MSBC speakers listed among SportsBusiness Journal’s annual “Top 50 Most Influential People in Sports Business”

SportsBusiness Journal released its annual list of the top 50 most influential people in sports business, which included a record seven individuals who have spoken at the Michigan Sport Business Conference in the past. Featured below are the former MSBC speakers who made it onto SBJ’s esteemed list along with their reasons for being included among the most influential in the industry.

David Levy – President, Turner

SBJ Rank: No. 6

Year at MSBC: 2017

Panel/Breakout: Keynote Conversation with Abraham Madkour of SportsBusiness Journal

Why Levy (from SBJ): “The Match” with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson perfectly captured how Levy’s influence has grown with the AT&T-Time Warner merger. HBO Sports produced a promotional series, Bleacher Report carried shoulder programming, and BR/Live and DirecTV provided the pay-per-view. Throw in AT&T wireless and retail stores — not to mention TBS, TNT and truTV — and Levy can enter any rights deal with an unprecedented array of assets.

Don Garber – Commissioner, Major League Soccer

SBJ Rank: No. 16

Year at MSBC: 2016

Panel/Breakout: Keynote Conversation with Abraham Madkour of SportsBusiness Journal

Why Garber (from SBJ): Next year will mark Garber’s 20th year in charge of MLS, which has been a period of massive growth. With the launch of FC Cincinnati, the opening of Allianz Field in Minnesota and another round of expansion expected in the year ahead, that trajectory should continue upward.

David Berson – President, CBS Sports

SBJ Rank: No. 17

Year at MSBC: 2012

Panel/Breakout: “Media and Reshaping the World of Sports” with Darren Rovell of ESPN, Scott Burton of ESPN The Magazine and Stephen Master of Nielsen

Why Berson (from SBJ): Just weeks after Leslie Moonves left his post in September as CBS chairman and CEO amid sexual abuse allegations, Sean McManus and Berson finalized a deal to keep the PGA Championship on its air through 2030. It showed the duo’s influence, renewing a pact with a longtime partner amid a chaotic atmosphere caused by Moonves’ exit.


Jim Delany – Commissioner, Big Ten Conference

SBJ Rank: No. 28

Year at MSBC: 2014

Panel/Breakout: “The Economic Reforming of College Athletics” with Abraham Madkour of SportsBusiness Journal, Ben Sutton of IMG College, Burke Magnus of ESPN, Julie Kimmons of NCAA and Mark Silverman of Big Ten Network

Why Delany (from SBJ): The Big Ten continues to set the pace financially among power five conferences and it’s because of Delany’s vision on media rights. He’s a master at seeing around the corner to determine what the conference’s next move should be, whether it’s in the boardroom or on the field.

Bobby Kotick – CEO, Activision Blizzard

SBJ Rank: No. 28

Year at MSBC: 2018

Panel/Breakout: Keynote Conversation with Michael Melnitzky of Allen & Co. and Jeff Wilpon of the New York Mets & New York Excelsior

Why Kotick (from SBJ): The Overwatch League lapped the esports field in its inaugural season, striking a major media deal with Twitch, several blue-chip sponsorships and eight more expansion franchises at big premiums over the price a year ago. Much of corporate America is still kicking the tires on esports, but Kotick gets deals done and is the leader to watch.

DeMaurice Smith – Executive Director, NFL Players Association

SBJ Rank: No. 34

Year at MSBC: 2018

Panel/Breakout: Keynote Conversation with Abraham Madkour of SportsBusiness Journal

Why Smith (from SBJ): Smith leads the largest sports union composed of players in the most popular sport in America. He also has said that the players want changes to the collective-bargaining agreement, which could portend a work stoppage when the deal ends in 2021.

John Skipper – Executive Chairman, Perform Group

SBJ Rank: No. 45

Year at MSBC: 2013

Panel/Breakout: Keynote Conversation with Mike Tirico of ESPN

Why Skipper (from SBJ): After unexpectedly resigning from ESPN in December 2017, Skipper announced his arrival back into the sports business by joining Perform in May. In the fall, he made a $365 million deal with popular boxer Canelo Alvarez for DAZN, and he followed that up with a $300 million contract with MLB. The message from both deals was clear: Skipper’s back and open for business.


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