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Volume 22 No. 14

Forty Under 40

Photo: sports business journal illustration

The leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and groundbreakers of our 20th class join a respected and accomplished group of sports industry executives. For 20 years, Sports Business Journal has recognized 40 executives under the age of 40 who are making an impact and shaping an industry. We are proud to share their stories.

Christopher Benyarko

National Basketball Association

Daniel Cohen

Octagon

Gideon Cohen

The Montag Group

Camilo Durana

Major League Soccer

David Foster

National Basketball Players Association

Lloyd Frischer

CAA Sports

Al Guido

San Francisco 49ers / Elevate Sports Ventures

Amanda Herald

National Football League

Bill Hudock

Genesco Sports Enterprises

Martin Jarmond

Boston College

Tucker Kain

Los Angeles Dodgers

Matt Kalish

DraftKings

Brian Kantarian

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Tim Katz

YouTube

Zach Leonsis

Monumental Sports & Entertainment

Will McIntosh

Golf Channel

Chad Menefee

Luker on Trends

Nate Nanzer

Blizzard Entertainment

Ashley Page

Learfield IMG College

Jake Reynolds

Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment

Whalen Rozelle

Riot Games

Patrick Ryan

Eventellect

Frank Saviano

Proskauer

Rob Schneider

Learfield IMG College

Daniel Sillman

Relevent Sports Group

Sara Slane

American Gaming Association

Joe Smith

Bank of America

Fabian Stechel

Evolution Media Capital

Eric Sudol

Dallas Cowboys / Legends

Morgan Sword

Major League Baseball

Keli Zinn

West Virginia University

First Look podcast, with Forty Under 40 discussion at the 10:50 mark:

Photo: nbae / steven freeman

Christopher Benyarko’s path to the NBA didn’t flow through an internship, wasn’t championed by an industry insider, or even influenced by any prior sports experience.

Instead, he took a most conventional road to the NBA by answering an ad on NBA.com. The tech-savvy Benyarko joined the league in 2004 after he had earned his master’s degree in engineering from Cornell and worked briefly in the pharmaceuticals industry.

Senior Vice President, Direct-to-Consumer, National Basketball Association

Age: 38

Born: Toronto

Education: Cornell University, B.S., electrical and computer engineering, and M.S., engineering, electrical and computer engineering

Family: Wife, Mea; daughter, Mea (3)

What gets you fired up? Challenges. I love a great challenge that requires problem solving and a good team effort.  
You wish you knew 10 years ago: It is more important to listen than it is to talk. 
Profession you’d most like to attempt: I would love to be a chef.
Something that your friends would consider “so you”: Start watching a science-based show/documentary when it’s already 30 minutes in.
Esports/video games you play: “NBA 2K,” “Assassin’s Creed” and MLB Baseball.
Gamer name: CB3000.
Cause supported: NBA Cares.
Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Patrick Ewing.
We’d be surprised to know that … : I have a middle name, Quansah, that translated means “Wednesday,” the day I was born.

“I was a huge NBA fan, and I literally was on NBA.com and a co-worker said they had technical jobs, so I applied through the site,” Benyarko said.

What attracted Benyarko to the NBA was more than his love of basketball. It was the speed of the business compared to the pharmaceuticals industry, where product development projects can last up to a decade.

“Get an idea, build it, ship it and you can pivot and change it,” Benyarko said of the NBA business culture.

Benyarko has been on a building boom of late.

He plays a key role in expanding the offerings of NBA League Pass, the league’s live-game subscription package that allows fans to buy portions of live games at a reduced price. That follows previous rollouts of single-game, team pass and monthly offerings. Other content efforts are focused on NBA.com’s 21 global sites and the NBA App.

Under his leadership, NBA League Pass experienced record-breaking metrics with worldwide digital subscription up 64 percent for the 2017-18 season.

While Benyarko has been wildly successful in developing ways to make the NBA more accessible to fans worldwide, finding ways to attract and maintain viewers is a never-ending battle.

“The biggest challenge is to continue to find ways to have people interested in live and archived games and different versions of the games when there are so many other options people have to entertain themselves,” he said.

Photo: octagon

Daniel Cohen knows about perseverance and starting things from the ground up. He’s been doing that since he was a freshman at George Washington University.

Invited to walk on to the GWU baseball team, Cohen soon realized a Division I career was not in the books. He turned his interest to sports business.

Senior Vice President, Media Rights Consulting, Octagon

Age: 34

Born: Livingston, N.J.

Education: George Washington University, American Studies 

Family: Wife, Jenna

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Ordering a round of tequila and answering the phone while on the airplane.

Causes supported: ALS Association, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, DREAM (formerly Harlem RBI).

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Providing more opportunities for minorities and women.

Ideal day off: An early start carving up first tracks on fresh powder followed by a lively après-ski with my wife.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: While in Japan, upon executing a new agreement, a jar of sake filled with a fermenting coiled and fanged pit viper arrived at the table. I was instructed it was traditional Okinawan custom to drink a shot of habu to celebrate a new partnership. It did not taste like chicken.

“That’s what a failed collegiate baseball career can do for you. It wasn’t meant to be. I had to fill that void,” said Cohen, who now leads Octagon’s global media rights consulting division.

In 2003, he began contacting hedge fund manager Jeff Zients and diplomat Winston Lord, who were leading one of the groups seeking to bring the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C.

“I sent [Zients] an email every day for a couple of weeks. I ran out of things to say so I would send Snapple facts,” said Cohen, referring to the trivia facts on bottle caps, such as annual honey production by bees. “It fell on deaf ears. So I finally built up the courage to just wait for him in the lobby.”

That persistence resulted in an entry-level job and college work-study with the group and eventually a job with the Washington Nationals ownership group.

Cohen has since gravitated toward sports startup ventures, including ramping up Bloomberg’s sports data division from 2007 to 2014 and leading Octagon’s media rights division since 2017.

He said being part of or starting new business initiatives and persistence continue to be top lines in his career.

“I found for me that perseverance is key. Quite frankly, there is a lot — whether it’s personal or professional — in our life that are a lot of intangibles that you don’t control,” he said. “What you put in is what you do control. The energy, the effort and the hustle are all factors that contribute to an individual’s success.”

Photo: jessica paschkes

Gideon Cohen’s dream growing up was to become a sports broadcaster.

At Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications, he learned to cover all sports, including doing play-by-play for college football and basketball, as well as how to host talk shows. After graduating in 2000, he was sending out demo tapes when he landed a summer internship working for veteran broadcast agent Steve Herz’s IF Management.

Senior Vice President, Talent, The Montag Group

Age: 40 (turned 40 in January)

Born: New Rochelle, N.Y.

Education: Newhouse School of Communications, Syracuse University, B.A., television, radio and film

Family: Wife, Shaari; children, Mirabella, (5), Levi, (3)

What gets you fired up? Creative greatness … whether it’s an on-air talent, a musician, an athlete, a piece of music, a television show — when someone creates something special, it affects me like nothing else.

Something that your friends would consider “so you”: I’m a tad bit obsessive; I don’t have the ability to “dabble.” When I develop an interest in something, it takes over my life (recent obsessions include my golf swing, learning how to DJ, play guitar, politics, Peloton, streaming television, “Hamilton” and Bruce Springsteen).

Cause supported: Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital at New York Presbyterian.
We’d be surprised to know that … : I am the son of not one but two psychologists, and the son-in-law of a psychiatrist. That’s a lot of shrinks in my life!

“I was always obsessed and passionate about sports broadcasting and sports broadcasters, so for me it was like a treasure trove of information,” Cohen said of the internship, which became a full-time job. “It was a pretty amazing experience for me, and I never looked back from there.”

Syracuse is known for producing sports broadcasters and some of Cohen’s classmates, including CBS Sports college football and basketball play-by-play announcer Carter Blackburn and CBS Sports college football host Adam Zucker, became clients.

IF Management merged with The Montag Group in 2017, and Cohen is now a senior vice president of talent at TMG, representing more than 60 broadcasters and personalities. His clients include former NBA guard and new Pac-12 analyst Jason Terry, former MLB infielder and TBS broadcaster Jimmy Rollins and former NFL official turned CBS Sports broadcast rules analyst Gene Steratore.

“When we merged our companies several years ago the surprise, or the shining star, was Gideon,” TMG Chief Executive Officer Sandy Montag said. Montag had met and knew of Cohen before the merger, but became impressed with his personality, as well as his relationships with clients and network executives.

“When Gideon sends a reel over to ESPN, I think people look at it because you know, he came from that side of the world,” Montag said. “Clients love him. I really think he’s one of the great talent agents in our industry.”

Photo: courtesy of seatgeek

For much of SeatGeek’s existence, the company has been an upstart player looking to challenge the ticketing industry’s status quo. 

Co-Founder, SeatGeek

Age: 34

Born: New Jersey

Education: Dartmouth College, B.A., history

Family: Fiancee, Lola Cooper

You wish you knew 10 years ago: That SeatGeek would be around today (this is our 10-year anniversary!). Technology companies are easier to create than ever before, but few have staying power. 

Profession you’d most like to attempt: I’ve always thought it’d be great to be an NFL punter. There’s no pressure (unlike a field goal kicker) and you get to be in the NFL with no chance of injury!

Something your friends would consider “so you”: I run my life through Asana (work management software). My fiancee has realized that the easiest way to get me to do something is to not even tell me about it but just to create an Asana task and assign me. She’s hacked me!

Ideal day off: There’s truly nothing better than the atmosphere of a major fight in Vegas. If I could go anywhere, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

In 2018, the company and co-founder Russ D’Souza made a major transition to place themselves as a trusted partner to some of the sports industry’s largest leagues and teams. SeatGeek began primary ticketing for the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, the company’s first clients in the NFL and NBA, respectively, and also started building off its existing primary ticketing base in soccer. Industry giant StubHub was later folded into the Pelicans’ portion of those efforts.

SeatGeek made two other deals that significantly expanded its presence in football: a primary ticketing agreement with the Dallas Cowboys; and a five-year deal with the NFL that integrates the company directly into the league’s new open ticketing platform that also includes Ticketmaster and StubHub. 

The company, under D’Souza’s guidance, then followed up all that activity by striking a deal to put its name on the Chicago Fire’s home stadium in Bridgeview, Ill., marking the company’s first major, consumer-facing naming-rights partnership.

“We’ve been rather blown away by how much and how fast the industry has changed around us,” D’Souza said. “But we went into this with the goal and mission that ticketing should be more open, and that hasn’t changed. There’s still so much more we can do as we think about how the ticket can become a passport for the entire fan experience. The opportunities are expanding, but that core focus remains the same.”

Photo: mls

Now entering its 24th season, Major League Soccer has been on an astronomic growth curve. It’s Camilo Durana’s job to make sure the league’s events keep pace.

Senior Vice President, Properties and Events, Major League Soccer

Age: 38

Born: Bogota, Colombia

Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A., political science and Latin American studies

Family: Wife, Kimberly; son, Henrik (1); dog, Thumbelina (5)

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Architect. I relish great spaces and spend more time browsing through real estate apps than I care to admit. 

Guilty pleasure: McConnell’s Turkish Coffee Ice Cream.
Something that your friends would consider “so you”: Leaving 5 minutes early to beat the crowds.

Cause supported: Social Tees Animal Rescue. They do inspiring and incredibly important work.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Richard Branson. I’ve always admired his vision and ambition.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Diversifying its workforce.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done … : 20 days in the Alaskan wilderness.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I captained my high school curling team in Montreal.

“MLS has one of the most sought-after fan bases,” Durana said. “We want to make sure we’re spending a lot of time engaging our fans in the ways that they want, and investing in the things that accomplish that.”

In 2018, that meant new events like MLS’s first leaguewide esports platform, eMLS, which delivered the most-viewed EA FIFA qualifier event in the world, as well as the launch of the Campeones Cup, a new annual competition between the champions of MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX. 

It also meant changes to some of its marquee events, including the All-Star Game. Held last year in Atlanta alongside a bolstered slate of programming and sponsorship activation, the game drew 72,317 fans, the most-attended game in MLS All-Star history. Durana and his team also oversee the development of Soccer United Marketing events and the commercial platforms for its partners, including the Mexican national team’s U.S. tour, which in 2018 averaged more than 63,000 fans for its five games.

Durana said the year ahead will include an expansion of MLS’s events as well as the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the U.S.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about the fan and their experience,” he said. “Our goal is just keep laddering up the events, making them bigger and better for the fans.”

Photo: nbpa

David Foster was working as assistant U.S. attorney in Newark, N.J., prosecuting drug trafficking and other felony cases when he read an article that changed his life.

It was a story about Michele Roberts, the attorney who had been chosen as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. Foster read it at a time when he was considering a different career.

Deputy General Counsel, National Basketball Players Association

Age: 39

Born: New York, N.Y.

Education: Princeton University, undergraduate degree, history; Fordham University, J.D.

Family: Wife, Alanna; child, Taylor (10)

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Don’t expect to ever meet someone that you agree with on everything and don’t let those disagreements get in the way of mutual goals.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Angel investor in projects focused on improving African-American communities.

Guilty pleasure: Oreo cookies.

Cause supported: Read Alliance.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Roger Federer.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of: Keeping prices reasonable so that a larger percentage of fans can attend the games of their favorite team.

We’d be surprised to know that … : When I was 15 I played on the Barbados Junior National team in table tennis and over the last 5 1/2 years I have completed nine Ironman triathlons.

“It was very inspirational to me because she was a former litigator; she was a defense attorney, and then went into private practice and made this huge leap into sports,” Foster said. He got hired as deputy general counsel of the NBPA in December 2015.

“He has become an integral part of our legal team, handling a wide range of matters for individual players and the union as a whole, with poise and efficiency,” Roberts said.  

Those matters include two key emerging issues facing players — the legalization of sports gambling and the development of wearable technology, which measures an athlete’s body functions, such as breathing and heartbeat while exercising. 

Foster is a member of the NBA-NBPA Wearables Committee and was responsible for, among other things, establishing cybersecurity standards for NBA clubs that wish to have their players use wearables in practice. In the gambling arena, Foster has met with legislators in states throughout the country, advocating that players have a voice if their work on the court is going to be bet on. 

“I am most proud of the fact that I am working for that group that most people just think are lucky and should be grateful,” Foster said. “And it’s my job to remind them that they have some rights and their rights need to be protected. And their hard work and determination needs to be recognized and not exploited.”

Photo: caa

Lloyd Frischer has negotiated a variety of endorsements for CAA Sports’ 70 NBA player clients — from rookies to veterans — with blue-chip and global brands. 

“Lloyd has been instrumental in helping fuel the growth of our basketball division into a globally impactful business,” said Michael Levine, CAA Sports co-head. “He has an excellent ability to be a fervent advocate and salesperson for our clients, while simultaneously serving as a consistent and reliable resource for our buyers. He understands the rapid pace of change within the basketball landscape and is always quick to evolve along with our clients’ wants and needs.”

Co-Head, Basketball Marketing, CAA Sports

Age: 39

Born: Brooklyn

Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison, B.S., consumer science 

Family: Wife, Solange; children, Phoebe (5), Daphne (2)

What gets you fired up? Watching my 5-year-old daughter play organized basketball. I’m definitely going to be THAT dad.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Professional golfer. 

Guilty pleasure: Reality TV.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: I tend to tell bad jokes that only I laugh at.

Could not go a day without: Instagram. I have a slight issue. 

Cause supported: Harlem Academy (guides promising, low-income students to thrive at the highest academic levels and one day make a mark on the world.)

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Vince McMahon.  

Ideal day off: Playing a round of golf with friends and then taking my daughters to the driving range to teach them the game.

Since joining CAA Sports in 2010, Frischer has arranged endorsements with companies such as Adidas, Beats by Dre, ExxonMobil, Fanatics, Foot Locker, Gatorade, New Era Cap Co., Nike, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Tissot and Verizon.

He also negotiated a top rookie footwear and apparel deal for Chicago Bulls guard Kris Dunn in 2016.

In addition, Frischer secured five of the 10 NBA ambassador deals for “NBA 2K18” for Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell  and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Frischer also negotiated all four NBA player ambassador Gatorade deals for George, Russell, Towns and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade. 

“The single deal that I am most proud of is Dwyane Wade’s lifetime deal with Li Ning where we created a sub-brand called Way of Wade,” Frischer said of the agreement with the Chinese sportswear brand. 

“We started with a seven-year deal and I just negotiated a 10-year extension, so essentially those 10 years will all be retired years after Dwyane leaves the game [after this season],” Frischer said. “This year we are going to sign other NBA players to be ambassadors for Way of Wade.”

Photo: courtesy of espn images

Five or six years ago, ESPN executive Connor Schell saw something special in Libby Geist and gave her advice that she still leans on today. Schell, who had seen his profile rise from his association with ESPN’s acclaimed documentary series “30-for-30,” told Geist, “You need to own something. Instead of being one of 50 people working on a project, really carry something and put the pieces together.”

Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN Films and Original Content, ESPN

Age: 39

Born: Evanston, Ill.

Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison, B.A., political science

Family: Husband, Kevin Wildes; children, Russell (6) and Billy (4)

What gets you fired up? Growing competition in the unscripted space — it’s the BEST fuel to see competitors do great work, keeps me on my toes.

Guilty pleasure: US Weekly and a No. 2 meal at McDonald’s on days that I’m flying.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Stan Smiths.

You could not go a day without: A smooch from my little boys.

Cause supported: Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Patrick Ewing.

Ideal day off: Sleeping in and a carefree day with my husband and kids. Bike rides, meals outside and no Twitter.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: A five-day horseback trek through northern Argentina, with only Spanish-speaking companions and zero training.

Geist took Schell’s words to heart and took ownership of the 2013 documentary series “Nine for IX,” celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX. The strategy worked, as executives in Bristol often referred to that series of documentaries as “Libby’s project.”

“That advice really changed my career trajectory,” Geist said. “That was a really good exercise for me to develop relationships, which have been necessary, but also just to focus on those stories. It’s still great to be one of 50 people working on a project — we’re all a team. But stepping up and making something yours, helped me see things a little bit differently and realize that I like being a leader.” 

Today, Geist has a lot of responsibility at ESPN, overseeing much of the company’s storytelling. She oversees the features unit, which makes shorter-form stories for ESPN’s studio shows; “30-for-30” documentaries and podcasts; and longer series such as “O.J.: Made in America” and the upcoming Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance.” She also oversees original series for ESPN+, such as the Kevin Durant show, “The Boardroom.”

“We’re learning as we go,” Geist said. “It’s fun. For me, selfishly, maybe this is the answer: I just want to keep learning things, and I want to keep growing. If we only continued to do only those 50-minute documentaries, we would all go a little nuts. I wanted to take our team in different directions, because I want to keep learning and doing new stuff.”

Photo: mastercard

Over the past few years, Michael Goldstein’s work schedule has taken him overseas to the Rugby World Cup and the British Open, and to domestic events, including the World Series and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Not what you might have predicted if you’d visited his suburban Boston home three decades ago.

“My parents were always supportive, but they knew absolutely nothing about sports,” Goldstein said. 

Vice President, Head of Sponsorships, North America, Mastercard

Age: 40 (turned 40 this month)

Born: Boston

Education: University of Rochester, B.A. psychology; UMass, MBA and M.S. in sport management

Family: Wife, Lindsey; daughter, Zoe (7); son, Levi (5)

What gets you fired up? Watching a New England Patriots playoff game.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: That time management and building/maintaining relationships will always matter.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Pro basketball player.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Calling them from my car on the commute home.

Could not go a day without: My family.

Causes supported: The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

People in the industry you’d most like to meet: Michael Jordan and Adam Silver.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: When I was in high school, I went with some classmates to do community service in a very small village in Nicaragua.

Following his instincts, Goldstein was sports editor of his college newspaper and followed that with an ESPN production job. Looking to pursue the business side, Goldstein earned an MBA and a master’s in sport management at UMass. After competing in the Octagon Bowl, a competition judged by executives from that agency, Goldstein started at Octagon in 2007, working on Mastercard, one of the agency’s longest-tenured clients. 

A two-year stint at LG Electronics familiarized him further with brand marketing. He’d made enough of an impression working on that original account that Michael Robichaud, Mastercard senior vice president of global sponsorships, recruited him for offshore sponsorships, which included the UEFA Champions League, the British Open and the Rugby World Cup. 

Last summer, Goldstein moved to head of sponsorships in North America. His portfolio includes MLB, and four of its marquee teams — the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees; the PGA Tour; and League of Legends. 

“We’ll still play big in traditional sports,” Goldstein said, “but we’re looking to balance it out and cross-pollinate. In sponsorship now, you have to use every facet of marketing, so there’s a good view of how the marketing mix works together.”

As for Goldstein’s parents? “Let’s just say they’re much more into sports in their 60s than they were in their 20s and 30s,” he said with a laugh.

Photo: san francisco 49ers

The movie “Invincible” is the real-life story of a bartender who makes the Philadelphia Eagles after a public tryout attended by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hopefuls. The NFL has another story like that, just off the field.

President, San Francisco 49ers; CEO, Elevate Sports Ventures

Age: 39

Born: Washington Township, N.J.

Education: College of New Jersey, B.B.A.

Family: Wife, Thea; children, Estella (9), Sloane (8), Tatum (6)

What gets you fired up: Coaching my girls’ sports teams.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Sending random voice notes with business ideas at all hours of the day and night.

Causes supported: Board member, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley and Coach K/Fuqua School of Business; advisory board, Positive Coaching Alliance and San Jose State Institute for Study of Sport, Society & Social Change.

People in the industry you’d most like to meet: Sue Bird, Becky Hammon and my wife 15 years ago. They’re all people I look up to and want my girls to meet and emulate.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Teaching young kids the importance of sport and rooting for each other.

Al Guido grew up in a blue-collar family that moved 13 times by the time he was 17. Twice he came home to a padlocked door because the rent hadn’t been paid. He spent months in high school living with a friend. He put himself through a small south New Jersey college. Several months after graduation his father, a truck driver, sent him a classified ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer for a job fair held by sports conglomerate Comcast Spectacor. For $15, Guido got an upper-level ticket to a 76ers game and a fair attended by 1,500.

How many got jobs? Three, and yes, Guido was one.

“I was always told I could sell things, so I was very personable during my time in and around the concourse,” he said. But he also credits his upbringing, how hungry and motivated he was.

Fast forward less than two decades and Guido is the president of an NFL team, one of the youngest ever appointed to the position.

His own key to success? To ensure he and his family don’t have to experience what he endured in his childhood.

“I actually wanted to be a teacher and a coach. I never wanted to be anything more than that, but I was afraid I wouldn’t make any money,” he said. “I didn’t want to have to worry about my next meal or TV dinners or not having a mom or dad around, I didn’t want that life. … I wanted to have more security, so that fear is still the biggest motivator I have.”

When he leaves his home every day he is reminded of that by a sign he put up on his front door. It reads: “Work hard and be nice to people.”

Photo: eric espino / nfl

Amanda Herald is like the football star who almost didn’t make the team, only securing a spot because someone dropped off the roster at the last minute and then showing the club what it almost missed.

Vice President, Media Strategy and Business Development, National Football League

Age: 31

Born: Miami

Education: University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School, B.S., economics

Family: Husband, Luke Steinberger

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Most people view mentoring as a pleasure rather than a burden.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Travel blogger.

Guilty pleasure: Champagne.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Making 3+ reservations for one dinner.

You could not go a day without: My pup Austin.

Cause supported: CARE Elementary School in Miami.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Serena Williams.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Inclusion in the boardroom.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Scuba diving the blue hole in Belize.

We’d surprised to know that … : I am in three fantasy leagues for “The Bachelor.”

Now a 10-year veteran of the NFL’s media and business strategy group, Herald is involved in all aspects of developing the league’s media and digital approach. She first got to the NFL through its junior rotational program, a two-year, full-time, entry-level management program where prospective executives rotate among three to four departments at the league. 

After then-NFL CFO Anthony Noto spoke to her University of Pennsylvania sports business class, Herald was sold and applied the next year. Up to 3,000 applicants seek a JRP slot annually and on average eight are chosen, so when the NFL turned her down, she had other options lined up. She accepted a position in marketing at American Express.

And then the NFL called.

“Someone in the [JRP] class above me dropped out so they opened another slot,” she explained. And like that, she had her foot in the door.

She’s made the most of it and is now involved in almost every major NFL media and digital deal.

As a millennial she brought a fresh perspective to how her generation consumes media, a key development for sports as leagues and teams increasingly look to distribute content on as many platforms as possible.

But even millennials age, and one way Herald keeps up is by remaining involved in the JRP program. She interviews applicants and always seeks to have one or two rotate through her group.

“We always ask, ‘What is the app you use most on your phone,’ and when we have new JRPs it is always some new answer,” she said. “It  keeps us a little bit fresh.”

Photo: wasserman

Gatorade’s seminal “Be Like Mike” TV ad is a pillar on which Michael Jordan’s commercial persona was built. It also served as career entree for Broderick Hicks. As a 12-year-old basketball junkie, the ad was targeted squarely at Hicks. While it surely compelled him to drink more Gatorade, it also steered him toward sports marketing.

“‘Be Like Mike’ is still my favorite ad and that started my interest in the marketing side of sports,” Hicks said. “I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I wanted to be involved.”

Vice President, Brands, Wasserman

Age: 39

Born: Houston

Education: Wake Forest University, B.S., business, with a concentration in marketing

Family: Wife, Kelley; sons, Major (2); Locke (2 months)

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Accounts and programs will come and go, but genuine relationships endure.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: I would like to be a basketball coach. I think about some of the great coaches I played for, like Dave Odom and Skip Prosser, all the things I learned from them, and it would be a shame if I didn’t pass some of that on at some level.

Guilty pleasure: Marathons of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Brunch, it could be anywhere. My dream job is to do a “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” for brunch.

Cause supported: Renaissance, NYC, an offshoot of my Harlem church that does a lot of community giveback.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of …: Diversity.

Hicks’ basketball talents earned him a scholarship to Wake Forest, where he earned a business degree with a marketing concentration. After playing pro hoops in Turkey, Hicks came home and networked his way to former Wasserman Vice Chairman Arn Tellem in 2006. T-Mobile, then a Wasserman client, had signed an NBA corporate sponsorship and was looking for expertise — that was Hicks’ way in.

Since then, he’s worked on Verizon, Pepsi and Microsoft, where he helped make Surface tablets a fixture on NFL sidelines. “Authentically innovating the game is what every tech brand wants,” he said. “As legal gambling becomes widespread, things like whether it’s a first down or where a punt went out of bounds, it won’t be acceptable just to have someone judging those when there’s technology to get it exactly right.’’

Hicks gets kudos both for his interpersonal skills and industry acumen.

“If we had any difficult client situations, he was the ideal guy to go in and reset,” said Vanderbilt Athletic Director Malcolm Turner, who worked with Hicks at Wasserman. “But beyond style, he delivers substance in spades.”

Hicks has now come full circle, working on AT&T. “We’re on the cusp of a 5G arms race,” he said. “That ability to pump out content in real time is exciting — it should allow us to do all kinds of new things, as far as activation.”

Photo: richard freeda

A chance connection made while Bill Hudock was studying in England propelled him to a career on the business side of American sports. In 2000, Hudock was in a creative writing program at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, when a professor picked up on his lifelong love of sports and recalled that Lex Sant, a student 10 years prior, now worked in media relations for the Carolina Panthers.

Vice President, Corporate Consulting, Genesco Sports Enterprises

Age: 38

Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Education: Dickinson College, B.A., English; University of Virginia, Darden School of Business, MBA

Family: Wife, Alicia; children, Audrey (6), Billy Jr. (3)

What gets you fired up: The last four minutes of “Freebird.”

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Rock star.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Giving obscure restaurant recommendations in equally obscure cities across America.

Could not go a day without: Music and headphones.

Cause supported: Future 5 is a Stamford, Conn., group which supports college prep to students who need it.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: John Calipari. He fought his way up.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: During business school, I went to South Africa and drilled for gold a mile and a half below the surface in a gold mine. We found some, but didn’t get to keep it.

That connection led Hudock to two internships at the team, followed by three years in media relations with the Buffalo Bills.

“Until then, the business side of sports wasn’t obvious to me,” Hudock said. He knew additional credentials would be required to switch from PR to marketing, so he pursued an MBA at Virginia, which led to a summer marketing job with the Washington Capitals. That was followed by a stint at a media and marketing agency and a job with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2010-13 as director of strategic marketing and business development, in which he helped discern revenue opportunities outside of football.

“What’s really helped me is that I spent the first four years of my career in locker rooms,” Hudock said. So, he stays fan focused. “We have more data than ever, but if there’s too much, it can cause paralysis.”

In 2013, Genesco Executive Vice President Kit Geis lured Hudock to New York, where he’s since worked on Pepsi’s expansive sports sponsorship portfolio — its NBA league deal and NFL rights, which include the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

“Bill’s been a great strategic sparring partner for us,” said Justin Toman, Pepsi’s head of U.S. sports marketing, who was a Forty Under 40 honoree in 2017. “When we get in a room and debate new ideas with him, I know we’ll always end up with plans that are more complete and better developed.”

Photo: boston college athletics

William V. Campbell Director of Athletics, Boston College

Age: 39

Born: Goldsboro, N.C.

Education: UNC-Wilmington, B.A., communication studies; Ohio University, MBA and Master of Sports Management

Family: Wife, Jessica; children, Scarlett (3) Savannah (1)

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Get comfortable with social media because you are going to start tweeting. 

Profession you’d most like to attempt? College professor.

Guilty pleasure: Tortilla chips, apple desserts and live jazz.

Could NOT go a day without: Oolong tea.

Cause supported: Nativity Prep, a minority boys elementary school.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Mark Cuban.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Hiring minorities in leadership roles.

Ideal day off: Workout, hot tub, go to movies, nap, happy hour, great dinner, finish with live jazz.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Watch the birth of my daughters.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I can do the robot dance.

Martin Jarmond might have been the youngest athletic director in the power five when he was hired at Boston College in 2017, but he already had experienced many of the typical AD challenges in his time as a deputy at Ohio State. By the time he got to BC, Jarmond had overseen the massive football program at Ohio State, written performance reviews for then-coach Urban Meyer and sat in meetings with AD Gene Smith.

Jarmond reminisced about those experiences as he thought about a recent day on the job at BC. The day started with a meeting about a football player’s bad judgment the night before. Just a few hours later, Jarmond was sitting across from a donor and asking for a $500,000 gift to athletics.

“You have to learn how to communicate with a wide variety of people,” Jarmond said. “And many of those conversations are going to be very different. In one setting, you might be selling a vision to a donor and then you might be talking to a guy who’s being critical on Twitter.”

The past year has seen Jarmond really settle into the top chair at BC. He wrote the Eagles’ first strategic plan, which put measurable goals like a top-25 football program and the development of a fan council on paper. Jarmond launched BC’s first athletics-only capital campaign with a goal of $150 million. The five-year campaign has received $60 million toward its goal.

“All of this is providing us with a road map for where we want to go,” he said.

Photo: imad bolotok

Shelby Jordan is an L.A. kind of guy. He grew up there and went to USC, where he played basketball.

And like other Hollywood stories, Jordan got his big break there.

Senior Project Manager, Legends

Age: 39

Born: Providence, R.I.

Education: University of Southern California, B.S., business administration

Family: Wife, Erica; children, Jackson (3) and Marley (1)

What gets you fired up? Opening day/night of a venue.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Younger years, professional snowboarder. Now, chef.

Guilty pleasure: Cookies.

Could not go a day without: Music.

Cause supported: Movember. We need to elevate the conversation about men’s health.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Mark Cuban.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Encouraging and supporting women and diversity. Our industry’s leadership should reflect our industry’s audience.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: My wife and I throwing a surprise wedding.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I still own and play my original Nintendo from 1985.

“One of my dad’s good friends took me to a Lakers game, and we are sitting out on City View Terrace [restaurant] and he’s all like ‘I want to introduce you to somebody.’ It was Tim Leiweke,” said Jordan of the meeting in 2000 when he was a senior in college and realizing his basketball playing days were winding down.

After a little online research, Jordan learned that Leiweke was president and CEO of AEG at the time. “I literally peppered his assistant for the better part of three or four months. Phone calls, emails,” Jordan said.

That persistence turned into a meeting and a job with AEG.

Jordan shares a name with his father, a former NFL offensive lineman who won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Raiders and taught him the importance of humility and how success and personal development are enabled by others.

“At the end you may accomplish something, you may do something but usually not just because of you,” he said. “Someone along the way has helped you.”

While at AEG, Jordan worked on project management, financing and development of Dignity Health Sports Park, New York’s PlayStation Theater and hotel, entertainment, residential and other components of L.A. Live. 

He moved to Legends in 2017 and was a senior project manager for LAFC’s $350 million Banc of California Stadium. He has been consulting on the new $150 million Class AAA baseball stadium in Las Vegas. It’s those L.A. projects and their economic impacts that appeal to Jordan.

“I’m doing something in my own backyard,” he said. “That’s really easy to get up and get motivated on a daily basis.”

Photo: steve maller photography

Global Olympics sponsors typically start preparing for the Games at least four years in advance. Intel’s Stephanie Joukoff had just seven months to go from white board to the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Games. 

Senior Director of Global Marketing: Olympics, Sports, Emerging Technologies, Intel Corp.

Age: 37

Born: Walnut Creek, Calif. 

Education: Stanford University, B.A., international relations, minor in Russian language and literature 

Family: Husband, Jamie Qualk; children, Sasha Qualk (7), Katerina Qualk (4) 

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Think it through, but don’t overthink it. Connect the dots. Always trust your gut.   

Guilty pleasure: Gym. Beach. Wine. Repeat.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: 10 days, 5 cities, 1 roll-on suitcase.

Could not go a day without: Breaking a sweat! 

Causes supported: Currently I serve on the Sales & Marketing Women at Intel board as the marketing and communications chair. I’ve volunteered with Buena Vista Auxiliary on early intervention literacy programs in my local school district. 

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Beth Brooke-Marciniak.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Using technology to digitize, personalize, engage and reimagine the fan experience of the future.

A daunting task? Yes, but an exciting one for a former Stanford synchronized swimmer who attended the Atlanta Games as a teen. “Of course you’re nervous, you want it to be great,” Joukoff said. “But as scary as the challenge might be, I just love having a blank slate and imagining something from scratch.”

As the newest global sponsor, Intel was also one of Pyeongchang’s most active. Under Joukoff’s direction, Intel pushed its products into the conversation with multiple, ambitious technical and promotional projects in Korea. It launched 1,218 “Shooting Star” drones into the air around the opening ceremony for a light show and built a TV spot around it, earning 14 billion global impressions.

Intel also organized the first Olympics-adjacent esports event, convincing the International Olympic Committee to lend the rings to a video game
competition for the first time. Other advances in virtual reality and 5G broadband-enabling hardware were also on display.

Joukoff credits her background in sports for giving her the discipline and focus it takes to pull off such ambitious projects. Breathing techniques she learned on the pool deck now get deployed before big presentations, and the team dynamics still pay off.

“To be surrounded by people who are pushing you and supporting you every day, that’s an amazing thing to grow up in, and when you grow up, you appreciate having that around you,” she said.

Since Pyeongchang, Intel has put Joukoff in charge of marketing strategy and campaigns for all of its major sports partnerships.

Photo: jon soohoo / los angeles dodgers

Since Guggenheim Baseball Management acquired the Los Angeles Dodgers nearly seven years ago in a record-setting $2.15 billion deal, the club has become baseball’s annual attendance leader, a technology trailblazer and a thought leader on the future of the fan experience.

President, Dodgers Business Enterprise, Los Angeles Dodgers

Age: 36

Born: Cleveland

Education: Williams College, B.A., economics

Family: Wife, Ali; daughter, Palmer (2) 

What gets you fired up? Innovation, especially in an industry like the sports business.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Relationships will be the best investments of my career.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Figuring out how to put a game (any type of game) on a screen in every room I enter.

Could not go a day without: My phone, unfortunately.

Cause supported: Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.

Person in the industry would you’d most like to meet: Mark Price. He was a hero of mine growing up as a basketball nut in Cleveland.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Being where young people are consuming.

We’d be surprised to know that … :  I will put my grilling skills up against anyone else on the list!

Tucker Kain, newly named early this year as president of Dodgers Business Enterprise, has been a key figure in all of those changes. 

With the ownership group since its inception, Kain began his Dodgers run by helping finalize the mammoth franchise acquisition and a 25-year,
$8.3 billion TV deal with what was then Time Warner Cable. More recently, Kain was a lead executive on two important developments: a multiyear deal with ticket strategy company Eventellect that helped the Dodgers in 2018 reach a new franchise attendance record; and the reconstitution of its L.A. Dodgers Accelerator business incubator into the year-round Global Sports Venture Studio, in partnership with R/GA Ventures.

Kain also worked closely last year with Levy Restaurants’ E15 analytics subsidiary and Miso Robotics to make Dodger Stadium the initial testing ground for the robotic kitchen assistant Flippy. The technology is expected to quickly expand throughout the sports industry.

With Dodger Stadium in line to host the 2020 MLB All-Star Game, Kain and the organization are looking to continue rethinking the in-venue fan experience. 

“Back when we started in 2012, we had some very specific goals on what we wanted to get done with the ballpark, the team and so forth, and we’ve built a winner,” Kain said, referring in part to the club’s two straight National League pennants. “Now that we’ve been able to do a lot of this, we’ve also been able to step back and really see what the Dodgers brand means from a global perspective, be creative, and look at the business perhaps a bit differently.”

Photo: draftkings

Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Founder, DraftKings

Age: 37

Born: Lowell, Mass.

Education: Columbia University, B.S., computer science and economics; Boston College, MBA

Family: Children, Summer (9) and Savannah (6) 

What gets you fired up? Having a lot of investment in something that I can control. A startup was so different from corporate America for me. You control whether you make or break that opportunity.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: To go ahead and do something entrepreneurial. There’s not as much to lose as you think there is and so much to gain.

Guilty pleasure: Anything carbs related. Chips, pasta, breads.

Could not go a day without? My cellphone.

Esports or video games you play: “Command and Conquer: Rivals,” “Lineage II.” 

Gamer name: Runner91.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Ted Leonsis.

Ideal day off: Any day where I have nothing planned and can sit down and decompress and spend time with my kids is a pretty good day.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a co-founder of the daily fantasy site that has become the leading online sports betting destination in New Jersey invites friends to wager on seemingly random, everyday outcomes, like the last digit in the license plate of the next car they see.

DraftKings co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer Matt Kalish says he likes to have “skin in the game,” a predilection that was a core premise behind the launch of the now popular DFS site in 2012. Based on what he knew about DraftKings’ players, Kalish was confident that they would migrate to sports betting once the site was able to offer it.

“When you looked at other things [DFS players do], one of the strongest was sports betting,” said Kalish, who met co-founder Jason Robins while working in business analytics at Capital One. “So, even before the Supreme Court ruled, we were working on the product. When it happened, we were pretty well-positioned.”

When New Jersey regulators cleared the way for online sports betting in August, DraftKings was the first to launch. That jump on the market provided the site an advantage that it thus far has sustained, generating $6.9 million in online sports wagering revenue in January, giving it about two-thirds of the market for the month.

Last month, DraftKings announced a deal with Caesars Entertainment that will allow it to expand into the 13 states in which Caesars operates casinos, should those states clear the way for sports betting.

Photo: albert cheung / frame studios

Winners of this award, or any executives in the sports business, often tell stories of growing up not knowing there was a career in sports and often lucking into the space. That’s not Brian Kantarian’s path.

Executive Director, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Age: 35

Born: Greenwich, Conn.

Education: Georgetown University, B.S. in business administration, finance; New York University, MBA, finance 

Family: Wife, Kathryn; children, Kaylee (3) and Cole (8 months)

What gets you fired up? My kids running to the door and giving me a big hug when I come home from work.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Who you know is just as important as what you know.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Owner/manager of a surf shop and beach bar.

Guilty pleasure: Casamigos on the rocks with a lime.

Could not go a day without: Coffee.

Cause supported: Cristo Rey NY High School located in East Harlem, which offers students from low-income families a quality education and real-life work experience.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Phil Knight.

Ideal day off: Start off with a BEC from our local deli, workout in the morning to counteract the BEC, outdoor activities with my two kids, family BBQ in the evening. 

Kantarian’s father, Arlen, was for over three decades a major marketing and entertainment executive with the NFL, Radio City Music Hall and the U.S. Tennis Association. In fact, when Arlen Kantarian organized the Michael Jackson and Diana Ross Super Bowl halftime shows, his son got into the acts. 

“The Jackson one, ‘Heal the World,’ brought kids from around the world on stage,” Kantarian said, describing his part. “Ross, just one of her song segments had a number of kids on stage holding hands.”

Having lived around sports, Kantarian said he knew he wanted to make a career in the industry and joined Velocity Sports out of Georgetown. But he quickly learned the creative thinking required in marketing was not his forte. His brain is wired, he said, more analytically and is numbers based.

So, he earned an MBA from NYU and joined JPMorgan Chase, which has a well-regarded sports finance practice.

Kantarian quickly latched on and worked with JPM’s private bank clients that have interests in sports. In any given year, he executes four to five loan deals, and there are roughly 30 debt deals on the books that need servicing.

The bank is cautious about naming clients, but it’s no secret the big one is Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke and his Inglewood stadium project. The bank lent over $2 billion for that.

Growing up around the sports industry Kantarian learned to appreciate the passion of the business, including that of owners, he said.

“Now in my seat,” he said, “I see that firsthand.”

Photo: youtube

When Tim Katz started at YouTube in 2011, the platform’s relationship with leagues and properties was quite different.

Head of Sports Partnerships, YouTube

Age: 35

Born: Seattle

Education: Dartmouth College, B.A., American history; Stanford Graduate School of Business, MBA

Family: Wife, Jennifer; child, Charlie (3)

Guilty pleasure: Fresh squeezed orange juice (I drink it by the jug).

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Doing deep postgame analysis of anything remotely competitive (tennis matches, board games, cards, etc.)

Could not go a day without? My phone.

Cause supported: Glide Foundation in San Francisco.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet? Ken Griffey Jr.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Diversity and inclusion.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Bareboat chartering a 37-foot boat with minimal sailing experience with a group of relative strangers that have become some of my best friends.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I was delivered by my father-in-law.

“When I first joined, the NFL and MLB weren’t even on YouTube,” Katz said. “If you were to ask folks at those leagues or any of our other partners now, YouTube is a core and integral part of their media mix and how they reach fans.”

Never was that more apparent than in 2018. YouTube TV signed sponsorship and content deals with the NBA and MLB, becoming the first presenting sponsor of the NBA Finals and the World Series, respectively. That also included carriage of NBA TV, NBA League Pass and MLB Network for all subscribers to YouTube TV. Katz and his team also signed a deal with LAFC for its English-language broadcast rights, becoming the first major professional sports team to distribute its local games digitally.

YouTube’s sports platform, now a nine-figure business, has multiplied 3 1/2 times in size since Katz took over more than three years ago.

Under Katz’s watch, YouTube also acquired global highlight rights for a range of properties from FIFA to La Liga to WWE. It also signed deals with athletes such as Kevin Durant, Chloe Kim and JuJu Smith-Schuster to help develop their voices and channels on the platform.

“Sports content is the most valuable content in the world, and a lot of what happens in the sports media landscape really dictates media consumption more broadly,” Katz said. “You have this really interesting inflection point on the horizon, and we’re right at the epicenter.”

Photo: mason foster photography

The Golden State Warriors have won three championships in the past four years, and that organization is now as revered off the court as much as it is on. Yet, Christopher Lee says leaving his hometown team in 2012 was his best career move.

Vice President, Head of Sponsorships and Experiential Marketing, U.S. Bank

Age: 39

Born: San Francisco

Education: San Diego State University, B.A., communications; University of San Francisco, M.A., sports management

Family: Wife, Stephanie; daughter, Campbell (5); son, Colin (6 months)

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Nice guys can win; integrity is important.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Pro golfer. (Has a 12 handicap).

Guilty pleasure: Secretly watching the reality shows that my wife admits to watching.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Getting upset at them mixing sports apparel brands; like a Nike cap with an Adidas shirt.

Cause supported: I am on the national board of JUMA Ventures, a nonprofit that provides jobs and training at sports venues to disconnected youth.

Ideal day off … : Taking my wife and kids to a [San Francisco] Giants game.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done … : I dressed in a hot dog suit for a halftime on-court promotion while I was an intern at the Warriors.

Lee, who joined the Warriors as an intern when the team won 17 games in 2000-01, could see the Warriors were improving. Still, after a decade in corporate sales, he wanted to be “not just a sports guy, but a marketing guy,” he said. Esurance, a Warriors corporate sponsor, made that decision easy by offering Lee the keys to its expanding sponsorship department. 

Esurance sponsorship spending rose from $3 million to $20 million a year during Lee’s tenure. Tennis properties such as the U.S. Open helped establish the brand. Later, MLB and digital All-Star balloting became Esurance’s largest platform, and Lee rose to director of brand partnerships and social media engagement.

Five years in, Lee had a good idea of what the view was from the brand side of the table, but not at the scale of U.S. Bank, the nation’s fifth-largest and his next stop in 2017.

“Chris has an uncanny ability to develop consensus internally,” said Adam Lippard, chief partnership officer at GMR Marketing, who worked with Lee as a client at Esurance and now at U.S. Bank. “That’s important, since neither company had a long-standing culture of sponsorship.”

Lee has since trimmed a sponsorship portfolio of 110 properties to fewer than 60, while resetting the agenda.

“Five years ago, it was about tabling to sign up checking accounts,” he said. “Now we’re doing things from a social media perspective and developing content. … We have great awareness, now we’re building consideration.” Lee also noted the marketing cacophony from competitors including Citi, Chase and Bank of America: “We’re still a community bank at our core, but the long-term goal is having a handful of national relationships we can still activate locally.”

Photo: ned dishman

Whether it’s related to sports gambling, esports or the latest advances in digital technology, it’s a good bet that Zach Leonsis will be at the forefront of innovation.

Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and General Manager, Monumental Sports Network, Monumental Sports & Entertainment

Age: 30

Born: Vero Beach, Fla.

Education: University of Pennsylvania, undergraduate degree in the College of Arts & Sciences; McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, MBA

Family: Wife, Melissa; dog, Parker (1 1/2)

What gets you fired up? Getting the green light to execute.

Guilty pleasure: Traveling. I never really mind traveling for work, as long as it’s not for too extended of a period of time. Oh, and also “Fortnite.”

Something your friends would consider “so you”: A lot of my friends know me as being pretty neat and tidy (maybe too much so?). I also really enjoy hosting events or planning special trips. It wouldn’t surprise my friends to receive an elaborate email from me about some big thing that I hope everyone can attend.

Could not go a day without: Surprise, surprise — my iPhone.

Causes supported: My team and I volunteer at Martha’s Table Joyful Food Markets at Hendley Elementary School on a monthly basis.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Hiring more women.

He oversees content for Monumental Sports Network, the over-the-top digital network run by Monumental Sports & Entertainment that counts the Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics and Valor and Capital City Go-Go as part of its portfolio. Other OTT programming includes minor league hockey and local high schools as part of the subscription-based service. Leonsis also led the network’s launch of 14 original series and more than 400 episodes of original programming and game-day shows for the Wizards and Capitals. 

The result has been a huge swell of interest in the OTT network that over the past few years has seen paid subscriptions jump by 50 percent.

“Over the past 12 to 18 months we have supercharged our growth,”
Leonsis said. “We’ve positioned Monumental not just as a sports entertainment company but as a media company.”

Monumental also is forging ahead to develop and expand business strategies around sports betting and esports with Leonsis taking an aggressive approach. “We are using the organization and platforms to enter new industries,” he said. “We’ve progressed our business from a traditional sports and entertainment company to one that is active in everything else that is going on.”

Though his father, Ted, owns Monumental Sports & Entertainment, it wasn’t preordained that he would follow his dad into the business. But following his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, Leonsis found his calling after a conversation with his father that emphasized the opportunities.

“Then it clicked,” he said. “I feel lucky to work in professional sports. It is everything I could personally want.”

Photo: facebook

Devi Mahadevia did not follow the traditional career path of a sports industry executive. But the power of technology has always resonated with her, which is why after the 9/11 terrorist attacks she spent the first five years of her career at Lockheed Martin supporting the country’s national security and intelligence efforts.

North America Sports Programming Lead, Facebook

Age: 37

Born: Baltimore

Education: University of Maryland, B.S., information systems and statistics; Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, MBA

Family: husband, Michael Huang; child, Baby Mahahuang, ETA March 2019

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Most people chase success at work, thinking that will make them happy. The truth is that happiness at work will make you successful.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Entrepreneur or DJ, or both. 

Guilty pleasure: Taco Bell.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Claiming that I would be a good DJ.

Could not go a day without: My library of music / Spotify playlists. 

Cause supported: PeacePlayers International. 

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Serena Williams.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of …: Supporting diversity in leadership positions.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Hang gliding in Rio de Janeiro.

It was there that she learned how technology can develop new businesses and change the direction of traditional industries. That knowledge led her to pursue a career in media and make what she deems her most important career move — taking a job with Comcast Interactive Media.

“Comcast gave me a solid foundation in traditional media distribution and technology,” Mahadevia said. “I worked on their regional sports networks and I was completely fascinated to learn how sports impacted cyber growth, advertising models and overall technology.”

At Facebook, she has been integral in the company’s efforts to add live sports content. From structuring Facebook Watch deals with MLB and the NFL to landing partnerships with the WWE and World Surf League, her work helps partners grow, engage and monetize their global fan bases while supporting Facebook’s mission of bringing people closer together through the power of sports.

“It’s been pretty cool to see how Facebook Watch puts people at the center of the social viewing experience so they can follow the content that they care about, start conversations with friends over videos they’re watching and, most importantly, building a community for people who share similar interests,” Mahadevia said. 

She concedes that with the increasing number of entertainment options, there are more challenges to people’s attention spans and overall fan growth for various properties.

“It’ll be interesting to see how companies creatively evolve their product and businesses to support this short attention span and, hopefully, leveraging platforms like Facebook to achieve that,” she said.

Photo: golf channel

Will McIntosh was 29 years old when he sold WorldGolf.com to Golf Channel. The company, which operated golf and travel websites, became the linchpin for the network’s successful GolfNow business.

Executive Vice President, Business and Strategy, Comcast/NBCUniversal; NBC Sports Group; Golf Channel

Age: 39

Born: Columbus, Ga.

Education: Winthrop University, B.S. (magna cum laude), business administration

Family: Wife, Hollis; children, Grace (11), Emery (9) and Hoyt (8)

What gets you fired up? Opportunities to create new partnerships, build new businesses, learn something new.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: How to better identify, hire and retain talented people; no one right way to build or scale a business.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Something in the online video game or movie business — two passion points for me.

Guilty pleasure: Espresso and sugar-free Red Bull.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Early adoption of new technology and major supporter of the Irish goodbye/ghosting at social events.

Cause supported: First Tee, currently serve on the board of directors for the Central Florida Chapter.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Dabo Swinney.

Typically when entrepreneurs sell to a corporate entity, they stay for a short while before leaving. McIntosh, though, figured out how to thrive and has been a high flier with Golf Channel for the past decade.

He became the youngest executive vice president in network history in 2017 and now runs strategy for Golf Channel’s non-television businesses. He has managed 15 mergers and acquisitions and overseen the network’s digital expansion internationally, including as the lead negotiator for the rights to the over-the-top service PGA Tour Live for NBC Gold. 

He’s at the table with NBC’s top executives, including Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal broadcast, cable, sports and news, and Golf Channel President Mike McCarley.

“I remember vividly during spring break, my wife and I are going with our family down to South Florida and I’m on a conference call for an hour with Mark Lazarus and Bob Eatroff [Comcast executive vice president of global corporate development and strategy], and I was sent to convince Bob why we think this acquisition makes sense,” McIntosh said. “There were times along the way that we were debating heavily what company we should acquire, and then ultimately … we decided on that which is now SportsEngine.”

In some respects, McIntosh was fated to become an important part of the sports community, especially since he was named after his maternal grandfather, the Hall of Fame knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm. “There’s a YouTube video out there with a little blond-headed boy out in the audience when my grandfather is giving his Hall of Fame acceptance speech that happens to be me.”

Photo: matt robinson

Chad Menefee was an MBA student at N.C. State with a master’s already under his belt when he started his journey toward becoming what is quite likely the first Forty Under 40 winner with a Ph.D in parks, recreation and tourism.

“I ultimately wanted to work in sports strategy, so I decided to get my Ph.D because I knew it would give me a leg up on others in the industry. At the same time, I had a business background and wasn’t sure that I actually wanted to stick with research as a career.”

Senior Partner, Luker on Trends

Age: 39

Born: Harrisburg, Pa.

Education: Wake Forest University, B.S., business; N.C. State University, Ph.D. and M.S. in parks, recreation and tourism management, and MBA

What gets you fired up? Getting the results from a new study and seeing something that will completely change someone’s thinking. 

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Hire the right people and put your trust in them. You don’t have to do everything on your own.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: MLB general manager.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: I eat so much oatmeal that I order it by the 50-pound bag.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Tinker Hatfield from Nike.

Ideal day off: 5-mile run in the morning, time with my dog Jordy, grilling and beers outside, no phones all day.

We’d be surprised to know that … :  I can’t hear out of my left year. If you’re sitting to the left of me in a crowded place, I probably have no idea what you’re saying.

After presenting his dissertation, which compared Chinese and American basketball fans, Rich Luker, who had founded ESPN Sports Poll in 1994, asked him to do a project for Anheuser-Busch, one of Luker’s biggest clients.

“It gave me a chance to use both the left and right sides of my brain, doing all of the analysis and developing creative solutions for clients. After about two or three days, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Menefee said.

Along with Luker, he started focusing on understanding how technology was changing Americans’ free time.

“We began doing more to understand why people become fans in the first place. We were ahead of the curve and it allowed us to start working on solutions for clients before fan losses became irreversible,” he said.

He developed a coding system that integrates the poll’s 25 years of data with proprietary information provided by leagues, teams, corporate partners, media rights holders and even other research companies, like Nielsen. He is currently working on making it possible to fold in data from properties’ CRM systems.

But interpreting all that data still requires a fan’s mindset.

“Predictive analytics will help maximize profits in the short term, but won’t help build the next generation of fans,” Menefee said.

Photo: blizzard entertainment

The Overwatch League might not exist if Nate Nanzer had followed traditional professional norms.

He first applied for a rank-and-file marketing job at Blizzard Entertainment in 2014 even though he was “ridiculously overqualified” — a phrase he actually used in a two-line cover letter. Improbably, he got the job. Once he came aboard, he developed a vision for “Overwatch” esports in his free time, when he wasn’t doing his actual job in audience analytics. 

Commissioner, Overwatch League, Activision Blizzard

Age: 39

Born: San Diego

Education: George Washington University 

Family: Wife, Susan; children, Harrison (8) and Keilani (6)

What gets you fired up: Big ideas. 

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Having kids is awesome.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Chef.

Guilty pleasure: Scotch whisky. 

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Ridiculing their taste in music.

Could not go a day without: Cold brew coffee.

esports or video games Played: Always playing “Hearthstone” and “Overwatch.” Also playing a ton of “Fortnite” and “Madden” with my kids

Gamer name: Dad.

Cause supported: Planned Parenthood. 

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Dana White. 

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Evolving their products.

Ideal day off: Playing golf near an ocean.

Five years later, he’s commissioner of OWL, a 20-team global esports league that’s taken the corporate sports world by storm. By hewing closely to the business framework created over the last century by traditional major North American sports, OWL resonated with investors and marketing spenders in a way more established esports properties are still chasing.

Copying the big four might seem pedestrian to an outsider, but it counted as innovative in the video game world, where publishers struggle at times with how to structure competitive communities that were born in the grassroots. But Nanzer relied on his love of sports and his work in audience insights to see the solution: Esports fans are like other sports fans.

“The reason people follow esports is the same reason they follow traditional sports: Community, and a shared passion around the game,” he said. “I was amazed. Why is esports constantly trying to reinvent the wheel?”

He shared his perspective with Jeff Kaplan, lead game designer of “Overwatch,” and Nanzer worked alongside the developers before the game launched at retail in 2016, a move that tied the league to the game itself strategically.

“It’s a huge credit to the culture here,” he said. “Nobody cared that it wasn’t my job to come up with a vision for Overwatch esports, but people thought it was cool that we did. It would not have worked a lot of other places.”

Photo: will hart / hbo

It’s clear from even a short conversation that HBO Sports’ Peter Nelson is not your typical sports executive.

During a recent media interview, Nelson quoted the author Helen Gardner’s description of the poet T.S. Elliot to illustrate the scope of his job at HBO Sports. “He created the taste by which he is enjoyed,” Nelson said.

Executive Vice President, HBO

Age: 37

Born: Newton, Mass.

Education: Harvard (transferred from Oberlin), B.A. (magna cum laude), ancient Greek

What gets you fired up? New ideas.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: That this award comes with an extensive questionnaire.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Competitive eater.

Guilty pleasure: Staying off social media.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Not tweeting.

Could not go a day without: Brave news reporting.

Cause supported: American Ballet Theater.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Elevating women’s stories.

Ideal day off: Without a phone.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Jumping out of a moving car when I was 2 years old — my parents still have no explanation.

Later in the interview, Nelson quoted the cult novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” when discussing a career path that took him from the art world to freelance journalism to an executive suite at HBO.

A Harvard graduate with a B.A. in ancient Greek, Nelson got his media start in college writing for the Lampoon. He joined HBO Sports in 2011 and was promoted to run the division in 2015.

While shepherding HBO Sports, Nelson has continued backing its biggest brands, like “Real Sports” and “Hard Knocks.”

But he also has worked on projects that are “a little further afield,” he said. Essentially, he has been looking to overhaul the way HBO Sports tells stories. He signed a deal with Bill Simmons to partner on an Andre the Giant documentary; he rolled out a talk show called “The Shop” that lists LeBron James and Maverick Carter as executive producers; and he produced a five-part docuseries on Serena Williams. 

He cut content deals with the WWE; SpringHill Entertainment and Uninterrupted; IMG Original Content; Endeavor Content; and filmmakers Jason Hehir and Michael and Jeff Zimbalist.

“We’re constantly looking for stories that are high profile and high access, but also seeks out a greater ambition in terms of the story that it seeks to tell or the point it’s trying to make,” he said. “The word storytelling is used so much these days so as to almost begin to lose its meaning. We really have a deep respect for the storytellers themselves and we really take seriously our job in terms of empowering them to go make art.”

Photo: holland reid / img college licensing

When Ashley Page arrived at IMG College three years ago, she discovered an outdated system that made it challenging for the business’s trademark infringement unit to keep pace with counterfeiters. The older systems simply weren’t contending with a new marketplace that focused heavily on online product infringement.

Senior Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Learfield IMG College

Age: 39

Born: Philadelphia

Education: Spelman College, B.A., history; Harvard Law School, J.D.

Family: Children, Justin Jr. (11) and Jolie (7)

What gets you fired up? New challenges, solving difficult problems, watching my kids thrive/succeed and Eagles victories!

Guilty pleasure: Planning out super healthy meals but then cooking deliciously fattening/decadent ones.

Could not go a day without: My kids.

Cause supported: Humans of New York Patreon.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Tie — LeBron James and Allen Iverson. I have a tremendous respect for both of them as game changers.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Diversity and inclusion and advancing the careers of minorities and women.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I was the first contestant ever from Philadelphia on “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” when I was 11, and I won!

Page came to IMG College with an extensive retail background. She was the lead commercial attorney for Google’s shopping products and services, and advised Google in all aspects of its shopping-related commercial transactions before joining IMG’s college division as an associate general counsel.

So, she used her experience and penchant for innovation to restructure the legal side of the college business, benefiting both clients and the internal operation.

Now, Page oversees a team of six attorneys and five other legal professionals who manage all legal aspects of the newly merged Learfield IMG College’s business, from multimedia rights to licensing, tickets and the stadium seating business.

She counts Tim Pernetti, president of IMG College and formerly athletic director at Rutgers, as a mentor who has helped her understand the business of college sports.

Growing up in Philadelphia as a huge Eagles fan, Page hoped to forge a career out of her passion. Along the way, she crossed paths with Naima Stevenson, the NCAA’s deputy general counsel. Stevenson told eye-opening stories of how a legal background can lead to a career in sports.

“What I love about it is that no two days are the same,” Page said. “Most of the things that come across my desk are on fire, but the experience has been great.”

Photo: harris blitzer sports & entertainment

The Philadelphia 76ers are thriving on the hardwood this season, in third place in the Eastern Conference last week. Thanks in part to the efforts of Jake Reynolds, the team’s off-court business is among the envy of the league.

Chief Revenue Officer, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment

Age: 35

Born: Salt Lake City

Education: Utah Valley University, B.S.

Family: Wife, Emily; children, Makenzie (9), Katelyn (6), Harper (3)

Guilty pleasure: I’m a sneakerhead. I have over 80 pairs and my wife is ready to give them all away.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Stacking my team to win the HBSE company basketball tournament.

Could not go a day without: Talking with my wife and three girls.

Esports or video games played: Either Wii with my kids or “NBA 2K” and “FIFA” with Brian Norman (VP at the Devils).

Gamer name: TheKid24.

Cause supported: Project 76, HBSE’s community commitment program where each employee pledges to serve 76 hours of service each year.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Phil Knight.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Elevating more women into positions of leadership.

Reynolds has been at the helm as ticket sales for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment’s Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils  have skyrocketed. The Sixers have moved from a full-season-ticket base of 3,600 a few years ago to over 14,000 today, with 12,000 more fans on a waiting list. New season-ticket sales last year at the Devils ranked in the top five in the NHL, with growth up about 135 percent.

The Sixers’ on-court success makes selling easier, but Reynolds and his staff were fully prepared to take advantage with a system designed to drive sales when the team ascended to the playoffs over the past few seasons.

“We have grown the business significantly, but we were fully able to capitalize,” he said. “We had the people in place and the culture in place.”

Reynolds grew up in sports. He is the youngest of five siblings and was a standout basketball player in high school. He played one year on the basketball team at Utah Valley University, but developed his interest in the business side of the sport during an Indiana Pacers internship in his junior year. This led to a full-time job with the Pacers after earning his degree in 2005.

Reynolds joined HBSE in 2014 after working in sales for Monumental Sports & Entertainment and the New York Giants. He oversees a staff of about 250 among all HBSE properties.

“I wanted to build something that was world class and in an environment where people sprint to work and know they are going to be challenged,” Reynolds said. “The opportunity to build the culture has been incredible.”

Photo: riot games

If Riot Games co-head of esports Whalen Rozelle got anything wrong when he first envisioned the future of “League of Legends” in 2012, it was aiming too low. 

“I think this is one of those cases where we weren’t dreaming big enough,” Rozelle said. “Back in 2012, our fear was that there would be a couple markets with ‘League’ as an esport, and we’d develop it out, and do it somewhat as a niche.”

Co-Head of Esports, Riot Games

Age: 35

Born: Ithaca, N.Y.

Education: Stanford University, B.A., double major in economics and East Asian studies

Family: Wife, Manunya; child, Liliana (17 months)

Profession you’d most like to attempt? Venture capitalism. 

Something your friends would consider “so you”: I can’t pass up good debate and I’m willing to take the other side of a position just to spur one on. 

Esports or video games Played: “Magic: the Gathering,” “League of Legends,” “Civilization” and whatever the newest hot game is (being able to do that as “research” makes my job awesome!).

Gamer name: Riot Magus.

Causes supported: For the past five years I’ve become a regular supporter of Cycle for Survival. My brother passed away a few years ago due to a rare form of cancer, and as part of his fight I was introduced to this wonderful cause.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I am related to Pete Rozelle. (The NFL’s first commissioner is the cousin of Rozelle’s paternal grandfather.)

Needless to say, it’s more than that now. November’s world championships drew just short of 100 million unique viewers globally, and 13 international regions have thriving elite “League of Legends” circuits. It’s still the world’s most-watched esports title.

Rozelle has overseen the switch from promotion-and-relegation to franchises, deciding when each market — North America, China or Europe — was ready to make that change. Rozelle hired former NBPA executive Hal Biagas to lead a players association, pushing ambivalent players toward unionization because he thinks that will lead to long-term stability.

That focus on the long term is also why Riot has pushed a developmental system, and a college circuit with no expectation of it producing revenue. And it’s why Rozelle and Riot have kept their regional leagues as a loose confederation rather than rolling them up into a streamlined global property — to allow them to make needed changes while not alienating the fans who got them this far.

But the long-term play means something different than it used to. Rozelle says he’s still impressed that big brands he knows from traditional sports have signed on with Riot already, like State Farm and Mastercard. “We knew we’d get there, but I thought it would take an additional five to 10 years for this generational gap to close,” he said.

Photo: eventellect

Co-Founder, Eventellect

Age: 38

Born: Stamford, Conn.

Education: University of Texas, B.S., communications/public relations

Profession you’d most like to attempt: There is a lot of opportunity for disruption and advancement in the world of buying, selling and collecting baseball cards. Many of these cards are true investment grade commodities, but a real trading platform hasn’t been launched (yet).

Guilty pleasure: Going on eBay and negotiating deals for PSA 7 graded cards of players from the 1950s as well as PSA 10 rookie cards of players from the 1980s (cards are professionally graded and authenticated by the publicly traded company Collectors Universe).

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Spending the first part of an evening organizing baseball cards before spending the second half of my evening at a Jay-Z concert.

Could not go a day without: Email.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Asking fans age 20-30 short and quick questions about what they want in order to attend more games.

Ideal day off: I think like everyone else on the list there hasn’t been a day in the past 10 years where we didn’t do at least a little bit of work every day. So it may be interesting to spend a weekend with no connectivity whatsoever (so long as I have time to prepare/plan).

Eventellect co-founder Patrick Ryan is one of the most influential ticketing executives that most fans don’t know about. 

While most of their attention is typically focused on favorite teams or major ticketing companies such as Ticketmaster and StubHub, Ryan and Houston-based Eventellect have quickly and quietly built a powerful position within the sports industry.

Working with dozens of teams, Ryan has become a trusted resource on ticket distribution, pricing, sales strategy and inventory management, in effect becoming a key source of best practices around the industry.

A spate of renewals, new business and overall company growth last year was led by a large-scale partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the most highly attended team of any in major U.S. pro sports. In the new pact, Eventellect helped the Dodgers reshape their relationship with ticket brokers and grow their 2018 attendance to a franchise record of 3.86 million.

“We’ve seen teams lean on us and seek our guidance beyond just the secondary market, and that’s allowed us to pollinate best practices in a unique way,” Ryan said. “We’re being leaned on for ideas, and the result is that we’ve begun to engage in what I consider true consulting relationships. And that’s because our goal remains to supplement and complement what the teams are doing themselves.”

Photo: mykwain gainey

In nearly a decade at Proskauer, Frank Saviano has provided critical counsel for some of the biggest deals in the sports industry: the record-breaking $2.275 billion sale of the Carolina Panthers to David Tepper; agreements between Major League Soccer and Facebook, SeatGeek and Twitter; and LAFC’s agreement with YouTube in a first-of-its-kind digital local rights agreement.

But when discussing the keys to his success, Saviano pointed to the culture and lawyers around him.

“This is not an industry where you can do anything by yourself,” said Saviano, who joined the firm in 2009. “The mentorship and camaraderie at Proskauer have really built me up.”

Saviano has returned that leadership as he has progressed at Proskauer. He made partner in 2017, at the time the only partner in Proskauer’s sports law group younger than 40.

“Frank has become one of the leaders in his generation of partners generally, not just in the sports group,” said Joe Leccese, Proskauer chairman and co-head of its sports law group. “He is extremely focused on professional development and mentoring — it’s something that just comes naturally to him.”

Partner, Proskauer

Age: 37

Born: Brooklyn

Education: Trinity College (Connecticut), B.A., political science; University of Virginia School of Law, J.D.,

Family: Wife, Carly; children, Frankie (6) and Ella (4)

What gets you fired up? Watching the New York Giants or Mets.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Catch up on sleep while you can.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Chef.

Guilty pleasure: A really good sandwich.

Could not go a day without: Spearmint Altoids.

Cause supported: Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Michael Jordan.

Ideal day off: At the beach with my wife and kids.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Bungee jump.

We’d be surprised to know that: I dropped out of preschool.

To that end, Saviano is on the firm’s hiring committee, which is responsible for the recruitment and hiring decisions for all incoming associates.

“At a law firm, we have no other product than our talent,” Saviano said. “I’ve had such a great opportunity here with great mentors who have taught me to pay it forward, so I do my best to help teach them to be the best lawyers and people that they can be.”

Saviano, who has quickly become one of the most trusted sports lawyers in the media space, is also looking to continue his own development in an ever-changing field.

“The sports industry has been the biggest innovator in a number of ways on the media side,” Saviano said. “Some of these smaller deals with innovative digital properties around rights that a league has left over, or a deal that is an experiment with a technology — these may only be small deals now, but these could be big in three or four years.”

Leccese said that one of the things about Saviano that stands out is that he “always had a business sophistication that was well beyond his years.” 

“There is a pragmatism about him that has made him exceptional at resolving issues for clients, and he’s extremely skilled at building relationships,” Leccese said. 

As for the future, Saviano said he will continue doing what he believes has led him to success thus far — pushing himself to be better every year.

“I view it as a building process every year — building on my skills, building on my ability to lead and co-lead, building on being a better manager and getting more knowledge in this industry,” Saviano said. “The problems get more complex, the deals get more complex and the industry keeps growing and changing — I feel like I’m lucky to be in the position that I’m in.”

Photo: sam anise / beaux arts photography

When Rob Schneider came out of high school, he faced a compelling choice. Accept the offer to go to school at the U.S. Military Academy or enter the New York University film school, where he could chase his dream of working in the media and entertainment world.

Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Learfield IMG College

Age: 39

Born: Boston

Education: United States Military Academy at West Point, B.S.; Columbia Business School, MBA

Family: Wife, Heather; children, Leah (7) and Henry (3)

What gets you fired up? Steelers football.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Express gratitude more often.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Writer.

Guilty pleasure: Taco Bell.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Bulleit Rye on the rocks.

Could not go a day without: My morning tea.

Cause supported: Headstrong Project.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Mark Cuban.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Telling stories about how the character and leadership developed through sports positively impacts the world.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing I’ve done: Backpacking through the Middle East at 18.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I got paid to jump out of airplanes.

Turned out that he could do both — attend West Point and still chart a professional path into media and entertainment. 

“The more I thought about it, the more I reminded myself that you can’t just wake up at 40 years of age and join the Army,” said Schneider, a graduate of Columbia University’s MBA program. “I knew that going to West Point and serving my country was something I could always be proud of.”

No, you don’t just wake up at 40 and join the Army, but you can wake up at 40 and find yourself at the controls of the leading college sports media and marketing company in the country.

Schneider oversees strategy and development at Learfield IMG College, charting the long-term course for the newly merged business. That entails seeking growth strategies, merger and acquisition opportunities and joint ventures that might enhance the firm.

His job at Learfield IMG College aligns well with his previous positions at GroupM and Courtside Ventures. Schneider has retained his position on the investment committee at Courtside, where he has been part of the team that invested in 17 early-stage sports startups, including The Athletic.

As for Learfield IMG College, their $2 billion merger is official and “a lot of the uncertainty is behind us now,” Schneider said. “We know what we are and what we can become.”

Schneider will play a significant role in both.

Photo: steve freeman

Daniel Sillman is accustomed to moving quickly.

 

He founded a multifamily office wealth management service for athletes while still a student at the University of Michigan, a business he sold in 2016 before joining Stephen Ross’ RSE Ventures.

Chief Executive Officer, Relevent Sports Group

Age: 30

Born: Detroit

Education: University of Michigan Ross School of Business, BBA

What gets you fired up? I get fired up when we are able to do something that seemed impossible.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Real estate.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Having friends that are twice my age.

Could not go a day without: My phone.

Causes supported: RISE, University of Michigan.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Phil Knight.  

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Challenging the status quo. Things shouldn’t be done the old way just because that’s the way it’s always been done. The sports industry needs more innovation. 

Ideal day off: Skiing in Aspen.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Heli-skiing in Kingfisher, British Columbia.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I started a business in college and sold it by the time I was 25.


His career path further skyrocketed in 2017 when he was named CEO of Relevent Sports Group, the Ross-owned company behind the global soccer tournament the International Champions Cup.

In 2018, RSG expanded the ICC, adding new tournaments for professional women’s and youth soccer alongside its men’s event, and developed an outdoor fan event, all aiming to increase soccer’s popularity in the U.S. RSG also signed a 15-year joint venture with La Liga to serve as the Spanish league’s commercial arm in the U.S. and Canada, managing its media and sponsorship rights and assisting it in its goal to host a regular-season game in the U.S.

With all of these accomplishments under his belt, Sillman had time to do something he hadn’t done before — slow down.

“These last six months or so, I took a step back and we evaluated our team and our organization,” he said. “We took some time to look at what we’ve done well, focus on what we’re good at, and as the saying goes, ‘Make the main thing the main thing.’”

That will mean further strengthening RSG’s position in soccer and its properties, as well as creating more content that tells the stories of the players and the clubs involved in them.

“We’re going all in on soccer, and I think that’s going to be one of the smartest decisions we’ve ever made,” he said. “There are so many tailwinds for the sport, and we have an opportunity to do something really special.”

Photo: raphael talisman

Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, American Gaming Association

Age: 39

Born: Toledo, Ohio

Education: Ohio University, B.A., political science

Family: Children, Preston (9), Jackson (7)

What gets you fired up? I love a good challenge. I like being the underdog. I definitely have always been very headstrong, so I like people underestimating my ability.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: That you don’t have to make decisions about everything right away. Sometimes if you let things percolate it becomes clear what direction you have to head in.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Anything that would be a life of service would be admirable. 

Guilty pleasure: I love, love, love traveling. I can do a beach very well.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: My leather pants.

Could not go a day without: My hair dryer.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Roger Goodell. He’s the one [commissioner] that we haven’t had the ability to face-to-face interact with and talk about how we operate. It would be interesting to get his perspective.

Ideal day off: Spending time at the beach with my kids.


As she stumped for the legalization of sports betting, Sara Slane often argued that doing so would both capture money bet illegally so it could be taxed by the states, and create and expand revenue streams for leagues, teams and even networks.

 

Now that sports betting has been blessed by legislatures in eight states and is under consideration in 21 more, Slane often finds herself trying to dampen the expectations that a gold rush has begun.

“My word of caution now is patience,” said Slane, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Gaming Association, the leading casino industry trade group. “Everyone has got to be patient. There’s this irrational over-exuberance around some of these big handle numbers, but this is still a low-margin business.”

Slane points to the numbers produced in New Jersey, where sportsbooks handled $385 million in wagers in January alone. That generated $18.7 million in revenue for the sportsbooks. “And you keep boiling that down to get to profit,” Slane said.

“We’re still early in the process of working with the sports industry to understand how the gaming industry works,” she said. “The good news is that so many leagues and teams and team owners want to be a part of this. So now we’re putting together the pieces of how reliant we are on each other. Having a successful sport betting model that works for everyone is becoming more present in the conversations we’re all having now.”

First Look podcast from April 1. Our conversation with Sara Slane starts at the 11:48 mark:

Photo: gomsack photography

What’s the best way to gain some street cred when marketing the Chicago Marathon?

 

Senior Vice President, Global Sponsorship Marketing, Bank of America

Age: 38

Born: Portland

Education: Gonzaga University, BBA, marketing, and B.A., public relations; University of Massachusetts, MBA and M.A., sport management

Family: Wife, Erica; children, Sofia (7), Max (6)

You wish you knew 10 years ago: What goes on behind the scenes when a client makes a decision.

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate chip cookies and ice cream.

You could not go a day without: Running.

Cause supported: Apparo. My wife is a member of the board of directors here in Charlotte.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Phil Knight.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Hiring more women in positions of leadership.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Completing the 2010 Florida Ironman.

We’d be surprised to know that … : My friends from home referred to me as “Darren the Intern” (Seinfeld reference) because of all my sports marketing internships in undergraduate and graduate school.


For Bank of America’s Joe Smith, it was simple: Just run it yourself. Amid posting a personal best time of 2 hours, 54 minutes, Smith last year led the operational execution and administration for the race in the Windy City. That event, along with the International Chicago 5K and the Shamrock Shuffle (8K), helped to collectively deliver around $330 million in economic impact and raise over $18 million for both local and national charities. Having friends and family greet him at the finish line was icing on the cake.

As part of leading the bank’s long-standing relationship with MLB and seven partner clubs, in 2017 Smith oversaw the evolution of the #MLBmemorybank program in which fans shared their favorite baseball memories across all social platforms. Later, select participants were rewarded with unique MLB experiences and prizes, including tickets to the World Series. The program was a home run for Bank of America, helping take its social benchmarks to new heights and resulting in 27.2 million video views across social channels.

Smith, a former soccer player at Gonzaga, was like most young kids in that he knew he wanted a career in sports at an early age. As his college career came to an end, he accepted it wasn’t going to be on the playing side.

“I needed to find another way to realize that dream. That’s when I really fell in love with all my marketing and PR classes,” he said.

He also credits several early career mentors with helping him develop his skill set. The dedication and focus from being a college athlete didn’t hurt either. While at Gonzaga, Smith knew he wasn’t the most talented player on the team. But he might have been its hardest worker.

Photo: caa

Ten years ago, Fabian Stechel was the first hire for Evolution Media Capital. His tenure even predated the company’s first client.

 

But things moved fast for the upstart with the help of a powerful partner in CAA and Stechel’s dynamic background. 

Managing Director, Evolution Media Capital

Age: 37

Born: Cologne, Germany

Education: Maastricht University, The Netherlands, M.S., international business; University of California, Berkeley, for study abroad

Family: Wife, Katey; children, three sons ages 8, 6, 3

What gets you fired up: Great concerts; beautifully executed sports plays.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: Medical doctor.

Guilty pleasure: Bacon.

Could not go a day without: A good laugh. 

Causes supported: Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF and Environment New York. 

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Promoting diversity.

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Swimming with sharks in the open ocean (no cage) in Fiji.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I backpacked around the world for half a year.


Today, Evolution Media has advised on more than $47 billion of transactions across the sports and media industries. That growth is one of the first things Stechel points to when asked about his tenure. “To be part of building the practice has really been the most rewarding experience,” he said. “Especially over the last few years where our business has accelerated even further.”

Stechel, who has individually negotiated and advised on more than $12 billion in sports media deals, has worked with the International Olympic Committee, Major League Soccer, the NHL, PGA Tour, Top Rank, Riot Games and others over the years to help take Evolution Media to new heights. Highlights of the past few years include helping Top Rank reach its media deal with ESPN, advising several Premier League teams on their digital strategy, and structuring the PGA of America’s long-term deal for the PGA Championship with CBS and ESPN. 

The German-born Stechel also credits aspects of his international background with helping him relate to different personalities across the industry. 

He enjoys the fast-paced atmosphere around negotiation, and no project that comes across his desk is the same. 

“The variety of the deals I get to work on is pretty unique and it’s something I really enjoy,” he said. “There’s various kinds of structures for media platforms and different sports, and that’s one of the aspects that sets this job apart. Each of the deals are unique and different, and that’s what makes it so interesting for me.”

Photo: jeremiah jhass / dallas cowboys

Eric Sudol grew up in a town of 1,500 in the cornfields of Iowa, part of a family of teachers. He figured that was his calling when he went off to a tiny college in the state.

 

In one way, Sudol did become a teacher, teaching sales to his staff, first at the Memphis Grizzlies and now at the Dallas Cowboys and Legends, where he sells sponsorships for AT&T Stadium, The Star in Frisco, Texas, and the under-construction Raiders stadium in Las Vegas.

Vice President, Corporate Partnership Sales and Marketing, Dallas Cowboys

Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships, Legends

Age: 38

Born: New Hampton, Iowa

Education: Cornell College, B.A., economics and business; Ohio University, MBA and Master of Sports Administration

Family: Wife, Kate

What gets you fired up? Watching people take pride in what they do.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: Understanding that management is a two-way street.

Guilty pleasure: Ice cream.

Could not go a day without: Easy answer — phone.

Causes supported: American Heart Association and our church.

Person you’d most like to meet? Tom Brady. You have to respect what he does, and I want to learn his secrets.

Ideal day off: The 4th of July (one of my favorites and I try to take it off).

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done …: Accidentally ski down a black diamond slope.

We’d be surprised to know that … : My hometown doesn’t have any stop lights.

“I always tell our sales team, it’s the last three to five minutes” of a pitch that is most important, he said. Why? Because that’s when the salesperson should detect red flags and know whether it’s worth pursuing the prospect.

“A lot of salespeople fall for the false prisoner of hope,” Sudol said. Sales reps can get taken in by the flash of a project and not see caution in the responses that might not make follow-ups worthwhile. A lot of time is wasted on those follow-ups, he explained. “I have a lot of comfort in letting go.”

Sudol quickly let go of his plans to teach when he was exposed to college. A five-sport athlete in high school, he decided sports business was for him. Coming from small-town Iowa, that could mean one thing: becoming the athletic director of the University of Iowa.

He enrolled in a sports management program at Ohio University, and like undergraduate school before, it similarly opened his eyes to more jobs in sports business than just Iowa’s AD.

He cold-called the Grizzlies because of the high concentration of Ohio graduates there and secured a summer internship. The team hired him soon after and he’s been selling ever since.

Sudol doesn’t rule out one day returning to Iowa, but for now, he has some sales prospects to go meet — and just maybe not call back.

Photo: mlb

Top Major League Baseball executives such as Commissioner Rob Manfred and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem are typically the ones generating headlines around the league’s labor matters and relationship with the MLB Players Association. But outside of that spotlight, Morgan Sword is deeply involved in virtually every major function surrounding player movement and compensation.

 

Senior Vice President, League Economics and Operations, Major League Baseball

Age: 33

Born: Princeton, N.J.

Education: University of Virginia, B.A., economics; MBA, Columbia Business School

Family: Wife, Lindsay; children, Hudson (2), Wyatt (3 months)

What gets you fired up? Salary arbitration hearings.

You wish you knew 10 years ago: There’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Profession you’d most like to attempt: TV showrunner.

Guilty pleasure: “Vanderpump Rules.”

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Having a slice of pizza as an appetizer.

Could not go a day without: The NYT crossword puzzle app.

Cause supported: Innocence Project.

Person you’d most like to meet: UVA basketball coach
Tony Bennett.

Sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Getting kids to play.

We’d be surprised to know that … : I was in a college a cappella group called the Hullabahoos.

Sword helps oversee the league’s annual amateur draft, and the salary arbitration and free agency system. His portfolio also includes many key elements of the sport’s overall economic system, including revenue sharing, debt service and the competitive balance tax, as well as the contractual relationship with Minor League Baseball. 

With MLB for more than a decade, Sword originally was hired in the league’s labor department, and quickly saw his duties expand along with colleague and mentor Chris Marinak, now the league’s executive vice president for strategy, technology and innovation.

More recently, Sword’s influence also has extended into emerging areas such as sports betting and experimental playing rules. Sword has testified before state legislatures as legalized sports betting becomes a reality. And he was a key figure in MLB’s newly struck three-year deal with the independent Atlantic League to test new on-field rules and equipment.

“We’re in a really fascinating time in the industry. A lot of things are changing very quickly,” Sword said. “We’ve seen the clubs get very focused, for example, on how they develop players, which in turn creates a huge amount of impact throughout the industry. It’s been very interesting to see this all develop from the inside.”  

Photo: kaitlyn cole / wvu athletic communications

Deputy Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer, West Virginia University

Age: 39

Born: Cumberland, Md.

Education: West Virginia University, B.S. and M.S., sport management

Family: Husband, Nathaniel

 

What gets you fired up? When I hear the Pride of West Virginia marching band’s first practice of the summer. It’s that moment each year when you know the college football season is upon us. 
You wish you knew 10 years ago: What’s meant to be will always find its way — don’t overstress.  

Profession you’d most like to attempt:  Wedding planner. 

Guilty Pleasure: Reality TV. 

Could not go a day without: Prayer.

Causes supported: Chestnut Ridge Church, United Way and WVU’s Women Supporting Athletics.

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Dabo Swinney. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day with Dabo?  

Most thrilling/adventurous thing you’ve done: Cliff jumping in Jamaica. But today you wouldn’t find me brave enough to skip an extra step at the bottom of the stairs.  

We’d be surprised to know that… : I have never tweeted.

In her fourth year as deputy athletic director at West Virginia, Keli Zinn runs much of the day-to-day operations for AD Shane Lyons. That has put her in the middle of intense conversations with architects and designers on major facility projects, agents during football coaching searches and high-dollar donors during major capital fundraising initiatives.  

But it was back in 2014 that she began to turn heads in the Big 12 with her poise and composure during her stint as the Mountaineers’ interim AD after Oliver Luck left.

Now she’s putting all of those experiences to work.

“I find myself working in the weeds a lot more,” Zinn said. “The conversations I’m having now are about depreciation of brick and mortar, relocating mechanical and all of the components in the bid process.”

In addition to her role in West Virginia’s $100 million capital campaign for facility and infrastructure maintenance, Zinn was deeply involved in the search for a new football coach when Dana Holgorsen abruptly quit after last season to go to Houston. Zinn is the primary administrator with oversight of football.

“We had a small group and we were working quickly,” Zinn said of a process that wound up with the hiring of Neal Brown from Troy. “It ended up being the worst-kept secret, but we got our guy.

“What I learned is that you can’t ever be too prepared. You always have to be ready to move. Plan your work and work your plan.”

Frank Saviano joins the Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame this year. He is the 60th person to become a three-time Forty Under 40 honoree:

 

Renie Anderson

National Football League

Dan Beckerman

AEG

David Berson

ESPN

John Brody

Major League Baseball

Paul Brooks

NASCAR 

Zak Brown

Just Marketing International

Peter Carlisle

Octagon

Brian Cashman

New York Yankees

Justin Connolly

ESPN

Bob Cramer

MasterCard International

Bill Daly

National Hockey League

Mark Dowley

Momentum Worldwide / McCann Erickson World Group

Damon Evans

University of Georgia

John Galloway

Pepsi

Todd Goldstein

AEG Global Partnerships

Wally Hayward

Relay Worldwide

Wayne Katz

Proskauer Rose

Sam Kennedy

Boston Red Sox and Fenway Sports Management

Mark Lazarus

Turner Sports

Rita Benson LeBlanc

New Orleans Saints

Michael Levine

Van Wagner Sports Group / CAA Sports

Jon Litner

ABC Sports / NHL

Lawton Logan

IMG

Greg Luckman

GroupM ESP / CAA Sports

Chris Marinak

Major League Baseball

Mike McCarley

NBC Universal Sports & Olympics / NBC Golf Media

Kevin McClatchy

Pittsburgh Pirates

Scott Milleisen

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Howard Nuchow

Mandalay Sports Entertainment/CAA Sports

Sarah Robb O’Hagan

Gatorade

Scott O’Neil

National Basketball Association

Jon Oram

Proskauer

Alan Ostfield

Palace Sports & Entertainment

Merritt Paulson

Portland Timbers

Bea Perez

Coca-Cola North America

Doug Perlman

National Hockey League / IMG Media North America

Kevin Plank

Under Armour

Ed Policy

Arena Football League

David Preschlack

Disney and ESPN Media Networks Group

George Pyne

NASCAR

Brian Rolapp

National Football League

Kris Rone

Los Angeles Dodgers

Chris Russo

National Football League

Frank Saviano

Proskauer

Connor Schell

ESPN

Greg Shaheen

NCAA

Eric Shanks

DirecTV

Mark Shapiro

ESPN

Jeff Shell

Fox Sports Net/Fox Cable Networks

Daniel Snyder

Washington Redskins

Mark Steinberg

IMG

David Sternberg

Fox Cable Networks

Jennifer Storms

Turner Sports

Mark Tatum

National Basketball Association

Shannon Terry

Rivals.com

Heidi Ueberroth

NBA Entertainment

Casey Wasserman

Wasserman Media Group

Russell Wolff

ESPN International

Brett Yormark

NASCAR / Nets Sports and Entertainment

Peter Zern

Covington & Burling

 

Note: Companies are listed as they were at the time the honorees were selected. Multiple companies are noted when the honorees held different jobs during their Forty Under 40 years.


Christopher Benyarko

“The Lean Startup,” by Eric Ries

Gideon Cohen

“The Obstacle is The Way,” by Ryan Holiday

Russ D'Souza

“How the Internet Happened,” by Brian McCullough

Camilo Durana

“Dethroning the King,” by Julie MacIntosh

David Foster

“The Undoing Project,” by Michael Lewis

Lloyd Frischer

“A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball,” by Dwyane Wade

Libby Geist

“Americanah,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Michael Goldstein

“The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty,” by Adrian Wojnarowski

Al Guido

“The Hard Thing about Hard Things,” by Ben Horowitz

Amanda Herald

“All Our Wrong Todays,” by Elan Mastai

Broderick Hicks

“Outliers: The Story of Success,” by Malcolm Gladwell

Bill Hudock

“The Old Man and the Sea,” by Ernest Hemingway

Martin Jarmond

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown

Shelby Jordan

“The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership,” by Steven B. Sample

Stephanie Joukoff

“Shoe Dog,” by Phil Knight

Tucker Kain

“Good to Great,” by Jim Collins

Matt Kalish

“The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz

Brian Kantarian

“Shantaram,” by Gregory David Roberts

Tim Katz

“Dragons Love Tacos,” by Adam Rubin

Christopher Lee

“West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life,” by Jerry West

Zach Leonsis

“Sapiens,” by Yuval Noah Harari

Devi Mahadevia

“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama

Will McIntosh

“High Output Management,” by Andrew Grove; “Mindset,” by Carol Dweck

Chad Menefee

“Endurance,” by Alfred Lansing

Nate Nanzer

“Brotopia,” by Emily Chang

Peter Nelson

“The Power Broker,” by Robert Caro

Ashley Page

“The Gifts of Imperfection,” by Brené Brown

Jake Reynolds

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” by Patrick Lencioni

Whalen Rozelle

“The Stormlight Archive” series, by Brandon Sanderson

Patrick Ryan

“Good to Great,” by Jim Collins

Frank Saviano

“Born to Run,” by Bruce Springsteen

Rob Schneider

“The Lessons of History,” by Ariel and Will Durant

Daniel Sillman

“Pour Your Heart Into It,” by Howard Schultz

Sara Slane

“And the Band Played On,” by Randy Shilts

Joe Smith

“How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle,” by Matt Fitzgerald

Fabian Stechel

“Power of One: A Novel,” by Bryce Courtenay

Eric Sudol

“How to Win Friends & Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie

Morgan Sword

“The Reason I Jump,” by Naoki Higashida

Keli Zinn

“Lean In,” by Sheryl Sandberg

Christopher Benyarko

Daniel Cohen

Gideon Cohen

Russ D'Souza

Camilo Durana

David Foster

Lloyd Frischer

Libby Geist

Michael Goldstein

Al Guido

Amanda Herald

Broderick Hicks

Bill Hudock

Martin Jarmond

Shelby Jordan

Stephanie Joukoff

Tucket Kain

Matt Kalish

Brian Kantarian

Tim Katz

Christopher Lee

Zach Leonsis

Devi Mahadevia

Will McIntosh

Chad Menefee

Nate Nanzer

Peter Nelson

Ashley Page

Jake Reynolds

Whalen Rozelle

Patrick Ryan

Frank Saviano

Rob Schneider

Daniel Sillman

Sara Slane

Joe Smith

Fabian Stechel

Eric Sudol

Morgan Sword

Keli Zinn

Christopher Benyarko

Italy, because of the food.

 

Daniel Cohen

Israel, the combination of meaningful history, sunshine and endless hummus.

 

Gideon Cohen

Florida. My wife is from South Florida so we have her parents as automatic babysitters if we want to sneak away.

 

Russ D’Souza

I don’t have a favorite. I love exploring more than returning to the same spot. Next on my list is Japan. Can’t wait!

 

Camilo Durana

An isolated and dog-friendly beach.

 

Flathead Lake, Montana
Photo: getty images

David Foster

Cartagena, Colombia. Great food, weather, history and culture.

 

Lloyd Frischer

Turks & Caicos for its great beaches and great food. 

 

Libby Geist

Shelter Island, N.Y. My best memories are being there with an overflowing house full of friends and family. 

 

Michael Goldstein

Cape Cod. I’ve been going there my whole life.

 

Al Guido

Italy (if I have awhile), The One and Only — Cabo for quick trip.

 

The Outer Banks, North Carolina
Photo: getty images

Amanda Herald

Flathead Lake in Montana. Horses and happy family memories.

 

Broderick Hicks

Napa, just like anyone who loves food and wine.

 

Bill Hudock

Bethany Beach, because my kids love it.

 

Martin Jarmond

Somewhere on a beach with cocktails where I cannot get cell reception.

 

Shelby Jordan

Mammoth Mountain, because the view from the top of Chair 9 never gets old and the ride down from there is epic.

 

Stephanie Joukoff

Graeagle, Calif., because it’s timeless with a beautiful small-town feeling that hasn’t changed much in the last 60 years that my family has been going there for vacation. 

 

Tucker Kain

Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H. My family has spent a lot of summers on the lake over the years.

 

Matt Kalish

Playa del Carmen.

 

Brian Kantarian

Quogue, N.Y. An amazing little beach town and only a 90-minute drive from NYC.

 

Tim Katz

Tahoe. Grew up going there and have continued the tradition with my own family. 

 

Christopher Lee

Maui. My wife and kids love it.

 

Zach Leonsis

Palm Beach, Fla., because there’s just something so relaxing and disarming about being on the ocean with family.

 

Devi Mahadevia

Naoshima, Japan. A small island in the Seto Inland Sea. The beautifully designed museums, outdoor art installations and unique architecture are absolutely breathtaking. 

 

Will McIntosh

Anywhere with family — skiing in Park City, Utah, or relaxed weekend in sleepy beach town (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.).

 

Chad Menefee

Ocean Isle, N.C. North Carolina has the best beaches in the world. My family has been going there since I was 5 years old.

 

Nate Nanzer

The Sierra Nevada mountains. Nothing better than quality time on the hill with family.

 

Peter Nelson

Somewhere I’ve never traveled to learn more.

 

Ashley Page

Thailand. Amazing beaches and the best food/flavors in the world.

 

Jake Reynolds

Newport Beach, Calif. My family has been vacationing there for 20 years and it is my happy place.

 

Whalen Rozelle

Japan. Great food, easy transportation options, top-notch hospitality and wonderful culture.

 

Patrick Ryan

My couch, because I travel enough as is for work.

 

Frank Saviano

Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Great summer vacation spot with my family.

 

Rob Schneider

Lake Michigan. Best beaches in the U.S.

 

Daniel Sillman

Aspen, because I love to ski and there is not a better place to do it.

 

Sara Slane

I love Southern California. Laguna. And I love Italy. 

 

Positano, Italy
Photo: getty images

Joe Smith

Positano, Italy. The laid-back lifestyle, eating Italian seafood, drinking wine and enjoying breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast. 

 

Cartagena, Colombia
Photo: getty images

Fabian Stechel

Southern Spain and Outer Banks, N.C.

 

Eric Sudol

A vague but true answer … give me the mountains or anything historical (e.g. Europe).

 

Morgan Sword

Jackson Hole, Wyo.

 

Keli Zinn

The Bahamas. It’s tropical, easy to travel to, there’s blackjack and interruptions are limited to iMessages.

Photo: getty images

Others listed

 

El Clásico in Spain.

 

A Mets World Series-clinching win. That may remain on the bucket list for a long time.

 

NCAA Final Four.

 

Ryder Cup.

 

There’s something called the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta.

 

The next Super Bowl when the Eagles represent the NFC. 

 

Duke vs. UNC at Cameron Indoor.

 

Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final.

 

Sitting courtside at every NBA arena. I’m about halfway there. Doesn’t matter who is playing.

 

British Open.

 

A (CFP) national championship game with Ohio State playing.

 

NCAA Basketball National Championship, but this time Gonzaga wins. 

 

Federer vs. Nadal at any of the Slams.

 

College Football National Championship.

Christopher Benyarko

2016 NBA Finals, Game 7.

 

Daniel Cohen

MLB Cuba Game on March 1, 2016. A testament to the unifying power of sports watching Obama, Castro and a Havana-packed stadium come together as baseball fans. 

 

Gideon Cohen

2006 NLCS Game 7. The “Endy Chavez” game. As a diehard Mets fan, it was memorable for (mostly) the wrong reasons. I have never experienced that extreme of an emotional roller coaster at a sporting event.

 

Russ D’Souza

Dallas Cowboys home opener this year against the New York Giants. That was the first regular-season Cowboys game we ticketed and it went incredibly smoothly. 25-plus SeatGeek folks came to Dallas to watch the event and we did a [toast] with the Cowboys ticket operations staff at halftime. It was the culmination of months of work on both sides.

 

Camilo Durana

2014 FIFA World Cup Round of 16, Colombia vs Uruguay. For 90 minutes, I was a kid again. 

 

David Foster

2015 World Series. It was the first time the Mets had been in the World Series since 2000 and I was able to take my daughter. She was upset because I made her leave a Halloween party early, but given the Mets history of losing I didn’t want to forgo this opportunity and have to wait another 15 years!

 

Lloyd Frischer

Games 6 and 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals where the Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs in a thrilling Game 6 in OT to tie the series and then closed it out at home in Game 7 to win back-to-back championships. 

 

Libby Geist

The Superclásico in Buenos Aires, River vs. Boca. It was the rowdiest event I have or ever will go to.

 

Michael Goldstein

My first Final Four, in 1991, when Duke beat the undefeated UNLV team in the semis; but also going to some of the ALCS games when the Red Sox came back from an 0-3 deficit against the Yankees in 2004.

 

Al Guido

Last game at Candlestick Park “Pick at the Stick,” or Game 7 of 2001 NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

 

Amanda Herald

2003 Fiesta Bowl. It still hurts.

 

Broderick Hicks

The 2006 Texas/USC Rose Bowl showdown between Vince Young and Reggie Bush that decided the national championship. My wife went to Texas, so it was especially meaningful.

 

Photo: Getty Images

Bill Hudock

Before he died, I drove my dad from his home in Wilkes-Barre to Super Bowl 46 in Indianapolis, where he got to see his favorite team win [above]. On the drive back, we went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

 

Martin Jarmond

The Ohio State University winning the CFP national championship.

 

Shelby Jordan

Kings’ first Stanley Cup win.

 

Stephanie Joukoff

1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

 

Tucker Kain

Dodgers Opening Day, 2013. First Opening Day for our ownership group. It was a perfect day, we had Sandy Koufax throw out the first pitch to Magic Johnson, and the Dodgers won on a Kershaw homer … all against the Giants!

 

Matt Kalish

Super Bowl LI. American Pharoah’s wins at the Derby and the Belmont were a close second.

 

Brian Kantarian

Super Bowl XXVII, 1993. Terrible game as the Cowboys crushed the Bills 52-17, but I sat behind MC Hammer and was an extra in the Michael Jackson halftime show, which my father was producing.

 

Tim Katz

Game 7 of 2014 World Series.

 

Christopher Lee

Andy Roddick’s last match at U.S. Open (2012) was a lot of fun to see live. 

 

Photo: Courtesy of Zach Leonsis

Zach Leonsis

Undoubtedly the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup in Game 5 of the 2018 finals against the Las Vegas Golden Knights. After marrying my beautiful wife, the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest moment I’ve ever enjoyed. I feel so lucky and I never take it for granted. The pure joy that the Stanley Cup brought to our city, our organization, our friends and family? Unmatched.

 

Devi Mahadevia

Watching my alma mater, Maryland, upset top-ranked Duke at Cole Field House in 2002, the year UMD won the NCAA basketball championship! 

 

Will McIntosh

CFP Championship in Tampa where Clemson beat Alabama the first time, 2016 National Championship. My wife is a lifelong Clemson fan and alumna — special moment with her. 

 

Chad Menefee

1996 World Series with my granddad and Super Bowl XLIX with my dad.

 

Nate Nanzer

2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Tiger’s last major championship. 

 

Peter Nelson

World Series with my father.

 

Ashley Page

Eagles vs. Pats Super Bowl LII.

 

Jake Reynolds

The Masters with my dad.

 

Whalen Rozelle

Despite my beloved Warriors losing, the energy at Oracle during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals is something I’ll never forget.

 

Patrick Ryan

Looking at it from a fan experience standpoint, USTA’s U.S. Open in Flushing, N.Y., is by far the most underrated event I’ve attended. As much positive press as it receives, it still managed to exceed expectations.

 

Frank Saviano

Super Bowl XLII, Giants over Patriots.

 

Rob Schneider

Army beating Navy after 14 years.

 

Daniel Sillman

Two — El Clásico in Miami in 2017, the 2015 NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavs.

 

Sara Slane

The Stanley Cup Final last year. One game in D.C. and one in Vegas.

 

Joe Smith

Gonzaga’s run in the 1999 NCAA tournament; the highlight was taking a bus from Spokane to Phoenix with 50 students from our “Kennel Club” to watch both the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. 

 

Fabian Stechel

FIFA World Cup 2006.

 

Eric Sudol

Two events: 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis and George Strait’s concert at AT&T Stadium in June 2014.

 

Morgan Sword

Ole Miss over Alabama in 2014.

 

Keli Zinn

2012 Orange Bowl.

Christopher Benyarko: Adam Silver. For his work ethic, attention to detail, leadership and drive to innovate.

 

 

 

Daniel Cohen: Jason Cohen, my brother and general counsel of the Dallas Cowboys. Jason has been a guiding voice in reminding me to appreciate every opportunity, put in more than you take, and invest in the professional and personal relationships that are so critical to happiness and success.

 

Gideon Cohen: Steve Herz has been my mentor and champion from the minute I entered this business 19 years ago, and I consider him a brother.

 

 

Russ D’Souza: I’ve gotten to work closely with Chad Estis of the Cowboys over the past year. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by him and his leadership style.

 

 

Camilo Durana: Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito for his humility, emphasis on people and encouragement of discomfort as a path to growth.

 

 

David Foster: Michele Roberts. Since I joined the NBPA I have continued to be inspired by Michele’s relentless championing of players’ rights.

 

 

Lloyd Frischer: Arn Tellem, vice chairman at Palace Sports & Entertainment. I had the privilege of having Arn as a mentor for the first nine years of my career in the sports business while working at SFX Sports Group and Wasserman.

 

Libby Geist: My dad, Bill Geist, one of the all-time great storytellers. He would come home from work telling us about the interesting people he met and places he went.

 

 

Michael Goldstein: Mike Robichaud, Mastercard SVP of global sponsorships.

 

 

 

Al Guido: Jed York. Passion for sport, desire to grow and build, and care for me and my family. 

 

 

 

Amanda Herald: Hans Schroeder, for always giving me as much as I can handle.

 

 

 

Broderick Hicks: Elizabeth Lindsey, because she taught me a ton.

 

 

 

 

Bill Hudock: Kit Geis, executive vice president, Genseco. She took a chance with me and taught me a lot.

 

 

 

Martin Jarmond: Gene Smith because he’s the best and I was blessed to work closely with him.

 

 

 

Shelby Jordan: Kevin Rieger (AEG) — he is not only a great mentor and I admire his preparation and dedication. Dave Hatheway (Legends) — his confidence in and support of me has allowed me to succeed. 

 

 

Stephanie Joukoff: Julie Coppernoll, my current boss. She is deeply technical and a visionary on the intersection between technology, partners and the experience.

 

 

Tucker Kain: My father, Bob Kain. Given his role in building the sports industry into what it is today, having him as a resource is amazing.

 

 

 

Matt Kalish: Jason Robins, by far. He’s so strong on so many fronts. Everything from the consumer side through to fundraising and dealing with investors. 

 

 

Brian Kantarian: Scott Milleisen and Arlen Kantarian (my father). Scott taught me how to effectively balance the interests of our clients and shareholders. My father has always been my biggest supporter and sounding board throughout my career. 

 

Tim Katz: Russell Wolff. Russell helped me land my first job at ESPN and showed me how important it was to both love what you do and give back to your community.

 

 

Christopher Lee: Rick Welts. We didn’t work together long, but he made a lasting impression on me.

 

 

 

Zach Leonsis: My dad. I’ve learned a significant amount about how to treat others and how to operate effectively from him. The experiences that he’s able to share with me from his previous roles at major media companies are invaluable. 

 

Devi Mahadevia: Dan Reed. He has been an incredible manager, friend and mentor who has pushed me to take on new challenges outside my comfort zone. Melissa Brenner. She has always taken the time to listen and share her perspectives on balancing life and career goals as a female in sports. 

 

Will McIntosh: Mike McCarley. He’s taught me quite a bit about product excellence, the TV business generally, building a network/relationships, art of presentation/public speaking, being a visionary.

 

 

Chad Menefee: Rich Luker. No one is more passionate about their work and this business than he is. It’s a privilege to have had him as a mentor for 10 years.

 

 

Nate Nanzer: There are some incredibly impressive people in the industry that I have been lucky enough to watch work and spend some time with — Peter Moore, now CEO of LFC; Jonathan Kraft of the Kraft Group; and Steve Cohen of AEG. 

 

Peter Nelson: Our CEO, who took a chance and first hired me.

 

 

 

 

Ashley Page: Tim Pernetti. He has been a tremendous client, friend and mentor to me in helping me learn the ropes of the heavily relationship-driven and nuanced business that is college sports.

 

 

Jake Reynolds: Scott O’Neil. He has taught me, challenged me, guided me and supported me. 

 

 

 

Whalen Rozelle: Riot Games co-founder Brandon Beck. His guidance was formative in my professional development as a leader in a new industry, especially in the early days of our sport. 

 

 

Patrick Ryan: My two business partners Ignacio Cubero and George Postolos. The three of us take such a different approach to the business that it has resulted in some really creative and special partnerships with our teams. 

 

Frank Saviano: Joe Leccese, a mentor who has trusted me, taught me to practice law at the highest level and is always there to listen and share advice.

 

 

Rob Schneider: Greg Brown for demonstrating the power of love in the workplace.

 

 

 

Daniel Sillman: Stephen Ross, Peter Guber, Maverick Carter. They taught me professionalism, vision and what it means to think big.

 

 

 

Sara Slane: Jim Murren and Geoff Freeman.

 

 

 

 

Joe Smith: Charles Greenstein. He has demonstrated that you can be successful through authenticity, integrity and honesty. 

 

 

 

Fabian Stechel: I have been immensely fortunate to work with a large number of highly talented senior executives, including colleagues and clients as well as folks on the other side of the table.

 

 

Eric Sudol: Mike Redlick, my first boss in sports. He took a chance on me and I am forever grateful — R.I.P. Chad Estis: Receiving this honor is a direct reflection of him. The Jones Family: They are not only some of the best people you will ever encounter, they are some of the most genuine and caring people.  

 

Morgan Sword: Dan Halem.

 

 

 

 

Keli Zinn: Gordon Gee, Shane Lyons, Oliver Luck, Debbie Yow, Stan Wilcox have all been instrumental. Stan at the Big East, Debbie at Maryland, and Oliver, Shane and President Gee at WVU. They are all examples of the impact you can have on someone by recognizing their potential and empowering them to succeed.

Christopher Benyarko

Leverage every opportunity to learn as much as you can about the sports industry.

 

Daniel Cohen

It is all about the people you work with and how much hustle you put in.

 

Gideon Cohen

Listen more, talk less.

 

Russ D’Souza

There are so many angles to get into the industry now that didn’t exist before. Technology is the disruptive force within sports. Many companies — from two-person startups to the tech giants — are shaping how the industry evolves. I’m 100 percent biased, but that’s where I’d advise any student to start. Being an outsider is sometimes the best way to have an impact.

 

Camilo Durana

Take a step back. The best path forward may not be the obvious one.

 

David Foster

Be patient and try and figure out as best you can what type of work you want to do in the sports industry. Once you have determined the type of work you do, be willing to take a non-sports industry job in that field in order to gain experience until the right position in the sports industry opens.

 

Lloyd Frischer

Network as best you can by casting a wide net. Be persistent, don’t take no for an answer, and hope you get a little lucky. 

 

Libby Geist

Take the internship or the odd job, say yes to the grunt work, stay late and get in the door. You’ll find what you love (and don’t love) with each job and can steer yourself along the way. 

 

Michael Goldstein

Work hard, build relationships, and be flexible about what and where you start working.

 

Al Guido

Be relentless!

 

Amanda Herald

Build a specific skill set outside of sports first, then transition in.

 

Broderick Hicks

There are so many different paths into this industry. I try to encourage them to find what they are good at and knock on every door until you get a chance.

 

Bill Hudock

Keep on truckin’. You won’t get your breaks without a lot of effort and willing to be flexible. So you need to get in somewhere and work hard.

 

Martin Jarmond

Work hard and do the things that others are not willing to do to set yourself apart.

 

Shelby Jordan

Start in your backyard with your athletic department and when you do, be humble.

 

Stephanie Joukoff

There are many ways to have a career in sports. Focus on building transferable skills, gaining diverse experience and doing something you love. 

 

Tucker Kain

Find the area of the business that you are most passionate about. Being a sports fan is not enough. Identify an area of focus and figure out how you can impact that piece of the business.

 

Matt Kalish

Learn analytics or something quantitative you can apply to sports. Just being a big sports fan won’t land you a spot in the space. So get a technology background or analytics background.

 

Brian Kantarian

Don’t pigeonhole yourself out of the gate, focus on finding a reputable company that has the infrastructure to properly train you in the field you want to pursue — finance, marketing, etc.  It’s always easier to narrow focus as opposed to widen as you advance in your career.

 

Tim Katz

In addition to loving sports, figure out what part of the business excites you and learn everything you can about it.

 

Christopher Lee

Cast a wide net and take an opportunity in golf, even if you want to work in baseball. Very few in sports start and end at the same place. Once you get in the door, it’s about a willingness to learn and work hard, and the work ethic is a lost art in many cases. 

 

Zach Leonsis

Be prepared to work 9 a.m. to midnight. Weekends too. And say yes to new responsibilities even if they’re not always what you were originally looking for. New experiences and putting yourself in unfamiliar territory are the best experiences.

 

Devi Mahadevia

Gaining experience in the broader ecosystem of sports, media and technology — or even the startup world — helps differentiate skill sets and allows for a deeper understanding of various business models and industry factors that influence sports. 

 

Will McIntosh

Find a way in and make sure you capitalize on whatever opportunity is afforded to you. Look for opportunities to come in and potentially support an executive inside of a company (learn a lot) and/or don’t be afraid to try and get a job that may not be your specific passion.

 

Chad Menefee

Reach out to as many people as you can and don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. If you show the passion, someone will give you the opportunity. I’ve never had a job in this industry that came through an application.

 

Nate Nanzer

Be entrepreneurial. There is a lot of opportunity that’s waiting for someone to grab it. 

 

Peter Nelson

Rejection can be your friend — just don’t make it your best friend.

 

Ashley Page

Focus on honing your professional skills and building relationships and BE PATIENT. Sports jobs are highly coveted and sought after and are often given to those who spend a good deal of time preparing to be the right person in the right place at the right time.

 

Jake Reynolds

Be willing to do anything and everything to learn and always take a job based on the people you will be working for.

 

Whalen Rozelle

Be prepared to sacrifice and work incredibly hard, but the payoffs in both intrinsic motivation and personal satisfaction are worth it.

 

Patrick Ryan

There is no such thing as the “perfect” first job in sports. They all have their ups and downs. So the key is to just get started and then immediately get your hands dirty. Understand that there are many paths to success, but that being said, the first one in the office and/or the last one to leave never goes out of style.

 

Frank Saviano

For law students hoping to work in “sports law,” seek out the field within the law that interests you first, become well trained in that field and then apply that expertise to the sports industry.

 

Rob Schneider

Keep your sense of humor. 

 

Daniel Sillman

I would advise that before entering the sports industry to build a skill set that’s transferable to the sports and entertainment industry. Also, be curious. The sports industry can always use people that will challenge the status quo and be creative.

 

Sara Slane

In any industry, be prepared for twists and turns. That time that you don’t get what you think you want, you may end up with something better. You just never know.

 

Joe Smith

If you focus on being authentic, building and fostering relationships, thinking strategically and doing the right thing, the right results will follow.

 

Fabian Stechel

Work hard; be genuine, patient and curious; believe in yourself and have fun.

 

Eric Sudol

When I worked at the Memphis Grizzlies and Andy Dolich was our president, he gave me a basketball when I went to work for the Cowboys that said, “The harder you try to play it safe, the more likely you are to fail.”

 

Morgan Sword

Be really specific about which job in sports you want to do.

 

Keli Zinn

Attach yourself to someone who is willing and able to give you an opportunity and then do everything you can to make that person’s life easier.

Engaging children in sports as participants and fans was listed by many of the Forty Under 40 as the biggest business challenge facing sports in 2019.
Photo: getty images

Christopher Benyarko

Trying to keep up with the ever-changing media landscape.

 

Daniel Cohen

The hesitancy by traditional stakeholders to recognize the rapidly changing behaviors of fans.

 

Gideon Cohen

Figuring out how to handle legalized gambling.

 

Russ D’Souza

Maintaining fans’ attention as technology evolves to increase non-sports-related activities.

 

Camilo Durana

Being the yang to divisive and charged politics by building community.

 

David Foster

The unforeseen consequences of the expansion of legalized sports gambling.

 

Libby Geist

Fans’ changing habits and being nimble enough to change with them.

 

Michael Goldstein

Ensuring that the average fan is both able and finds it worthwhile to attend live sports, and not just stay at home, watching on a large flat-screen.

 

Al Guido

Short term: gambling and what it means to our sports. Long term: youth participation in sport(s) — not a big fan of specialization.

 

Amanda Herald

How to best use technology to enhance the in-venue experience.

 

Broderick Hicks

Today, it’s about dealing with the legalization of sports gambling. In 2021, when all the big content rights deals start to come due, that will be an Armageddon of sorts.

 

Bill Hudock

Digital streaming and changes in media consumption.

 

Martin Jarmond

Paying student athletes.

 

Shelby Jordan

Attracting consumers who are balancing an abundance of content.

 

Stephanie Joukoff

The democratization of sports and creating a 365, 24/7 engagement and content strategy for fans around the world.

 

Tucker Kain

Tailoring content for a consumer expecting a more personalized experience.

 

Matt Kalish

Keeping younger generations engaged with sports, by making sure they are meeting young fans where they are and creating the fan experience they demand — fast-paced, on-demand, exciting game content.

 

Brian Kantarian

Youth participation and engagement.

 

Tim Katz

Changing user behaviors.

 

Christopher Lee

Clutter; it’s increasingly hard to break through.

 

Zach Leonsis

Keeping people’s attention.

 

Devi Mahadevia

The ever-changing media consumption demands of the next-gen fan.

 

Will McIntosh

Youth participation and evolving competitive formats to appeal to new generations of potential fans.

 

Chad Menefee

Getting kids to care about sports the same way their parents and grandparents did when they were the same age. It won’t happen automatically.

 

Nate Nanzer

Engaging young kids.

 

Peter Nelson

Balancing the data and the human.

 

Ashley Page

Resolving the student-athlete pay-for-play conundrum fairly and amicably.

 

Jake Reynolds

Effectively monetizing data and content.

 

Whalen Rozelle

Navigating the inevitable shift away from traditional forms of consumption and embracing the next generation of sports fans.

 

Patrick Ryan

Knowing what product the 24-year-old law student of today will be buying when he/she is a 44-year-old law firm partner in 20 years, if any at all.

 

Frank Saviano

Adapting to the rapidly changing gambling landscape.

 

Rob Schneider

All the things competing for our attention.

 

Daniel Sillman

The role that betting plays in the American sports industry.

 

Sara Slane

Thoughtfulness around their approach to sports betting. I feel like there are so many teams and owners and leagues that want to be active participants and don’t know how to go about doing it. There’s a challenge to not knowing what you don’t know.

 

Joe Smith

Connecting with the fan in a way that is both personalized and scalable.

 

Fabian Stechel

Rapidly changing consumption patterns of the next generation of fans.

 

Eric Sudol

How we continue to capture people’s time.

 

Morgan Sword

Getting kids to play.

 

Keli Zinn

Litigation.

Christopher Benyarko

Comedy and anyone who is a sports fan.

Daniel Cohen

Comedy, anyone but Carrot Top.

Gideon Cohen

Comedy … Bradley Cooper (only because it would allow my wife to finally meet him).

Russ D'Souza

Comedy for sure. Dev Patel would be great, although I wish I had his hair!

David Foster

Drama and Michael B. Jordan.

Lloyd Frischer

Definitely a comedy. Adam Sandler.

Libby Geist

A comedy, starring Will Ferrell.

Michael Goldstein

Comedy and John Krasinski.

Al Guido

Drama, Tom Hardy.

Amanda Herald

Dark comedy. I would be equally thrilled with J Law or J Lo.

Broderick Hicks

It would be a dramedy and the actor would be Jay Ellis, who plays Lawrence on HBO’s “Insecure.”

Bill Hudock

Drama and Matthew McConaughey.

Martin Jarmond

Drama, John Legend.

Shelby Jordan

Comedy, played by Idris Elba (my wife loves him).

Stephanie Joukoff

Comedy, Kate Hudson.

Tucker Kain

Definitely a comedy, and if we’re going comedy I’m doing everything I can to get Will Ferrell to play me. He’s the best.

Matt Kalish

It’s a comedy, probably with somebody like John C. Reilly.

Brian Kantarian

Comedy, Jonah Hill.

Tim Katz

Comedy, John Krasinski.

Christopher Lee

Comedy and John Cho from “Harold & Kumar.”

Zach Leonsis

It’s probably a comedy. Now that I’m married, perhaps it’s a romantic comedy? Who plays me? Someone once told me that I look like Elijah Wood, so maybe him although being compared to the Hobbit wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever been told. If I had my way, I’d pick someone like Mark Wahlberg.

Devi Mahadevia

Comedy, Priyanka Chopra.

Will McIntosh

Let’s go action/comedy — Jason Statham.

Chad Menefee

A comedy starring Jeff Goldblum.

Nate Nanzer

Definitely a comedy starring Seth Rogan.

Peter Nelson

My life rights aren’t for sale, SBJ.

Ashley Page

It would be a dramedy with elements of drama, comedy and all the pieces in between that make life beautiful and I would be played by Amandla Stenberg (young me) and Kerry Washington (current me).

Jake Reynolds

Definitely a comedy and the actor would be cousin Ryan Reynolds (not really my cousin, but seems like a fun guy to hang out with).

Whalen Rozelle

It’s an uplifting Moneyball-esque movie with comedic elements starring my Hollywood doppelganger who can bring the laughs: Seth McFarlane.

Patrick Ryan

It is definitely a dramatic comedy — some ups and downs but overall the funny and bright moments outshine the others. Since the movie isn’t likely to warrant big studio attention, I’d like to give myself a shot at playing the role.

Frank Saviano

Comedy, Benny from the “The Sandlot.” He’s the only actor I’ve ever been told I look like.

Rob Schneider

Drama and Rob Schneider, of course.

Daniel Sillman

Dramedy, Mark Wahlberg.

Sara Slane

God, I hope it’s not a drama. Maybe a dramedy with a happy ending. Sandra Bullock.

Joe Smith

Sitcom, starring (a younger) Ty Burrell.

Fabian Stechel

Definitely a comedy, Will Ferrell.

Eric Sudol

It’s a drama and I have to say Jim Carrey because people say I look like him.

Morgan Sword

A comedy starring Ron Howard.

Keli Zinn

Drama. Sandra Bullock.

Forty Under 40 class photos

Highlighting our Oct. 11, 1999 issue, our inaugural Sports Business Journal Forty Under 40 class included a minor league baseball general manager who now is an NFL team president, a rising attorney who now is chairman of a powerhouse law firm, an NBA player who later purchased an NBA team and the general manager of the New York Yankees, who, two decades later, remains as general manager of the New York Yankees.

 

For those playing along at home, the above quartet would be: Tom Glick of the Carolina Panthers, Joe Leccese of Proskauer, Michael Jordan and Brian Cashman. 

 Cashman, then 32 and in his second year as GM, was only 13 years removed from his first gig with the club, an internship he landed after his freshman year at Catholic University. Considering that only one of the Yankees’ previous nine GMs lasted more than two years, you could have gotten long odds on Cashman surviving even that long, never mind more than two decades.

“If you get your foot in the door anywhere, anything can happen,” Cashman said on the pages of that first SBJ Forty Under 40 section, describing the path to what he described as his dream job. “I’m a living example of that.” 

Though few of our Forty Under 40 selections of the last two decades have carried as high a profile as Cashman, many have echoed that sentiment along their way down similarly successful paths.

Among that inaugural class were a dozen winners who went on to found or co-found ventures, an entrepreneurial bent reflective not only of that time — filled with startups at the peak of the dot-com boom — but of the classes that followed.

The sports industry has changed markedly since we launched SBJ’s Forty Under 40. Not one member of the 2019 class had even graduated from college in 1999. The youngest was in fifth grade. Using history as a predictor, some will be on our pages for years, and even decades, to come.

Our most recent Most Influential list included 14 selections who were SBJ Forty Under 40 alums, including Adam Silver (No. 2, Classes of 2000-01), Eric Shanks (No. 4, Classes of 2007, ’08, ’10), Casey Wasserman (No. 7, Classes of 2003, ’05, ’07) and Mark Lazarus (No. 11, Classes of 2000-02).

That’s what can happen if you “get your foot in the door.”

 
Photo: Courtesy of Dockery Clark

DOCKERY CLARK

Partner, BlueCap Marketing

Selected to the Forty Under 40 class of 1999 when she was a senior vice president at Bank of America

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40?

I believe I was in the inaugural 1999 class of honorees, which within itself was special. Back then, there wasn’t the hoopla of the black-tie celebration, so it was just the comfort of knowing that I was being recognized with other outstanding professionals for a job well done. Obviously, I was thrilled and honored. 

 

What impact did it have on your career?

I had been in the industry since the early ’80s, which to a large degree was just golf and tennis athletes, the events they played in and their agents. We didn’t have big naming-rights deals or team sponsorships. The ’84 L.A. Olympics changed the sponsorship landscape quite significantly, which became the wild west in a lot of ways. I always appreciated that we now had a media outlet in SBJ dedicated to covering the industry, which brought more accountability to all involved. Being able to read about what others were doing, learn best practices and interact with fellow honorees even today has been incredibly valuable.

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

Well for one, I think any young professional should garner significant confidence that the work they are doing is special and standing out in a very cluttered environment. One is never too old to network, and now they have a built-in support group that will continue to allow them to learn.

 

Are there any other thoughts/memories about Forty Under 40 that you would like to share?

I always appreciated that SBJ didn’t forget their first honorees. We were recognized in front of our peers at the Thought Leaders conference, I believe, on the 10th anniversary of the award when we received our official plaque of recognition.


Photo: PGA of America

JEFF PRICE

Chief Commercial Officer, PGA of America

Selected to Forty Under 40 classes in 1999 and 2000 when he was an executive at Mastercard

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40? 

I remember two things specifically — first, I was incredibly honored to be part of the inaugural class. Second, feeling a bit overwhelmed to be part of such a talented group of young executives.

On a more humorous note, I’ll never forget Arliss (Robert Wuhl) busting my chops publicly at the first awards ceremony. And who doesn’t appreciate Abe’s yearly stand-up routine at the event — always fun and entertaining.

 

What impact did it have on your career?  

It has helped to foster great relationships in the sports industry through time spent with other Forty Under 40 winners over the years at SBJ events.

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives? 

It is one of the highest honors in the sports industry and an endorsement of the hard work and dedication it takes to become part of this distinct club.


Photo: Scott Hunter / NASCAR

STEVE PHELPS

President, NASCAR

Selected to Forty Under 40 classes in 2000 and 2001 when he was a vice president at the NFL

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40?

What stands out most to me is the sense of camaraderie among our group of honorees. It was special to be recognized with men and women that I respected and admired from afar. Years later, we still share that common bond.

 

What impact did it have on your career?

When you look at the list of honorees over the past 20 years, it’s a “who’s who” of industry influencers and executives. At the time, being named Forty Under 40 affirmed that I was making a positive contribution to the industry. I’m still proud to be a member of the fraternity. 

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

Working in sports requires an incredible amount of sacrifice, discipline and dedication. At times, it’s easy to feel as if that effort is going unnoticed. For young executives, being included among current and past honorees is incredibly validating. Nearly 20 years later, it’s an award that remains special to me. 

 

Are there any other thoughts/memories about Forty Under 40 that you would like to share?

Attending the first Forty Under 40 awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria was memorable. Being honored the following year with other talented industry contemporaries was humbling. Many of the early honorees continue to have significant influence across the industry today, including Lesa France Kennedy, Adam Silver and Mark Lazarus. I have fond memories of the moments I shared with fellow honorees in attendance.

 
Photo: getty images

MARK STEINBERG

Partner, Excel Sports Management

Member of the Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame after being selected in 2000, 2001 and 2002 when he was an agent at IMG

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40?

I remember the amazing company that I shared the stage with. People like Mark Lazarus and Heidi Ueberroth. Such successful and well-respected individuals in the sports industry.  

 

What impact did it have on your career?

Had a great impact on my career. Gave me the confidence that is needed to push forward and made me work harder.  

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

I think it is great that SBJ continues the tradition. I hear often from people how much it means to them.


Photo: getty images

GEORGE PYNE

Founder and CEO, Bruin Sports Capital

Member of the Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame after being selected in 1999, 2002 and 2003 when he was an executive at NASCAR


What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40?

I remember feeling proud for the entire NASCAR industry. It was a great honor and further validation of the progress we were making on a national level.

My fondest memory of the Forty Under 40 event was sharing the evening with my parents. It was and will always be special to me.

 

What impact did it have on your career?

It allowed me to meet other interesting people in the industry and build friendships and relationships that last a lifetime.

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

It is always nice to be recognized, and I think being selected signals that good work is being achieved in a manner that people can be proud of.


Photo: NBCUniversal

MOLLY SOLOMON

Executive Vice President of Content and Executive Producer, Golf Channel

Selected to Forty Under 40 class in 2005

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40?

When you are relatively young in your career, there are very few awards that give you a sense of perspective of how you rank within the sports industry. SBJ’s Forty Under 40 tells the industry that you are someone to watch.

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

The award gives you a sense of camaraderie with your standout peers. I have stayed in touch with folks from other networks I met that night. We have a bond!

 

Are there any other thoughts/memories about Forty Under 40 that you would like to share?

NBC Sports surprised me by inviting my parents to the NYC reception. It was a wonderful night that those closest to me were able to enjoy alongside me. We’ve never had another night quite like that, a mix of personal and professional.


Photo: Courtesy of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment

SCOTT O'NEIL

Chief Executive Officer, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment  

Member of the Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame after being selected in 2005, 2006 and 2007 when he was a senior vice president at the NBA.

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40?

I remember being thankful and appreciative for all those who believed in me, who took a chance on me when there were more than a few sure bets that would have been safer, were patient with my missteps and falls; those who even encouraged me to stretch, reach and grow, and those who loved me for who I am rather than knocking me for who I was not and never could be.  

 

What impact did it have on your career?

Truly, one of the greatest gifts the honor bestows is the connectivity it brings you with other honorees in your Forty Under 40 class. It becomes one more incredible network of executives with whom you will find yourself connecting over the course of your career. A much greater gift now is seeing those I work with be recognized alongside the constellation of stars that night.

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

Remember that this is a moment in time on your journey through life and your career. The best leaders I have met in business and at home never stop learning because the world keeps evolving and providing opportunities to learn and grow. This is a time where intellectual curiosity rules. Read more. Ask more questions. Engage in active debate. Continue learning and growing.

 

Are there any other thoughts/memories about Forty Under 40 that you would like to share?

Abe brings such a fun element to the evening and has a unique way of bringing the industry together through stories, a few jokes and a lot of laughs. Put your phones away (except for photos) and engage and enjoy your night, because tomorrow — it is back to the grind.


Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown

HOWIE NUCHOW

Co-Head, CAA Sports

Member of the Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame after being selected in 2003, 2007 and 2008 when he was an executive at Mandalay Sports Entertainment and CAA Sports.

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40?

I remember having an incredible sense of pride when I opened the letter from the Sports Business Journal informing me that I had been selected to the list. I don’t think I have had a bigger smile on my face for something in my professional career than when I read those words. Being selected to the list had been one of my goals since reading the list the first year it came out and felt like it was going to be a goal beyond reach at the time. 

 

What impact did it have on your career?

The award, which I received while working in Minor League Baseball, gave me the confidence that I might be able to succeed on another level.

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

For me, it was that extra boost in confidence, telling you that your work matters and you have made an impact on the industry. I think it gives you a moment to stop and take note of how many champions you need in your career to help you accomplish something like this. Hopefully, you will want to pay it forward to the next generation after recognizing that you can’t get there without having others rooting for your success.

 

Are there any other thoughts/memories about Forty Under 40 that you would like to share?

I loved when the awards class would get together for the picture. I enjoyed meeting the group of winners from the industry as I had appreciated the great work of so many. A lot of times, I was meeting these men and women for the first time and was able to tell them how big of a fan I was of their accomplishments. This helped forge relationships that I really have enjoyed over the years. I recall meeting Adam Helfant for the first time, when he was working at Nike, and I was extremely proud to share the award in 2003 with my cousin Ethan Orlinsky who won as an executive at Major League Baseball.


Photo: Alex Martinez Photography

JAIME FAULKNER

Chief Executive Officer, E15

Selected to Forty Under 40 class in 2016

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40? 

When I got the call, I couldn’t wait to tell my husband Colin, who had previously been selected as a Forty Under 40 winner. I knew he would be super proud. I think I may have teased him that SBJ should have picked me before him … but what can you do?

 

What impact did it have on your career?

I was selected for Forty Under 40 not too long after we launched E15, and it brought recognition to the great work that our team has done for our partners. It affirmed that E15 was on the right track and making a true impact on the industry.

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

People in the sports industry work really, really hard. Getting your foot in the door in this industry is incredibly tough, and when people get in they give it all they have. Being selected as Forty Under 40 is validation and recognition from your peers that you are a leader, and all that work is worthwhile and is making an impact.

 

Are there any other thoughts/memories about Forty Under 40 that you would like to share?

When they interviewed me for the article, they asked me to finish the sentence “2016 will be a great year if …” I answered: “If the Cubs win a World Series, it will be a great year.” Clearly, my predictive skills are amazing, and I like to take credit for breaking the curse. It was a great year, and Forty Under 40 really kicked it off.

Another thought I’d add is that when I meet really sharp, young people in sports, I often say to myself “they should be Forty Under 40.” You start to look for that quality in people you come across in the industry. That’s a real testament to the impact of the recognition.

Photo: Reagan Lunn

NINA KING

Senior Deputy AD, Administration and Legal Affairs/Chief of Staff, Duke University

Selected to Forty Under 40 class in 2018

 

What do you remember most about being named to Forty Under 40?

The opportunity to meet, interact and learn from other honorees and develop friendships with several of my fellow “classmates!”

 

What impact did it have on your career?

The Forty Under 40 honor was an incredible personal accolade, however, I truly owe it to my colleagues that I work with every day that make teamwork fun and especially meaningful/rewarding in our pursuit of the pinnacle student-athlete experience.

 

What does being selected for Forty Under 40 mean for professional development of young executives?

Selection to Forty Under 40 is a great chance for me to hopefully impact and inspire other young collegiate athletics administrators looking to grow in this business. Not that I have all the answers, but the Forty Under 40 honor is a tangible success that I can share with young administrators as they look for career path advice and mentorship.