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Volume 23 No. 28
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After 27 years at ESPN, Matalon finds a new fit

Just a few weeks after he was laid off by ESPN in October, Gerry Matalon met with former ESPN President George Bodenheimer in a small Connecticut coffee shop. Like many of the more than 300 ESPN employees who lost their jobs in October, Matalon was a longtime employee who lived and breathed everything Bristol. He never seriously considered working elsewhere.

MATALON
Matalon worked at ESPN for 27 years, most recently as a senior coordinating producer of talent planning and development. He reached out to Bodenheimer for advice on the best way to approach his job search.
Bodenheimer was reassuring, of course. But it was two tips that he dropped that stuck with Matalon: Exploit your contacts and be patient.

“I handled the first one well,” Matalon said. “I didn’t do so well on the second one. I can’t be patient.”

Matalon wound up using his contacts to land a job as executive vice president of talent development for Playbook Inc., where he’ll head up the agency’s talent development business. Matalon became friendly with Playbook founder and CEO Reed Bergman over the previous two decades as they negotiated talent deals. Now, the two will sit on the same side of the table.

Bergman said he jumped at the chance to hire such an experienced executive, saying he was impressed with Matalon’s ability to develop and teach on-air talent at ESPN.

“I know what I personally like on TV and radio, but I’m not an expert; I was never in the production business,” Bergman said. “We want to give our clients a blueprint for how to be successful in media, and Gerry will help with that.”

Matalon’s role at the agency will be to identify talent, build relationships with networks, get involved in negotiations, and provide coaching support to Playbook’s clients. He will be based in Connecticut and work closely with Kristin LaFemina, executive vice president of client services, whom Playbook hired from Pac-12 Networks two years ago.

“He will be involved in every part of the process,” Bergman said.

For Matalon, who successfully tapped into his relationships, the move allows him to build off his role at ESPN.

“The biggest attraction to this job is the comfort level I have with these guys,” Matalon said. “And they are giving me the opportunity to stretch beyond my comfort level. It all seems like a good fit.”

— John Ourand