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