Forum: People on the move worth watching and why
Kathy Carter’s move to the Olympic world (see story) is among the many noteworthy personnel moves of the past few months. I wanted to go back and review the most interesting hirings and departures during the third quarter. All of these below were announced or reported from July 1 to Sept. 30 — and while not ranked by importance, each stands out to me.
Amazon hiring Marie Donoghue to oversee global sports programming is significant. Everyone wants to know how Amazon will invest in sports and Donoghue may have the answer. She has a wealth of media experience, having spent nearly 20 years at ESPN. She understands the business, from programming to rights negotiations. Most importantly, she knows the executives on the other side of the table.
The Carolina Panthers hiring Tom Glick has been one of the most positively received moves of the year. New team owner David Tepper found someone with a broad and diverse skill set — from ticket sales to facility development — both in the U.S. and in England. This should be a good fit for the well-liked Glick.
The changes at the U.S. Olympic Committee were the most significant personnel moves of the quarter. Sarah Hirshland joining as CEO brings a strategic and experienced business mind to the organization. No, she’s not from the insular Olympic world, she’s an outsider with very close ties to Casey Wasserman. In addition, the USOC named former acting CEO Susanne Lyons to replace outgoing USOC Chairman Larry Probst. Lyons is well-regarded inside the Olympic movement, and she and Hirshland are the USOC’s first all-woman chair/CEO duo. Keep an eye on them as they focus on changing the culture there.
The most surprising move was Pete Bevacqua leaving his job as CEO of the PGA of America to join NBC Sports Group as president, a new position. He left the golf world, where he had worked for years, to join a deep bench that has been assembled by Mark Lazarus. Bevacqua is a newcomer when it comes to traditional media, but he is a quick read and has great relationships throughout sports.
The PGA of America then turned around and hired Seth Waugh as CEO, replacing Bevacqua. Waugh knows golf and is a confidant of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. The former CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas, Waugh can navigate the politics of the boardroom and has deep ties to the financial world.
Few leaders have more people rooting for them than Steve Phelps, who was promoted to NASCAR president, and can now put his stamp on a sport that will be facing a number of critical and difficult decisions.
VenueNext lured Orlando Magic CMO Anthony Perez as its new CEO. The Magic was an early adopter of VenueNext technology, and now Perez becomes CEO in a space he understands well, and he can explore other areas of business for the mobile-driven consumer tech.
Lee Jenkins was one of the best storytellers in his former role as a writer at Sports Illustrated. Athletes offered him rare access. With SI for sale, it wasn’t surprising that he left. But what was eye-opening was taking the unique role of executive director of research and identity for the L.A. Clippers — the first of its kind. The new position speaks to an emphasis on evaluating people, and using those skills to help organizations win on the court.
Chris Overholt left as CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee to become president of Toronto’s Overwatch franchise. Overholt has been in “traditional” sports his entire career — MLSE, Dolphins, Olympics — but he was convinced of the growth potential of the Overwatch League, and joins a number of executives tempted by the revenue in esports.
Bruce Meyer leaving the NHLPA to become senior director of collective bargaining and legal for the MLBPA is notable, as he becomes the lead strategist and negotiator when collective-bargaining talks start up. MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark has been under fire by players and agents over the current CBA, and labor relations with the league are strained. Meyer adds a new face and new firepower in what could be contentious talks.
Stan Wilcox leaving as athletic director at Florida State to become executive vice president of regulatory affairs at the NCAA puts him in an influential role in Indianapolis and on campuses throughout the country. Succeeding Oliver Luck, Wilcox will work to make college athletics more equitable and efficient while trying to focus on athletes — a complicated task with multiple constituencies.
The WNBA has lost some substantial institutional knowledge after Lisa Borders resigned as president and Ann Rodriguez departed as COO in September. Borders was a strong public spokeswoman for the league, while Rodriguez brought sound operational skills. The quality of play, appeal and activism of WNBA players has never been higher, but the challenge is to increase revenue to grow the business.
Which move did I not list has your attention?
Abraham Madkour can be reached at email@example.com.