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Volume 22 No. 12
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Who and what to watch in 2019

We asked sports business leaders to share the storyline and executive they are following most closely in 2019.
Photo: ap images

Djenaba Parker

General counsel and chief talent officer, New York Red Bulls

Story: Sports betting is such a hot topic. With its legalization in the state of New Jersey (home of Red Bull Arena), there are significant growth opportunities in several areas of our organization.

Executive: Kim Fields. She is a superstar executive, problem-solver and strategic thinker. I am looking forward to seeing how she continues to effect change at the NFL, including prioritizing diversity in technical and on-the-field positions.

Rich Kleiman

Partner, Thirty Five Ventures

Story: I’m looking forward to seeing the continued evolution of the WNBA and its growth, especially after its popularity has surged in the last year. The players have all been very outspoken about their CBA, and I’m interested to see their negotiation results as well.

Executive: Hands down, Brodie Van Wagenen. For all of my life, I’ve been a huge Mets fan and I am really excited about his fast start with the organization. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds in 2019.

Joe Lacob, Peter Guber, Bob Myers and Rick Welts
Photo: getty images

Brandon Schneider

Chief revenue officer, Golden State Warriors

Story: The evolution of legalized sports betting. I am really intrigued to watch the effect this will have on fan engagement as we constantly strive to create the best possible experience.

Executives: Joe Lacob, Peter Guber and Rick Welts (above with Bob Myers). I work with three of SBJ’s 50 most influential people in sports business, so I am watching them closely as they will play a huge role in continuing to lead this industry forward into 2019 and beyond.

Lon Rosen

Executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Los Angeles Dodgers

Stories: The legalization of sports betting, and the continuing emergence of esports.

Executive: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, and how he’ll continue to improve and drive the growth of America’s pastime.

Photo: getty images

Bob Babbitt

Co-founder, Challenged Athletes Foundation

Story: The beginning of the qualifying process for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, plus I’m anxious to see which major brands step up in the New Year to support the world’s greatest athletes.

Executive: I am a huge fan of Akio Toyoda (above), the president of Toyota, and will be following every move he makes over the next two years. He and Toyota have made a huge commitment to the Paralympics and Para sports. He stated earlier this year that, “Toyota is a mobility company, not just a make-a-better-car company.” I love the message that he is sending to corporate leaders and to sports business professionals worldwide.

Photo: ap images

Alison Overholt

Editor-in-Chief, ESPN The Magazine

Story: [It is] a microcosm of an industry story — following consumer response to the explosion of streaming options. There are many who feel we’re already at the “too many options” tipping point. I’m confident ESPN+ is best in class, yet as the field continues to grow and we see how fans and audiences respond, there will be much for all of us to learn.

Executive: Lisa Borders (above). She’s left sports and gone on to be the first-ever CEO of Times Up. I’m very curious to see what she’ll do as the leader of a social movement that looks to become an institution, with aspirations to be a systemic game changer for women across industries and at all levels. And I’m simultaneously interested in what Adam Silver and the NBA organization will do in terms of naming a replacement for Borders atop the WNBA, and whether that will signal a strategy shift for the organization as they head into a season following the players’ choice to opt out of their CBA.

Photo: getty images

Debbie Yow

Athletic director, North Carolina State University

Story: Alston case. Nothing else compares to its potential impact on the fabric of collegiate athletics.

Executive: Commissioner [John] Swofford (above) and the soon-to-be ACC Network. Looking forward to it beginning in August.


Photo: ap images

Kenneth Shropshire

CEO, Global Sports Institute, Arizona State University

Story: The ongoing impact of the USA Gymnastics tragedy. Between that, domestic violence and coaching abuse in a more generic sense … these sports business ultra dark side examples are ramping to disturbing levels. My hope is that there will be more stories on the efforts to end all; my fear is that the revelations will continue. We need to do more to combat what is being revealed.

Executives: There are two for me: The first is Oliver Luck (above) as the CEO and commissioner of the XFL. This and any new professional football efforts, but especially the impact of Luck’s football savvy leadership with a marketing-powered entity. The second is Diahann Billings-Burford as the CEO of RISE. Much like Luck she comes in with an amazing background and resources. Can she harness the power of the organization to use sport to combat racism in America?