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Volume 21 No. 39
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Diversity of backgrounds, success shapes Champions

Diversity comes in all forms, particularly in terms of leadership. Typically associated with a minority group, diversity also can encompass different ways of thinking and reaching for your goals. This year’s class of The Champions: Pioneers & Innovators in Sports Business is no better illustration.

It’s a diverse bunch in the ways they’ve reached the pinnacle of each one’s corner of the industry. From the man who made baseball great in Canada, to one you didn’t want to have to face in negotiations; from the guy everyone goes to if they want to buy a team, to a woman who figured out cable television long before anyone else; from an entrepreneur who became one of the architects of the boom in college multimedia rights, to a leader who has fought for justice, and excellence, in sports for more than 50 years — this year’s Champions are a diverse and interesting lot.

In its ninth year, Champions recognizes the architects and builders of sports. This year’s recipients are:

Paul Beeston was the first employee of the Toronto Blue Jays, hired in 1976. He went on to play as big a role in the history of the franchise as anyone, serving two stints as Blue Jays president, from 1989 to 1997 and again from 2008 to 2015. Sandwiched in between was a five-year run as president of Major League Baseball. Currently president emeritus of the Blue Jays, Beeston led the club to back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and ’93, and even doubled as president of the CFL Toronto Argonauts in 1994.

As co-head of the Sports Law Group at Proskauer, Howard Ganz has been at the center of nearly every sports labor negotiation for the last 25 years. Ganz has been principal outside counsel for the NBA for more than 25 years, advising the league on collective-bargaining matters with both players and referees. Ganz also has represented Major League Baseball in its CBA negotiations with both players and umpires. Equally important, Ganz’s group at Proskauer also represents the NFL, NHL, Major League Soccer and the ATP and WTA tours, putting his leadership at the heart of virtually every significant sports labor matter in the U.S.

If you were looking to buy or sell a pro sports team in the last 20 years, you probably talked to Sal Galatioto. He has overseen more than 80 sales across all major U.S. sports leagues, working with such organizations as the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Washington Redskins and Golden State Warriors. Before forming Galatioto Sports Partners in 2005, Galatioto was managing director of Lehman Brothers’ Sports Advisory & Finance Group, which he founded in 2001. Before that, he established Societe Generale’s Sports Advisory Group in 1997.

When Kay Koplovitz founded USA Network under the banner of Madison Square Garden Sports in 1977, she was the first female executive to head a television network. With it, she also was on the innovative edge of cable TV by introducing the concept of two revenue streams — licensing and advertising. Koplovitz launched major sports on cable by negotiating the first contracts for the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, the Masters and a collection of college sports, helping push the network to first place in prime-time cable ratings, where it stayed for 14 years.

Ben Sutton helped create the college sports multimedia business model that has boomed in recent years when he founded ISP Sports in 1992. Sutton served as chairman and CEO of ISP until selling the company to IMG for $100 million in 2010. He then was chairman and CEO of IMG College, the largest college sports sponsorship and media company in the U.S., until 2015. When IMG was sold to Silver Lake Partners in 2014, its college unit was the market leader in media, licensing, ticketing and stadium seating, working with more than 225 schools and other college properties.

John Wooten has pushed social change across sports for more than 50 years, all the way back to spearheading athlete support of Muhammad Ali in 1967, a movement documented by the famous photo of Ali flanked by Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other top athletes of the day, including Wooten. Currently chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which works with the NFL on minority hiring, Wooten spent 10 years in the NFL as a player before becoming a highly respected scout from the 1970s through the 2000s. That included being director of pro scouting for the Dallas Cowboys from 1975 to 1991, a stretch in which he helped build rosters that won multiple Super Bowls.

SportsBusiness Journal/Daily will tell the stories of each honoree in separate issues throughout the months of February, March and April. In addition, the Champions will be honored April 17 at the CAA World Congress of Sports in Los Angeles.


• Jerry Colangelo
• Jim Host
• Ron Labinski
• Donna Lopiano
• Neal Pilson
• Tony Ponturo
• Val Ackerman
• Deane Beman
• Barry Frank
• Marvin Miller
• Bill Rasmussen
• Alan Rothenberg

• Bill Battle
• Don Ohlmeyer
• Steve Sabol
• Ed Snider
• Judy Sweet
• Humpy Wheeler

• Donald Dell
• Rosa Gatti
• Roy Kramer
• Harvey Schiller
• Ron Shapiro
• Pat Williams

• Joan Cronan
• Wayne Embry
• Rick Hendrick
• Mike Ilitch
• Verne Lundquist
• Bill Schmidt

• Donna de Varona
• Len Elmore
• David Falk
• Russ Granik
• Tom Jernstedt
• Mike Trager

• Joseph Cohen
• Jeremy Jacobs
• Bob Lanier
• Roger Penske
• Jerry Richardson
• Lesley Visser

• DeLoss Dodds
• Bill Giles
• Ed Goren
• Larry Levy
• George Raveling
• Janet Marie Smith