By Abe Madkour and Ross Nethery
Disruption and diversity dominate day one … Sports Business 2025 kicks off day two … Michael Rubin and Jed York talk reinvention, followed by a look at the future of gaming … Forty Under 40 gala tonight….
Diversity and inclusion took center stage on Day 1 of the 2018 CAA World Congress of Sports, with panelists from start to finish weighing in on the progress that has been made in the sports industry, and the long road still ahead. Two of the founders of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements talked about what they hope will be accomplished as momentum continues to build. CAA’s Michelle Kydd Lee said, “This is an awkward conversation to have between genders, but that’s okay when we have a higher calling — a safer place for all of us.” CAA’s Christy Haubegger explained to the audience the nuances of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements: “MeToo is the notion of being hurt in some way by sexual violence — sexual abuse to sexual harassment. #TimesUp is a movement that’s about addressing the issues at the workplace so no one has to say ‘me, too.’” CAA’s Lisa Joseph Metelus, who led the discussion, said, “This is the infancy of the movement. We’d love to have as much help as possible because this is about creating a better world for all of us.”
Coca-Cola’s Andrew Davis said leaders in sports and entertainment have “a responsibility to be the bridge to unite this country,” and also made a business case for making diversity a priority. “You need an inclusive mindset if you want to grow,” he said, adding that the best way to do that is to look at underserved markets and emerging consumers. “Uniqueness plus belonging equals inclusivity,” said Davis. “People are wired to belong. If you find a sense of community, you give your best self.”
FINDING THE FANS: The challenge of reaching young fans was a recurring theme on the opening panel, with the Dallas Cowboys’ Charlotte Jones Anderson talking about the struggle to stay relevant. Anderson: “How do we make them want to sit for the full experience? And if not, how do we take some of that content and offer it to them in a way that creates that same level of engagement?” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said he wanted to be careful “not to overreact,” but that he has been surprised with student attendance levels at sporting events. Scott: “If you’re struggling to get students to walk half a mile for a $10 ticket, what’s gonna happen when they’re out in the work force and they see the price points?”
WORDS OF WISDOM: It’s always fun to hear from the members of each year’s class of Champions of Sports Business, and yesterday was no exception. Before we broke for lunch, each of the Champions — some in person and some via video — accepted their award. Here are excerpts of their remarks:
Paul Beeston, President Emeritus, Toronto Blue Jays, provided a video in which he thanked the “great people who made me look good.” Beeston added, “I think it was Harry Truman who said, ‘It’s unlimited what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.’ I try to operate like that. I work with people and consider them associates, not assistants.”
Sal Galatioto, President, Galatioto Sports Partners, a cancer survivor, posed a question to the algorithm writers: “What are the odds I’d be standing here? I’d postulate it’s pretty close to zero.” Galatioto thanked his clients and team as well as the United States for “opening its arms to an uneducated, poor family from Sicily. There’s not better honor that I’ve received than being called an American.”
Howard Ganz, Co-Head, Sports Law Group, Proskauer, joked to the audience that he would be succinct and he lived up to that promise. But not without a self-deprecating joke: “The last time I was a podium was at a Proskauer event, (speaking) just before (former NBA Commissioner) David Stern. I thought I was being aproopriately brief, terse and to the point. The first thing Stern said was, ‘I could listen to Howard all night — and I just have!’ Ganz thanked his wife and his children, as well as “my colleagues at Proskauer: they’re one of the reasons I’m standing here today and why I’ve had a fun ride along the way.”
Kay Koplovitz, the founder of USA Network and managing partner, Springboard Growth Capital, recalled how she conceived MSG Network as the first cable sports network: “The whole idea was, hey, sports are only on the weekends, why not every day and night?” Then she signed a deal to carry the New York Yankees. The day after their first Yankee televised Yankee game, then MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn called and said the Yankees didn’t have the rights to sell her.
Koplovitz thought on it and pivoted to a bigger deal: “I told Bowie, ‘I’ll trade you.’ And I waited. He then said, ‘Trade me what?’ I said, ‘I’ll trade you the Yankees for Major League Baseball. And that’s how I got my contract with Major League Baseball.”
John Wooten, Chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, once blocked for Jim Brown and now helps pave the way for minority candidates to land coaching and front office jobs in the NFL. Accepting the award by video, Wooten, the guardian of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, said, “My greatest achievement is being part of Fritz Pollard Alliance started by Jonnie Cochran, helping other minorities we know have the ability and the drive to be successful in the National Football League.”
Ben Sutton, Founder of International Sports Properties (ISP), harkened to eastern North Carolina roots for teaching him valuable lessons that paid off in business. “When I founded ISP in 1992, we believed our model was better and no one could outwork us or out-innovate us. Growing up on the farm, my dad always told me: ‘There’s no such thing as status quo; you’re either getting behind or getting ahead.’ I believe that.” Sutton said his success story could only have happened in the U.S.: “We took great pride in proving the American dream was alive and well.”
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DIFFERENT STROKES: Shahid Khan, Jaguars owner and Fulham FC Chairman, appeared with his son, Tony, and talked about the differences between English soccer and the NFL. “The NFL is very fan-friendly, and in our case, we’re the youngest team in football —20 years old. We want people coming in and having a good family experience,” he said. “English soccer, or soccer period, is hard core. No breaks. No alcohol in English stadiums during games. So if you’re looking for revenue from that side, it’s not there. It’s ticket sales and sponsorships. Very much an eat-what-you-kill mindset vs. a shared revenue model which the NFL has.”
TAKING IT ALL IN: Jay Monahan, who succeeded Tim Finchem early last year as commissioner of the PGA Tour, talked about the extensive listening tour he took so that he could hear from a variety of stakeholders. “We have a distributed business model,” he said, “so understanding what your constituents are thinking….is definitely important on a go-forward basis. It’s led us to (the Tour’s new branding effort) ‘Live Under Par.’ It’s led us to changes in other schedule, and it’s going to lead us to other changes in how we present our content. … We’re looking to own August and end our biggest events before the arrival of football in the fall.”
THE MEDIA LANDSCAPE: After listening to Hulu CEO Randy Freer for 30 minutes, you can conclude that the streaming service will eventually acquire major sports rights. “Ultimately, over time, sports rights will continue to prove their value,” Freer said. “The challenge we all have is to innovate on how we distribute those rights to consumers.” In a separate interview, Fox Sports’ Eric Shanks said the network’s new Thursday night NFL package is as vital to the company as its core Sunday afternoon games.“We’re so invested for the next five years in Thursday night, there is no game, at least in our package, that is too good to be on Thursday,” Shanks said.
SPOTTED: Last night’s Kings-Knights playoff NHL game at Staples Center proved to be a popular option after Day 1 of World Congress. AEG entertained a number of guests, including CAA’s Howie Nuchow and Wells Fargo’s Nick Caray, at the Hyde Lounge, hosted by Todd Goldstein, Russell Silvers and Nick Baker. Among game attendees: Orlando City’s Mike Yanuzzi, AMB Sports & Entertainment’s Kacey Sims and Eventellect’s Matt Galante and Taylor Leiby…Delaware North held a discussion and dinner for about 30 special guests at a rooftop setting looking over the city on South Olive Street. Attendees listened to a presentation on DNC’s continuing “Future of Sports” series by journalist/futurist Po Brosnan…A large dinner at West Hollywood’s Catch LA included Eventellect’s Patrick Ryan, Ilitch Sports’ Chris Granger, MLSE’s Tom Pistore, Dave Hopkinson, Paris Adams and Matt O’Brien, MKTG Canada’s Brian Cooper, Kilberry’s Richard Davis, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Brad Sims and Sacramento Republic FC’s Ben Gumpert … USA Triathlon President Barry Siff had a cheerful reunion with former USA Triathlon board member Vince O’Brien during the cocktail reception, at least three years since they’d last seen each other in person. O’Brien last spoke with Siff by phone during Triathlon’s CEO vacancy in 2017 to recommend Nolan Partners as a search firm, which led USAT to hire its new CEO, Rocky Harris…Quite a few people took Galatioto up on his special drink that was served during the GSP-sponsored reception that ended Day 1. It was called a Gala-Tequila, and was made of tequila, sour apple liqueur, lime juice, agave and lemon-lime soda…. USOC CMO Lisa Baird took the occasion of her trip to World Congress to start looking at real estate ads in LA. She’s not leaving NYC, she insists, but with preparations for the LA2028 Olympics picking up steam, she is trying to find an apartment for her frequent visits. “I want my own closet,” she said.
SPOTTED, TOO: Proskauer hosted a dinner at Broken Spanish, where guests mingled over margaritas, wine and mojito chicken bites before sitting down to a four-course meal highlighted by lamb neck tamal, chicharron and fried whole snapper, which servers expertly deconstructed tableside. Dessert was flan with pistachio dust and panna cotta with a spicy chile de arbol chocolate. Guests included Shahid and Tony Kahn, Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott, PJT Partners’ Joe Lenehan and Don Cornwell, and J.P. Morgan’s Brian Kantarian … Stan Kroenke’s nascent 290-acre LA Stadium and Entertainment District hosted a reception at its Premiere Center in Playa Vista. Among the 75 or so attendees were Charlotte Jones Anderson and Shahid Khan, along with Pepsi’s Justin Toman, Tom Glick of Manchester City FC, and Ticketmaster’s Greg Economou … At Tuesday evening’s reception, we found former NFL and Nascar sales exec Jim O’ Connell attending in a new role — heading a Dentsu property sales unit, with an initial charge of selling NBA Players Association rights. O’Connell had most recently been working for WheelsUp, after 10 years at Nascar. … A large contingent from CSM, including Dan Mannix, Harlan Stone and Ross Meltzer are on hand to support Forty Under 40 honoree Matt Grandis. …Sporting-good impresario Mitchell Modell said that while the NY Mets 12 wins is among the best in MLB, it has yet to increase sales of Mets’ licensed merchandise at his NE sporting-goods chain. However, with their first playoff appearance in years, Philadelphia 76ers merchandise is flying out of his stores, “especially anything with Ben Simmons name in it.”
SPOTTED, THREE: A late night reception was hosted by Mobilitie last night at the J.W. Marriott at LA Live. Among those in attendance: Herrick’S Irwin Kishner; Navigate’s Alexa Linger; Connect Partnership’s Channing Butler; the Ducks’ Graham Siderius; and NWSL’s Susie Piotrkowski. …The JW Marriott lobby bar turned into an impromptu pep rally last night. The tony bar was crowded with hockey fans last night after the Vegas Golden Knights completed a playoff series sweep over the Los Angeles Kings at nearby Staples Center. Hordes of Vegas fans shouted “Let’s Go Knights!” several times during the evening, drowning out conversations in the bar….Minnesota United co-owner Ben Grossman and MLS’ Dan Courtemanche dining at WP24 by Wolfgang Puck, a restaurant on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton that offered impressive views of Los Angeles.
POWER LUNCH: The sports business was well-represented along the 3rd floor of LA Live yesterday, as the World Congress of Sports with its more than 800 attendees intersected with an MLS BOG meeting on the same floor. During lunch break for both events, the hallway was full of VIPs, including MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Kraft Sports Group’s Jonathan Kraft, who both chatted with SBJ/SBD’s Abe Madkour, along with LAFC co-owner Peter Guber and Goldman’s Greg Carey.
WASSERMAN GROUP BACK AGAIN: The eighth annual Wasserman WCOS Women’s Cocktail Hour convened Thursday night at a patio just off the back of the JW Marriott. About 100 women attended what began as a support group within a male-dominated industry and has grown into a lobbying group of sorts. Wasserman Managing Partner Elizabeth Lindsey gave SBJ kudos for having double digits in woman speakers (13) this year. “We all feel like this group has helped influence that,” she said. As for overall industry progress, when it comes to gender equality? “We’ve seen some positive movement,” said former SUM President Kathy Carter, another original organizer. “We all knew progress would be incremental and it has been. But we’re moving in the right direction.”
FORTY UNDER 40: Fox Sports’ Curt Menefee and Charissa Thompson will be the co-hosts of the tonight’s Forty Under 40 gala. There’s a winner’s-only photo shoot from 6:00 to 6:30, then a coctail reception at 6:30, the banquet and awards ceremony at 7:30 and a post-event reception at 10:00.
THEY SAID IT:
“The (sports franchise) market is exhausting potential buyers, but there are new billionaires created every day. Not everyone, including a billionaire, wants to lose money. But it’s a cool thing (to own a team).” — Ganz.
“It’s a boy toy!” — fellow Champion Koplovitz, responding to Ganz.
“This is serious money. Serious business. And you can’t screw it up just because you want your son involved.” — Khan
“There are three things I’ve learned in almost 50 years in America. It’s more important to make long-term friends than short-term profits. Never start a meeting with a full bladder. And never say no to a man named Salvatore.” — Galatioto
“You better work on those legs. Cleveland’s offensive line isn’t that good. You’re going to have to survive.” — USC AD Lynn Swann, on what advice he would give Trojans QB Sam Darnold if he goes first in the draft.
SOCIAL ANIMALS: We hope you’ll appreciate everyone who helped us extend the sports business discussion on social media yesterda. The conference hashtag is #SBJWCS. You can also follow us on Twitter @SBJSBD.
Tweets from the conference generated more than 4.6 million impressions on Tuesday. Special thanks to our most frequent tweeters: @Major_LeagueBiz, Mike Sunnucks (@Mikesunx), Joe Favorito (@Joefav), Heather Joy Martin (@HevCollart), CuSportsBiz (@CU_SPS_Sports) and Jack Patterson (@jackcpatterson).
Here are a few tweets that caught our eye:
@jackcpatterson: Cool to see @TonyKhan speak at #sbjwcs. Had heard he was super smart … it’s true. Enjoying hearing him speak about his role at @FulhamFC. Also his Dad Shahid is awesome too!
@slauletta: Kudos to @caa_sports and @sbjsbd for featuring the #TimesUp movement at #sbjwcs such an important conversation for all industries … well done.
@bsiff: Great session on #Inclusion4All & #diversity. Powerful. Thank you #SBJWCS. #TimesUp
@BenSuttonISP: Privileged to be a part of such a distinguished class of honorees in LA. Loved leading our teams at #ISPSports @IMGCollege and now @TeallCapital - this is a true team award.
@AmyTrask: A privilege and a pleasure to participate in @sbjsbd opening panel - thanks for including me - Twitter Village, hope you don’t mind if I retweet a few things I said (oh what the heck, just means I’ll be yakking by retweet instead of tweet).
Mixing it up a litte bit…Here are a few Instagram posts we liked:
NEED TO KNOW: If you’re reading this in an Uber and headed our way, we’re at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, across the street from the Staples Center. Registration, exhibits and breakfast open on Level 3 at 7:15 a.m., and the first session starts at 8:20. You can get the agenda, attendee list, speaker and sponsor details, and much more on our web app. Just navigate your device to conferences.sbjsbd.com.
YOU ASK, WE ANSWER: Our moderators will be taking your questions throughout the day on a handy-dandy iPad that they will have on stage. You can submit your question through the web app, or by texting SBJSBD to 22-333 to join our session.
EMAIL EVOLUTION: Many thanks to our All-Access sponsor, Heritage Werks, for providing support for our email reports and the video interviews that you can view on our social media channels and in THE DAILY.
CONTENT CREATORS: As always, we appreciate your comments and suggestions. Click on Ross or Abe’s byline at the top of the page to send us an email. Michael Smith, Eric Fisher, Ben Fischer, Austin Karp, Terry Lefton, John Ourand, Mike Sunnucks and Robert Gray contributed to this newsletter.
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