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Volume 27 No. 83
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SBJ All-Access: A Night For New Voices

It was a true party atmosphere last night at the Refinery Rooftop in Manhattan, where more than 200 people gathered to celebrate the inaugural class of SBJ’s New Voices Under 30. All of this year’s honorees were on hand for the event, accompanied by family, friends and co-workers.



  • There was plenty of music, food and drink, photo booths, an illusionist and a beautiful balcony whose backdrop is the iconic Empire State Building. Most important, though, was the chance to get to know the future leaders of the industry, and for them to get to know each other. At the end of the evening, as she was about to leave, one of our winners said she was pretty sure that she had talked to all of her fellow winners. It’s the ability to make those connections that makes a program like this worthwhile.



  • Before handing out the awards, Publisher & Executive Editor Abe Madkour talked about the kind of people we were looking for in this first class to set the tone for future winners. Madkour: “We have always wanted to find the ‘new influencers,’ the young voices. We looked at people from various backgrounds. Entrepreneurs. Disrupters. People who are bringing new ideas to a business that has done things the same way for a long time. For this class, I want you to know, you’re pretty special. Going forward, all of the other young people in the business of sports will know your names, will know your faces, will be familiar with your story, and you will inspire and motivate them to be on future lists. So what we ask from you is that you pay it forward. Be their mentors. Be leaders. Be real. Be people of integrity. Make us proud, because we took a bet on you because of your talent.”

  • The inaugural sponsors of the program, Anheuser-Busch and Turnkey Search, had a big presence at the event, including a station where about 60 people received Stella Artois chalices that were laser-engraved with their name or initials. A-B’s Nick Kelly told the crowd that, working with so many teams, leagues and other sports businesses, his company sees a lot of young, talented people, but also knows how hard it is for them to break through when they are competing with others who are older and more established. Kelly: “This was a great opportunity for us to identify new talent, but most importantly … we get calls from teams and leagues and agencies all the time asking ,’Who is that great young talent?’ So it was extremely rewarding for us to dig in and look at all these people who are doing amazing things at a young age.”

  • Turnkey’s Len Perna told the group that being identified as one of the New Voices Under 30 is rewarding and career-boosting, and also brings responsibility. Perna: “It’s great to win at a young age. The pro is, everybody knows who you are now, you’re on the radar, and your resumes are better with this award. The other side of it is, you have a responsibility, and I think the responsibility is, give back to this industry. Be embedded in it. And give back to your teams. Look for ways to improve your team. That’s what we look for as a search firm -- people who make the teams better. If you guys do that, it really bodes well for the future.”




  • Among those who turned out to honor the winners were Turnkey’s Gene DeFilippo and Rick Alessandri, NLL’s Jessica Berman, Octagon’s Peter Carlisle, Dolphins/Hard Rock Stadium's Tom Garfinkel and Jeremy Walls, LA2028’s Brian Lafemina, Excel Sports Management's Emilio Collins, CAA’s Mike Levine, Howie Nuchow and Paul Danforth, ESPN’s Libby Geist and Connor Schell, Allen & Co.'s Michael Melnitzky, MSG's John Abbamondi and BSE's Jeff Gewirtz.



  • A slider station, with cheeseburgers and pulled pork, was a big hit. Among the wide variety of passed hors d’ourvres: fried mac-and-cheese and crab cakes were two of our faves.



  • Along with many in attendance, we posted photos of the event on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #SBJNVU30 and #NVU30. We also live-streamed the awards ceremony on Facebook. We’ll continue posting some of the best shots from the event over the next few days.

  • Here are some of the posts we noticed during the night:

    • MLS Commissioner Don Garber: “Proud to share that @MLS Partnership Marketing Manager Tanya Downey is a @sbjsbd New Voices Under 30 Honoree! Beginning as an intern in 2015, Tanya is a vital part of the team managing MLS/SUM partners. Tanya, thank you for everything you do and congratulations on #SBJNVU30.”

    • NLL Deputy Commissioner Jessica Berman: “Being part of the judging committee to select these #SBJNVU30 was truly an honor! Thanks @sbjsbd #SportsBiz”

    • Immortals Gaming Club Chief Digital Officer Tal Shachar: “A real honor. #sbjnvu30”

    • Populous Associate Megan Rand: “I’m humbled and thrilled to be named to @sbjsbd inaugural class of New Voices Under 30 in the sports industry. It’s exciting to be part of the @Populous team and I look forward to continuing to push the boundaries of fan experience and facility design. #SBJNVU30”

    • Consultant Joe Favorito: “Proud to have helped pick this inaugural group of smart #nextgen voices honored tonight. Great to have helped guide a few as well. #SBJNVU30 #sportsbiz #storytelling #newvoices”



  • All of this year’s honorees will be profiled in our special New Voices Under 30 issue of SBJ on Jan. 20.