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Volume 21 No. 30

People and Pop Culture

Ovechkin brought the Stanley Cup to Red Square last week, much to the delight of his fellow Russians.
Photo: Courtesy of Washington Capitals

As Alex Ovechkin collected the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in Las Vegas on June 7, his bushy brown beard could not hide his enthusiasm or his gap-toothed smile.

 

While the team took turns passing the Cup around on the ice at T-Mobile Arena, Ovechkin’s longtime agent — and lifetime Capitals fan — David Abrutyn headed onto the ice and relayed a message to his client: Don’t shave.

 

He spread the love with his mom, Tatyana, and dad, Mikhail.
Photo: Courtesy of Washington Capitals

A few days earlier, Abrutyn, a partner at Bruin Sports Capital, had reached out to Greg Via, the global head of sports, esports and entertainment marketing and partnerships for Procter & Gamble and Gillette, about a potential opportunity for the company to do something with Ovechkin if the Capitals were to win the Stanley Cup. Ovechkin had a partnership with Gillette from 2010 to 2014, in which he appeared in several commercials, as well as Russian-specific campaigns.

 

What Offseason?

June 7
Wins Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy. Parties in Las Vegas before returning to Washington, D.C., with the Capitals the next day

June 9
Throws out first pitch at Washington Nationals game

June 11
Heads to New York City, appears on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”

June 12
Capitals championship parade

June 13
Does Gillette activation, shaves beard

June 20
Attends NHL awards show in Las Vegas

June 27
Travels to Russia

July 7
Stanley Cup arrives in Russia for Ovechkin’s allotted two-day celebration with it. He takes the Cup to Moscow to the FIFA Fan Fest for the World Cup and to his childhood rink, where he celebrates with his father.

July 8
Private hockey game with Russian government officials. Takes the Cup with his family to the grave of his older brother. Takes Cup to Red Square.

July 16-20
Films content for his Nike and CCM sponsorships in Russia

Late July
Returns to the U.S., where he and his wife will stay at their apartment in Miami for a vacation. Will take part in sponsor obligations related to his Fanatics partnership.

August
Wife due with their first child; will take part in Upper Deck-related marketing for the upcoming season.

Sept. 14
Capitals training camp begins

Abrutyn knew he had to act quickly that night. “Some of the guys who showed up at the postgame family party at the hotel had already shaved,” he said. He planted the idea in Ovechkin’s ear, and roughly a week later, a Gillette campaign spread across social media that documented Ovechkin shaving his beard off in his Northern Virginia home.

 

That night marked the start of what could be called the summer of Ovi, and it was the first of many business decisions the newly crowned champion has had to face. From Vegas nightclubs to a hero’s welcome in D.C. to talk shows in New York to the World Cup in his native Russia, Ovechkin has never been far from the Cup, or the spotlight, and he has caught the attention of companies around the globe.

  

Ovechkin, 32, has been one of the NHL’s most visible players since his debut in 2005, his gregarious personality and prolific goal-scoring prowess making him an instant standout in a league that has few big stars. But his fame has reached a new level, and he now has plenty of partners wanting their own moment with Ovi.

 

“I do arguably think he’s the most globally recognized hockey player for a variety of reasons, one of which is his unique personality and his charisma,” Abrutyn said. “Certainly, the celebration that has followed and the unbridled joy of the moment that has carried throughout the city and in some cases around the world has opened up even more doors.” 

  

Almost instantly after the Capitals won the Cup, the inquiries regarding the opportunity to partner with Ovechkin started to flood in, Abrutyn said. Those requests spanned from North American NHL league-level sponsors looking to see if it was possible to work on something before the start of next season, to Russian companies that were hoping to capitalize on undoubtedly the most recognizable athlete in the country. There’s also been some heavy discussions around literary, television and digital content projects.

 

Currently, Ovechkin has partnerships with Nike, Beats by Dre and CCM. He has a global relationship with Fanatics and Upper Deck and is an investor in Papa John’s in Russia, as well as the company’s face in that country.

 

While Ovi has been partying anywhere and everywhere with the Cup, Abrutyn has been working hard behind the scenes. He joined his client in Russia earlier this month, pitching Ovechkin ideas and updating him on the progress of new deals.

 

In fact, one sponsorship contract was effectively struck while Abrutyn was in the country, with Ovechkin finding a day in his schedule this month or next to take part in a production for it. Abrutyn declined to comment on who the partnership was with as the deal has not been fully finalized.

 

Ovechkin snuggled up with the Stanley Cup in his childhood bedroom . . .
Photo: Courtesy of Washington Capitals

Abrutyn said he’s in discussions with companies in about eight to 10 different categories, with some of the deepest conversations thus far having come with brands in the beverage, auto and watch categories. He declined to provide further information because the discussions are ongoing.

 

Part of the balance for Abrutyn is dealing with the shortened offseason Ovechkin has — the Capitals return to training camp on Sept. 14 — as well as Ovechkin’s desire to have fewer partners in exchange for signing long-term, expansive deals. For example, Ovechkin’s relationship with Nike dates back nearly nine years, and he’s currently playing on a 13-year contract with the Capitals that expires after the 2021 season.

 

When you look at a moment like this where people see his personality transcending beyond the ice, it’s going to create some incredible opportunities for him.
Jim Van Stone
Chief Commercial Officer, Monumental Sports and Entertainment

Still, the core tenants of what Ovechkin can mean for a brand that he partners with have not changed.

 

He shared the trophy life with a fan at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.
Photo: Getty Images

“If you think about what his brand was before — enthusiasm, excitement and authenticity — and you layer on his brilliance in the sport as well as his leadership, loyalty and success in a place that he now calls his second home, that’s what he stands for,” Abrutyn said.

 

Monumental Sports and Entertainment Chief Commercial Officer Jim Van Stone said that while the organization won’t be changing its approach with commercial opportunities for its biggest star, he is already seeing heavy interest from potential partners who want to try to harness it. While some of those partnerships have included companies from the Washington, D.C., area, Van Stone also said they’ve seen an uptick in outreach from companies based across Europe, where Ovechkin’s profile is perhaps even higher.

 

Ovechkin gave the fans of Washington, D.C., the chance to glimpse something they hadn’t seen in their city for more than a quarter-century: a championship trophy, first at Nationals Park on June 9.
Photo: Getty Images

“There’s a new level of notoriety of the Cup itself that will open up some more avenues and greater conversations on the commercial front,” Van Stone said. “When you look at a moment like this where people see his personality transcending beyond the ice, it’s going to create some incredible opportunities for him.”

 

There are already plans for Ovechkin to shoot promotional footage and photos for his existing partnerships, with some windows of time blocked out if he adds more in the interim.

 

During the parade through the streets of the nation’s capital.
Photo: Getty Images

Of course, Ovechkin must find time for his personal life, too. He and his wife, Nastya, are expecting their first child in August, and they are heading to Miami in a couple weeks for a much-needed vacation. From there they’ll travel back and forth between Miami and their home in Northern Virginia. Some of his partners already are understanding of his time crunch — his relationship with Papa John’s typically sees him travel to Moscow to fulfill that obligation, which they’ll likely now travel to the U.S. to do with him.

  

Despite Ovechkin’s increased celebrity and the demands on his time, Abrutyn is sure the wondrous winger will remain as committed to his day job as he’s always been.

 

“The celebration will continue, but I can already see the fire in his eyes,” Abrutyn said. “I know he’s already excited to come back and do it all again.”

PGA Tour

The new schedule for the 2018-19 season includes better pacing, a reduced playoff from four events to three and will wrap up in late August, before football starts to steal all the weekend attention.

Cardinals front office

A tough week in Glendale. Arizona GM Steve Keim was arrested on DUI charges and the police report stated he had been convicted of a previous DUI in 1996. Meanwhile, President Michael Bidwill drew scrutiny for publicly supporting Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, viewed as hypocritical to the NFL’s stance that players avoid political issues.

Tampa Bay Rays

Plans for a stunning new ballpark in Ybor City include a translucent dome. However, its total cost estimate is $892 million. Owner Stuart Sternberg did not say how much the team would contribute, and the city said new taxes would not be an option, leaving this ambitious project facing a steep climb.




Baseball

The Baltimore Orioles hired John Vidalin as chief operating officer for business operations. Vidalin was executive vice president and chief revenue officer for the Miami Heat.

 

The Class AA Southern League Mobile BayBears hired Roger Wexelberg as president. Wexelberg was general manager for Learfield’s Bradley Sports Properties at Bradley University.

 

The Class AAA Pacific Coast League Nashville Sounds promoted Danielle Gaw to director of corporate partnerships.

 

Basketball

The Atlanta Hawks promoted Derek Pierce to general manager for the NBA G League Erie BayHawks.

 

The Detroit Pistons hired Malik Rose as assistant general manager. Rose was manager of basketball operations for the Atlanta Hawks.

 

The Milwaukee Bucks hired Vickie Nikoley as payroll manager; and for their new Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center hired Zach Bartlett as front of house manager, Kari Lilly as building operations manager, Dominique Schneider as arena scheduling manager and Michelle Young as box office and ticketing finance manager.

 

The Orlando Magic promoted Charles Freeman to president of business operations.

 

Colleges

The College Football Playoff promoted Claudia Dorsey to assistant director of business and ticket operations, and hired Katie Cavender as assistant director of communications. Cavender was assistant commissioner of advanced media and digital strategy for the Mountain West Conference.

 

The Big 12 Conference promoted Dayna Scherf to senior associate commissioner of championships, Catrina Gibson to chief financial officer, Maria Swanson to director of championships operations, Jessica Hamm to director of compliance and governance and assistant general counsel; and Steve Pace to corporate compliance officer. Erick Newman was hired as assistant director of championships.

 

The Mid-American Conference promoted Jeremy Guy to assistant commissioner for integrated digital strategies, Kyle Klein to director of championships and special events, Heather Klatt to director of visual and creative content and Eric Kwiatkowski to assistant director of communications. The conference hired Kadeem Huggins as director of digital media services and Rachel Konieczki as director of men’s and women’s basketball operations.

 

California State University, Northridge named Michael Izzi athletic director. Izzi was athletic director at the University of California, Irvine.

Eastern Michigan University hired Britta Brown as assistant athletic director for development.

 

The University of Kansas named Jeff Long athletic director. Long was formerly athletic director at the University of Arkansas.

 

The University of Missouri-Kansas City reassigned Athletic Director Carla Wilson to senior director for student support services.

 

The University of Richmond hired Ryan Colton as associate athletic director for compliance. Colton was assistant athletic director for compliance at the College of Holy Cross.

 

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee hired Adam Schemm as senior associate athletic director for external relations. Schemm was assistant athletic director for marketing at the University of South Florida.

 

Soccer

The United Soccer League promoted Joel Nash to vice president of the Premier Development League and Super Y League.

 

Other

MGM Resorts International hired Scott Butera as president of interactive gaming.

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 careers@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Electronic photos must be a jpg or tiff file for Macintosh, 2.25 inches wide at 300 dpi. Color only, please.
MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn watches as Vice President Spiro Agnew prepares to toss the first pitch at the 1969 MLB All-Star Game.
Photo: Getty Images

Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., is predictably in high demand, with prices on StubHub rising far above face value and dignitaries clamoring for access to this week’s slate of All-Star festivities.

 

But Washington’s affinity for big events, and the All-Star Game in particular, was codified nearly 50 years ago when the Midsummer Classic was last in the nation’s capital. The 1969 game, a 9-3 victory for the National League at RFK Stadium, had its own fervent demand. A sellout crowd of 45,259 was larger than any crowd the long-suffering Washington Senators had drawn to the ballpark since 1962, and the figure wouldn’t be surpassed until baseball returned to Washington in 2005 after a 33-season absence.

 

“Washington is a place that really gets excited about something of worldwide significance,” said Charlie Brotman, the longtime stadium announcer at both RFK Stadium and its predecessor, Griffith Stadium. Brotman, now 90, was on hand for the ’69 All-Star Game and one previously held at RFK in 1962, and will attend Tuesday’s game.

 

The All-Star Game was extremely popular. Everybody wanted tickets to it. If it was important, people wanted a piece of it. We had calls coming in from all sorts of embassies.
Charlie Brotman
Longtime stadium announcer

“The All-Star Game was extremely popular,” he said. “Everybody wanted tickets to it. If it was important, people wanted a piece of it. We had calls coming in from all sorts of embassies. Now of course, when those calls came in from the embassies, they expected complimentary tickets.”

 

The 1969 All-Star Game, featuring 22 eventual Hall of Famers, was unusual in several respects. A July 22 downpour forced then-MLB Commissioner and D.C. native Bowie Kuhn to postpone the scheduled game, a first for the All-Star Game. That scuttled a planned appearance by President Richard Nixon, who earlier that day hosted a baseball reception at the White House celebrating the sport’s 100th anniversary. Nixon couldn’t stay for the makeup at 2:45 p.m. the following afternoon because he had to head out for the splashdown of the Apollo 11 astronauts who had just been on the moon. Vice President Spiro Agnew attended in his place in what remains the last All-Star Game not played in Eastern prime time.

 

“I did meet Nixon on a number of other occasions, and as far as presidents are concerned, he’s No. 1 in terms of knowledge about baseball,” said Brotman, who was also the inauguration parade announcer for 11 U.S. presidents. “He read the sports pages all the time and was a genuine sports fan.”

Fun and Games

U.S. Olympic bobsledders Sam McGuffie and Seun Adigun run bobsled drills during Olympic Day presented by the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority on June 23 at Moody Community Center.
Photo: Houston Sports Authority
Nia Abdallah, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, works with a participant on taekwondo
Photo: Houston Sports Authority

 

Spartan Chopper

Founder and CEO of Spartan Race Joe De Sena (left) shakes hands with Paul Teutul Sr., the star of Discovery Channel’s hit reality TV show “American Chopper,” during the unveiling of a custom Spartan motorcycle at Spartan’s Tri-State New York Sprint Weekend in Tuxedo, N.Y., early last month. The custom bike was created as part of a fundraising effort by Spartan and Orange County Choppers to support the Oscar Mike Foundation, whose mission is to keep injured veterans healthy and active.
Photo: Spartan

 

Batter Up

More than 160 members of Congress supported the Home Runs for Horton’s Kids event June 27 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., including U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois who went 3-for-3 from the batting cages. The event raised more than $600,000 to benefit children growing up in Wellington Park, one of D.C.’s most under-resourced neighborhoods.
Photo: Jenn Reid Photography

 

Sparkling Celebration

Colorado Eagles coach Aaron Schneekloth signs a fan’s sweatshirt during a celebration in the team’s locker room for UCHealth cancer patients on June 25 in Loveland, Colo. The ECHL team celebrated patients’ victories against the disease and the team’s second consecutive Kelly Cup championship and move to the American Hockey League.
Photo: Tony Villalobos-May/Colorado Eagles

 

UMass Alumni at NACDA

Conference commissioners, school ADs and rising college athletic talent attend the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management at a UMass Amherst-hosted alumni breakfast on June 29 at the NACDA Annual Convention. Back row from left: Aubre Jones, George Washington; Todd Nebeker, Utah Valley; Dick Lenfest, Westfield State; Karen Peters, Portland; Thorr Bjorn, Rhode Island; Laurel Hosmer, Delaware; Mark Brumbaugh, Penn State; Erik Franke, UMass; Whitney Swab, Manhattan College; Chris Tucci, UMass; Kenneth Marchyshyn, Wake Forest; Rich Ensor, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; Ian McCaw, Liberty; Jim Paquette, IMG College; Kevin Ginther, Ball State; Craig Fink, UNC Greensboro. Front row from left: Dawn Rogers, Baylor; Jamie DiLoreto, Boston College; Gloria Nevarez, West Coast Conference; Leslie Wurzburger, Anthony Travel; Josh Berlo, Minnesota Duluth; Ed Owens, Hartford.

 

Visionary Leader

Visionary Award recipient Derrick Hall (right), president and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, speaks with Bernie Mullin, chairman of The Aspire Group and the 2013 Visionary Award winner, at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors Conference and Tradeshow in Atlanta on June 25.
Photo: Nichole Rodgers

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: photo@sportsbusinessjournal.com or send color prints to: Faces & Places, c/o Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202.

Summer is a time to slow down, travel and spend time with family and friends. Sports executives — and even an Olympic gold medalist — share what’s on their agenda, from special vacations to binge-worthy TV shows. 

Photo: Courtesy of Matt Kauffman

Matt Kauffman

VP, Consulting | The Montag Group

 

Must Vacation: Our summer vacation includes the annual pilgrimage back to Michigan for time at the lake.

 

Binge Watching: With all the great series on television, it is time to pay homage to the classics and re-watch “The Sopranos!”

 

Must Do: This year we have friends turning 50, and we will be celebrating with a trip to the South of France which will include food, wine, sun, fun and new memories.

Meghan Duggan

U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team

 

Must Vacation: BEACH! Regardless of where it is, I tend to like the beaches in the North Shore, MA area, Hampton, NH or Cape Cod myself, being a Bostonian but any beach will do for me on a hot and sunny summer day.

 

Must Reads: My latest must reads I would say are “The Nightingale,” “Shoe Dog,” and “All The Ugly and Wonderful Things.”

 

Binge Watching: “Empire,” “Scandal,” and anything on the Food Network!

Adam Cozens

VP, GM | Dew Tour

 

Must Reads: I just started “Occasional Crimes” by Tucker Edwards. It’s my neighbor’s first book, which we all learned about after it was released! I think he was nervous to talk about it while he was writing it. Now that it has good reviews on Amazon, the confidence is there!

 

“Good to Great” is one of my favorites. I’m also planning to read Gary V’s newest book. To be honest, I’m not a huge reader! I spend more time online and in the trades.

 

Binge Watching: Just finished “Vikings.” Amazing! Love that series. Also a huge “Walking Dead” fan.

 

Must Vacation: Next up is a trip to Breckenridge. It’s such a great place whether it’s in the summer, winter, fall — you name it. Biking, exploring, hiking, not to mention snowboarding and skiing — we love it all!

Photo: Courtesy of Kevin Warren

Kevin Warren

COO | Minnesota Vikings

 

Must Vacation: Any island in the Caribbean, but my favorite is Grand Cayman, 7 Mile Beach.

 

Must Reads: “Praying Circles Around Your Children” by Mark Batterson; “The Score Takes Care of Itself” by Bill Walsh with Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh; “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek; “Whisper” by Mark Batterson; and “Principles” by Ray Dalio.

 

Must Do: Spend as much quality time as exists with my wife, Greta, and our college-aged children: daughter Peri and son Powers.

Catherine Carlson

SVP, Corporate Partnership and Premium Activation | Orlando Magic

 

Must Vacation: (This year) we have a new summer plan and will be meeting my Aussie family in Barcelona to embark on a 10-day Mediterranean Disney Cruise with our two boys, ages 7 and 11. This will be the first time both my parents and my boys will get to visit and experience Europe.

 

Binge Watching: Rick Steves’ YouTube videos for travel tips, while reading through a huge pile of travel books on Spain, France and Italy.

 

Must Do: I am addicted to visiting sports venues in any city I travel to, so I will be sure to visit FC Barcelona’s football stadium while we’re there.

Photo: Courtesy of Craig Sloan

Craig Sloan

EVP | Home Team Sports

 

Must Attend: I will be watching as much baseball as possible! You can find me cheering for my son’s AAU baseball team at various tournaments in Northeast towns and for my beloved Yankees.

 

Must Learn: I’m “hooked.” I will be on the water as much as possible this summer learning more about a new passion — fishing.

 

Must Relax: I will be vacationing in the Hamptons at the town beaches with my family this August before gearing back up for our NCAA, NHL and NBA seasons to begin.

Ashley Dabb

CMO | National Lacrosse League

 

Must Vacation: Napa Valley, Calif.; Diastole Farms in Concord, Ga.; Baltimore; Santorini, Greece.

 

Must Reads: “A Higher Loyalty,” by James Comey; “The Break Down,” by B.A. Paris.

 

Binge Watching: “SAFE,” “Narcos,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Billions,” “Mindhunter.”

George Bodenheimer has helped the V Foundation raise $150 million in five years. Here he delivers a speech at the organization’s annual Wine Celebration last year.
Photo: Courtesy of the V Foundation

George Bodenheimer still remembers the details from the night of March 4, 1993. The former ESPN president was in charge of affiliate sales for the network that was becoming a powerhouse in the cable industry. He went to the inaugural ESPYs that night not knowing what would happen — Jim Valvano was scheduled to speak, but no one knew if his cancer-ravaged body would permit him to even leave his hotel room.

 

The V Effect

The V Foundation has had several record-breaking years in a row. In 2016, the foundation awarded more than $23 million and in 2017, more than $25 million. Since its inception, the V Foundation has awarded more than $200 million.

“Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.” — JIM VALVANO 

Now, on the occasion of the V Foundation’s 25th anniversary, the memories of Valvano limping to the Madison Square Garden stage with help, and then delivering the most powerful 10 minutes maybe in ESPN’s history remain etched in Bodenheimer’s mind. As a member of the V Foundation board for 20 years and the current campaign chairman, Bodenheimer couldn’t be prouder of the V Foundation’s impact on his 13-plus years as the company’s president.

 

“We’re on fire. We’ve had several record-breaking years in a row in the amount of money raised and the amount of grants we’re making for cancer research. One year just keeps getting bigger than the other. Last year we were over $25 million. So, you look at the dollars granted, the cancer research centers we’re working with and the actual research that’s coming out of it, we’re really growing rapidly.” 

 

“I’m chairman of the capital campaign entitled ‘Not a moment to lose.’ It’s a seven-year effort to raise $200 million. I agreed to chair that campaign, really, about the time I stepped down at ESPN, so we’re in year five and we just crossed over $150 million of the $200 million. We’re actually ahead of pace. I’ve had the honor of working with the V staff, the V board and hundreds of V donors who are driving the train. In that role, I do quite a bit of public speaking and events, got a big one in Virginia called Virginia Vines, which is modeled after our signature event, the V Wines event in Napa, which annually raises $5 million to $10 million.”

 

Jim Valvano

“Some of the people integrally involved in the campaign are people like Mike Krzyzewski, Robin Roberts, Dick Vitale. I work closely with those folks. They literally never say no when I ask them to do something for the V Foundation. They’re all very dedicated supporters. Dick and his wife, Lorraine, are just indefatigable when it comes to their work to raise money. Coach K is the same. The guy has one of the busiest schedules of anybody I’ve ever met, but he always finds time to attend our meeting and events. And Robin just headlined a signature event as well for us and she is a huge supporter. So I get to work with a lot of interesting folks as well as the hundreds of donors I’ve met. 

 

“It really does remind me of my old days at ESPN when I was driving around Texas calling on cable operators. I had just such a wonderful experience meeting the entrepreneurs who were building the cable industry; it’s not unlike getting to meet so many of the people who are integral in the V Foundation. Aside from raising the money, the biggest pleasure of the job are the people you get to meet who are committed to the V. Unfortunately, virtually every family in the country is touched in some way by cancer, so finding people who are passionate about finding a cure is not hard. Raising dollars can be hard, but we’re very fortunate that the United States is filled with the most generous people in the world.”

 

What's Next?

V Foundation’s 20th Annual Wine Celebration

■ Aug. 2-4
■ Napa Valley, Calif.
■ Hosts: Scott Hamilton, Lou Holtz, Mike Krzyzewski, Robin Roberts, Joe Theismann
■ About: A signature fundraiser for the V Foundation, the Wine Celebration has raised nearly $90 million.

“In 1993, I was overseeing ESPN’s distribution efforts. My wife and I were at the ESPYs that year, March 4, and it was at the old Madison Square Garden where Jimmy delivered that speech that’s literally been seen by millions of people around the world. I think it’s the best 10-minute speech ever. Truly. You can’t see that speech and not be moved — the range of emotions, the sincerity, the poignancy, the humor. It had it all in 10 minutes. We continue to use that speech 25 years later and I think that speech will live on forever. It was an electrifying moment at MSG that night. It says it all. You see the spirit, the empathy, the humor. You see Jimmy Valvano weeks away from death. He barely made it to New York and wouldn’t have made it if he hadn’t been escorted by Mike and Mickie Krzyzewski. Once he got to New York, he was pretty much confined to his hotel room. It wasn’t clear if he was going to make it over to the Garden. Dick Vitale implored him to come. And then during the speech, it was almost like the illness left his body. He was smiling, he was powerful, he was engaged, he had the audience on every word. As you saw from the speech, he had to be helped on and off the stage, but my God, for those 10 minutes, he was healthy and free and living life to the fullest. That’s what makes it such a beautiful speech.”

 

“The credit for the V Foundation’s beginning really goes to Steve Bornstein and his top lieutenant, John Lack. They wanted to do something to support Jim and they proposed starting the foundation for cancer research and Jim accepted that. It took a few years to get going. Good things take time. I don’t believe in too many overnight successes and the V Foundation wasn’t one of them. It took a while to build, but once we got the management right and got everybody going in the same direction, it’s been on a steady path of growth.”

 

I think it’s the best 10-minute speech ever. Truly. You can’t see that speech and not be moved — the range of emotions, the sincerity, the poignancy, the humor.
George Bodenheimer
Campaign Chairman, V Foundation

“It’s helped build the culture of ESPN. People want to know that their company stands for something more than just making money. In our case, ESPN gives back a lot and the V Foundation is its flagship vehicle to do that. That’s been important to our employees. In addition to helping build the culture, the V has literally helped people who have become ill or have family members who are ill. In my 13 years as president, I can’t tell you how many times the V Foundation has come full throttle to help an employee in need. It was always a tremendous comfort to me knowing that help was only a phone call away. … I believe that giving back is an important piece of any company trying to build a good culture. It certainly has played that role at ESPN.”

 

“I grew to believe in the power of helping others. I learned that through the V Foundation. Also, as the president leading a company of 8,000 people, I learned that it’s important to a lot of people, whether it’s V Foundation, Special Olympics or Boys & Girls Clubs of America, all things that ESPN is involved with. That’s important and satisfying to the employees. It impacted me personally and professionally. We’re giving hope to a lot of people.

 

Bodenheimer, with his wife Ann (left) and Dr. Patricia Bailey, at the launch of the Robin Roberts Fund for Cancer Survivorship Research in December.
Photo: Courtesy of Intrepid Marketing Group

“Some days it feels like a full-time job, but I’d estimate that I spend 40 percent to 50 percent of my time on this campaign now. With $150 million raised for this campaign, the goal line is in sight.”

 

“I’m consulting with ESPN now after helping them through the transition. Before that, I had been teaching at Iona College and also some speaking around the country.”

 

“As far as the media landscape, it couldn’t be more interesting right now. So many moving parts. It’s an exciting time to be in the business. It’s never been a better time to be a sports fan, when you look at everything you have access to. It’s exciting and changing like all businesses. Strong brands with strong management are going to win.”