Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 22 No. 19
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

With buyouts, Fox Sports communications losing familiar names

Fox Sports’ communications department will see a change due to the company’s buyouts. Three of its highest-ranking and longest-serving executives — with a combined 61 years of Fox Sports experience — accepted the package and are leaving the company.

Senior vice president Lou D’Ermilio (who started in 1994), vice president Dan Bell (1995) and director Ileana Pena (1998) will leave the network next week, ending a spectacular two-decade run that saw the trio handle communications for Fox Sports since the division’s launch.

Two other communications executives also left Fox Sports in recent weeks. Camellia Senemar took a job working for Facebook, and Emily Parker took a job working for the Cincinnati Bengals last month.

Longtime Fox Sports communications execs Dan Bell (left) and Lou D’Ermilio (right) with ESPN’s Chris LaPlaca
Photo by: COURTESY OF FOX SPORTS
It’s going to take some time to get used to calling Fox and not hearing D’Ermilio’s voice on the other end of the line. D’Ermilio started at Fox Sports 22 years ago after being hired from CBS by longtime PR pro Vince Wladika. D’Ermilio quickly became the calm one compared with Wladika’s feisty personality — the yin and the yang.

“Vince operates on a crisis du jour — everything with Vince was always at DEFCON 5,” said former Fox Sports Chairman David Hill. “Lou has always had a wonderful ability to defuse situations.”

Wladika laughed as he recalled his many shouting matches with USA Today media reporter Rudy Martzke during the late 1990s, usually over stories Fox Sports did not like. After each fight, Martzke would wind up calling D’Ermilio to help smooth things out with Wladika.

Fox executives came to appreciate D’Ermilio’s demeanor, especially when he became agitated. Wladika told a story from June 1998, when The New York Times hockey reporter Joe Lapointe wrote several scathing articles ripping Fox’s much-maligned glowing hockey puck.

D’Ermilio reached the end of his rope after another negative story from the writer and wrote a well-thought-out 447-word letter to the editor that the Times published. The letter started out by calling a paragraph in the story “the most preposterous collection of sentences I’ve read in the sports section,” and ended with the line, “With apologies to Bill Carter and Richard Sandomir, why doesn’t The Times return Lapointe to the role of television critic, which he obviously misses greatly?”

“We all started calling him Louie the Letter after that,” Wladika said.

When D’Ermilio officially ends his run next week, Fox Sports is going to miss him and the institutional knowledge he’s collected. Like most other sports media reporters, I spoke with D’Ermilio almost every day. We’ve had our differences — both over stories I’ve written and ones I didn’t write.

But I always appreciate D’Ermilio’s candor — I always know where I stand with him.

That’s a sentiment that former Fox executives echo.

“We were a family,” said former Fox Sports President Ed Goren. “We all felt the same passion for the place.”

For example, Goren recalled Game 4 of the 1996 World Series, when the Braves jumped out to a 6-0 lead, threatening to take a 3-1 Series lead. Pulling for a long series, Goren moved D’Ermilio from seat to seat in the production compound, waiting for the communications executive to find the lucky seat for the Yankees to stage a comeback.

The Yankees scored three runs in the sixth, leading Goren to tell D’Ermilio to remain in that chair for the remainder of the game, which the Yankees wound up winning 8-6 in 10 innings.

“We lived every tenth of a ratings point,” Goren said. “I’ve been accused of worrying a lot about ratings and Fox Sports. But I have to believe that I finished second in that category to Lou. He worried about everything.”

Goren laughed as he told a story of instructing D’Ermilio to go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to pick up candles that the network would use during its Stanley Cup Final coverage.

“We would light them in our bunker whenever we needed the score to change,” Goren said. “All it ever got us was four-game sweeps.”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.