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Volume 22 No. 7

People and Pop Culture

Photo: Getty Images


Safe Bet

The NFL chose Las Vegas as the host town for the 2020 draft, another win for Sin City’s growing sports empire. The wagering opportunities are endless, from betting on every pick to betting on how many times Mel Kiper uses the word “upside.” 



Unsafe Environment

A scathing new report commissioned by the USOC stated that former CEO Scott Blackmun (left) and Chief of Sports Performance Alan Ashley concealed what they knew, did not alert others and misled investigators about their knowledge of the abuse of gymnasts by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Photo: Getty Images


Place for the Snub

A Phoenix City Council vote on $230 million in potential renovations for Talking Stick Resort Arena was postponed until January, and Suns owner Robert Sarver reportedly told city officials he may explore moving the team.

March of Dimes Awards

From the 35th annual March of Dimes Sports Luncheon on Nov. 27 at the New York Hilton Midtown: Sports Legend Award recipient Joe Namath; Amanda Pelkey and Amanda Kessel of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team, which was honored for Sportswomen of the Year; Sports Leadership Award recipient MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and luncheon chairman Sean McManus, CBS Sports chairman.
Photo: Hechler Photographers


WISE Boston Honors KAGR's Gelman

ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan and Kraft Analytics Group CEO Jessica Gelman participate in a “fireside chat” during WISE Boston’s 2018 Women of Inspiration event, at which Gelman was honored, on Dec. 4 at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston.
Photo: Caroline Cataldo


Premiere Night

From the premiere of “2018 World Series: Damage Done,” on Dec. 3 at the Emerson Theatre in Boston: Red Sox manager Alex Cora; Linda Pizzuti Henry; Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations; owner John Henry; and infielder/outfielder Brock Holt.
Photo: Billie Weiss / Major League Baseball


IMG College Alums

From the IMG College Alumni gathering at the SEC reception on Dec. 3 in New York City during “college week”: Fanatics College’s Derek Eiler, The Whitener Co.’s Lawton Logan, JMI Sports’ Kim Ramsay, Florida Citrus Sports’ Cathy Weeden, The Colonnade Group’s Anna Slive Harwood, Fanatics’ Mike Carlton, JMI Sports’ Tom Stultz and Fanatics College’s Chris Prindiville.
Photo: Courtesy of Derek Eiler


From the Learfield IAF Conference

Penn State professor Stephen Ross speaks with former ESPN President and Chairman George Bodenheimer and his son, James Bodenheimer.
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown
Katrice Albert, EVP of inclusion and human resources at the NCAA, says it takes “courageous leadership” to make progress in diversity and inclusion hiring.
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown
Chris Norton discusses his recovery from a paralyzing college football injury and the help he offers others to overcome their challenges.
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown
Seton Hall basketball player Michael Nzei and Noah Knight, a former student athlete and chair of the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, discuss their academic, athletic and social experience during the “Student Athlete Experience” panel.
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland discusses efforts to make the USOC a more athlete-centric organization.
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown


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

Issa Sawabini

Partner, Fuse Marketing

Receiving: I already am the luckiest guy in the world, so I don’t really ask for gifts. That said, I’d be happy if Mother Nature could deliver as much snow as possible to ski resorts around the country.

Giving: My 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter will be getting new ski and snowboard outerwear. We give every member of the Fuse team a season pass to the resort of their choosing.


Photo: Getty Images

Brett Jewkes

Chief communications officer, AMB Group

Receiving: I already got it! [My wife] Melissa and I snuck away to enjoy Christmastime in NYC for a few days and saw the penultimate “Springsteen on Broadway” show while we were there.

Giving: Generally I try to give unique experiences rather than things, so Melissa [and our children] Stockton, Mason and Mallory are probably headed somewhere cool or to see something that creates a lifetime memory for our family.


Kristine Leahy

Television Host, FS1

Receiving: Anything for my kitchen. I absolutely love to cook and bake. … I’d love to add a pasta machine to the mix.

Giving: I’ll give one of my brothers a trip to L.A., or a night out at one of their favorite restaurants. … Experiences create memories that can last a lifetime, or at least provide some much needed R and R.


Adam Boldon

Co-founder and CEO, Swet Tailor

Receiving: I’m long overdue on learning a musical instrument and I’d love an acoustic guitar.

Giving: This holiday season is a little more special as my wife, Jayme, is just about to give birth to our second child. I’m going to give her some much needed rest and relaxation over the holidays and take our daughter away for a mini-vacation.


Photo: Getty Images

Jeff Lewis

CEO, American Flag Football League

Receiving: I look back on the inaugural season of AFFL and I’m so grateful and appreciative of the support. We only hope that the players and fans are as enthusiastic and talented as what we saw in the first season. That would be a tremendous gift.

Giving: All my kids seem to want is more tech, but maybe the best gift is less tech. When we get to New Year’s Resolutions … well, let’s talk!


Photo: Fox Sports

Peter Schrager

Insider and sideline reporter, NFL

Receiving: This is my busiest time of the year and a lot of it is spent on the road away from my family. … Portable phone chargers, headphones, books and some pairs of Lululemon or Nike sweatpants all sound like the shiny red tricycle or the BB gun to me.

Giving: Hopefully, I can express the proper amount of gratitude for my family, my friends and all my tireless co-workers.


Photo: Courtesy of WME

Ross Whittow-Williams

COO, Copa90

Receiving: I’m hoping that one of the free-to-air channels in the U.K. gifts my family and me a back-to-back “Die Hard” movie marathon on Christmas Day.

Giving: I’m hoping we can give our brilliant team across London, NYC and L.A. a good chunk of time off with friends and family so they can all enjoy seeing West Ham United go eight games unbeaten over the holiday period.


Photo: Getty Images

Madison Hubbell

Professional ice dancer

Receiving: I already got my Christmas wish, which was to show my Spanish fiancé his first American Christmas with my family. I wouldn’t mind going back home with new Calpak Luggage and accessories, though!

Giving: As a beauty lover, I will be filling my loved ones’ stockings with my favorite makeup, skin care and beauty products.


Zachary Donohue

Professional ice dancer

Receiving: I will be spending my holiday with my girlfriend and her family in their new home in the U.K. and I couldn’t be more thrilled! Traveling in comfort and style is always key, so I wouldn’t mind a spree at Kit and Ace!

Giving: This year will be a menagerie of gifts! But stockings are always my favorite way to show my creativity with fun and tasty surprises.


Jim McCoy

Associate VP of sports marketing and sponsorships, Nationwide

Receiving: Audible membership and downtime at the holidays to spend time with family and recharge.

Giving: With three kids aged 5 to 15, gifts range from Hot Wheels, to “Fortnite,” to gift cards for clothes. As a Browns fan, I am ready to invest in Baker Mayfield jerseys for my sons. Most importantly, our family will purchase toys for kids at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.


Colgate University hired TONI ROGERS as associate athletic director for compliance. Rogers was associate athletic director for compliance at Cal State Fullerton.

Drury University named COREY BRAY vice president and athletic director, effective March 18, 2019. Bray is associate athletic director for compliance at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

East Carolina University named JON GILBERT athletic director. Gilbert was athletic director at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Grambling State University named DAVID PONTON athletic director, effective Jan. 1. Ponton is the university’s vice president for student affairs.

The University of Maryland promoted JESSICA JENNINGS to senior associate athletic director and chief communications officer.

Miami University promoted JUDE KILLY to chief of staff.

Sam Houston State University named RUSSELL MARTINEZ associate athletic director for external operations and development. Martinez will continue to serve as the major gift officer for athletics for University Advancement.


Cushman & Wakefield hired PHIL COLICCHIO and TRIP SCHNECK to lead the firm’s food, beverage and entertainment procurement. Colicchio and
Schneck are co-founders and principals of Colicchio Consulting.


The National Football League hired CHRISTOPHER HALPIN as executive vice president and chief strategy and growth officer. Also, Executive Vice President of International MARK WALLER will step down at the end of this season and take on a new role as a senior adviser.

The San Francisco 49ers hired AARON LUTHER as sales manager for partnerships

The XFL hired SCOTT PARKER as senior vice president of marketing and communications. Parker was vice president of marketing and communications for TuneIn.


Fox Sports hired MICHAEL TOLAJIAN as senior vice president and executive producer for Fox Sports Films. Tolajian was senior coordinating producer of original content for the Pac-12 Networks.

Sports Commissions and Tourism Boards

The Los Angeles Sports Council and Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games hired DAVID SIEGEL as president. Siegal was vice president of global partnerships for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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.
Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue topped our first Most Influential list, but he was only one of more than 200 sports executives SBJ recognized with various rankings in 2004.

You could call 2004 the year of the ranking for Sports Business Journal.


While our first listing of the 50 Most Influential People in Sports Business was the highlight, SBJ produced separate Top 20 rankings across a whopping 13 categories throughout that year: sports advertising, motorsports, baseball, agents, facility design and development, golf, action sports, Olympics, tennis, football, basketball, sports media and collegiate sports. Over the year, we ranked more than 200 sports leaders across those segments.


Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue topped our first Most Influential list. The supporting story said:


“As they stress in business school: leverage, leverage, leverage. In sports business, no one has more of it than the NFL — and at the point of it all is Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.”


Tagliabue’s leadership and dealmaking that year included media rights extensions with Fox, CBS and DirecTV worth a combined $11.5 billion, and extensions with Visa ($300 million), Gatorade ($384 million) and PepsiCo ($560 million).


Top 10 From 2004

1. Paul Tagliabue, NFL
2. George Bodenheimer, ESPN/ABC Sports
3. Dick Ebersol, NBC Sports
4. David Hill, Fox Sports
5. David Stern, NBA
6. Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch
7. Bud Selig, MLB
8. Phil Knight, Nike
9. Sean McManus, CBS Sports
10. Brian France, NASCAR

Looking beyond No. 1, the list speaks to the shifting sands in the sports business. Of the 50 executives, only 16 still work with the same property as they did in 2004. Most have either retired or moved on to other organizations. Seven are on this year’s ranking; seven have passed.


Some notables on that first list:


Tony Ponturo (No. 6): Ponturo earned his spot as vice president of global media and sports marketing at Anheuser-Busch. A-B has maintained a position on the annual ranking based on its spending power but, as proof of the fluid changes since its purchase by InBev in 2008, the company has been represented by nine different executives since Ponturo.


Larry Probst (No. 37): Probst was ranked not for his future role with the USOC, but for his influence as chairman and CEO of Electronic Arts, whose video games padded the pockets of leagues and shaped their image among young consumers.


Mark Schweitzer (No. 42): The senior vice president of marketing for Nextel was fresh off the company’s massive $10-year, $750 million NASCAR title sponsorship. In another nod to NASCAR’s strength at the time, Brian France and Bill France Jr. each made the list in separate spots.


U.S. Sen. John McCain (No. 49): The late senator had given MLB an ultimatum to come up with an effective steroid testing program or risk Congress taking a hard look at baseball’s federal antitrust exemption. His efforts increased the pressure on the league and union to reach an agreement on testing more quickly.


For the 2004 installment, and every one since then, you can bet we received some “what were you thinking” feedback. A few executives have even been known to answer calls from SBJ reporters by identifying themselves by their ranking.


“Hello, this is No. 17.”


Once you go through this year’s list, let us know what you think.