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Volume 21 No. 1

People and Pop Culture

The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference named Kris Dunbar commissioner. Dunbar was athletic director at Lake Superior State University.

Hofstra University hired John Paris and Shane McKay as athletic facilities coordinators.

Southern University named Roman Banks athletic director. Banks was men’s basketball coach.

Texas A&M University hired Douglas Walker as senior associate athletic director for external affairs. Walker was senior associate athletic director for communications at the University of Alabama.

Wayne State University promoted Kelsey Meyers to assistant athletic director for compliance and NCAA liaison.

Western Illinois University hired Danielle Surprenant as senior associate athletic director for internal operations and senior woman administrator. Surprenant was associate athletic director for compliance and internal operations at Quincy University.

Combat Sports
UFC named Duncan French vice president of performance for the new UFC Performance Institute. French was as director of performance sciences and director of Olympic sport strength and conditioning at the University of Notre Dame.

The Pacific Pro Football League hired Thomas Goodhines as vice president of football administration. Goodhines was Arena Football League executive vice president.

Narrative Partners named Amy Gaskin head of partnership development. Gaskin was executive director of sports and entertainment marketing for JPMorgan Chase.

Primeview Americas hired David Delaplain as director of broadcast and media sales. Delaplain was regional sales manager for Vizrt Americas.

Multiteam Companies
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx hired Ryan Davenport as senior director of sales. Davenport was director of premium sales for New York City FC.

Monumental Sports & Entertainment hired Kate Bedingfield as vice president of communications. Bedingfield was deputy assistant to the president and communications director for former Vice President Joe Biden.

The USL’s Nashville Soccer Club hired Michael Schetzel as vice president of ticketing and sponsorship and James Cannon as vice president of marketing and communications.

Sporting Goods and Apparel
Columbia Sportswear named David Lawner senior vice president of North America direct-to-consumer.


Lagardère Sports promoted Keely O’Brien to Citi Open tournament director.

The U.S. Tennis Association hired Brian Boland as USTA player development head of men’s tennis. Boland is coach of the University of Virginia men’s tennis team.


Sportradar hired Ashok Balakrishnan as senior vice president of technology and product management for the U.S. market. Balakrishnan was technology and engineering director for digital production creation at Nike.

Awards and Boards
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts named Heidi Ueberroth, Pebble Beach Co. owner and director, to its board of directors.

The National Association of Sports Commissions named to the inaugural class of the National Association of Sports Commissions Sports Tourism Hall of Fame Hill Carrow of the Triangle Sports Commission, the late Kevin Gray of the Kansas City Sports Commission, the late Jack Hughes of the Gainesville (Fla.) Sports Commission, Diane McGraw of Pennsylvania Travel and Tourism, Tim Schneider of SportsTravel Magazine and the TEAMS Conference and Don Schumacher of the NASC staff.

Topgolf named Troy Alstead, former Starbucks chief operating officer and Harbor O5 founder and president, to its board of directors.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association named Bill Mudd, Churchill Downs Inc. president and chief operating officer, to its board of directors.

People news
To have your personnel announcements included in the People section, please send information and photos to Brandon McClung at 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202, or email them to Electronic photos must be a jpg or tiff file for Macintosh, 2.25 inches wide at 300 dpi. Color only, please. News items may also be sent via fax to (704) 973-1401. If you have questions, call (704) 973-1425.

Growing up in Boston, Nehme Abouzeid was a frequent pond hockey player and a Boston Bruins fan. But after more than 12 years working in the casino industry in Las Vegas for companies such as Wynn Las Vegas and Las Vegas Sands, the sport wasn’t at the top of his mind. That was until the NHL awarded a franchise to the city and owner Bill Foley. He quickly expressed his interest and became the Vegas Golden Knights’ first executive from the city when he was hired as senior vice president and chief marketing officer in November.

There are still people who think we have to sell 17,000 tickets to tourists every night. In fact, the tourists will be just the icing on the cake. There are enough people here to sustain two teams, and there is plenty of discretionary income because of the low tax rate. We’ve needed something to rally the community around here for a long time, and I think this team will be it.

On the buildup to the team’s launch next season: We have so much to do over the next two to three months, and almost all of it has to happen in lockstep. We’re building a marketing organization, while we’re working on events and our content strategy. In June, we’ve got two drafts, a jersey and a mascot unveil, as well as the opening of our retail store and our broader retail strategy. We’re also going to market on all of our sponsorship categories, finalizing our radio and TV deals and rolling out our foundation.

On the difference between the gaming and sports industries: Gaming is very collegial, but it’s extremely competitive. People don’t share data. They don’t share standard operating procedures. It’s a very tightly held industry. … Having the guide rails of the NHL has been really important, and the league office as well as all the teams has welcomed us into the family. They’ve … been extremely willing to provide assistance when asked.

On what sports could learn from the casino industry: Experiential marketing is still really an untapped area. Even though premium ticket sales do a lot of hand holding and touching, I think it hasn’t trickled down to all ticket holders. The casino industry does a really good job of one-to-one communication with guests, and I want to make sure we have that same approach.

On the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas: We gladly welcome them, and I think the 60,000-seat arena will be a game changer for the city and will benefit us all. The more high-profile events we have and the more international guests that come in to see them will only raise the profile of professional sports in Vegas.

                                                                                                                               — Ian Thomas

Fit for D.C. duty for fitness day

The Sports and Fitness Industry Association held its 18th annual National Health Through Fitness Day in Washington, D.C., on March 22. Celebrity athletes ranging from NFL players to Olympians held 100 meetings with more than 120 U.S. senators and representatives to discuss the Personal Health Investment Today Act.
SEME e-keynote

At the Sports Events Marketing Experience at American University in Washington, D.C.: SEME Executive Director Matt Winkler, American University director of sports analytics and management, and Tobias Sherman, global head of esports for WME-IMG.
Red-hot deal

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred with former MLB pitcher John Franco and Nathan’s Famous EVP Scott Harvey at a March 28 announcement of a deal making Nathan’s Famous the official hot dog of MLB.
Photo by: MLB
Caps for the class

Boston Red Sox President Sam Kennedy distributes baseball hats to students at the Hennigan School in Jamaica Plain, Mass. Kennedy visited the school March 27, a week before the team’s 2017 home opener.
Buckle up

PBR presented the Sioux Falls, S.D., mayor with a custom belt buckle March 31 to celebrate the First Premier Bank/Premier Bankcard Invitational and the circuit’s most successful regular-season weekend in ticket sales ever outside of the four PBR Majors and the PBR World Finals: First Premier Bank CEO Dana Dykhouse, PBR CEO Sean Gleason and Mayor Mike Huether.
Photo by: PBR
Donation drivers

Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver looks on as actress Emily Wilson, his co-host on “The Hero Effect,” speaks at the Driven to Achieve Awards presented by BMO Harris Bank at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee last month. Driver’s foundation and the awards have donated more than $1 million to charitable causes.
Women in Sports Night at studios

College students join Kelli Tennant, Jaime Maggio, Serena Winters and Lindsey Thiry on the Access SportsNet: Lakers set for Women in Sports Night. Spectrum SportsNet hosted a group of 28 sports administration, journalism and broadcast journalism students March 22 at the SportsNet studios in El Segundo, Calif.
Former VP visits 87ers

The Philadelphia 76ers’ D-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, devoted a night to the Beau Biden Foundation for a game against the Windy City Bulls on March 25: Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil, former Vice President Joe Biden, Beau Biden Foundation Executive Director Patricia Dailey Lewis and Delaware 87ers President Larry Meli.

Please submit photos for review of industry conferences, parties, product launches and openings showcasing the people and personalities at the event. Include the event date, location, names/titles of those featured along with credit information. The photo specifications are as follows: 300dpi, tiff, jpeg or eps color images. Submit digital photos for review at: or send color prints to: Faces & Places, c/o Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202.


The Double Eagle Club is normally quiet on Wednesday afternoon before the Masters. Most of the guests go to the golf course to watch the Par-3 Tournament.

But with it raining sideways the day before golf’s opening major, patrons were hustling back to the Double Eagle’s hospitality facility across the street from Augusta National to dry out.

“Tornado party. Who needs a drink?” the Double Eagle bartender shouted.

Long before swanky Berckmans Place debuted on Augusta National property or any of the hospitality houses that line Washington Road in Augusta came along, there was the Double Eagle Club, founded in 1992 by the Chicago agency Intersport.

Now in its 26th year, the high-end hospitality at Double Eagle is a Masters institution. On the Wednesday before the tournament, guests ranged from pro golfer Colin Montgomerie to TV analyst and event management company founder Peter Jacobsen, ESPN executive Burke Magnus, and a covey of Under Armour higher-ups.

The guy who leads it all is Charlie Besser, who founded Intersport 31 years ago. With the buzz of the “tornado party” behind him and rain pelting the windows of the Double Eagle, Besser talked for nearly an hour about his favorite Masters memories, Intersport’s broad horizon and why he’s never been tempted by offers to sell the company.

Hospitality is a sliver of Intersport’s business, Besser says, but its hospitality space across from Augusta National is a keeper. “We’ll always do this,” he says.
I think about being introduced here for the first time by Ken Venturi in 1991, and I had lunch at Augusta National because of his introduction. I went over to ask their permission to produce a one-hour television show previewing the Masters.

I thought it was a 1-in-1,000 shot, but as I got up from the table, they said, “Charlie, we’re going to do this.” I was shocked. I didn’t walk out of the building, I floated out.

After I had been on the golf course for the first time, I noticed that there was no on-course hospitality. So I called Augusta National and asked if they had any intention of creating something. They said absolutely not. Then I asked if they’d mind if I did it. They said go for it.

The first year we called it the Augusta Club — they didn’t like that. So I sent over three names and let them pick, and they picked Double Eagle Club, so Augusta National actually named it. That’s how we started.

We did two years of “SportsCenter” live from Double Eagle, early, early on. … Most people don’t know this, but I was sitting here with (former ESPN executive) John Wildhack one day and realized that nobody at ESPN knew anyone at Augusta National, so I arranged a lunch and made the introduction, which led to ESPN getting the rights. It only took 10 years from the lunch until the time they were awarded the rights.

I remember Ricky Barnes, as a student at the University of Arizona, and he’s leading the golf tournament. He comes running across the street and asks if we had any computers. He said, “I’ve got a paper due and I thought I’d be going home.”

Half of [Intersport’s] business is sponsorship and event marketing and half of our business is media-based — content, whether in the form of live events, short-form digital or television. Hospitality is less than 1 percent of our business. Now, we’re never giving up the Double Eagle. We’ll always do this, but it’s really more of an outgrowth of our business. The people who are here are our partners, like ESPN, CBS, Under Armour, KPMG, on and on.

One thing we’re doing is opening this for the Peach Jam [summer basketball showcase]. So many college coaches go to that and there’s no place for them to go. It’ll be a blast to have those guys in here.

We’ve been able to help a number of charities because when you offer a trip to the Masters at a charity auction, those go for a lot of money. We’re well north of $5 million for charity by donating Masters trips.

We look at our business almost like a private equity. We’ve got really stable businesses, and then we decide what we’re going to invest in. Our big investments are in leadership, culinary and esports. When we invest in something, it’s like creating a new vertical.

We’ll do culinary events, culinary content, short-form digital, programming, marketing-based tours, experiential. It almost becomes a company unto itself. We’re doing the same thing with leadership. It’s a huge space. And in esports, we’ll do the same thing — national events, tons of content. Television, we’ll have to see how that works. We’re testing and learning that space; it’s very complicated. But everyone wants to have a conversation about esports.

Fear is the way the universe shows you the path. Every time I’ve been afraid of something, and I mustered the courage to do it, it was 100 percent the way to go. And when I cave to my fears, I feel miserable.

My idols are guys like Rupert Murdoch, who’s getting it done at 84. I don’t know what else I would do. I love our people. It keeps me young being around so many smart people.