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Volume 22 No. 35
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CSM chief Zak Brown will resign at year’s end

Zak Brown, who led CSM Sport & Entertainment’s expansion into the U.S. over the past 18 months, is leaving his post as CEO at the end of the year, sources said.

Brown’s resignation could clear the path for him to take a leadership position in the Formula One racing series, a move that has been long-rumored in racing circles.

BROWN
When reached last week, Brown would not comment on his impending departure from London-based CSM, where he had been chief executive since March 2015. In that role, Brown was charged with establishing a stronger foothold in the U.S.

The CSM Group is a collection of 14 specialist agencies around the globe. Only three of them — motorsports agency Just Marketing International, consulting shop SJX Partners and newly acquired events company JHE Production — have a domestic base and focus.

In the time that Brown has overseen CSM, it bought JHE in February and in July installed former Octagon COO Jeff Shifrin as its head of North America.

It remains to be seen if CSM, which is now owned by Providence Equity Partners, will replace Brown’s position as group CEO or if the structure will change. Sources said that Brown, who founded Just Marketing and is considered one of the power players across F1, IndyCar and NASCAR racing, will stay on through the end of the year to ease the transition.

The reason and timing for Brown’s resignation are uncertain, but racing insiders who have known the veteran marketer and driver for 20-plus years say, at heart, he’s a motorsports guy. He owns United Autosports, a GT and sports car racing team that also restores and maintains classic cars, including his own collection of vintage race cars.

Brown, who drove competitively in the late 1980s and ’90s, never truly retired from driving and still jumps behind the wheel on occasion. But in the early 2000s, he turned his attention to building JMI and earned a reputation as one of the top dealmakers in motorsports, representing blue-chip brands such as Subway, UPS and Verizon, among others.

Chime Communications, CSM’s parent company, eventually bought JMI for $76 million in 2013, which led to Brown’s position atop CSM. He has maintained the title of executive chairman with JMI.

Those close to Brown have called F1’s top position his dream job and some transition is expected since Colorado-based Liberty Media bought F1 earlier this month for $4.4 billion. Chase Carey, executive vice president of 21st Century Fox, was appointed F1’s chairman, while CEO Bernie Ecclestone remains in the same position. What happens next with the 85-year-old Ecclestone has been the subject of mass speculation since the Liberty deal was announced.

If Brown does find his way to F1, it probably won’t happen until 2017 at the earliest, sources said.