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Volume 21 No. 26
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Ponturo, Turnkey to launch executive coaching division

Longtime Anheuser-Busch media and sports marketing chief Tony Ponturo is joining Turnkey Sports & Entertainment to help it establish a new executive coaching division.

“Even senior management has to keep learning,” Ponturo said. “Just keeping up with the content and distribution changes in this business can be daunting. Our proposition is essentially that for the cost of a middle manager, you can have us for a year, make your people more productive and happier, which is going to move your business in the right direction.”

Turnkey President and CEO Len Perna said that while he’s known Ponturo for decades, he contacted him about the executive coaching opportunity after Ponturo wrote an opinion piece in SportsBusiness Journal earlier this year (see July 18-24 issue) advocating building corporate culture over exclusively building the bottom line. In it, Ponturo wrote, “Let’s not lose respect for the people side of this business.”

Perna likened Ponturo’s role to a “horse whisperer for executives” and identified likely targets for the service as teams, leagues, media outlets and brands.

“Executive coaching has become big in corporate America, but it’s not something used extensively yet in sports and entertainment,” Perna said. “As we’ve seen younger people get to the C-level positions, they have the skill sets, they understand the Xs and Os, but they are often lacking in leadership and team-building skills. For senior management, there’s always the question of who you see for counsel when you’re at the top. We think Tony can be that voice.”

Perna said his model for the practice is Bill Campbell, the deceased former chairman of Columbia University’s board, who was a confidant and coach for many Silicon Valley leaders, including Steve Jobs of Apple and Eric Schmidt of Google.

Ponturo also will assist with Turnkey Intelligence, the firm’s research division, where he will carry an executive vice president/strategy title.

Ponturo is well-known from his 26-year tenure at Anheuser-Busch, where he oversaw the company’s sports marketing and media strategy. He left the company in 2008 and turned his attention largely to entertainment, producing “Lombardi” and “Magic/Bird” on Broadway and “Bronx Bombers” for off-Broadway. Ponturo is teaching a course called “Leadership for Crisis Situations” this fall at New York University, and hopes to turn “Lombardi” into a movie.