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Volume 21 No. 30
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Shapiro to drive IMG’s content creation

Growing up together in Chicago, Mark Shapiro and Ari Emanuel never knew they would wind up working together. But as they each pursued their professional dreams — the former in sports, the latter in entertainment — a passion for creating content brought them closer and closer together.

Shapiro has advised WME on media acquisitions.
Photo by: IMG
Last week, Emanuel and WME-IMG co-CEO Patrick Whitesell named Shapiro to a new position as IMG’s chief content officer. It’s a job all three executives consider critical to the company’s future.

To make their $2.4 billion acquisition of IMG work, Emanuel and Whitesell believe that the company will need to generate new revenue from content creation and distribution. They believe the demand for live and scripted entertainment worldwide means that the combined company’s biggest opportunity for growth will be as a media company. They want to take existing IMG events such as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and the models it represents and marry it with shows WME has created, like “Project Runway” and “America’s Top Model.”

Shapiro, who spent 12 years at ESPN and built a production division at Dick Clark Entertainment, will be at the center of those efforts. He will have no direct reports and be given free rein to create and contribute ideas for new programming and content IMG can develop and sell by using its roster of clients and events.

He will work out of the New York City office formerly used by outgoing IMG Sports & Entertainment President George Pyne and report to Emanuel and Whitesell.

“Mark’s expertise will help us evolve our content, digital and production strategies across IMG’s Events & Media, Fashion and Models businesses globally and create new revenue streams,” Emanuel and Whitesell said in a statement.

Shapiro, 44, distinguished himself as a young executive at ESPN, where he worked on production, programming development and acquisition. He rose quickly through the production side of the business and led ESPN’s “SportsCentury” project in the late 1990s, which included a series of documentaries on the 50 greatest athletes of the 20th century.

He later became executive vice president of programming and production and played a central role in pushing ESPN to improve its programming slate. Much of his work is reflected in ESPN’s afternoon programming, including “PTI” and “Around The Horn.” He also drove the company’s move into original content and spearheaded the fictional NFL drama “Playmakers,” one of the more controversial programs ESPN ever aired.

“Mark is a dynamic leader who brings great energy and passion to whatever he’s involved with,” said Traug Keller, ESPN senior vice president, production, business divisions. “His experience and innovative thinking will serve him and IMG well in this new role.”

After leaving ESPN in 2005, Shapiro served as CEO of Six Flags Entertainment Corp., which declared bankruptcy in 2009. He subsequently became CEO of Dick Clark Productions where he collaborated with the NFL to create its NFL Honors event the night before the Super Bowl.

Both Six Flags and Dick Clark Productions were controlled by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

Shapiro knew Emanuel growing up in Chicago and stayed close to him throughout his career. Emanuel reportedly advised Shapiro during his discussions with Time Warner Inc. about potentially becoming president of CNN Worldwide.

Shapiro has been working as an adviser to WME on media acquisitions for more than a year. He advised the company on its acquisition of IMG, and a source close to the company said he discussed the possibility of becoming CEO of IMG. But Emanuel and Whitesell instead created the new chief content officer position.

In addition to that job, he will continue to serve as a director on the boards of Live Nation Entertainment, Frontier Communications and Papa John’s International.