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Volume 21 No. 43


As we put together our annual 50 Most Influential People in Sports Business list, a certain mind-set gets established. Last year, the philosophy in shaping the list was rooted in labor and management relations, and key executives in those areas had strong positions within the 50. This year, we’re looking at the remnants of the year in labor negotiations — for better (MLB) or for worse (NBA). Some executives who made the list last year are not present this year because, as we see it, their heavy lifting is done and their influence doesn’t extend without their role in labor relations. Other executives have seen their position rise or fall depending on how we viewed their ability to influence labor negotiations.

Outside of that theme, we continued to look for new people shaping the industry, as we’ve been criticized for a list that at times has become stagnant and predictable. Here’s a look at the names and rankings that may surprise you:

STEVE BURKE: The write-up on Burke clearly encapsulates why he’s atop our list for the first time.

BUD SELIG: This will cause the most head-scratching, raised eyebrows and passionate debate. We’re ready for it. We’ve long ranked Selig lower than his counterparts at the NFL and NBA, annual decisions that grated top executives in baseball who cite a lack of respect. It was never a lack of respect; it was recognition that other commissioners wielded more power and set the agenda with a stronger vision. We don’t find that to be the case this year. In a year when his counterparts dealt with lockouts, internal ownership battles and criticism from their top talent (their players), Selig quietly established a record high in league revenue at $7 billion, nailed a five-year labor deal without a hint of locking any doors, pushed MLB to become the first sport to implement HGH testing, realigned his leagues and expanded the playoffs. Selig won’t win awards for charisma, but this isn’t a ranking of people based on how dynamic they are. Selig has put together an effective management and leadership team that innovates.

ROGER GOODELL/DAVID STERN: Both dropped this year, largely for their inability to deliver labor peace. While the NFL continues to be the bellwether for the industry, issues around the Super Bowl in Dallas and a four-month lockout were factors in Goodell dropping three spots. For Stern, the fact the NBA, under his stewardship, lost nearly two full months of action — the second time in 13 years the league has lost games — chipped away at the level of his influence.

JERRY BUSS/JEANIE BUSS: The father/daughter combo makes the list for the first time for their aggressive business strategy with the Lakers that includes a mega-deal with Time Warner Cable that significantly alters the local rights landscape.

LARRY SCOTT: Another first-timer, the Pac-12 commissioner may not have achieved everything he wanted, but time and again people are pointing to his ambitious and innovative growth strategy.

LORENZO FERTITTA/DANA WHITE: The duo behind the UFC finally got the broadcast TV deal they’ve been looking for and are now involved in business dealings at the highest levels.

CHRIS TSAKALAKIS: What’s keeping teams, properties and business partners up at night? The secondary market and the future of ticketing — and Tsakalakis leads StubHub, the company that is scaring the hell out of most of those people.

These lists are meant to foster debate and discussion. So, let us know where you think we’ve hit and — better yet — where we’ve missed the mark.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at

The giving season. It’s a time for counting our blessings and helping those less fortunate. If you are involved with professional sports in today’s world, you are most blessed indeed. People are still paying to attend sporting events, and team values and player salaries continue to escalate.

That is not the case in many other sectors at this time. Given the high unemployment rate and the depth of the ongoing economic challenges for many, worthy charities are under enormous pressure to deliver more services with fewer resources. If ever you have thought about giving something back, now is as critical a time as any in recent memory.

How much should I give?

It’s a thoughtful question and it deserves a thoughtful answer. Of course, on some level, all giving is deeply personal. How much one gives is a derivative of how much one has, what one’s expenses are, what one’s overall financial plan is, and what one earns. But there are certain absolutes.

It is an age-old psychological truism that being generous feels good. Giving to others in meaningful ways produces endorphins that few other behaviors can. As good as it can feel to make money, that feeling pales in comparison to giving it away.

Years ago, I organized a Christmas present giveaway for about 300 elementary school kids in the inner city for then-Boston Celtics captain Dee Brown. These were children who, were it not for Dee, would not have received anything for Christmas. I can attest to the fact that there is something holy and transformative about buying and then individually wrapping 300 gifts that mean the difference between kids having a Christmas or not having one. The look in their eyes as they paraded one by one onto the auditorium stage to receive their present from Dee dressed as Santa Claus brought tears to my eyes then and has never left me. I can only imagine how much it meant to Dee. For less than $5,000, he made 300 families happy that Christmas. How much better could you spend five grand?

Often we become paralyzed by the enormity of the problems of poverty, hunger and homelessness. They are not unsolvable problems. Solving hunger isn’t a supply problem; it’s a distribution problem. The food we throw out every year in the U.S. could feed almost any country in Africa — and certainly all the hungry people in our own country. And the excess that we accumulate in our closets could clothe an army of homeless people.

Life’s greatest possessions are those that when shared multiply, those that when divided are not diminished. Without question, these are tough economic times, but no one ever became poor by being generous. Investing in the lives and well-being of others pays dividends in ways that last a lifetime and, even more importantly, enrich our lives with great meaning.

Whether you make $50,000 a year or $20 million, philanthropy should always be part of your budget. Why should the rich only get to experience the endorphins giving produces?

If you are lucky enough to be both rich and famous, your giving may induce many others to give to and support your cause. Never think that your fame exempts you from the joy of giving. It is the opposite; it allows you to double and triple your gifts.

But just as the rich cannot have others volunteer to get sick for them, you cannot experience the good feelings giving produces if others give and you don’t.

How much should I give?

The true answer lies in how good you want to feel.

Marc Pollick ( is president and founder of The Giving Back Fund, a national public charity that helps athletes, entertainers and others establish and maintain charitable foundations and programs.