn’t come easily to most people.”

— Liz Mullen


Company: MLB Productions
Title: Producer, cinematographer
Age: 40 (turned 40 last Tuesday)
Where born: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Education: University of Connecticut (B.A.)
Career background: CBS Sports, MLB Productions
Family: Single

Favorite app: Instagram.
Favorite way to unwind: I’m a huge consumer of art, so I like to go to art galleries; I like picking out galleries for artists I’ve never heard of.
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate chip mint ice cream.
Worst habit: Biting my nails. It’s horrible. I wish I could stop but I can’t. When I have idle time, I just find myself biting my nails.
Cause supported: Grand Street Settlement.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Henry Aaron.
I have a fear of … : Underperforming.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Go hiking on an ice glacier on the southern tip of Argentina, in Patagonia.
2014 will be a good year if … : Of all the baseball games I shoot there are no rainouts.


Most college students who aspire to work in television want to be in front of the camera. But when Brian Schulz was working as a student assistant in the SID office at UConn, he saw the ESPN production trucks roll into town for a men’s basketball game and became fascinated with the process of television.

Schulz, now a producer and cinematographer for MLB Productions, got his start in the tape


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

library and research department of CBS Sports after graduating in 1997. He moved to MLB Productions in 1999 as an entry-level logger. The department had invested in some ARRI-S cameras, and Schulz after-hours would take one of the cameras to Little League and high school baseball games so he could practice shooting.

Schulz had a thirst for knowledge and was constantly picking the brains of those around him, using his down time to hone his craft. Ultimately, he moved through the ranks at MLB Productions and began filming World Series games and All-Star promos, and was entrusted as the lead cinematographer for Showtime’s 2011 series “The Franchise: A Season With The San Francisco Giants,” for which his production team won a national Emmy Award.

“I love telling the very diverse and personal stories in MLB,” Schulz said. “If I can bring an artful and cinematic aesthetic to it, that’s what I’m really proud of and that’s really what I love.”

Schulz took his storytelling to a new level in 2012, teaming with his sister and brother-in-law on a documentary titled “Brooklyn Castle,” which chronicles the lives of five members of an inner-city junior high chess team. He was able to complete the project in his free time by filming on off days and taking some strategic vacation time.

In the long term, Schulz admits he has an affinity for the 30-second world. “I’d love to dive into commercial directing and showcase all the sensibilities I’ve gathered while in baseball,” he said.

But for the immediate future, Schulz has set his sights on the 2014 MLB season — and experimenting with some new technology from ARRI.

— Jillian Fay


Team: San Francisco 49ers
Title: Chief revenue officer
Age: 39
Where born: Milford, Conn.
Education: Colby-Sawyer College (B.S., sport management)
Career background: ESPN (1997-99); Minnesota Timberwolves (1999-2010), in several positions: director, corporate sales, VP, corporate sales, and SVP, corporate sales, corporate services and game presentation; San Francisco 49ers (2010-present), starting as VP, corporate sales, promoted to chief sales officer in 2013, and named to current position in January 2014
Family: Wife, Lisa

Favorite apps: Uber, Spotify, NFL Mobile.
Favorite way to unwind: Weekend trip to wine country with my wife.
Guilty pleasure: Lounging on the couch and going through hours’ worth of DVR programming.
Cause supported: The Make-A-Wish Foundation. (I currently serve on the board of directors for Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area.)
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Sold most of my belongings and moved to Minneapolis for an entry-level position with the Minnesota Timberwolves.


Fresh out of college, Ethan Casson was on his way up the pecking order at ESPN in a new area for the broadcaster at the time called sponsorship development. It was a dream job for the sports fan from Connecticut. What could be better than working for the Worldwide Leader in his home state?

How about the Minnesota Timberwolves, for $24,000 a year?


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

Casson had another passion: sales, and he wanted to break in with a team. He cold-called, he said, every team in the Big Four leagues, and only one team answered his call: the Timberwolves.

“I convinced them at my own expense to fly out for an interview for a job they said was near to being filled,” he said of his career shift in 1999. “I flew out and got the job by the end of that evening. I went back to Connecticut, I sold everything I owned; sold my car.”

The Minnesota job was a lower-level sales position, but Casson ran with it. He spent 11 years with the team and was promoted several times, ascending to a senior vice president position.

In 2010, he made the jump to the San Francisco 49ers as a chief partnership officer. In that role, he had a hand in the sale of sponsorships to the team’s new stadium that’s opening this year. The biggest is Levi’s, the naming-rights partner, but there are 10 other founding partners as well.

Casson’s career ascension continued earlier this year, with his promotion to chief revenue officer for the 49ers. It’s a role that means sponsorship sales are no longer his only focus. Now, ticketing, events and the fan experience all fall under his purview.

— Daniel Kaplan



Company: AEG Sports (LA Galaxy, Los Angeles Kings, Manchester Monarchs, Berlin Eisbaren, Hamburg Freezers)
Title: COO
Age: 37
Where born: Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Education: Northwood University (bachelor’s, marketing management; minors, advertising and MIS)
Career background: Marketing manager for Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 2000; AEG/LA Kings/AEG Sports, 2001-present
Family: Wife, Andrea

Favorite apps: QuizUp, GolfLogix, Uber, Nike+ Running, Flipboard, Los Angeles Times.
Guilty pleasure: Emerald Sweet & Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter Mixed Nuts.
Worst habit: Mentally replying to a text but not actually hitting send.
Cause supported: Kings Care Foundation.
Person in the industry I'd most like to meet: Tim Finchem.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Jump off a cliff into the ocean in Jamaica.
2014 will be a good year if … : The Kings and Galaxy return to championships.

Kelly Cheeseman started with AEG as a ticket sales account executive for the Los Angeles Kings in 2001. A year ago, after climbing the ranks in sales and service departments throughout the company, he was named chief operating officer of AEG Sports.
“Kelly sets a great example for the rest of the staff at AEG,” said AEG President and CEO Dan Beckerman. “He got his foot in the door with the Kings, learned the AEG culture, and has really developed over his career here.”

Cheeseman now oversees AEG’s hockey and soccer team interests, as well as the Amgen Tour of California. With the Kings, he has increased ticket revenue by 67 percent and sponsorship revenue by 18 percent over the last two seasons. According to AEG, Cheeseman has been responsible for $385 million in sales revenue for the company since 2005.

Asked for the keys to his success, Cheeseman said, “Hard work never fails. And over time, I’ve learned that what’s good for the customers first is what’s right for the company.”

Cheeseman is proud of being viewed as a role model by his younger colleagues at AEG. He points out that he interviewed for his first position with the Kings with Chris McGowan, who was his predecessor as COO (and mentor) before becoming president and CEO of the Portland Trail Blazers. Many of the young


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

employees that Cheeseman hired as account executives are now moving up the AEG ladder as he did.

“AEG started with 200 employees, and all we had were the Kings and Staples Center,” Cheeseman said. “Now we have 25,000 employees and we’re one of the biggest sports organizations in the world. There has been some drastic changeover recently with executives, but there’s been a lot of promotion from within, so we have stability.”

He added that he never considers himself “the smartest guy in the room” and never would have advanced so rapidly without his colleagues at the Kings and AEG. “Any time you struggle, you get great counsel by reaching out to any one of hundreds of co-workers,” Cheeseman said. “You’re never alone, that’s for sure.”

— Christopher Botta


Organization: Kraft Sports Group (New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, New England Revolution)
Title: VP, customer marketing and strategy
Age: 39
Education: Harvard University (psychology), Harvard Business School (general management)
Career background: Pro basketball player, 1997; Mitchell Madison Group, 1998-2000; Kraft Sports Group 2002-present
Family: Wife, Corbin; son, Rees

Favorite apps: Amazon, Kindle, Patriots Gameday Live.
Favorite way to unwind: Run/walk with my family.
Guilty pleasure: Drinking port.
Worst habit: Walking with my head down while answering emails on my BlackBerry.
Groups supported: MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Harvard women’s basketball.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Phil Knight.
I have a fear of … : Turning 40.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Moving to another country when I was 22 to play professional basketball.
2014 will be a good year if … : Harvard basketball goes to the Sweet Sixteen, the Revolution wins MLS Cup, and the Patriots win the Super Bowl.


Growing up in the Chicago area, Jessica Gelman’s fondest sports memories of her adolescence are of the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl shuffle and of Michael Jordan. Her office even boasts the famous Jordan poster with the William Blake saying, “No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.”

Those memories, combined with her psychology degree from Harvard (where she also played basketball), paved the way to her job now with Kraft Sports Group.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

Gelman’s task in a nutshell is figuring out why people go to New England Patriots and New England Revolution games, or why they are no longer going or might be about to end the relationship. An early leader in analytics in sports, she has helped develop a database that is up to 3.4 million names.

“It’s about understanding our customer, giving them what they want,” she said.

The database tracks season-ticket holders such that if, for example, they miss three games, that triggers a phone call from customer service. Gelman and her staff of 24 will conduct 100 focus groups a year to glean information ranging from why fans come to each team’s website to what are their biggest gripes. (At Patriots games, it usually is parking and access to the stadium.)

Gelman has to deploy some of her behavioral lessons learned at Harvard as she does her job. In focus groups, for example, few admit going to the cheerleader section of the website, but traffic stats tell a different story.

The Patriots’ decision to implement variable ticket pricing for the coming season came out of the focus groups. Massachusetts law disallows reselling of tickets for more than face value. Fans told the Patriots, Gelman said, that they thought it was unfair preseason games had the same face value as premium games. Now, fans will be able to capture more value if they want to sell their game against the New York Jets, for example, while taking less of a loss if they sell their preseason game ticket for under face value.

The focus in analytics meshes with Gelman’s running of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which has evolved into one of the must-attends on the sports conference circuit.

“It’s helping to grow innovation around sports analytics,” she said.

— Daniel Kaplan



Team: Penske Racing
Title: VP, marketing and communications
Age: 39
Where born: Brunswick, Ga.
Education: University of Georgia (B.S.), West Virginia University (M.S.)
Career background: Agencies (GMR Marketing; Pierce, a division of Radiate Group), client (MillerCoors) and property (Penske Racing)
Family: Wife, Jessica; children Graham (4) and Campbell (22 months)

Favorite apps: USA Today, Zillow, Instagram, Around Me.
Favorite way to unwind: Playing football in the backyard with Graham.
Guilty pleasure: Eating peanut butter out of the jar.
Worst habit: Impatience.
Cause supported: Habitat for Humanity.
Person in the industry I'd most like to meet: Russell Wilson.
I have a fear of … : Bad customer service; the quickest way to kill a business.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Hard to pick: Driving an ATV off of a cliff in Costa Rica — not by choice.
2014 will be a good year if … : Team Penske can pull off the trifecta and win championships in all three series we compete in.

In 2007, just an hour after Penske Racing learned that Jonathan Gibson was leaving his position as senior marketing manager of longtime business partner MillerCoors, Gibson’s phone rang. It was Roger Penske. The legendary race team owner asked if Gibson, who managed sports marketing for the Miller Lite brand, would be interested in coming to work for him. After a brief stop at an agency he was already committed to, Gibson joined the Penske team.

“My whole career has been based on relationships I’ve been able to build,” Gibson said. “All the jobs I’ve been able to have have been based on relationships I’ve built with people and people I’ve gotten to know.”

Gibson understands the power of relationships. That knowledge has helped him build a career in which he’s worked on numerous sides of the sports marketing industry — despite not formally applying for a job since his first position out of graduate school in 1999. In the time since, he’s worked on the brand side, the agency side, and now on the team side of sports marketing.

“It’s important to have different views,” Gibson said, “because when you’re sitting at the negotiating table, for me as a property, I can say ‘I’ve been in your chair’ and ‘I know [the] challenges you have,’ and that’s important.”


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

The negotiating table is where Gibson makes hay. He played a vital role in signing Ford, Miller and Shell to long-term deals with Penske at a time when financial limitations have left some racing teams desperate for sponsors. The company has brought in $100 million in revenue and sported a 90 percent sponsorship renewal rate during Gibson’s six years with the team.

That marketing success is coupled with on-track triumphs during Gibson’s tenure, including Penske Racing’s first Sprint Cup Championship in 2012. “I personally felt like this is the cream of the crop, both on the business side and racing side,” Gibson said. “Maybe in NASCAR media circles we didn’t get the respect we deserved, and I felt like that right there proved that we can compete day in and day out.”

— Bryan Ives



Team: Los Angeles Dodgers (Guggenheim Baseball Management)
Title: CFO (managing director)
Age: 31
Where born: Cleveland
Education: Williams College (B.A., economics)
Career background: Guggenheim Partners before joining Dodgers
Family: Single

Favorite app: Beats Music.
Favorite way to unwind: Playing basketball.
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate.
Worst habit: Checking my emails and phone messages at all times, particularly during meals.
Group supported: The First Tee of South Los Angeles.
Person in the industry I'd most like to meet: Arnold Palmer.
I have a fear of … : Sharks.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : A safari in Botswana.
2014 will be a good year if … : The Dodgers win the World Series.

As Guggenheim Partners executives Mark Walter and Todd Boehly sized up a purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012, a young vice president in the company’s corporate credit group, Tucker Kain, helped out with the evaluation during the due diligence process.

At the time, Kain was an ascending financial whiz kid with no specific life goal to work in sports — despite the fact that he won a Division III national championship in basketball at Williams College and is the son of former IMG co-CEO Bob Kain. But by the time Guggenheim purchased the club, Kain had impressed his immediate supervisor, Boehly, enough to be considered for a new role. Boehly brought Kain to the West Coast to be CFO for Guggenheim’s new MLB club.

Now, just two years later, the 31-year-old Kain is considered one of the more impressive financial minds in the game. He’s helped facilitate a number of blockbuster deals, including the Dodgers’ 25-year, $7 billion deal with Time Warner Cable as well as pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million deal, reached this past offseason. Kain called the Time Warner Cable deal the highlight of his fledgling career. “It was incredibly gratifying to


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

everyone here to see that come to fruition,” he said.

Kain conceded that his transition from the financial services sector to the baseball business has featured a sharp learning curve. “But Mark, Todd, Magic [Johnson] and company have been very careful to put really great leaders here,” he said of the Guggenheim/Dodgers leadership. “Having people like that, it really enabled me to sink my teeth in [and] learn on the job, but kind of be able to bring a bit of a different perspective to how we operate business-wise.”

Kain said he is focused now on continuing to help the club improve its fan experience at Dodger Stadium in a bid to keep attendance figures high. “You can’t imagine the amount of pride the front office takes when we sell out 30 games, like we did last year,” he said.

— Adam Stern


School: Rice University
Title: Director of athletics
Age: 39
Where born: Bismarck, N.D.
Education: Stanford University (A.B., history), University of Minnesota (M.A., Ph.D., educational policy and administration)
Career background: Stanford, administrative assistant, track and field/cross country (1998-2000); Minnesota, volunteer assistant coach, men’s track and field/cross country (2000-03); Oberlin College: assistant AD, external affairs (2004-05), director of athletics (2005-11); Stanford, senior associate AD, development (2011-13); current position since October 2013
Family: Wife, Jill; son, Charlie (6)

Favorite apps: Tweetbot, OpenTable, Uber, Strava.
Favorite way to unwind: A long run in Woodside/Portola Valley, Calif.
Guilty pleasure: Chocolate covered potato chips.
Worst habit: My devices: iPhone and iPad.
Group supported: United Way.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Phil Knight.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : White-water rafting on the Deschutes River in Oregon.
2014 will be a good year if … : We raise revenues.


The son of a high school athletic director in North Dakota, Joe Karlgaard knew early on what he wanted to do. In fact, he’s still got the paper from second grade in which he wrote that he wanted to be an AD — “to help the world.” Roughly 30 years later, Karlgaard is just that: an athletic director, at Rice University.

Karlgaard arrived in Houston as Rice’s new AD in October, and right away the Owls went on a run in football that resulted in a Conference USA championship, their first outright league title in 56 years. “Coming into that, you feel like everybody else is holding up their end of the bargain. Now it’s up to me to hold up mine,” he


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.


Rice is one of the nation’s elite private academic institutions, so it carries some parallels to the school Karlgaard left, Stanford, where he was the Cardinal’s chief fundraiser. In 2012, Karlgaard led his alma mater on a campaign that raised $52 million, representing the school’s greatest single-year increase. But the Owls don’t have the same athletic pedigree as Stanford, so the fundraising challenge is quite different.

“It’s going to be about building trust and confidence in our approach,”  Karlgaard said.  “We had a peer-to-peer approach [at Stanford]. … When you got a group on board, they would go out and help us with their colleagues. Eventually, that’s what we’ve got to get to here.”

Karlgaard’s career in administration started at a young age: He was just 30 when he became AD at Division III Oberlin College. Many aspiring administrators fear jobs in the lower divisions because they might get stuck there. On the contrary, Karlgaard found it to be a great learning crucible.

“In Division I, you’re coming up through silos: facilities, marketing, tickets,” he said. “In Division III, you have to have a broad skill set. It prepares you well to be a generalist, more of a CEO.”

While it’s quite a different job than what he envisioned it would be in grade school, some of the core values remain the same. “Sports are really about making business and educational decisions,” Karlgaard said.  “Going to the games is just icing on the cake.”

— Michael Smith


Team: LA Galaxy
Title: President
Age: 38
Where born: St. Louis
Education: Indiana University, business degree (marketing)
Career background: Professional soccer player
Family: Wife, Angela; son, Carson; daughters Cami and Brie

Favorite app: MLS MatchDay.
Favorite way to unwind: Working out; spending time with my wife and kids.
Guilty pleasure: Playing golf.
Worst habit: Talking on the phone while driving.
Causes supported: LA Galaxy Foundation, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Roger Goodell.
I have a fear of … : Answering questions about what I’m fearful of.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Bungee jumping in New Zealand.
2014 will be a good year if … : The LA Galaxy wins a fifth MLS Cup.


Four years ago, Chris Klein was in his final season as a professional soccer player. Today, he is the president of the LA Galaxy (his last team in a 13-year MLS career) and leading the club to success on and off the field.

“Chris has emerged quickly as a superior business leader because he has exceptional communication skills,” said Dan Beckerman, president and CEO of AEG, the parent


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

company of the Galaxy. “He and [Galaxy coach] Bruce Arena have been the architects of our soccer organization, from our development system to our first team.”

Klein was named president in January 2013 after spending time in the front office running the club’s player academy and serving as a vice president under former AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke. In the last two years, he has overseen an increase in the Galaxy’s season-ticket-holder list from 4,000 to more than 9,000 and an improvement in the digital space, including a new social media hub and an innovative Facebook contest to design the club’s third kit.

Klein said the key to his early success as an executive has been surrounding himself with a strong staff, just as he learned from a fast-track apprenticeship with two former colleagues.

“Tim Leiweke believed in me and gave me that chance, and Chris McGowan [current Portland Trail Blazers president and CEO and former AEG executive] and I worked side-by-side for a year and a half. That’s a great education,” Klein said. “Now I get the opportunity to work under Dan Beckerman. One of the things I’ve learned from all of them is to surround yourself with the best people.”

Klein said his immediate focus is on the Galaxy contending for another MLS title and on the next steps in player development, which include the Galaxy owning and operating its own USL Pro team at the StubHub Center, beginning this year.

“Chris has a real presence about him,” Beckerman said. “He already had strong relationships around the league from his playing days, but now he’s made countless new ones in our market. He’s a real rising star for us.”

— Christopher Botta


Teams: Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche (Kroenke Sports & Entertainment)
Title: President
Age: 33
Where born: Columbia, Mo.
Education: University of Missouri (financial management)
Career background: NBA, post-grad internship (2004-05); Lehman Brothers, real estate analyst and underwriter (2005-07); Denver Nuggets: VP, team development (2007-10), president (2010-present); Colorado Avalanche, president (2013-present)
Family: Single

Favorite apps: Twitter, WhatsApp, Shazam, and the NHL and NBA official apps.
Favorite way to unwind: Playing golf, snow skiing, or simply on my couch in front of my TV with my dogs.
Groups supported: KSE Charities and the Playing For Change Foundation.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Brian France.
I have a fear of … : Heights.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Bungee jumping.
2014 will be a good year if … : The teams for which I’m responsible have success on and off the ice/court while maintaining a vision of the future for areas where we need improvement to achieve greater goals.


As president of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche, Josh Kroenke is on a very short list of executives simultaneously running two big league franchises. Now, consider too that he doesn’t turn 34 until later this year.

Yet Kroenke, son of the teams’ owner, Stan Kroenke, is humble about the progression he’s made in his development as a leader and businessman.

“I’m not somebody who’s afraid of what I don’t know,” he said. “I’m always asking questions. I’m always listening. I’m a sponge, and someone who has an open mind.”


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

While an injury-plagued season has been a setback for the Nuggets, the Avalanche has been one of the NHL’s most improved teams, in large part because of a pair of hires overseen by Kroenke. Behind Joe Sakic (senior vice president of hockey operations) and first-year head coach Patrick Roy — both Avalanche legends as players — the team went from finishing last in the Western Conference last season to competing for a playoff berth this year. “It has been rewarding to see Joe and Patrick step into their positions, see the team have some success on the ice, and reignite our fan base,” Kroenke said.

As for the Nuggets …

“I understood that there might be some skepticism among the fan base because of changes we made,” said Kroenke, who hired Tim Connelly as general manager after Masai Ujiri was hired by the Toronto Raptors. “It’s been challenging because of the amount of injuries we’ve had, but I’m excited about the people we have in charge and the direction we’re heading.”

Sakic said Kroenke has been an ideal boss.

“Josh is very supportive and places a lot of trust in Patrick and myself,” he said. “He has a lot of energy and passion and, like his father, is dedicated to the success of the Avalanche. He wants us to recapture the Denver marketplace.”

Kroenke is driven by that goal, with both franchises. “The [NFL] Broncos own this area; I get that,” Kroenke said. “They’ve done a great job in Denver for a long, long time. We want to get to the point where people in Colorado are talking about the Nuggets and the Avalanche right up there with the Broncos. We’ll get there.”

— Christopher Botta


Company: 360 Architecture
Title: Principal
Age: 39
Where born: Altoona, Pa.
Education: Penn State University (B.S.)
Career background: 14 years with HOK Sport/Populous; 3 years with 360 Architecture
Family: Wife, Christi; sons, Drew (10) and Cooper (6)

Favorite apps: Uber, Tapiture, Notability.
Favorite way to unwind: Beers with buddies.
Guilty pleasure: Vodka martinis.
Worst habit: Mountain Dew for breakfast.
Cause supported: Youth sports.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Dan Rooney.
I have a fear of … : That which I cannot control.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : A multistate, nine-day-long road trip with my buddy Montana. We saw monuments, dive bars, amazing golf courses, rest stops, fireworks, a ballgame, and a fight or two — and still lived to talk about it.
2014 will be a good year if … : We continue to evolve and grow every day.


Sports designer Nate Appleman has been a driving force at 360 Architecture the past three years, doubling the firm’s project win rate and more than tripling its number of repeat clients in the college market.

Dollar-wise, Appleman, whom 360 hired away from Populous in February 2011, expanded his company’s college business to $4.6 million in new revenue in 2013, an increase of $1.5


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

million over the previous two years. His most recent work for Notre Dame and Northwestern is shaping the future for athletics at those two private Midwestern schools. In addition, his design of new premium seats for stadiums at Mississippi State and Missouri enabled Appleman to  “reach into the SEC and understand what makes it such a strong football conference,”  he said.

Not too shabby for someone who said he  “pretty much hated”  architecture school through his first four years of college at Penn State.

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do once I graduated,” Appleman said. “In the fifth year, you can pick whatever project you want to do for your thesis.”  He chose to design a potential minor league ballpark in his hometown of Altoona, Pa.

The stadium was never built, and the team ultimately moved to West Virginia, but the project lit a fire under Appleman and convinced him that he could pursue a career in architecture. His research ultimately pointed him to Kansas City, where he landed in 1997 at Populous, then known as HOK Sport.

Coincidentally, his first big college sports project took Appleman back to Happy Valley, for an expansion of Beaver Stadium. At the time, he had no idea former Penn State linebacker-turned-architect Scott Radecic led HOK’s college sports practice.

“I was not a student of the older players under Joe Paterno, so I didn’t even put it together until I walked upstairs to his office and there was a JoePa doll and a Nittany Lion hardhat, all this Penn State stuff,”  Appleman said. “We ended up winning the project and I was a designer on it. It launched my thirst for the college world.”

— Don Muret



Company: MasterCard
Title: VP, senior business leader, U.S. consumer and sponsorship marketing
Age: 39
Where born: New York City
Education: University of Virginia (B.A., foreign affairs); American University, Kogod School of Business (MBA, concentration in finance and marketing)
Career background: Momentum (AT&T Olympics account), ESPN (sponsorship development), Cotter Group (NASCAR marketing), WETA-PBS (corporate marketing), MasterCard (global sponsorships: FIFA World Cup, Ryder Cup, Rugby World Cup, and then moved to the U.S.)
Family: Husband, Matt; daughter, Mia (6); son, Ryan (5)

Favorite app: UP.
Favorite way to unwind: Go to the beach.
Guilty pleasure: “Downton Abbey.”
Cause supported: Stand Up To Cancer.
I have a fear of … : Bugs.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Sailing bareboat around the BVIs with my husband.
2014 will be a good year if … : I accomplish my goals at home and the office.

As the senior business leader and vice president of U.S. consumer and sponsorship marketing at MasterCard, Alison Giordano has spent a decade developing the company’s sponsorship portfolio and is the driving force in the evolution of the brand’s sports presence.

With early activation strategies that centered on elevating the MasterCard brand to sports fans and partnering with issuing banks to drive value to their channels, Giordano has been instrumental in building the company’s emphasis on experiential marketing.

“Where we are now, it’s really about enabling and creating ‘priceless’ experiences through our partners for our cardholder fan base,” said Giordano, using as a description the term that’s been at the heart of the brand’s more recent campaigns.

With the creation of the Legends Academy, Giordano led an initiative that focused on providing cardholders with the opportunity to learn and play alongside PGA Tour golfers. Since its launch in 2011, MasterCard has hosted eight academies where more than 600 cardholders have played with the likes of Tom Watson, Brandt Snedeker, Sergio Garcia, Curtis Strange and Nick Faldo. Cardholders also have been granted access to premier golf courses throughout the country through the Member for a Day program.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

Giordano is tasked with heading these private events while simultaneously managing MasterCard’s seasonlong relationship with the PGA Tour. “We’ve created a blueprint that’s now very easily executable,” she said.

In addition to the golf presence, Giordano has guided MasterCard’s partnership with Major League Baseball and Stand Up To Cancer, including the “Eat, Drink, and Be Generous” campaign. The initiative has seen MasterCard donate a penny to Stand Up To Cancer when customers pay with a credit or debit card while dining out, along with making additional donations for fan photos being uploaded to Stand Up To Cancer’s Facebook page. The effort has raised $20 million since its inception in 2011.

— Anna Hrushka


Company: Winston & Strawn LLP
Title: Partner
Age: 37
Where born: Abington, Pa.
Education: University of Pennsylvania (B.A.), University of Pennsylvania Law School (J.D.)
Career background: Straight from law school into private practice
Family: Wife, Beth; children Morgan (7) and Max (3)

Favorite app: Words with Friends.
Favorite way to unwind: Pretty much anything with my kids; they are nonstop comic relief.
Guilty pleasure: “The Walking Dead.”
Worst habit: Pastrami. (Yes, it’s a habit.)
Cause supported: Hassenfeld Children’s Center of NYU Hospital.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Chip Kelly. He’s an innovator, leader, shrewd and witty — and happens to be the coach of my favorite NFL team.
I have a fear of … : Heights.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Climb Half Dome in Yosemite (considering the previously mentioned fear of heights).
2014 will be a good year if … : I can teach my 3-year-old son how to throw a tight spiral.


David Greenspan is already an old hand at sports law, even at age 37, having worked at the side of Jeffrey Kessler in many of the major litigation battles of the past decade, from the NFL lockout to NBA strife.

But as is often the case with sports lawyers, Greenspan stumbled into the discipline. Greenspan was toiling at Dewey Ballantine in commercial litigation as an associate when, in 2003, a new hot-shot partner was hired for the firm: Kessler. An introduction quickly ensued.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

“Within a few weeks, I didn’t do another piece of work for another partner and quickly latched on with Jeffrey,” Greenspan said.

Among the cases he’s handled is the 2006 Ashley Lelie bonus forfeiture case. With Greenspan working for the NFLPA, that case saw the wide receiver, who was traded from Denver, forced to repay certain money he had already received from the Broncos, but he was notably able to keep his option bonus money.

But Greenspan’s favorite case was a more recent one: the New Orleans Saints’ bounty imbroglio. He favors that case because, in his eyes, the NFL lost the case, and the process was expeditious. Under court pressure, the NFL appointed former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to review the suspensions, which he then vacated.

“At the end of the day, it was a great result,” Greenspan said.

His least favorite case: The Terrell Owens case, in which an arbitrator upheld the Philadelphia Eagles indefinitely suspending the star wide receiver. “The result was very frustrating and very incorrect,” he said.

As for working with Kessler, his longtime legal colleague and an attorney seen by owners as one of the most adversarial in the business, Greenspan said Kessler is largely misunderstood.

“Jeffrey is a big personality,” Greenspan said, “and that can be misconstrued. He is a pragmatist.”

— Daniel Kaplan



Company: Coca-Cola
Title: VP, global alliances and ventures
Age: 39
Where born: Paris
Education: École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris (marketing and economics)
Career background: With Coca-Cola, from internship till present
Family: Wife, Anne Clotilde; children Gaspard (9), Josephine (7) and Balthazar (2)

Favorite apps: Twitter, Uber, Delta, Misfit Shine.
Favorite way to unwind: Running.
Guilty pleasure: I like to have fun. I don’t know that it’s guilty, but when things become too serious, I need to nurture fun.
Worst habit: Sleep deprivation.
Cause supported: Peace One Day.
Person in the industry I'd most like to meet: Muhammad Ali.
I have a fear of … : Disappointing the people I respect.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Taking the FIFA World Cup trophy to Lagos, Nigeria.
2014 will be a good year if … : We grow brand Coke and the FIFA World Cup drives our volume.

When Coca-Cola chief marketer Joe Tripodi and marketing executive Wendy Clark decided to reshape the mission of the company’s sports and entertainment division last year, they turned to Emmanuel Seuge to lead the effort.

The Paris-born marketer had been with Coke since joining the company as an intern to work on its marketing around the 1998 FIFA World Cup. During his more than 15 years with the company, he has worked on sports, music and several investments in startup businesses, giving him the right mix of experience for blending those three areas together: to bring innovation to sports and music marketing, and scale to startup investments.

In his role, Seuge oversees three key groups: sports marketing, which includes Coca-Cola’s Olympic and World Cup sponsorships; entertainment marketing, which includes music, gaming and film; and startup investments, which include stakes in the music licensing company Music Dealers. 

Said Seuge, “You have companies that are just 12-person startups working together with large organizations that are slower but provide mass scale. The growth is immense. There’s a lot to do.”


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

One of the first examples of blending those marketing divisions was on display during the recent Sochi Olympics. At Apple retail stores worldwide, consumers could buy a MyCokeRewards edition of an activity tracking device called Shine, by Misfit. (Coke has a stake in Misfit.) The emphasis on active living was amplified on the ground in Sochi by a large, red showcase pavilion in the Olympic Park that featured a display on healthy and active living.

Similar efforts to work across the marketing groups will be on display this summer during the World Cup. The marketing plan calls for gaming and music elements to be integrated into a promotion of soccer in 190 markets worldwide. Seuge said it’s the company’s largest marketing effort ever for the World Cup, and it has major business implications.

“We have high expectations,” Seuge said. “It’s very, very ambitious.”

— Tripp Mickle


Company: Gatorade
Title: Senior director, sports marketing
Age: 39
Where born: Presque Isle, Maine
Education: Boston College (B.S., marketing), University of Michigan (MBA)
Career background: Consultant at EMI; M&A work at Liberty Mutual; joined Pepsi after business school. Sports marketing manager, NFL/MLB, PepsiCo, 2003; senior marketing manager, Gatorade Sports Marketing, 2008; senior director, Gatorade sports marketing, 2010
Family: Wife, Nora; children Julia (9), Will (7), Chloe (5) and Ryan (4 months)

Favorite app: Uber, Twitter, Flashlight.
Favorite way to unwind: Men’s league hockey.
Worst habit: Never carry any cash in my wallet.
Causes supported: Korey Stringer Institute, Chicago Sports Council.
I have a fear of … : Nothing; no fears. “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only one.”
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Paragliding in the Swiss Alps.
2014 will be a good year if … : My family stays healthy and happy and a Boston team wins another championship.


As soon as PepsiCo acquired Gatorade in 2001 as part of its $13.4 billion Quaker Oats purchase, there was chafing between sports marketers at both entities. Gatorade’s growth was propelled by one of the industry’s best in-house sports marketing shops, and it had rights with nearly every top sports property — and a roster of athletes headed by Michael Jordan. Pepsi vied with Coke for top sports properties and athletes, so naturally, there was friction.

SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

As one of the few sports marketers to work on both sides of the Pepsi/Gatorade fence, John Shea offers proof that the two sides of Pepsi’s beverage portfolio are working more in tandem. Those who work with him laud his knowledge and experience across PepsiCo and the sports landscape.

“John’s overall knowledge of the sports marketplace at both the league and club level is unsurpassed,”  said Keith Wachtel, NHL executive vice president of global partnerships, who has worked with Shea for more than a decade. “His passion, loyalty and dedication to the Gatorade brand is what makes John so successful.”

Shea has been helping to direct Gatorade’s marketing at a time when the brand was repositioning from a sports drink to sports nutrition brand, echoing changes in the market. “Look at the trends across the sports performance space: sports nutrition, weight training, and specialization and customization,” he said. “Now, all that is taking off, and we’re in the middle of all that.”

The idea is to recast one of the most powerful brands in sports from sports beverage to sports fuel. From a marketing perspective, the assets are still there. “We’ve got 1.4 billion impressions [annually] through our sideline deals,” he said, “and now in-game [product] integration is the holy grail and we’ve had that for a long time.”

It’s gone from “Be Like Mike”  to an approach more focused on performance. Either way, there’s badge value for everyday athletes.

“We’re helping elite athletes achieve goals through innovation,” said Shea, uttering words that might also be heard at Nike or Under Armour. “If we stay true to those principles, we’ll be fine.”

— Terry Lefton


Company: Ticketmaster
Title: President, North America
Age: 36
Where born: Dubuque, Iowa
Education: University of Iowa (B.A., journalism and mass communication)
Career background: Ticketmaster since 2003; before that: Columbus (Ga.) Civic Center, director of marketing and events; Quad Cities Sports Commission, executive director
Family: Wife, Angela; daughters, Olivia (5) and Tessa (20 months)

Favorite app: Path.
Guilty pleasure: Golf. One of the reasons you don’t golf is you can’t justify five or six hours on a golf course if you’ve been gone all day.
Worst habit: Late nights.
Group supported: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Mark Parker.
I have a fear of … : Failure. Always have.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Having the opportunity to play Augusta National Golf Course.
2014 will be a good year if … : Somehow my Hawkeyes can make a run in the NCAA tournament and a push to the Rose Bowl.


The president of Ticketmaster chuckles when you ask about his work-life balance.

For almost two years, Jared Smith spent four out of every five weeks commuting from his Atlanta home to Ticketmaster’s Los Angeles headquarters, where as chief operating officer he was charged with helping restructure the company he had been with since 2003. When he was elevated to president of Ticketmaster North America in May, it became apparent that a full-scale relocation was in order.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

“Picking up and moving the family here really helped,” said Smith, who earlier this year moved to Manhattan Beach with wife Angela and daughters Olivia and Tessa. “I can get home and at least have dinner with the girls and put them to bed — and not be exhausted on the weekend because I just got off the redeye.”

The prospect of a move across country was particularly daunting for Smith and his family because, while they are not from the Southeast, they had spent nearly a decade there. Though they had moved four times in 10 years — from Columbus, Ga., to Birmingham, Ala., to Virginia Beach, Va., to Charlotte to Atlanta — they had at least managed to stay in the same region.

“We were born in Iowa but we’re born-again Southerners,” Smith said. “We loved the lifestyle and we had been in Atlanta long enough to put down some roots. But, sitting in Atlanta, asking myself if I was offered this opportunity would I take it? It was a no-brainer.”

When Smith spoke recently to a University of South Florida grad school class that visited Ticketmaster’s offices, he used his own path as an example of how a willingness to go a long stretch without putting down roots could help with advancement in a competitive field such as sports. He encouraged them to be flexible not only in where they would go, but also in what they do.

Smith’s degree is in journalism and communications. His first two jobs were at a sports commission and at an arena. “Don’t get stuck in the muck of ‘I have a degree in sports management with an emphasis in marketing and I will only take a marketing job,’” Smith said. “For the vast majority of people in this business, that’s not how it happens.”

— Bill King



Company: Under Armour
Title: President, North America
Age: 39
Where born: Pittsburgh
Education: University of Michigan (bachelor’s, political science)
Career background: Abercrombie & Fitch, 1996-98; Old Navy, 1998-2003; American Eagle Outfitters, 2003-10; Under Armour, 2010-present
Family: Children Charlie and Sophia (both 8)

Favorite app: MapMyRun.
Favorite way to unwind: Spend time with my kids; that puts everything in perspective.
Guilty pleasure: ’80s music.
Worst habit: Driving too fast.
Cause supported: Children’s Institute of
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Whitewater raft the Ganges River in Rishikesh, India.
2014 will be a good year if … : We execute.

When comparing himself to the former college athletes who sit with him at Under Armour’s executive table — three Maryland football players, a Maryland lacrosse player and a St. John’s basketball player, to name a few — Henry Stafford humbly describes himself as “representing the intramural group.”

On the contrary, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, who hired Stafford in 2010, considers him a standout at the table and on the court. “He’s an amazing basketball player; a great point guard,” Plank said. “Henry has a certain confidence and swagger.”

That “swagger” and talent have guided Stafford through a career that included time with well-known brands Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy and American Eagle Outfitters before coming to Under Armour. “Wholesale, retail, all of that,” Stafford said, “Honestly, it’s all business. I believe in brands.”

In his initial role at Under Armour, as senior vice president of apparel, Stafford was responsible for men’s, women’s and youth apparel for all steps from concept to market. He led a team of 150 people through all phases, including


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

design, innovation and eventually retail execution. He spearheaded launches in a multitude of categories, too, including products like Charged Cotton and ColdBlack, technology and innovation like Armour39, and retail experiences like the first Under Armour specialty store in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

The Under Armour brand, much in the headlines during the recent Winter Olympics, has become synonymous with a certain edginess, and the company’s efforts are frequently the subject of both cultural and industry chatter. But there’s been notable growth, as well. After Stafford’s arrival at Under Armour in 2010, the company’s apparel revenue grew at a 31 percent annual clip in both 2010 and 2011. That success ultimately led Stafford to his newly created position, which he assumed in October 2013. In that current role, Stafford reports directly to Plank and is in charge of wholesale, retail marketing, global retail and e-commerce. He is the direct report for a handful of high-level executives within Under Armour.

“The highest compliment I can give someone is that they are a professional,” Plank said. “And Henry is a pro.”

— Tara Baird

tom hogan


Company: Golden Boy Promotions
Title: VP, television
Age: 37
Where born: Los Angeles
Education: Loyola Marymount University (B.S., business administration), University of Notre Dame (MBA)
Career background: Fox Sports International (1998-2002), NASCAR (2003-10), Golden Boy (2011-present)
Family: Husband, Miguel; children Miguel Jr. (6) and Alejandro (4)

Favorite apps: Yelp, GrubHub, Amazon.
Favorite way to unwind: A glass of wine and spa treatments.
Guilty pleasure: Bloody Marys and watching Notre Dame football.
Worst habit: Too detail-oriented.
Group supported: Loyola Marymount Latino Alumni Association.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Sheryl Sandberg.
I have a fear of … : Heights.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
2014 will be a good year if … : Golden Boy breaks another PPV revenue record.

Before traveling from Los Angeles to New York for an event that included a luncheon honoring Oscar De La Hoya a few years ago, Araceli Villegas picked up a copy of the famed boxer’s autobiography to read on the flight.

“I knew I was probably going to meet him and I wanted to be prepared,” said Villegas, who was director of international broadcasting for NASCAR at the time.

When De La Hoya heard that Villegas not only worked in sports television, but that she also worked with a major property out of an office in Los Angeles, he pointed her in the direction of Richard Schaefer and Bruce Binkow, the two ranking executives at his Los Angeles-based boxing promotions company, Golden Boy. After years of handling international television as a mostly a la carte business, signing distribution deals fight by fight and country by country, Schaefer and Binkow wanted to create a division that would parcel fights together, making for a more consistent flow.

Villegas had been with NASCAR for seven years, and she’d turned down a higher-paying opportunity in banking in order to join the sanctioning body’s new international TV division when she came out of business school at Notre Dame. Taking NASCAR onto the air in Mexico, where her family is from, was a thrill. But her job at NASCAR had become less about building and more about maintaining. The chance to


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

launch something again appealed to her. She made the move.

“It was an opportunity to build a division like I had done at NASCAR, from the ground up,” Villegas said. “The expectation was, with all my contacts in the sports industry, that would carry over. In reality, boxing is a very fragmented industry, with a lot of stakeholders who have given boxing a bad name and reputation. So there was a lot of hesitancy. We’ve been able to overcome most of that, because we deliver what we say we will deliver.”

Today, Golden Boy has output deals with networks across the world, including in France, Russia, Indonesia and Ukraine, with a consistent, fully produced world feed emanating from most of its events. With an international infrastructure in place, Villegas recently added domestic TV to her responsibilities, as well.

— Bill King


Organization: Anheuser-Busch
Title: Director, local sports and stadium signage
Age: 39
Where born: San Antonio
Education: University of Kentucky (B.A., journalism/advertising)
Career background: Meridian Communications;
Family: Wife, Mollie; son, Wilson (8); daughter, Ella (6)

Favorite apps: ESPN, Pandora, TheChive, TWC.
Favorite way to unwind: Exercise.
Guilty pleasure: Chubby Hubby (Ben and Jerry’s).
Worst habit: Teeth grinding.
Cause supported: American Cancer Society.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Mark Cuban.
I have a fear of … : Oversleeping.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Completed a marathon.
2014 will be a good year if … : The weather cooperates.


Chris Wujcik’s keen marketing skills are on display at dozens of sports facilities across the country.

As Anheuser-Busch’s director of local sports and stadium signage, Wujcik is responsible for an annual budget of about $140 million for one of sports’ biggest advertisers. Those buys cover


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

agreements with 92 teams across 40 big league markets.

Over the past two years, Wujcik was heavily involved in negotiating a 10-year founding partnership at the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium. The Bud Light brand will be prominently displayed at a scoreboard fan deck on the building’s north side. Wujcik also was behind A-B’s renewal with the Chicago Cubs in September 2013. A new Budweiser sign goes up this season in right field at 100-year-old Wrigley Field, and the brewer will expand its patio space in that part of the ballpark.

He’s been responsible for deals for Budweiser-themed destinations at Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center and American Airlines Center, as well, along with the new Ballpark Village in St. Louis. The Budweiser Brewhouse is one of the property’s anchor tenants.

Over his 13 years working at A-B, Wujcik has seen his job evolve from one focusing on media assets to signs tied to team brands. Now, the big trend is for brewers to develop themed neighborhoods at sports venues to catch the attention of younger fans ages 21 to 29. “We’re trying to give them a place to go and a reason to stay,” Wujcik said, “to provide something of value: interactive features like green screens to capture content, to take pictures of themselves in the batter’s box or their favorite team’s uniform.”

More challenges arise as the malt beverage category continues to be sliced thinner and thinner, with the popularity of craft beers and ciders invading the sports space, and new competition from spirits as well.

“I don’t know that people decide ‘I want a beer’ necessarily,” Wujcik said. “They’re like, ‘I want a drink,’ and then they look at their list of options there. It continues to be a challenge for us across the board.”

— Don Muret



Company: Optimum Sports
Title: Managing director
Age: 38
Where born: Huntington, N.Y.
Education: University of North Carolina (B.A., economics)
Career background: With Omnicom Media Group since 2000 and Optimum Sports since 2005
Family: Wife, Aimee; son, Jack (7); daughters Scarlet (5) and Tess (3)

Favorite apps: iBooks, Sonos, Pandora, SportsCenter, Surfline, Houzz.
Favorite way to unwind: The beach.
Guilty pleasure: No one will believe me outside of work, but I don’t really eat much in the way of sweets when not in the office. Put it in front of me in the office, and it will be gone — quickly.
Worst habit: Overbooking myself.
Causes supported: Cancer research, troop support.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: There are a ton of smart people out there that I’d like the opportunity to get to know better.
I have a fear of … : Spiders.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Ride motorcycles around Bali with a couple friends.
2014 will be a good year if … : My family is happier at the end than at the start.

It was no surprise to see Jeremy Carey in Sochi for the first week of the Winter Olympics. As managing director for Optimum Sports, Carey had six big-name clients who invested in the Olympics: Chobani, Visa, McDonald’s, GE, Eli Lilly and Warner Bros.

But Carey’s presence in Sochi underscores his growing influence in the sports industry. He was there as more than just a media buyer for those companies. Optimum Sports sells itself as a company that can cut traditional sports marketing deals in addition to media buys, and Carey was on the ground to monitor the overall event.

“I was there to get a feel for it,” he said. “I wanted to at least get a small taste of what it means to be at the Games and further the communication process between our clients that we’re representing and the athletes at the Games.”

An example of that approach is what Optimum Sports has done with State Farm, which is invested heavily in the NBA. In addition to a media buy, State Farm has a presenting sponsorship for ESPN’s games on Wednesdays and Fridays, TNT’s games on Thursdays, and NBA TV’s games on Saturdays, along with occupying the stanchions around the court.

“You can’t turn on the television without seeing State Farm as part of the NBA,” Carey said. “We’re looking at this as one piece and saying, ‘How do we build out our State Farm NBA platform?’ not ‘How do we build out an NBA


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

media buy?’ or ‘How do we build out an activation scenario or a digital strategy?’ All of that is included in what we’re doing.”

Carey started out as a buyer in 2000, believing he would wind up on the sales side of the business. Eventually, Tom McGovern convinced him to move over to Optimum Sports in 2005, where he has developed some of the deepest relationships in the business.

“I’ve known Jeremy for many years, and I’ve enjoyed watching him grow up in the business,” said Neil Mulcahy, executive vice president of sales for Fox Sports Media Group. “He’s always been an incredible partner, someone able to clearly communicate what he’s trying to achieve. … He’s the quintessential partner in every sense of the word.”

— John Ourand


Company: IMG Consulting
Title: VP
Age: 37
Where born: Boston
Education: Skidmore College (double major: B.A., English; B.S., exercise physiology)
Career background: IMG Media, 2000-05;
IMG Consulting, 2005-present
Family: Husband, Bryan Icenhower

Favorite apps: Endomondo, WeatherBug, OpenTable.
Favorite way to unwind: Relaxing at the beach or going for a run.
Guilty pleasure: Self-serve frozen yogurt (with lots of toppings).
Worst habit: Altering the chef’s recommended preparation … every time.
Charitable endeavor: The First Tee.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Thomas Bach.
I have a fear of … : Spiders.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon.
2014 will be a good year if … : I can find more “me” time.


Kirsten Hunt loves competition.

The natural athlete has spent her life finding new ways to compete. After excelling at gymnastics, soccer and golf in childhood, she picked up lacrosse in college and joined the Skidmore College team. After leaving college, she turned to triathlons — and excelled so quickly that she was able to participate in the Olympic triathlon test in Hyde Park two years


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.


“I’ve always loved sports and new challenges,” she said.

Hunt brings that love for competition, challenge and sports into her work at IMG. She joined the company after college and worked in its media division for five years before moving into its consulting group in 2005. It was there that she was thrown on to a team that was working on General Electric’s first Olympic sponsorship, for the 2006 Turin Games. The company had exclusivity in 11 categories and wanted to find ways to motivate its 320,000 employees.

IMG Consulting developed a series of employee motivation tools that track everything from sales to cost savings across business units, giving Olympic prizes and awards to top performers. The company has put those tools to work at each subsequent Olympics, helping GE generate $1 billion in sales around the 2008 Beijing Games, 2010 Vancouver Games and 2012 London Games.

The success led GE, with Hunt’s assistance, to expand its sports portfolio, as well. In 2010, it added a PGA Tour sponsorship, which she helped negotiate, and in 2011, it moved into Formula One by sponsoring Caterham F1.

Hunt oversees a seven-person global team devoted to working on GE. She works across different time zones, collaborating with IMG staff in Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. to develop GE marketing initiatives for the Olympics, PGA Tour and F1.

“She’s an invaluable piece of our global marketing capabilities,” said David Abrutyn, who oversees IMG Consulting. “She’s got a relentless drive to find success for her clients. There’s no one who’s going to out-work her. She’s a fierce competitor and brings an athlete’s mentality to the job.”

—Tripp Mickle



Company: Engine Shop
Title: President, founding partner
Age: 40 (turned 40 last Thursday)
Where born: Hackensack, N.J.
Education: University of Mount Union (B.A., sports business, and B.A., international business)
Career background: Before Engine Shop, Championship Management Co.: director, global operations; Canon Greater Hartford Open: executive tournament director; Pro Links Sports: VP, Southeast operations; Peter Jacobsen Sports: EVP, CMO/partner; GMR Marketing: SVP
Family: Wife, Michele; sons Eddie III (Tripp) (10) and Brady (2)

Favorite apps: WatchESPN, New York Post, HBO Go, PGA Tour, Delta Air Lines, Uber, RideLinQ.
Favorite way to unwind: Bottle of Oregon pinot by the fireplace with my family at our weekend home in Ohio.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Kevin Plank.
I have a fear of … : Michigan beating Ohio State every November in The Game. OH-!.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Scuba diving with sharks in the Cayman Islands.
2014 will be a good year if … : The New York Jets make the playoffs.

Ed Kiernan was in a perfectly stable position at GMR Marketing, working on golf accounts and other agency business, when he took his biggest career-oriented leap of faith.

Kiernan, along with partners Brian Gordon, Ryan Schinman and Chris Handy, started an agency in 2012 called Engine Shop in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. The idea was to combine Kiernan’s contacts in the sports world with contacts Gordon and Schinman had made in music and entertainment.

“Any time you start something new, it’s a risky move, but I felt like it was a calculated risk,” said Kiernan, president of Engine Shop. “I believe in stacking the deck with a diverse group of the right people that complement both my strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes you have to trust your gut, and it ended up being the best thing I’ve ever done.”

By the end of the first year, he had attracted a client list that included Johnson & Johnson, Mercedes-Benz and Omega. In two years, Engine Shop has grown to 75 employees who work on a variety of initiatives, including ESPN’s Super Bowl party.

“You just get to a point in life where you want to work with people that you really enjoy and trust,” Kiernan said. “Over the years, I just figured out that I wanted to do my own thing.”


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

In Kiernan’s earlier days, one of his positions was as tournament director for the PGA Tour event in Hartford, Conn. One of the tournament’s past champions was Peter Jacobsen, and they struck a relationship that led to a job for Kiernan at Peter Jacobsen Sports. He was 26 years old at the time, and he led the golf agency into consulting, ultimately working on accounts for CVS Pharmacy, Lexus, Red Bull and Ketel One, among others.

“Peter is such a great relationship person,” Kiernan said. “He entrusted me to take the agency and grow it, and it proved to be an invaluable experience. I mean it when I say that I wouldn’t be here now without him.”

— Michael Smith



Company: Fuel Sports Management Group
Title: Principal, CEO
Age: 40 (turned 40 last Friday)
Where born: Willimantic, Conn.
Education: Vanderbilt University (B.S.), University of Maryland School of Law (J.D.)
Career background: Sports representation since
Family: Single

Favorite apps: Sporting News, The Wall Street Journal.
Favorite way to unwind: Going to the World Cup every four years.
Guilty pleasure: Major sporting events with clients.
Worst habit: Staying up too late.
Causes supported: Kasey Kahne Foundation, Denny Hamlin Foundation, Jamie McMurray Foundation.
Person in the industry I’d like to meet: Larry Bird, because he is a perennial winner.
I have a fear of … : Not being able to grow our NASCAR sponsor relationships.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Travel through Europe trying to convince elite soccer clubs to sign American soccer players.
2014 will be a good year if … : Our clients stay healthy and perform at a high level.

Rod Moskowitz was in law school when he traveled to France and Spain to pitch his roster of MLS players to clubs. The former Vanderbilt soccer player rented a car, hired a translator and stayed in hostels as he traveled from clubs like Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid.

“I was pitching naming rights and players and I didn’t have any luck,” Moskowitz said. “The soccer business was challenging then.”

Phil Anschutz and Lamar Hunt owned the majority of MLS in those early years of the league, and player salaries were small. So Moskowitz decided after law school that he needed to find another sport. He connected with Cary Agajanian, founder of Motorsports Management International, through the Sports Lawyers Association and asked about working in the world of motorsports.

Moskowitz joined the firm at the perfect time. Agajanian’s star client, Tony Stewart, had just moved into NASCAR, and the sport had recently consolidated its national TV rights. Stewart’s influence helped MMI sign Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and others whom Moskowitz began representing.

“He obviously did a great job when he worked for us,” Agajanian said. “When he’s focused on something, he gets into it with all of his efforts.”


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

Moskowitz left MMI after about a decade, in 2011, and founded his own firm, Fuel Sports Management Group. He took Kahne, McMurray and Hamlin with him and concentrated on creating a small, full-service agency that would manage elite drivers, sell sponsorships and consult for companies interested in NASCAR. His firm has succeeded in doing that, helping deliver deals like Great Clips to Hendrick Motorsports and expanding its client roster to include Matt Kenseth, runner-up for last year’s Sprint Cup Championship.

There have been extensions into other sports, as well. Moskowitz has formed a joint venture with former Def Jam President Kevin Liles to launch an agency, Revolution, to represent NFL players. Fuel also has partnered with golf agent Jens Beck in a soccer agency, Cor Sports Management Group.

Nearly 15 years after Moskowitz traveled to Europe, Cor agent Mike Gartlan finalized a deal to bring former MLS player Roger Espinoza to Wigan Athletic of the EPL.

Said Moskowitz, “The business is really coming full circle.”

— Tripp Mickle



Company: Wasserman Media Group
Title: SVP
Age: 38
Where born: San Antonio
Education: University of North Carolina (B.S., business administration)
Career background: Orlando Magic, sales/marketing associate (1997-98); CSE, variety of positions, ending in director of strategic planning (1998-2006); Wasserman Media Group, 2006-present
Family: Wife, Angie; children Cooper (5) and Beckett (18 months)

Favorite apps: Uber, Twitter, Team Stream.
Favorite way to unwind: Playing with the family.
Guilty pleasure: Good bourbon.
Worst habit: My wife would probably say road rage.
Groups supported: Triangle Spokes Group and Wakefield UMC.
Person in the industry I’d like to meet: Tim Cook.
I have a fear of … : Failure, so it’s a motivator.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Bungee jumping in Interlaken, Switzerland.
2014 will be a good year if … : We continue to grow and hit budget.

If you draw a line across the beachheads of sports marketing consulting in the South, it’s a path that Wasserman Media Group’s Will Pleasants has walked.

More than seven years with CSE in Atlanta on clients like Cingular, and another eight years with Wasserman’s consulting group in Raleigh/Durham working with the likes of American Express, have left him with a predilection for marketing creativity and an absolute passion for strategic planning, since it’s the basis of marketing tactics. (At least, it’s supposed to be.)

From a sales and marketing associate at the Orlando Magic more than 15 years ago, Pleasants has worked his way to senior vice president and unofficial COO of WMG Consulting, which has, including its acquisition of U.K.-based agency Ignite last year, doubled in size over the past 2 1/2 years. “I get to touch every side of our business every day and balance where we are going with having the right people working in the right places,” Pleasants said.

Pleasants’ unrelenting client focus has its roots in the time he spent as a teen working in a Greenville, N.C., haberdashery. “In that business, you learn to build trust and you live off of repeat customers,” he said.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

According to co-workers, Pleasants’ strategic focus is complemented by a willingness to take on any task. An example? At the 1998 Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn, Pleasants was told that CSE client Keebler required some grassroots marketing help. Shortly thereafter, Pleasants was patrolling the sidelines — wearing the costume of a Keebler elf. Perhaps he regrets admitting at the time that he had some experience as a mascot during his time with the Magic; or perhaps not. A photo from that day remains in his office.

“I keep that picture to remind myself not to ask people to do something I haven’t done,” he said. “It keeps me grounded.’’

— Terry Lefton


Company: Jack Morton Worldwide
Title: SVP, director of analytics
Age: 34
Where born: Chicago
Education: University of Michigan (B.A., sports management and communications)
Career background: PGA Tour, Leisure Intelligence Group, independent marketing consulting, GM R*Works, Jack Morton Worldwide
Family: Wife, Carrie; sons Jordan (9), Tyler (7) and Ryan (5); daughter, Lauren (3)

Favorite apps: Flixster, iPhone camera and music apps.
Guilty pleasure: Coffee with Bailey’s.
Groups supported: WorldVision, NorthRidge Orphan Care.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Two: Jerry Colangelo, Michael Jordan.
I have a fear of … : What college tuition will cost for my kids.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Take my wife on a 72-hour “Amazing Race” tour of Paris, Barcelona and London.
2014 will be a good year if … : My youngest son passes preschool and my daughter cooperates with her summer swim instructor.


The explosion of data mining in sports has served Donte Scott well considering that the former basketball walk-on at the University of Michigan has built a career on navigating top-shelf clients through myriad quantitative measurements.

Scott is senior vice president and director of analytics for Jack Morton Worldwide, where he creates sponsorship analytics tools for big-spending sports marketing companies. It’s a


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

role he has been developing since he began working for the Leisure Intelligence Group in 2001 after earning his degree in sports management at Michigan.

“I was a bit of a nerd,” Scott said. “I thought I’d be in pre-med, but I carved out a niche in the prediction analytical realm. When I was doing it, it was ahead of its time.”

From 2001 to 2005, his time at Leisure Intelligence, Scott honed his statistical analytical skills, applying his research ability to a variety of companies, including the NFL and MLB. “The beauty of Leisure Intelligence was that I got exposed to high-level projects in the industry that people in the business for 15 to 20 years would get exposed to,” Scott said. “But I reached a point where I thought it would be best to expand my horizon and try something on my own.”

Over the next 18 months, Scott worked as an independent consultant where one of his clients was the General Motors R*Works agency. After he completed a 200-page sports marketing assessment for GM, Scott was on the agency’s radar, and he joined the group in 2007. In 2010, it was absorbed by Jack Morton Worldwide, where today Scott continues to create “black box” real-time analysis for a host of firms.

But Scott is not simply a number cruncher calculating the value of sports sponsorships. “Donte has the ability to get creative about ways to evaluate the actual dollar value the client is getting,” said Brian Patterson, executive vice president and managing director of Jack Morton Worldwide in Detroit. “His baseline skills are in math, but he’s got both the left and right sides firing.”

— John Lombardo


Company: Relativity Sports
Title: President
Age: 39
Where born: Los Angeles
Education: University of California, Berkeley (B.A), Harvard Law School (J.D.)
Career background: IFILM, Wasserman Media Group, Diamond Ridge Ventures, Relativity Sports
Family: Wife, Angela Riley; daughters Avah and Oona

Favorite apps: Stitcher, ESPN ScoreCenter.
Favorite way to unwind: Backyard basketball.
Guilty pleasure: Berry cobbler.
Worst habit: Extreme impatience.
Group supported: UCLA American Indian Studies Center.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Sepp Blatter.
I have a fear of … : Open-air heights.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Backpack across Eastern Europe pre-Internet.
2014 will be a good year if … : The family is healthy and happy.


When Happy Walters was looking for someone to run the new sports division of film and television studio Relativity Media, Josh Swartz was his first choice.

It was a big job, managing 60 employees and agents who represent 400 athlete clients, including some of the biggest stars in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball. Relativity


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

Media had just launched Relativity Sports in the summer of 2012, and the job of president was a much coveted one. But Walters, CEO of Relativity Sports and co-COO of Relativity Media, knew he wanted someone with a diverse skill set.

“What makes Josh successful is he is a guy who can hang with an athlete and play basketball and have that kind of vibe, but also is very smart, very analytical and a great businessman,” Walters said. “Sometimes, someone is great at one, but not both.”

Swartz had been COO of Wasserman Media Group but was managing partner of Diamond Ridge Ventures, an investment fund that provides capital for sports, events and sports media ventures, when Walters offered him the job early last year. Walters convinced Swartz to take the job based in a large part on Relativity’s unique platform.

In the year that’s followed, Swartz has integrated the former SFX Baseball and the former Maximum Sports Management as well as the practice of NBA player agent Dan Fegan into Relativity Sports. Swartz also has been working on how to cross-platform between Relativity Media’s vast entertainment assets and its growing sports client practice. Some examples of that include producing a documentary on Relativity Baseball client Mariano Rivera and using NBA clients Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, among others, in a trailer for a parody movie titled “The Relativity Avengerables.”

The goal, Swartz said, is to create intellectual property with and for athletes. “We think it’s in their best interests,” he said, “to diversify out of their current paradigm, which is ‘I have a player contract and make some marketing money on the side.’”

— Liz Mullen



Company: CAA Sports
Title: Global head, sports endorsements
Age: 39
Where born: Wilmington, Del.
Education: Cornell University (B.A., psychology)
Career background: If Management, director of client services (1996-98); SFX Sports Group, multiple positions, including VP (1998-2005); GFHF Marketing & Management, founder and CEO (2005-07); CAA Sports since 2007
Family: Wife, Rebecca; son, Jakob; daughter, Hannah

Favorite apps: FatSecret, Twitter.
Guilty pleasure: Golf.
Worst habit: Not stopping what I am doing when people pop into my office.
Groups supported: Stoked, Turtle Ridge Foundation.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Dietrich Mateschitz.
I have a fear of … : Needles.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Flying in jet fighters with the GoPro guys.
2014 will be a good year if … : It already was a good year; it got better having clients come home from Sochi with some medals (Julia Mancuso and Bode Miller, both winning bronze), and will be better if I live through my half-Ironman in May.

Lowell Taub used to negotiate about 40 endorsement deals a year, back when he was starting in the industry in the late 1990s. Now, he does about 100 a year.

“I have always been transactional,” Taub said. But one of the things Taub likes most about his job these days is doing things other than just the traditional endorsement deal, such as putting together entertainment projects for clients, or digital deals and other deals in which athlete clients receive an equity stake in addition to endorsement payments.

“The different resources that CAA has given me — that has made me so much smarter that I have been able to do other work crossing into entertainment, whether it’s Ryan Lochte’s television show, or Sanya Richards-Ross’ television show, or Kevin Pearce’s movie that premiered at Sundance and had a run on HBO,” Taub said.

At CAA Sports, Taub oversees endorsements for about 250 athletes in basketball, soccer, tennis, action sports and Olympics, as well as handling coaches and broadcasters. He oversees seven employees who represent clients, and Taub personally oversees 15 clients. Those personal clients include skier Bode Miller, action sports athletes Shawn White and Nyjah Huston, gymnast Gabby Douglas, and soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

In the last few years, Taub has negotiated deals that include an equity component for CAA Sports clients Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Georges St-Pierre and Summer Sanders, among others.

Sports is a business based on relationships, and Taub’s ability to build lasting relationships with athlete clients as well as sports marketers is one big reason for his success, said Michael Levine, co-head of CAA Sports.

“His job is a lifestyle, and he lives his job — and that is one reason he is as successful as he is,” Levine said. “His relationships with his buyers and clients are really deep and personal. He’s known many of them for a long time and I think he spends a lot of time outside of the office in a social setting with both his buyers and his clients, and sometimes with clients and buyers together. So those relationships end up being at the center of a lot of the successful commerce that he is able to drive.”

— Liz Mullen

Igor Ulis

Company: Omnigon Communications
Title: Co-founder/CEO
Age: 35
Where born: Kiev, Ukraine
Education: Boston University (B.A., computer science)
Career background: Started my first tech startup during senior year in college and have been running companies ever since.
Family: Wife, Marina; sons, Max (6) and Jake (2)

Favorite apps: Flipboard for news, Songza for music and GrubHub for food. For sports, the Sporting News, NASCAR and PGA Tour apps (all Omnigon projects) are beautiful and work really well.
Favorite way to unwind: I like going food exploring and trying random places. New York is great for that.
Guilty pleasure: Bread pudding.
Worst habit: BBQ food — but no plans to stop.
Cause supported: City Harvest. Last holiday season, we donated hundreds of pounds of food.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Malcolm Gladwell. (Although he’s not technically sports industry-only, his views are heavily leveraged by smart people in the industry.)
I have a fear of … : Failure.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Hang-gliding off a cliff in Rio.
2014 will be a good year if … : Our international operations take off.


Igor Ulis admits to a personal learning curve concerning some of the particular nuances of many U.S. sports, particularly given that he was born in Ukraine and doesn’t have a professional background in the sports industry.

But there is perhaps no more trusted executive in the business when it comes to high-intensity digital operations for leagues and media properties. Boasting a client portfolio that includes NASCAR, the PGA Tour, Sporting News Media, World Wresting Entertainment and many other major entities, Ulis and Omnigon are charged with the critical work of developing


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

digital media strategies, designing content management systems and mobile applications, and creating second-screen experiences.

It’s not necessarily glamorous work, and as a business-to-business player, Ulis and Omnigon operate outside of the public eye and instead on behalf of the brands they represent. But when it comes to making major industry movements like TV Everywhere actually work for the consumer, Ulis is playing an indispensable role. Omnigon under Ulis’ leadership is now embarking on a major international push, beginning in part with the opening of a London office.

“Lots of leagues are now recognizing the major importance of digital and what it can really do for their businesses,” said Ulis, who was trained as a computer scientist. “All the projections going forward for live video consumption, for example, are immense, and that’s an exciting prospect for us.”

— Eric Fisher



Company: CBS Sports / CBS Sports Network
Title: VP, college sports programming
Age: 33
Where born: Bloomington, Ind.
Education: University of Michigan (BBA)
Career background: ESPN Remote Production (production assistant), 2002-04; ESPN Programming (associate, planner, manager, director), 2004-12; CBS Sports, 2012-present
Family: Husband, John; daughter, Addison (1)

Favorite apps: CBS Sports, Delta, Yahoo News Digest, Amazon.
Favorite way to unwind: Catching up on TV shows on my DVR or reading.
Guilty pleasure: Online shopping.
Worst habit: Loud talking, especially when I’m on the phone.
Cause supported: Blood donation, with the Red Cross.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Condoleezza Rice: I’d love to play golf with her at Augusta National.
I have a fear of … : Heights.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Hike into the Grand Canyon.
2014 will be a good year if … : Michigan returns to the Final Four, I’m there to see them win, and the tournament scores record ratings.

Bess Barnes wasn’t sure what to do when CBS Sports President David Berson called her in 2012 to see if she was interested in becoming the network’s vice president of college sports programming. She had worked at ESPN since 2001, when she interned in between her junior and senior years at the University of Michigan. While captaining Michigan’s golf team her senior year, her main goal after graduation, she said, was to land a job at ESPN.

She caught on as an associate producer, eventually moving over to the programming side of the business after two years. Barnes was happy at ESPN and never considered leaving. But the prospects of working with Berson (a former colleague at ESPN) and the job overseeing CBS’s college relationships was too good to pass up.

“While difficult to leave ESPN, it was an easy decision,” Barnes said.
Berson said his choice was natural, too.

“Everyone loves working with Bess,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with her for over 10 years, at ESPN and CBS. She’s smart, hardworking, passionate, always looking for solutions, and full of positive energy.”

With CBS’s roster including TV’s top-rated college football package and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Barnes is a frequent


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

visitor to college campuses. She said she spends most of her time on basketball, trying to fill CBS’s 40 regular-season college basketball windows, but her most high-profile job is in picking the SEC football game that CBS will show on its Saturday afternoon package. It’s a  collaborative process, where she and her boss, Dan Weinberg, seek feedback from all sides before sending their recommendation to Berson and CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus.

This season, CBS chose the LSU-Georgia game over Ole Miss-Alabama, based in part on input from on-air analyst Gary Danielson.

“I remember vividly that Gary’s argument was that the LSU-Georgia game doesn’t happen very often … because they’re not in the same division,” she said. “I remember having an email exchange with Dan about it later on Saturday night. That was the determining factor.”

— John Ourand



Company: ESPN
Title: SVP, college networks
Age: 38
Where born: Boston
Education: Harvard University (A.B.), Harvard Business School (MBA)
Career background: Corporate finance, strategy, sales and marketing, programming
Family: Wife, Jessica; children Carthan (6), Brynn (4), Drew (2) and Jack (10 months)

Favorite apps: WatchESPN, Sonos, Pandora, Spotify, ABC News, Uber.
Favorite way to unwind: Reading to my daughters.
Guilty pleasure: Ice cream.
Worst habit: Hitting the snooze button.
Group supported: Roxbury Latin (my high school).
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Bill Belichick.
I have a fear of … : Being unprepared.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Bungee jumping.
2014 will be a good year if … : The SEC/ESPN network is widely available to sports fans.

ESPN went an untraditional route as it looked for someone to lead SEC Network through its launch phase. Rather than hiring an executive with experience in programming or rights negotiations, ESPN picked Justin Connolly, an executive who previously had made his name on the distribution side of the business.

Now ESPN’s senior vice president of college networks, Connolly made SBJ’s Forty Under 40 list in 2011 (when he was senior vice president of national accounts) thanks largely to his work in crafting a carriage renewal with Time Warner Cable. This time around, he has traded arcane carriage negotiations for the excitement of building a business. When people talk about young executive talent at ESPN, Connolly’s name is at the top of most lists.

“I spend less time on solving contractual issues related to nuanced distribution items now,” Connolly said. “I spend much more time on things related to branding, marketing, programming — the vision of a product build rather than the specifics of how a product gets delivered.”

Connolly’s distribution background already has helped the network, which has cut a deal with AT&T U-verse and is close to a signed deal with Dish Network. His deep relationships with


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

distribution executives give them a comfort level they don’t have with many networks.

“It helps the distributors to have someone whom they have dealt with in the past thinking about their interests and thinking about their businesses in how we build the network,” Connolly said.

The 38-year-old executive has forged a fast friendship with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. The two have spent a lot of time traveling together to various functions as they work to launch the network in August.

Said Slive of Connolly: “Your first impression of Justin is his pleasant demeanor and what a delight he is to be around with his ready sense of humor. You quickly realize it belies his intense focus, quiet determination, extensive knowledge and keen intellect. He is thoughtful yet decisive, with the unique ability to give great attention to detail while maintaining a strategic eye on the big picture. All of this combines to make Justin the right person at the right time to lead the SEC Network.”

— John Ourand


Organization: Univision
Title: VP, sports programming and GM, FIFA Properties
Age: 35
Where born: Arlington, Va.
Education: Colgate University (B.A., psychology)
Career background: NBA (2000-04), MLB (2004-07), ESPN Deportes (2007-10), ESPN (2010-11), Univision (2011-present)
Family: Wife, Kasey; children Maximo (6), Julianna (3) and Mateo (9 months)

Favorite apps: Univision Deportes, Uber, Netflix, Metro-North, DirecTV.
Favorite way to unwind: Going for a jog on the trails with my yellow Lab.
Guilty pleasure: Good beer — Warsteiner and Switchback.
Cause supported: Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Franz Beckenbauer.
I have a fear of … : My kids becoming Yankees fans.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Cliff jumping in Vancouver.
2014 will be a good year if … : The World Cup is a resounding success.


He has been at two leagues, and two sports networks, often working in two languages.

Along the way, Eric Conrad has gained not only experience, but also perspective.

As vice president of sports programming at Univision, he deals with soccer properties from around the world as well as with the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball. Whether negotiating rights or managing an existing


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

relationship or working to build a bridge to a new one, he frequently thinks back to his first two jobs: in the international divisions of the NBA and MLB.

“Having been at a league really helps,” said Conrad, who joined the management training program at the NBA after graduating from Colgate and then worked in the league’s international TV department for two years before spending three years in Latin American and Hispanic marketing at MLB. “Negotiating with leagues on acquiring content, you understand what their priorities are and how they’re structured. You understand, beyond the more apparent business standpoint, what it takes operationally to get a deal done with these guys. I think I understand it better having been there.”

Conrad also had a chance to tie his present with his past recently when he negotiated a deal to sublicense rights to Mexican national team games for broadcast in English on ESPN, where he worked for four years before joining Univision as it launched its sports network, Univision Deportes. While some might see that as aiding a significant competitor, Conrad viewed it as a chance to not only defray the cost of the rights, but also to increase interest in the sport that dominates Univision Deportes’ programming wheel.

“The more soccer is on-air in general, the better it is for us, because we have a ton of it,” Conrad said. “We want to make sure as many people see quality soccer as is possible. Then, when they want to see more, they’re coming to us.”

— Bill King



Company: NBC Sports Group
Title: SVP and GM, digital
Age: 37
Where born: Framingham, Mass.
Education: Providence College (B.S., business management; minor in computer science); Boston College (MBA)
Career background: Computer programmer,
Family: Wife, Jennifer; daughters Ava (7), Rylie (6) and Sydney (3)

Favorite apps: Besides NBC Sports’ apps: MLB at Bat, NHL GameCenter, Twitter.
Favorite way to unwind: Family time, or beer and a ballgame.
Guilty pleasure: Frozen Reese’s mini peanut butter cups.
Worst habit: Not giving my wife a heads-up when I’ll be late.
I have a fear of … : Websites crashing, streams going black, and apps being broken.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Playing in March Madness in 1997.
2014 will be a good year if … : Successful digital Sochi Olympics, launch RSN streaming, and grow NBC Sports Live Extra.

Rick Cordella has found life good among the heavyweights of online sports media.

After helping lead a corporate transformation early this decade that moved NBC Sports among the leaders in the industry, Cordella built upon those initial gains by playing a key role in a major digital alliance with Yahoo Sports, implementing the first Summer and Winter Olympics with complete live digital streaming, and moving the company into a major position in the TV Everywhere landscape. NBC Sports also continues to generate significant audiences with its live streaming of NFL “Sunday Night Football” and now is delivering English Premier League soccer as well.

Between live game rights and documentary projects, Cordella and NBC have worked with virtually every major U.S. sports property.
For Cordella, that’s a meant a major pivot in how the company’s digital business is structured and operates. After first simply seeking significant traffic and reach, his focus now rests squarely on NBC Sports’ streaming video schedule and the audiences that generates. Much of his time is spent on removing consumer barriers to authenticate themselves and receive live streaming content.

“The business is now really centered around streaming, and things like authentication and TV Everywhere really make the business go,”


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

Cordella said. “When I first started here, I didn’t necessarily know a lot about cable, but I’ve become much more of a cable guy because our TV and digital operations are now truly intertwined.”

— Eric Fisher



Company: Time Inc. / Sports Illustrated
Title: VP and GM, SI Digital
Age: 40 (turned 40 in January)
Where born: Passaic, N.J.
Education: Duke University (B.A., public policy), NYU School of Law (J.D.)
Career background: Prior to SI in May 2012: CBS Corp., VP (2011-12); Octagon, general counsel, VP of Octagon Digital, founder of (2008-11); Qloud, general counsel and SVP, business development (2007-08); RIAA, VP (2006-07); America Online, senior counsel (2004-06); and Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman, associate (1999-2004)
Family: Wife, Robyn; children Avalina (4) and Luca (2)

Favorite apps: Netflix, Uber, Pandora, Instagram, LinkedIn, TuneIn, Exit Strategy, SI Swimsuit 2014.
Favorite way to unwind: Binge watching TV.
Guilty pleasure: “The Voice.”
Worst habit: I get busy during the day and end up not eating or drinking anything.
Cause supported: Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Roger Goodell.
I have a fear of … : Flying.
2014 will be a good year if … : My family is healthy and happy; everything else is secondary. (But it would be nice if Duke won the NCAAs again.).

Jim DeLorenzo was at the forefront of digital media years before it was a part of his job title. After law school graduation, he took a position at a firm in Washington, D.C. His first high-profile client was song-sharing lightning rod Napster. That work put DeLorenzo in the Capitol when Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee against his client. A trip to Utah for a hearing with Sen. Orrin Hatch led to DeLorenzo, then a junior associate, shooting hoops with Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning on NBA star Karl Malone’s basement court.

While DeLorenzo admits anecdotes like these make for great cocktail party fodder, he fondly remembers his early days as an attorney as the time in which he honed his deal-making skills.

“I personally happen to love doing deals,” he said. “I think being able to negotiate and structure complex partnerships and have those go through the process … it’s really exciting when you get to that point where you close them.”

He’s certainly been a closer since taking on the challenge of revitalizing Sports Illustrated’s digital presence. He has breathed new life into SI’s Swimsuit franchise, developed Peter King’s wildly successful “The MMQB,” and launched a live video program, SI Now.

But it is DeLorenzo’s most recent undertaking that he says ranks up there as one of the most, if not the most, impactful deals he has been a part of. As a driving force behind SI’s stake in


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

120 Sports, he brought together the NBA, NHL, MLBAM, NASCAR and Campus Insiders for the formation of a digital video collaboration due to launch this spring. Still, the forward-looking DeLorenzo won’t bask in the success of this latest completed deal — at least, not right now.

“In terms of celebrating, look, this was the first step,” he said, “but there’s a lot more to do. I guess I’ll celebrate … at some point down the road. I don’t know exactly what point, but not over just getting the deal done, but actually having the business be successful.”

— Alex Silverman



Company: Bleacher Report / Turner Sports
Title: Founder, GM, Bleacher Report
Age: 30
Where born: Mountain View, Calif.
Education: University of Notre Dame (B.A., economics, history)
Career background: Two years private equity during two years part-time Bleacher Report; seven years full-time Bleacher Report
Family: Wife, Lauren

Favorite apps: Team Stream, Twitter, OpenTable, Kindle, Kayak, Trulia, Yahoo Fantasy Sports.
Favorite way to unwind: Going on a long run somewhere beautiful.
Guilty pleasure: Electro swing.
Worst habit: Compulsive extended-forecast weather checking. Same thing, but around searching for new British TV shows.
Groups supported: My college and high school.
I have a fear of … : Being bored.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Raised money for the first time with my co-founders. We were 24. The exhilaration and knowing that our dream was actually going to come to life: I remember how I felt when we stopped at a gas station right after we found out. How incredibly fortunate we’ve been.
2014 will be a good year if … : Bleacher Report’s audience grows by 70 percent again (to match 2013’s performance).

Never has the sound of silence been so sweet for Bleacher Report founder and general manager Dave Finocchio.

For years, the open-source sports journalism destination was the butt of many jokes within the digital sports landscape. A few high-profile missteps in the company’s early days certainly didn’t help, and the site spent its first five years widely mocked as low-rent Internet click bait.

But on the heels of Turner Sports’ 2012 deal to purchase Bleacher Report (for an estimated $175 million), Finocchio has overseen a transformation of the site both in terms of internal operation and external reputation. Bleacher Report’s companion mobile application, Team Stream, is among the most widely downloaded of any such offering in the industry. Video content has grown significantly. The site has attracted veteran, established reporting talent from other mainstream outlets, including Howard Beck, Mike Freeman and Ric Bucher. Editorial standards have continued to be tightened, and users have responded, pushing the Turner Sports/Bleacher Report roll-up to as high as third in monthly comScore sports traffic rankings.

“The conversation around us has totally changed,” Finocchio said. “Before, you heard a lot of jokes at our expense, but you don’t really hear that anymore. We’ve definitely become more respected.”

After making sizable gains around coverage of football and particularly basketball, Finocchio


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

now has sights set on similar growth within baseball and soccer.

“MLB and soccer, particularly with the World Cup coming up, are big areas of focus for us this year,” he said. “We’ve caught people’s attention, and we believe we can attract the same kind of high-level talent in these areas that we have elsewhere.”

— Eric Fisher



Company: Fox Sports Media Group
Title: SVP, digital
Age: 36
Where born: Phoenix
Education: Stanford University (B.A.), University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business (MBA)
Career background: Founder and CEO, Yardbarker; business development at Walt Disney Internet Group and at Plumb Design
Family: Wife, Hilary; daughters Vera (5) and Helena (8 months)

Favorite apps: Fox Sports Go, Paper, Snapchat, MOG, Sonos, Instagram.
Favorite way to unwind: Hiking, swimming, good wine, and lounging with my family.
Worst habit: Growing unruly beards.
Cause supported: Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Mark Cuban.
I have a fear of … : Becoming disconnected.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Bull riding, in high school, before I valued my own skull.
2014 will be a good year if … : It’s as half as good as 2013 was (new job, new network, new city, new house, new baby).

When Fox Sports early last year promoted Pete Vlastelica to senior vice president of digital, the former Yardbarker co-founder and chief executive came in with an aggressive, six-point battle plan for the year ahead. Among his priorities for 2013 were to align the company’s TV and digital operations, launch a new platform, improve Fox Sports’ digital audience measurement, rework its advertising strategy, bulk up the digital staff, and have some fun in the process. Altogether, it represented a seismic shift for a company that had decent raw reach thanks in part to its partnership with the MSN portal but, by its own admission, was not a digital-first organization.

In retrospect, Vlastelica admits that what was termed as the Fox Sports Digital Gameplan was “a little presumptuous.” But now, 12 months later, Vlastelica has checked off each goal on his list. Fox Sports last summer launched a new as well as the authenticated Fox Sports Go streaming platform that acts in direct concert with Fox Sports 1 and the company’s broadcast operations and is now firmly part of the TV Everywhere landscape. A new digital leadership team under Vlastelica is in place. And brand marketers have begun to take notice of the new Fox Sports Digital, evidenced in part by the 31 companies purchasing inventory last month during a glitch-free live stream of Super Bowl XLVIII, more than twice the number that bought into last year’s game.


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

For Vlastelica, the shift has been personal in addition to corporate. He came to Fox Sports when the company purchased Yardbarker in October 2010, and the self-proclaimed digital entrepreneur has had to learn to be more of a traditional media executive along the way.

“I was a startup guy, and I still think of myself as an entrepreneur,”  Vlastelica said.  “I guess I’m morphing into a media executive, but I’m trying to bring the best of both worlds, where we have the risk-taking and aggressiveness of a startup but with the resources and expertise of a big operation like this.”

— Eric Fisher


SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

The members of this year’s Forty Under 40 class have accomplished much, but they haven’t done it on their own — and they aren’t shy about saying that. We asked each of the 40 the following question: What person in the industry has most influenced your professional development, and why? Following are their responses.

I’ve had many positive influences over the years, but as of late it’s Brian Rolapp, hands down. He’s a guy you want to work hard for. He challenges the status quo and forces us to think differently.


Scott Radecic is a friend and mentor, incredibly influential throughout the first chapter of my career encompassing my time at HOK Sport/Populous. He consistently provided me with opportunities to grow, while providing a level of guidance that didn’t stifle my creativity. I am humbled to join him as an SBJ Forty Under 40 recipient.


David Berson, because I wouldn’t be in my current position if he didn’t believe I could do it.

Bob Batterman. As a boss, he was supportive yet willing to provide necessary feedback/constructive criticism. I call him my “work dad.” I know he only wants what is best for me, so his advice carries extra weight.


I have to thank several people I’ve worked for at the NBA for always inspiring me to raise the bar: David Stern, Adam Silver, Mark Tatum, Scott O’Neil and Chris Granger.

Tom McGovern. He’s passionate about what we do on a daily basis and had the vision to make Optimum Sports what it is today.

Chris Wright, president of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Chris provided me with my first opportunity to work in professional sports, with the Timberwolves. I worked closely with Chris for 11 years and had the opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business
every day.

Chris McGowan. He taught me that hard work and passion packaged with a good plan always wins in the end. Also, always be willing to adapt and change; never be caught standing still.

Sean Bratches. He provided invaluable professional opportunities, feedback, advice and good humor.

I’m fortunate to say several people have: AB, JS, TK, TB, SL, MB, JCR; they know who they are. But Italo Zanzi (CEO, AS Roma) has had the most influence thus far as a manager, friend and adviser.

I don’t have just one, but current bosses (Mark Lazarus, Gary Zenkel, Jon Litner) and before, Dick Ebersol, all have/had significant influence. Each is different in his own way, but the exposure and seeing how they approach problems and generally conduct themselves certainly has influenced me.

Phil de Picciotto, president at Octagon. Despite all of his success (of which there is a lot), he continues to work harder than anyone I know and treats everyone with a civility that is sometimes rare in this industry. His ability to process complex deals and boil them down to their essence is incredible.

It’s impossible to call out a single person; I’m a product of many key influences. But three would be John Freund, Bleacher Report investor; Brian Grey, former Bleacher Report CEO; and Matt Hong, Turner Sports general manager.


Robert and Jonathan Kraft. I have had the privilege of learning from two of the most respected and admired people in the industry. As much as they have taught me about their core business principles, it’s what I have learned about their core values, including family, faith and philanthropy, that has provided the greatest influence in my life.


Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have worked for, and with, some really smart and highly talented leaders who have taken an interest in my development. This has allowed me to learn a great deal about leadership, partnership development, business management, as well as other key traits that have helped me throughout my career. Some examples of these people include Roger Penske, Walter Czarnecki, Bud Denker and Tim Cindric here at Penske; Jeff Scanlan, Dockery Clark, Jackie Woodward, Nehl Horton and Tom Long during my time at Miller; and Mike Boykin and Greg Busch during my time at GMR. I have taken a lot from my experiences with these leaders and continue to learn from them and many others.

I have had amazing leadership throughout my career, but two would be Michael Robichaud, group head of global sponsorships at MasterCard, because he is an engaged teacher, mentor and friend and has taught me to take a big-picture view of situations before reacting; and Cheryl Guerin, group executive for U.S. marketing at MasterCard, because she is an amazing role model and friend and has empowered me to lead to take on business challenges.

Jeff Kessler, my mentor and friend. It’s not just that he’s the best and fiercest lawyer around, but he is one of the best people I know, too.

Hillary Mandel (IMG), for providing me with a solid foundation, and Chris Katsuleres (GE), for believing in my abilities and always pushing me to be better.


My father. Being a 40-year veteran of the sports business, there has been no better single resource for me as it relates to my career and how to view and approach the sports business.


Early on, Vin Lananna, my college coach, for work ethic and attention to detail. Later, Bob Bowlsby, AD at Stanford, for bringing a calming presence.

Peter Jacobsen. I wouldn’t be where I am today or who I am today without his guidance and trust. He gave me an amazing opportunity at an early age, and I’ll be forever grateful.


I’ve been heavily influenced by three people. Tim Leiweke was one of the first people to give me an opportunity, and he opened the door for me at the Galaxy. I’ve spent a lot of time with Chris McGowan, and he was instrumental in teaching me how to run a business and work with people. And Dan Beckerman’s leadership and principles in business have provided me with the insight to see all aspects of running a soccer club.


My father. He has not only provided an excellent example for me to follow, but also provided invaluable career and personal advice along the way.


Dennis Poppe and Mark Lewis. They’ve challenged me immeasurably.

I have been very lucky and have had a number of great mentors, including working closely with both Adam Silver and David Stern. However, my father first taught me about sports and media, but more importantly, gave me my work ethic and family values.

Three stand out to me: Tony Stewart (first opportunity to learn from the best at an early age); Cary Agajanian (gave me the opportunity and empowered me to develop); and Peter Roisman (taught me how to be a sports agent).


I’ll go with the homer pick, DeMaurice Smith, but it’s true. Having worked with De for more than 10 years, he’s taught me by example and entrusted me all along the way. I’m very aware of the chance he took on me nearly five years ago in hiring me at NFL Players Inc.

I have a few individuals at key intervals and development stages: Lonnie Cooper for trusting me with big opportunities at a very young age, Gary Stevenson for truly teaching me the business of sports, and Casey Wasserman for pushing for continued innovation.

The cinematographers at NFL Films. They’ve been doing this forever and they’re sort of the mold of what sports cinematographers look to in how they capture a moment and how they so brilliantly tell their story. They are the authors to what we do now. They’re the forefathers. They’ve been doing it for so long. I would definitely give the nod to all the cinematographers at NFL Films.

ESPN Sports Poll founder Dr. Rich Luker, who taught me the importance of understanding “the context”: quality sports research and consumer intelligence that provides the foundation for world-class sports marketing and sponsorship strategy.

I’m very inspired by Mark Parker in Nike. He’s transformed the company since he was named CEO while keeping its foundation true. He nurtures innovation and entrepreneurship.


John Galloway gave me my first shot in sports marketing, and from him I learned the power of passion, loyalty, humility, treating everyone with respect, staying connected at all levels to know what is really going on, and most of all, having fun.


Really hard to name just one, but Marla Ostroff, whom I worked for for half my career at Ticketmaster, has been an incredible champion for me throughout my career. She taught me the ropes, provided a continual and consistent source of guidance, and always pushed me to take on more sooner.

Kevin Plank; easy. A true leader, a true visionary and an absolute passion for making people great.

Casey Wasserman. He gave me my first opportunity in sports.

Mike Levine. He has hired me twice, and he can sell a property for hundreds of millions of dollars and not make it seem like a “sale.”

We started working with Doug Perlman four or five years ago. Doug’s a really respected guy in the industry and has showed me that you can be well-liked and fun but focused on results.

Robbie Weiss. He was a great role model. He had a great work/life balance. He’s a great friend who unfortunately suffered a tragic brain aneurysm. That really taught me the value of life in general and put things into perspective.


Jeff Husvar, who had the crazy idea to encourage a startup guy to try to be a media executive, and Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, who took the bait.

He’s not in the industry, but my father has most influenced my professional development. From an early age he taught me the importance of earning things, hard work, honesty, dedication and loyalty, all things that I try to apply to my life and my work.