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Volume 21 No. 22
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Sports executives share their memories of SportsBusiness Journal’s launch

“For me it was hope over reason; I hoped it would last. I was rooting for you because you always could read others, such as Ad Age, Ad Week, Multichannel News, Amusement Business, Variety, Forbes, Fortune and Business Week. Here was the birth of the publication that would do it in more detail with regular assigned reporters who would know how to address new developments in context as opposed to the daily newspapers or sport magazines who dealt with current events without historical context. SBJ has brought the importance of sports into a central place for all the industry to gather around and made conferences a thing.”

— David Stern, former NBA commissioner

 

“I had my doubts that there was enough of a need for SBJ and whether financially it was viable because of the relatively small amount of people in the industry who would be following it through SportsBusiness Journal. In retrospect, it seems like a no-brainer because the sports world and the sports business world has become such an enormous industry to the tune of billions of dollars. At the time, I thought that it was going to have a tough go to achieve the kind of distribution and the kind of readership that was necessary to support it. I give the founders and the current team a lot of credit for really covering our industry in a first-class way — breaking stories, covering stories and really giving excellent content and perspective to the industry that we’re all involved in.”

— Sean McManus, CBS Sports chairman


“At first, everyone wondered what SBJ was going to be. It did serve this purpose nothing else did of recapping everything across an industry that was a bit disjointed. It brought everything together and created a voice, which ultimately made the industry smarter by sharing best practices. Soon, you had really prominent people battling for their spot in the top 50 sports executives. I can remember some irascible people saying, ‘Why does SBJ have this strong a voice?’ But ultimately, it has been real journalism, so people had to respect it. You only last that long as a publication if you are trustworthy, and credible. SBJ has been, so it deserves a pat on the back.”

— Tony Ponturo, executive VP of strategy, Turnkey Sports; former Anheuser-Busch InBev vice president of global media and sports marketing

 

“I loved the idea as soon as I heard it as it was going to save me many hours reading a multitude of publications. SBJ has become a must-read within the sports industry, and the influence SBJ wields within the industry certainly is a tribute to everyone involved over the past two decades. During a time when the print media market has been turned on its head in a great many ways, SBJ has flourished because of what it provides to the always-expanding niche market of sports.”

— Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox

 

“The impact of SportsBusiness Journal has been amazing in creating transparency in terms of what sports business is and information about how the sports business operates. What are the skill sets? What are the opportunities for talent and for organizations? It opened up the playing field, the marketplace, in a sense for easier entry by startup organizations and easier entry for talented people. Twenty years ago, people would ask me, ‘How do I even understand what sports business is and how do I prepare for a career in sports business?’ SportsBusiness Journal … has lowered the barriers of entry. It has increased the transparency and openness, allowing far greater ease of entry by new organizations and by talented individuals. People say to me, ‘I’d love to have a career in sports business. What should I do? Where should I start?’ The first thing you should do is get a subscription to the SportsBusiness Journal and learn what the sports industry is. Understand it’s not just about teams and athletes. It’s about facilities. It’s about distribution. It’s global.”

— Paul Tagliabue, former NFL commissioner

 

“My mentor — the late Pete Rozelle — used to tell me that any news story that included a dollar sign about the NFL or its teams was a negative story for the league. Pete believed that stories about NFL money — whether player contracts, franchise valuations, TV contracts, etc. — only turned off our fans. The earlier generation of NFL owners, who in many cases were not as visible to our fans as today’s more publicized owners, agreed with Pete on that point.

“With that as background, when SBJ was started with an emphasis on the business of sports, the financial business of sports, I as SVP of NFL communications was not SBJ’s most avid reader nor enthusiastic supporter in those early days. However, as the years went by, I listened to sports business friends of mine who swore by the info in SBJ. I usually only swore at the publication. Those business friends were part of a new wave of sports marketing and advertising execs and not as intimately involved in the day-to-day activities of the major leagues as I was. They found the SBJ stories fascinating and informative … and still do.

“As the publication has matured, it focuses in my opinion less on dollar signs and more on the scores of individuals and organizations that are part of the sports and entertainment community. I think that’s a good thing. The SBJ awards show in New York each spring is a fitting tribute to those business men and women who help drive professional and amateur sports.”

— Joe Browne, former executive VP of communications and public affairs, NFL

 

“I hoped SBJ would be successful because its news is important to me and informative for my company and team. It’s one of the few publications that writes specifically for the industry.”

— Jeremy Jacobs, chairman of Delaware North, owner of the Boston Bruins

 

“For me, it was interesting because it was kind of like the sports industry was happening but not really communicated about or a topic of conversation other than when a team wanted a new building or to renovate. So what SBJ did was put it as a fresh topic and one of the first things in people’s minds in terms of, ‘What are people doing with their venues?’ (SBJ) kind of facilitated this overall development through the Daily and Journal; you enabled a lot of what happened by reporting on the stories, reporting on what happened, identifying who did it and then every client chose their own path. I think we still would have done all the projects we did, but probably not in the time period we did, because you gave a voice to this market.”

— Earl Santee, founder and senior principal, Populous

 

“It was genius, really, considering the popularity and the business of sports. Between our own business areas and the number of sponsors we maintain between our tournaments and marketing partners, we saw a real opportunity to tell our business story and the value we provide.”

— Tim Finchem, former PGA Tour commissioner

 

“I’m interested in people. At the end of the day, we’re all in the people business. Over the years, SBJ has done a tremendous job shining a light on the ‘who’ of our industry. It’s something we never had before.”

— Rick Hendrick, owner, Hendrick Motorsports

 

“I loved SportsBusiness Daily and had been reading it since it debuted in 1994. I remember meeting with [Publisher] Richard [Weiss] as he was making the rounds to the various leagues to discuss a new weekly magazine that would provide an in-depth look at our business. The sports industry is relatively insular and I believed then as I do now that sharing news and information and connecting those that have committed their lives to the business was important. And while daily news was and is important, the in-depth approach of the Journal provides the insights and deeper dive into events and stories that are equally valuable.

“I know I speak for many leaders in our industry when I say that the Daily and the Journal is a must-read for anyone in the business … from someone entering the industry, to those that have witnessed the evolution and growth of the business for the last two decades.”

— Don Garber, MLS commissioner

 

“From the start I thought SBJ was a stunning concept. All publishers had been focused on the fans, and, yes Virginia, fans can be fickle. By focusing on the business of the business, SBJ ensured their audience was loyal, growing and affluent — not a bad customer base. What SBJ has done, though, in its ever-growing program of conferences has become an integral part of not only the U.S.’s sports business, but the world’s sports business.”

— David Hill, former Fox Sports chairman

 

“I moved to Portland in ‘96 and sometime in ‘97 I saw a sample of SBJ on the street and grabbed a complimentary copy. In it was a full page ad with JP Morgan and a picture of Brian McCough, a consultant for pro sports franchises. I contacted him and he came to Portland and we met with the mayor to discuss how to land a MLB franchise. That was the beginning of our 20 years MLBtoPDX.com campaign. In short, as I finish my 46 year as a college professor, I consider the SBJ the sports bible for all sports management students.”

— Lynn Lashbrook, president/founder, Sports Management Worldwide

 

“I loved sports and I loved business — so the notion of sports business and entertainment was motivating for me. I just remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, this industry exists?’ I loved it.”

— Todd Kline, senior VP and COO, Miami Dolphins, telling the Carey Business School at John Hopkins how his early encounters with SBJ helped motivate him to pursue a career in the sports industry

— Compiled by SportsBusiness Journal staff