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Volume 20 No. 46

People and Pop Culture

We talked with Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman about some of the issues facing sports.

A couple of highlights:

Biggest challenge for the industry: "The issue that everyone is focusing on is disruption in the television business. The possibility that that could have significant ramifications for sports properties of all kinds is in the back of everyone's mind."

What should the industry do better?: "Diversifying the management and leadership ranks. I've been in the business for almost 30 years now, and some days I smile at how far things have come, and other days I shake my head a bit because I think much more can be done."

Ripken Baseball hired Amanda Shank as director of strategic partnerships. Shank was senior manager of licensing and business development for the NFL Players Association.

The Atlanta Hawks moved Jon Steinberg to senior director of media relations, Jon Babul to vice president of basketball development, RaShauna Hobbs to senior manager of community basketball programs, Lauren Arum to senior manager of talent relations, Rob Calia to senior manager of event production, Megan Ryan to vice president of marketing strategy and Amy Serino to senior director of merchandising.

The Dallas Wings named Charles Johnson senior vice president of corporate partnerships. Johnson was manager of corporate partnerships for the Dallas Cowboys.

The Sacramento Kings named Brandon Williams assistant general manager. Williams was vice president of basketball administration for the Philadelphia 76ers.

ESPN promoted Marcia Keegan to vice president of national radio programming and production.

FuboTV named Ben Grad head of content strategy and acquisition for North America. Grad was executive director of content strategy and acquisition for Verizon.

Learfield hired Ryan Cook as general manager of its Cleveland State Sports Properties division. Cook was assistant athletic director of corporate partnerships for Seattle University.

The Players’ Tribune named Matt Campbell senior vice president of product and technology. Campbell was senior vice president of product for NowThis.

Univision promoted Steven Mandala to president of advertising sales and marketing.

Multiteam Corporations
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment hired Pawel Brzezinski as Barclays Center vice president of hospitality and promoted Keith Sheldon to executive vice president of programming, Kari Cohen to vice president and deputy general counsel, and Mandy Gutmann to vice president of communications.

Kauffman Sports Management Group named Ashley Gomez marketing coordinator.

Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties promoted Kelli Yeloushan to director of event management, Tripp Turbiville to director of service and operations; Rhett Blewitt to assistant general manager of event operations at USF’s Sun Dome, and Bill Abercrombie to executive vice president of business development, corporate partnership and activation. The company also named Randy Younker director of USF athletics partnership.

Aspen Skiing Co. Chief Operating Officer David Perry has left the company.

Louisville City FC hired Brad Estes as executive vice president and Steve Livingstone as chief operating officer. Estes was president of Neace Ventures, and Livingstone was president of the Jacksonville Armada.

The Colorado Rapids promoted Padraig Smith to interim general manager and vice president of business operations and Wayne Brant to interim chief business officer.

Sporting Goods and Apparel
Dick’s Sporting Goods hired Scott Hudler senior vice president and chief marketing officer. Hudler was senior vice president and chief digital officer at Dunkin’ Brands.

Nike promoted Monique Matheson to executive vice president of global human resources.

VICIS hired David Auckland as chief financial officer. Auckland was finance director for Amazon.

UFC hired Mike Newquist as vice president of event marketing and promoted Stacey Allen to vice president of consumer products and Briana Mattison to vice president of athlete health and performance.

Awards and Boards
The M&A Advisor named Park Lane Senior Vice President Sean Clemens a recipient of the Emerging Leaders Award.

The Tourette Association of America added Julie Haddon, NFL senior vice president of marketing, to its board of directors.

The NCAA Division I Committee on Academics added Ursula Gurney, University of Missouri-Kansas City, senior associate athletic director for internal operations and senior woman administrator.

The National Hot Rod Association added media consultant Ed Desser 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.

Dodgers salute the Olympics

The LA84 Foundation and the Los Angeles Dodgers held Olympics Night at Dodger Stadium on July 20. From left: Adam Duvendeck, John Moffett, Craig Lincoln, Tai Babalonia, LA84 President and CEO Renata Simril, Lisa Fernandez, Sam the Eagle, Katherine Starr, Rusty Smith with (front row) LA84 SAMbassadors.
Mayweather-McGregor World Tour

Floyd Mayweather with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark on July 13 at the Barclays Center for the only East Coast stop on the Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor World Tour.
Ascendent’s Honig visits Tokyo

Peter Honig, vice president of corporate and property consulting for Ascendent Sports Group, served as special guest speaker at Ritsumeikan University in Tokyo for J.League’s “Sports Human Capital” event. Honig was joined by Noriko Takubo, Tsutomu Nishino, Takehiko Nakamura, Tadashi Nakamura and Ryotaro Yamamoto.
NBA gathers female GMs

The NBA held a league meeting in Las Vegas for its female general managers: Kim Stone of AmericanAirlines Arena and Miami Heat, Amanda Mann of the Portland Trail Blazers and Rose Quarter, Mel Raines of Indiana Pacers Sports & Entertainment and Donna Julian of the Charlotte Hornets and Spectrum Center.
Home Run Derby in Miami

Pitbull joined Charles Johnston, Select Artists Associates president, and Boris Menier, Miami Marlins marketing manager, at Marlins Park for last month’s Home Run Derby, where he was one of the musical guests. SAA teamed up with MLB as technical producer for the All-Star Weekend’s musical entertainment.
‘Uncle Verne’ joins AAC Summer Kickoff

CBS Sports broadcaster Verne Lundquist, with SMU head football coach Chad Morris, hosted the American Athletic Conference Summer Kickoff and media day July 17-18 at Gurney’s Newport Resort and Marina in Rhode Island.
Seahawks’ Sherman at WNBA All-Star Game

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman attended the Verizon WNBA All-Star Game July 22 in Seattle.

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Robins is prepping the daily fantasy site for the all-important NFL season.
The last two years have been turbulent for DraftKings and the rest of the daily fantasy sports industry. After high-profile legal and legislative battles, DraftKings and FanDuel spent more than a year pursuing a merger, only to run into stiff resistance from the Federal Trade Commission. The pair recently dropped the proposed union and went their separate ways. That means trying to revive growth in an unprofitable daily fantasy business that essentially had plateaued, prepare for the all-important upcoming NFL season, and reposition the games as a means of fan engagement as opposed to strictly selling the opportunity to win money. DraftKings co-founder and CEO Jason Robins spoke with staff writer Eric Fisher last week in New York regarding the ongoing transitions in his business.

■ What are your reflections on the attempt to merge with FanDuel now that the process is over?
While certainly I wanted to do the merger and I’m not going to sit here and try to write revisionist history, there were some people at the company, on the board, that were growing ambivalent about the merger, and I think to some degree were relieved [it didn’t happen]. There’s a decent chance that we end up looking back and saying this was a good outcome and that we’re glad that it didn’t proceed and that it worked out well for us. … And while I personally wanted this, it wasn’t a no doubt, unanimous no-brainer.

■ You’re getting ready to debut a new marketing campaign that spotlights the fun aspects of daily fantasy as opposed to simply the prize aspect. How are you viewing that?
It’s more about having this properly understood. Part of that is our fault, and the way that we approached the marketing didn’t really tell the whole story and it was very one-dimensional. We’ve done a lot of research among our users, what they like about playing, what was true about DraftKings and what wasn’t. And yes, we still have some work to do on the product, but a lot of this is really just a messaging issue and a perception issue, and that takes time to change.

■ What is your current funding situation?
We raised a big chunk of money [about $100 million] during the merger process, so we’re good. We did that five or six months ago and we have plenty of cash right now. But we’re always opportunistic, and if an interesting deal is out there with an investor that would be strategically helpful, we’re open to it. But we don’t need it.

■ FanDuel recently introduced a season-long fantasy football product. Do you have any plans to do something similar?
What we’re trying to do may result in something that is seasonlong, but it may not. We try to look at people who are playing seasonlong and aren’t playing our current games, what they’re saying, and what they’re getting out of that experience. So it’s a question of what kind of product can we create to satisfy that experience. And if that leads us to launching a season-long product, then we will. But I don’t think you have to prescribe that.

■ How will you define success for DraftKings at the end of the upcoming NFL season?
Three things: First, really successful execution of all the new product initiatives we’re rolling out and getting great results there. Second, a very successful branding and marketing campaign that is effective both bringing in new customers and evolving some of the perceptions around daily fantasy that are important to address. And third, putting really good plans in place so that while the rest of the team is executing against the NFL season, we know exactly what investments we’re going to make looking forward and what key initiatives we’re going to focus on in 2018.


Topgolf is playing its own version of speedgolf.

The company, which has 30 of its golf entertainment complexes in the U.S. and three in the U.K., will open eight new facilities this year and in April announced plans to open 10 locations in Mexico over the next eight years. A Topgolf location in Queensland, Australia, is scheduled to open in 2018.

Topgolf’s first U.S. facility opened in Alexandria, Va., in 2005, but its presence has grown rapidly in the last three years. Nine new locations opened in 2015 and seven more debuted last year.

Topgolf recently continued its fast-paced U.S. expansion with the launch of its first location in Charlotte in mid-June.

The location projects 450,000 visitors over its first year.

The Charlotte facility features 102 hitting bays across 65,000 square feet over three levels. Topgolf hired more than 500 employees for the Charlotte location, which also includes 3,000 square feet of private event space.

Erik Anderson, Topgolf Entertainment co-chairman and chief executive officer, said it took 18 months to open the Charlotte facility. If a second location planned for north of the city goes forward, Charlotte would become one of a handful of cities to have multiple Topgolf venues — Houston, Dallas and Phoenix are the others.

Even as the company moves quickly to grow, however, there’s such a thing as playing too fast, Anderson said. “We have to pay careful attention not to overbuild,” he said.

— Josh Carpenter

The Charlotte facility features 102 hitting bays across 65,000 square of feet of space. Players score points by hitting targets.
Amenities such as pool tables add to the entertainment.
The hitting bays provide seating and multiple monitors.
Beverages from the bar are part of Topgolf’s social atmosphere.
If approved for a second facility north of town, Charlotte would become the fourth city to have multiple Topgolf locations.