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Volume 21 No. 22
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Bidding farewell: ESPN will miss Driessen’s insight

It’s hard to imagine ESPN without the steady hand of Christine Driessen guiding the company’s financial decisions.

Last week, Driessen announced her retirement — effective in January — after 33 years of holding down one of the toughest jobs in sports. Driessen usually was the only woman in the room as ESPN executives debated multibillion-dollar decisions. Her opinions, and the financial models she drew up, regularly were heeded by the group.

Driessen speaks at SBJ’s Game Changers event.
Photo: marc bryan-brown

The last time I heard Driessen speak publicly was in September, at SportsBusiness Journal’s Game Changers event in New York. During her talk, she was reflective about her distinguished career. At one point, SBJ’s Abe Madkour asked her to talk about the lessons she learned over the years. Her answers are worth repeating.

“Speak concisely. Effective communication as you grow your career is critical. If you walk into a room and you start talking and you don’t have an audience listening to you, stop. It’s amazing what happens when you stop talking.”

“Don’t get caught in the trap of speaking just to be speaking. It’s important to speak up, but you need to have a point of view that makes sense and is worthy for an audience to listen to.”

“In the passion of negotiation, sometimes you get so personally involved that you need to step back and remember why you are there. Keep calm. If there’s a critical issue and strong disagreements, just take a break.”