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Wharton Sports Business Summit

November 08, 2019

Friday, November 8 | 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM EST
Jon M. Huntsman Hall

The 3rd annual Wharton Sports Business Summit was a full day of learning and networking designed to bring students from the University of Pennsylvania and other schools together with industry leaders.

Please download the Wharton Sports Business Summit Agenda here.

The Wharton Sports Business Summit 2019 is proud to have hosted an amazing lineup of speakers:

Keynote Speakers

Moderator: Eric Bradlow, Vice Dean of Analytics, The Wharton School

Moderator: Darren Rovell, Sports Business Reporter & Senior Executive Producer, The Action Network

David Blitzer, W'91, Co-Managing Partner, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment

David S. Blitzer is the Global Head of Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities group (Tac Opps), and a member of the firm’s Management and Operating Committees. He also leads the Tac Opps Investment Committee. Tac Opps is Blackstone’s opportunistic investment business which invests globally across asset classes and industries to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns in any market environment. Prior to launching Tac Opps, Mr. Blitzer had been involved in the execution of Blackstone investments across a variety of asset classes, including establishing and leading Blackstone’s European private equity business. He joined the firm in 1991. Mr. Blitzer is also Co-Managing Partner and Co-Chairman of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which includes in its portfolio the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Devils, leading venue Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., the GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center, the Delaware Blue Coats, the Binghamton Devils, the Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball, renowned esports franchise Team Dignitas and NBA 2K League Team, 76ers Gaming Club (GC). Additionally, he is a General Partner of the Crystal Palace Football Club. Mr. Blitzer and his wife, Allison, founded the Blitzer Family Foundation, which supports positive youth development by creating opportunities centered around education, athletics, health and wellness. The Blitzer Family Foundation’s ongoing mission is to strengthen communities by assisting young people in reaching their full potential. Mr. Blitzer is based in New York and graduated magna cum laude from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Blitzer currently serves on the Boards of Dream, a youth development organizing servicing more than 2,200 inner city children, the Riverdale Country School, the Advisory Board of the Mount Sinai Surgical Department, the Board of Overseers at the Wharton School and the Board of Trustees at the University of Pennsylvania.

Scott O'Neil, CEO, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment

Scott O’Neil is the Chief Executive Officer of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, an organization with the mission of building passionate, high-performing teams that inspire people to enhance the communities where its teams live, work, play and win. 

O’Neil is responsible for the organization’s leadership, strategic vision, operations and global ambitions, including the pursuit and acquisition of sports, entertainment and consumer-facing properties. He is the acting Chief Executive Officer over all properties within the organization’s portfolio and under the ownership of Managing Partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer, including: the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA), the New Jersey Devils (NHL), Prudential Center, a top five-ranked performance venue in the U.S. located in Newark, New Jersey; Dignitas, an internationally renowned esports organization which includes Clutch Gaming, the NBA 2K League’s 76ers Gaming Club, the Sixers Innovation Lab, the GRAMMY Museum Experience Prudential Center, the Delaware Blue Coats (NBA G League), and the Binghamton Devils (AHL). He is an acting Co-Managing partner for Elevate Sports Ventures, a sports and entertainment agency created in partnership between HBSE, Live Nation | Ticketmaster, the San Francisco 49ers and Oak View Group. 

With more than 20 years of experience in the NBA, NHL and NFL, O’Neil has earned a reputation as a leader of leaders and is one of the most connected, dynamic and driven executives in the industry today. Previous executives whom he has mentored and managed run many of the top organizations in sports and entertainment today; those he currently manages are poised to lead the industry into the next generation.

O’Neil’s reputation for authentic leadership, unparalleled drive to innovate, and emphasis on the importance of corporate culture has placed him at the forefront of the industry vanguard. In merely six years overseeing operations for the properties in HBSE’s portfolio, O’Neil led the Philadelphia 76ers to sign the first jersey patch sponsorship in “Big Four” sports history; construct the most technically advanced training complex in professional sports, the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex; establish an industry-leading Innovation Lab, and become the first U.S. professional sports franchise to acquire a world-renowned esports team. In that same period, under O’Neil’s ambitious and aggressive leadership, Prudential Center has become a top seven and top five most-played venue in the U.S. and the world by Billboard and Pollstar, respectively, and welcomes over 1.75 million fans and event attendees through its doors annually.

Of his professional accomplishments, O’Neil considers his organizations’ corporate culture and dedication to community service his greatest successes and future legacy. The Philadelphia 76ers have been named one of the “Most Innovative Companies” in the world by Fast Company magazine (2018), one of the “Top 50 Cultures” in the U.S. by Entrepreneur (2017), three-times named a “Best Place to Work in Philadelphia” by the Philadelphia Business Journal (2016, 2015, 2014), twice named a “Best Place to Work in Pennsylvania by the Central Penn Business Journal (2018, 2017) and twice named one of the “50 Best Companies to Sell For” by internationally-renowned Selling Power Magazine (2019, 2018). Prudential Center was named a “Best Business” by NJBiz (2016). O’Neil’s belief that those who steward iconic sports and entertainment brands have the responsibility and privilege to use those platforms to mentor the next generation of leaders and make the world a better place is the driving force behind HBSE’s community engagement initiatives.

Recognizing the important role HBSE’s properties play within its communities, O’Neil’s employees individually volunteer 76 hours of service annually in the communities where their fans and patrons live, work and play, resulting in more than 30,000 hours of dedicated community service each year. The Philadelphia 76ers’ charitable endeavor, the Sixers Youth Foundation, has additionally raised more than $1 million for Philadelphia-area youth last year alone and is leveraging sports to help children in need.

A former President of Madison Square Garden Sports, O’Neil was the key architect in some of the largest venue sponsorship deals in history while overseeing iconic sports properties including the New York Knicks (NBA) and New York Rangers (NHL). O’Neil spent seven years as the Senior Vice President of the NBA’s renowned Team Marketing and Business Operations group, where he advised NBA, WNBA and NBA Gatorade League teams on all business operations, CRM Department and NBA Canada business. Earlier in his career, O’Neil served as the President of HoopsTV.com and held positions with the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) and New Jersey Nets (NBA).

For almost a decade, O’Neil has served as an Alternate Governor for the NBA and NHL.  In 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 the Philadelphia Business Journal named O’Neil to their “Power 100” list of the “most influential people” in the greater Philadelphia region; he additionally received Philadelphia Business Journal’s “Most Admired CEO” honor in 2018.  In 2019, The Hockey News named O’Neil No. 37 on their list of their list of “100 People of Power and Influence.” In 2019, Hashtag Sports honored O’Neil with an award for “Leadership in Supporting Diversity in Sports.” Sports and technology outlet, SportTechie, named O’Neil as 2017’s “Most Innovative Executive”; in 2016, Philadelphia Magazine declared him one of the “Most Innovative Leaders” in Philadelphia. He has been twice named to The NJBiz “Power 100” list. As a young executive, O’Neil was thrice recognized at Sports Business Journal’s acclaimed “Forty Under 40” Awards; launching him into the publication’s renowned “Hall of Fame.”  He additionally received “Forty Under 40” honors from Adweek and Sporting News in 2006 and 2005 respectively. 

O’Neil’s influence and experience has earned him a place at the podium at some of the largest industry conferences in the world, delivering keynotes at events such as: Leaders in Sport, Beyond Sport, Sports Business Journal’s World Congress of Sport, the IEG Pivot Conference, the Ivy Sports Symposium, Sport Marketing Association’s Conference and more. O’Neil’s leadership practices have been chronicled and applauded in The Outward Mindset by the Arbinger Institute, publishers of The New York Times Best Seller, Leadership and Self Deception, The Orange Revolution by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, and Potato Chip Ticket Sales by Kathy Burrows. He has made numerous appearances on CNN, CNBC, FOX Business Network, and has twice co-hosted Bloomberg television’s Bloomberg. He also interacts daily with his nearly 20,000 Twitter and 35,000 LinkedIN. He serves on the boards for the March of Dimes, Zoomi Inc., the Sixers Youth Foundation and the Sixers Innovation Lab.

O’Neil earned his bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Villanova University and his master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He currently resides in Pennsylvania with his wife, Lisa, and three daughters.

Michael Rubin, Founder & Executive Chairman, Fanatics

Michael Rubin, noted Philadelphian internet entrepreneur, has built several successful multi-billion dollar e-commerce companies. Driven by a deep passion for business and a life-long love of sports, Michael is Executive Chairman of Fanatics, the global leader for licensed sports merchandise which is changing the way fans purchase their favorite team apparel through an innovative approach to quickly making and distributing fan gear in today’s mobile-first, on-demand culture. As founder/CEO of Kynetic, he also owns two other businesses at the forefront of online commerce: the Rue Gilt Groupe, owner of two of the top online private sale destinations in the U.S., and ShopRunner, a members-only service aggregating shopping benefits from top retailers and brands. Michael has always been on the cutting edge of commerce. Prior to creating Kynetic, he was the Founder and CEO of GSI Commerce, a network of e-commerce, multichannel and digital marketing businesses. In a span of 12 years, Michael built GSI to service 150 of the top 500 internet retailers before selling the company to eBay for $2.4 billion. In addition to his entrepreneurial success, Michael is a criminal justice reform advocate and the co-chairman of the REFORM Alliance, an organization that includes some of the biggest names in sports, business and culture that’s dedicated to advancing criminal justice reform and eradicating probation laws that perpetuate injustice in the United States. He formed the organization alongside hip-hop star Meek Mill, who was controversially sentenced to 2-4 years in prison for technical probation violations in November 2017 and released on bail in April 2018 after the international #FreeMeekMill campaign. Named annually as one of the most influential people in sports business, he is also a partner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils.

Running the League

Moderator: Mori Taheripour, Lecturer, The Wharton School

Mori Taheripour is as a faculty member in the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she teaches Negotiations and Dispute Resolution in the Undergraduate, MBA and Executive Education programs. In 2004, she co-founded the Wharton Sports Business Initiative (WSBI), a partnership among business leaders, faculty and students that generates knowledge about the sports industry through educational programs, global forums and research.  Ms. Taheripour has received the William G. Whitney Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2016 and the Wharton Teaching Excellence Award for Outstanding Performance in Teaching in 2018. 

In addition to teaching at the Wharton School, Ms. Taheripour teaches negotiation for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in select cities across the United States.  Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is a $500 million investment to help small businesses in the United States create jobs and economic growth by providing entrepreneurs with a practical business education, access to capital and business support services.

An experienced connector with a strong global network to draw from, Ms. Taheripour leverages her expertise in negotiation, diversity & inclusion, social impact and professional athlete education for a diverse client base that includes major sports leagues, Fortune 100 companies, universities, and professional associations. Current and past clients include: Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Goldman Sachs Foundation, Major League Baseball, NBA Players Association, National Football League, NFL Players Association, The Timberland Company, United Parcel Service, USA Track and Field, USAID, Wasserman, Wells Fargo and the White House Fellows Program. 

From 2010 to 2014, Ms. Taheripour served as the first-ever Senior Advisor for Sport for Development at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the federal agency responsible for all non-military foreign aid and humanitarian assistance. In this role, she was the senior U.S. Government Representative tasked with promoting sport as a unique and powerful tool in the advancement of international development goals. Ms. Taheripour managed USAID’s relationships with professional sports leagues, federations and franchises and led strategic partnerships between sports organizations, civil society, private sector corporations, and non-governmental organizations. 

Ms. Taheripour served as the Vice President of Corporate Diversity for the American Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina. In this role, she developed and implemented a new organization-wide diversity and inclusion strategy to ensure the Red Cross reflected the diversity of the communities served in its people, programs and policies.  

Ms. Taheripour serves as a member of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Advisory Board of Skateistan. She is also a founding Advisory Board Member of the University of Massachusetts Boston Sport Leadership and Administration Bachelor of Arts Program. She regularly presents at conferences around the world, contributes to sports discussions for Knowledge@Wharton on SiriusXM radio and was featured in ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary, Broke.

Ms. Taheripour earned her MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and her BA in Psychology and Pre-Medical Studies from Barnard College of Columbia University. Her book, Bring Yourself: How to Harness the Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly will be published in March 2020. 

Kiki Vandeweghe, EVP of Basketball Operations, NBA

E.M. ‘Kiki’ VanDeWeghe III, the NBA’s Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations, oversees all aspects of basketball related to the playing of the game. 

VanDeWeghe joined the NBA league office in April 2013 as Vice President, Basketball Operations and was promoted to Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations later the same year. He has been involved in a broad range of basketball matters, including the development of playing rules and interpretations, game analytics, disciplinary matters, and policies and procedures relating to the operation of NBA games. He also serves as a key liaison between the league office and its teams, drawing upon his years of experience as a general manager, coach and player. Additionally, VanDeWeghe serves as a board member for both the NCAA’s Competition Committee and FIBA. 

Before his time with the league office, VanDeWeghe spent two years with FOX Sports West as a writer and analyst covering the Los Angeles Clippers. Prior to that, he served as the general manager, and for one season the interim head coach, of the New Jersey Nets from 2007 to 2010. Before joining the Nets, VanDeWeghe was a broadcast analyst for two years with ESPN. From 2001 to 2006, VanDeWeghe served as the general manager of the Denver Nuggets. 

VanDeWeghe’s NBA playing career spanned 13 years, with the Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Clippers, during which he averaged 19.7 points per game while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 87.2 percent from the foul line, made two All-Star appearances and helped his teams to the postseason 12 times. 

A native of Los Angeles, VanDeWeghe attended UCLA from 1976 to 1980 and led the Bruins to the national title game his senior season. He received his degree in economics and was a Rhodes Scholar finalist. 

Troy Vincent, EVP of Football Operations, NFL

Troy Vincent was named NFL executive vice president of football operations on March 19, 2014. Vincent, who had been the head of NFL Player Engagement since 2010, oversees all aspects of football operations in the league office with a focus on quality and innovation. Vincent holds a broad range of responsibilities for the business of football, including Officiating, Football Administration and Club Services, Policy and Compliance Marketing and Communications, College Relations, Strategic Development, Game Initiatives and Player Engagement. He also serves as a non-voting member of the Competition Committee and supervises development programs for players, coaches, and football executives.

In addition, the NFL Legends Community, NFL Way to Play, and The Rookie Success program are just a few key initiatives created under his watch. Vincent has implemented programs for both current and former players that focus on wellness/mental health, suicide prevention, stigma change, domestic violence & sexual assault prevention. Additionally, he works closely with clubs, players, and legends on social justice initiatives in communities across the nation. Throughout all his responsibilities, Vincent’s main focus is to ensure football continues to be the greatest competitive sport in the world. 

Vincent’s start with the NFL began as a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 1992 Draft. He made five Pro Bowl appearances and was selected All-Pro three times. He has been nominated to the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame and has been inducted into the Hall of Fames for the Philadelphia Eagles, the State of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin and Pennsbury High School.

Before joining the league’s front office, Vincent was the President of the NFL Players Association, serving from 2004-2008. Prior to that, he served as a player representative for 8 years. During his tenure with the NFL Players Association, Vincent was an instrumental part of three Collective Bargaining Agreement extensions. 

Vincent is an advocate against domestic violence and sexual assault. Being directly affected by domestic violence, both Vincent and his wife, Tommi, share a passion and commitment to promoting the message of “Leadership Over Violence.” The Vincents are committed to being of service to their  community through visiting shelters, speaking to advocacy groups and encouraging others to act to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Vincent is the only player in history to have received the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award and the NFL Players Association Byron Whizzer White Award. He also received the National Jefferson Award for Public Service for extraordinary public service.

A father of five, Vincent and his wife reside in Virginia with their children.

Sports Marketing, Presented by Anheuser-Busch

Moderator: Rob DiGisi, WG'93, Lecturer, The Wharton School

Nick Kelly, Head of US Sports Marketing, Anheuser Busch InBev

As the Head of US Sports Marketing, Nick Kelly is responsible for leading more than 250 million dollars in sponsorships -inclusive of league, team and venue deals within the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, NASCAR, PGA, UFC, soccer and college sports. Nick continues to lead a refreshing perspective to A-B’s sports entities to rework, revitalize and position the brewer’s brand sports properties for growth.

Prior to his current role, Kelly served as the lead communications strategist and spokesperson for the world’s most popular beer, Bud Light, including its Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Lime-A-Ritas, and Bud Light MixxTails beverage line; Mexican liquid innovation Montejo and the entire A-B Value Brand segment inclusive of Busch, Natural Light and Rolling Rock families of products. Kelly was responsible for developing, launching and sustaining a positive narrative around national Bud Light programs including its NFL relationship as the official beer of the league, Super Bowl activations and the acclaimed Whatever USA campaign.

Nick is a graduate of Marshall University.

Michael Zacharias, VP Sales Northeast Region, Anheuser Busch InBev

Michael Zacharias is the Vice President of Sales for the Northeast Region of Anheuser Busch InBev.  The Northeast Region consists of 13 states stretching from Virginia to Maine and west to Pennsylvania.  In this role, Mike has responsibility for the strategy and execution of the commercial plan through 92 wholesalers in the market.  This includes sales through all retail channels including Convenience, Drug, Grocery, Package Liquor, Mass Merch, and On-Premise. In this role, Mike oversees the key initiatives including the Bud Light Philly Philly commercial campaign, the significant growth of 2 local craft breweries:  Blue Point and Devils Backbone, and the establishment of innovative routes to market in metro areas such as NYC and Boston.  

Mike began his career with Anheuser Busch in 2001 in the IT department.  From 2003 to 2008, he held various Finance and Analytic roles within the Marketing and Sales Departments.  During the integration of AB and InBev, Mike took a lead role on the Revenue Management team and helped establish pricing and promotion strategies that are considered best in class for CPG companies. In 2013, Mike assumed the role of VP of Trade Marketing for the US.  The Trade Marketing team is responsible for bringing the above the line marketing campaigns to life at retail, implementing sales technology and process for the sales team, and leading category management strategy.

Mike is originally from Indiana, but since joining ABI has lived in both St. Louis and the Metro New York area with his wife Becky and three children.  He received a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics & Computer Science from Valparaiso University and a MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.  

Thinking in Bets

Moderator: Adi Wyner, Professor, The Wharton School

Annie Duke, GR'92, Author and Poker Player

Annie is an author, corporate speaker, and consultant in the decision-making space. In 2018 Annie’s first book for general audiences, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, quickly became a national bestseller. 

As a former professional poker player, she has won more than $4 million in tournament poker. During her career, Annie won a World Series of Poker bracelet and is the only woman to have won the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions and the NBC National Poker Heads-Up Championship. She retired from the game in 2012. Prior to becoming a professional poker player, Annie was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship to study Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Annie is the co-founder of The Alliance for Decision Education, a non-profit whose mission to improve lives by empowering students through decision skills education. She is also a member of the National Board of After-School All-Stars and the Board of Directors of the Franklin Institute.

A Conversation with Andrew Brandt

Andrew Brandt, EVP, Vayner Sports

Get an inside look into working as an agent, including the representation of famous athletes in contract negotiations with teams as well as the search for corporate sponsors. In addition, learn about Brandt’s days with the Green Bay Packers, specifically drafting Aaron Rodgers and building the team that eventually went on to win the Super Bowl.

Creating a Team: The NHL’s Expansion to Seattle

Moderated by: Len Potter, Minority Owner, NHL Seattle

Len Potter is the President and Chief Investment Officer of Wildcat Capital Management, LLC, a registered investment advisor which he founded in September 2011. Wildcat acts as the investment office for the family of David Bonderman, Chairman and Founding Partner of TPG Capital and the majority owner of NHL Seattle. In addition, Len serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Infinity Q Capital Management (“Infinity Q”), a registered investment advisor formed in 2012 which provides innovative hedge fund strategies to institutional and retail investors, and as a Senior Managing Director of Vida Ventures (“Vida”), a life sciences and biotech focused venture capital fund that he co-founded in 2017. Wildcat, Infinity Q and Vida collectively manage in excess of $4 billion. Prior to forming Wildcat, Len was a Managing Director at Soros Fund Management LLC where he served as co-head of the Private Equity group.

Len has served and continues to serve on a number of boards of public and private companies, including Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV), where he serves as Chairman of the Board, Solar Capital Ltd. (SLRC), Solar Senior Capital Ltd. (SUNS) and Sutter Rock Capital Corporation (SSSS). Len has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brandeis University (’83) and a Juris Doctor degree from Fordham University School of Law (’86). Len and his wife, Shari, were co-founders and serve on the Board of Directors of the Basser Center at the University of Pennsylvania, a translational research and treatment center focused on BRCA related cancers.

Alexandra Mandrycky, Director of Hockey Administration, NHL Seattle

Alexandra Mandrycky is the Director of Hockey Strategy and Research for NHL Seattle. She and her group use data and technology to provide guidance to the General Manager and staff regarding player evaluation, strategy, and management decisions. Prior to joining NHL Seattle, Alexandra spent four seasons as Hockey Operations Analyst with the Minnesota Wild. Alexandra graduated from Georgia Tech in 2013 with a BS in Industrial Engineering.

Ricky Olczyk, Assistant GM, NHL Seattle

Ricky Olczyk serves as the Assistant General Manager for NHL Seattle. As assistant GM, Ricky has multiple responsibilities including managing the salary cap and contracts, overseeing player transactions and advising the general manager as part of the scouting team. Prior to joining NHL Seattle, Olczyk joined NHL Seattle from the Toronto Maple Leafs where he was a pro scout for the 2018-19 season. He previously spent four seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes as an assistant general manager alongside NHL Seattle General Manager Ron Francis. Prior to joining the Hurricanes, he was with the Edmonton Oilers for over seven years, including six years as assistant general manager and director of hockey operations and legal affairs. 

Among his prior experience, Ricky also spent three years as Associate Counsel for the NHL Players’ Association.

Ricky is a 1992 graduate of Brown University where he played four seasons of Division I hockey and served as captain of the team his senior year. Ricky also earned a law degree from Cornell Law School in 1996.

Breaking Into Sports

Moderator: Alvin Williams, NBA Veteran

Jerome Allen II, W'18, Athlete Manager, Roc Nation

Jerome Allen II is a Philadelphia native and currently works as an Athlete Manager at Roc Nation Sports in New York City. Jerome graduated from the Wharton School in 2018 with a B.S. in Economics while concentrating in Management. In May Allen returned from Cape Town, South Africa where he took part in a year long volunteer fellowship for a youth and sport development non-profit organization, the CTC Ten Foundation. Jerome graduated from Wharton in 2018 with distinction. While at Wharton he earned the Wharton Dean’s Award for Service to the Penn and Philadelphia community, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for Outstanding Service and Leadership, and the University’s highest undergraduate honor, the Bowl Senior Honor Award. Among his many endeavors, Jerome left a lasting legacy on Penn’s campus by Co-Founding the Wharton Sports Business Summit. In his free time Jerome enjoys spending quality time with his five younger siblings, cooking and traveling.

Matt MacDonald, C'18, Basketball Operations Assistant, Brooklyn Nets

Matt MacDonald is a Basketball Operations Assistant for the Brooklyn Nets. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018, where he was a three-year member of the Penn Men’s Basketball Team. He served as a captain in his junior and senior seasons, and helped lead the Quakers to the NCAA tournament in 2018. He spent his first two years of college at Fairleigh Dickinson University before transferring to Penn. 

Nik Oza, Director of Baseball Analytics, Big League Advance

Nik is Director of Baseball Analytics for Big League Advance, a sports investment fund, where he contributes to BLA’s modeling efforts in multiple sports and leads BLA’s baseball modeling. Previously, he worked in baseball analytics for the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he developed predictive models for more accurate player evaluation and optimal in-game strategy. Nik graduated from Georgetown University with a math degree in 2016, where he founded and served as the president of the Georgetown Sports Analysis, Business and Research Group, which was at the time one of the largest sports analytics university clubs. As a student, he interned with the Tampa Bay Rays and Charlotte Hornets and was a finalist for the 2016 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Football Analytics Hackathon.

Michael Pinsky, Coordinator, Baseball Operations, New York Yankees

Michael Pinsky grew up in New York City and graduated from Princeton University in 2015, majoring in Psychology with a certificate in American Studies. After co-founding a tech startup, he turned his attention to baseball, beginning with an internship with the Washington Nationals in 2016. Since 2017, Michael has worked for the New York Yankees and presently serves as Coordinator, Baseball Operations. With the Yankees, his focuses include advance preparation for opponents, salary arbitration, and the hiring of Baseball Operations Associates. 

The State of Football Analytics

Moderator: Cade Massey, Practice Professor, The Wharton School

Massey is a Practice Professor in Wharton’s Operations, Information & Decisions Department. He has been here since 2012 after teaching at Duke and Yale. Massey teaches courses on Influence and Negotiation in the MBA and Executive MBA programs. He is the co-founder and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics, and the host of Wharton Moneyball on SiriusXM. Massey’s research and consulting focuses on decision-making in organizations, especially around personnel. Massey is originally from Texas and has an MBA and PhD from the University of Chicago.

Eric Eager, Senior Data Scientist, Pro Football Focus

Eric Eager is a senior data scientist at Pro Football Focus, where he creates models for NFL and NCAA teams, media partners and consumers in the fantasy football and betting spaces.  His public-facing work has concerned the study of quarterback play, the interaction between pass rush and coverage and projecting college football player success at the professional level.  He co-hosts PFF analytics podcast, the PFF Forecast, and has appeared on numerous radio shows and podcasts to discuss mathematical approaches to understanding the game of football. Prior to joining PFF, he was a professor at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, where he published over 20 papers in mathematical biology and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Eric earned a bachelor’s in mathematics at Minnesota State University, where he was an ESPN Academic American tight end on the football team.  He then received his PhD in applied mathematics at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Josh Hermsmeyer, Journalist, FiveThirtyEight

Josh writes about the NFL at FiveThirtyEight. He built a wine brand and crafted delicious Russian River Pinot Noir before becoming the co-founder and CEO of a technology company servicing the food and wine industry. He lives in Couer d’Alene, Idaho with his wife and two teenage children.

Sean O’Leary, CEO and Co-Founder, EdjSports

Sean O’Leary is the CEO and Co-Founder of EdjSports, a data intelligence firm for the sports industry that enables smarter decision making and performance. Most known for their work with the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2017 Super Bowl season, EdjSports connects teams and players with proprietary predictive and prescriptive analytics to help them win more games and the sports media with intelligent analysis. Prior to Edj, Sean was the Co-Founder and CEO of Genscape, Inc. – a Louisville headquartered organization that offers proprietary data to the global energy markets. O’Leary has been recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year which honors entrepreneurial excellence in vision, innovation, courage, and leadership in building and growing successful businesses. O’Leary holds a BBA degree in Finance and Economics from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of the University of Louisville’s first MBA in Entrepreneurship class. In 2016, Sean was recognized as an Endeavor Entrepreneur.

Aaron Schatz, Editor-in-Chief, Football Outsiders

Compared to Bill James by The New York Times Magazine, Aaron Schatz is the creator and Editor-in-Chief of Football Outsiders and most of the original statistical methods used in NFL analysis on this website, as well as lead writer, editor, and statistician on the book series Football Outsiders Almanac. He also writes for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine and appears weekly during the season on the Off The Charts podcast. During the 2011 season, he was a regular panelist on the ESPN2 show Numbers Never Lie. Before Football Outsiders, Aaron spent five years on the radio at WBRU Providence and WKRO Daytona Beach, and three years as the writer and producer of the Lycos 50, the Internet’s foremost authority on the people, places, and things that are searched online. He has written for a number of publications including The New Republic, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Slate, The American Prospect, and the Boston Phoenix.

Reel: https://edjsports.com/schatzreel/

Behind the Scenes: How MLB Plans its Season

Jeremiah Yolkut, Director, Events and Scheduling, Major League Baseball

Jeremiah Yolkut is Director of Events & Scheduling for Major League Baseball, with operational oversight of the league’s jewel events, including the All-Star Game, the Home Run Derby and the World Series. Yolkut also oversees the annual MLB Little League Classic in Williamsport, PA, and its Winter Meetings.  As part of MLB’s Scheduling group, Yolkut helps guide the creation and maintenance of both the Championship Season and Spring Training schedules and serves as a primary liaison to MLB clubs on the rescheduling of postponed games.

Prior to joining MLB, Yolkut was Manager of Competitive Play at the United States Tennis Association. During his tenure, he worked on the operations of the US Open and International Team events, while helming the governing body’s global quality assurance group for tennis ball and tennis court integrity.

Yolkut, a St. Louis native, graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications. He lives in White Plains, NY, with his wife and four children.

The Gridiron Genius: Michael Lombardi on Sports, Leadership, and Life

Michael Lombardi, Author

Michael Lombardi was most recently an internal consultant for Bill Belichick in the New England Patriots’ front office, after thirty years working for the San Francisco 49ers, the Oakland Raiders, and the Cleveland Browns (where he was general manager for two years). He writes a column for The Athletic and has his own podcast, GM Street on the Ringer Podcast Network. In his critically-acclaimed book Gridiron Genius, he spoke about what he learned working with Belichick, and other coaching legends like Bill Walsh and Al Davis, regarding the blueprint that makes a successful organization click and win–and the mistakes unsuccessful organizations make that keep them on the losing side, time and time again.

Did MLB Juice the Baseballs? The Inside Story

Meredith Wills, Data Scientist, SportsMEDIA Technology

Meredith J. Wills, Ph.D., is a Data Scientist for SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT). After graduating from Harvard University (1996) with a degree in Astronomy & Astrophysics, she went on to garner a Masters (1999) and Ph.D. (2003) in Physics from Montana State University—Bozeman. Her Masters work involved Physics Education Research, while her Ph.D. focused on Solar Astrophysics. After completing her graduate studies, Dr. Wills did NASA-funded research, first as a Research Scientist at Southwest Research Institute and then as a Senior Research Scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Her work on the coronal origins of solar storms ultimately led to a new subfield in solar astrophysics. In 2012, Dr. Wills transitioned to sports data science, with an interest in player- and ball-tracking. She joined SMT in 2018, where she works primarily with FIELDf/x, a ball- and play-tracking system used by Minor League affiliates of Major League Baseball teams, international leagues, and NCAA. She also writes for The Athletic, and her best-known publicly-available research involves MLB baseball construction and its effect on the game. In addition to her technical interests, Dr. Wills is a knitting designer, and some of her knitted creations can be seen at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown. At present, she is working in partnership with both the Hall of Fame and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to create reproductions of vintage baseball sweaters. Ongoing documentation of the project can be found at hofknitter.blogspot.com.

The State of Philly Analytics

Moderator: Shane Jensen, Professor, The Wharton School

Ian Anderson, Director of Hockey Analytics, Philadelphia Flyers

Ian Anderson is the current Director of Hockey Analytics for the Philadelphia Flyers having joined the Flyers in 2014 as the Manager of Hockey Analytics.  Prior to joining the Flyers, Ian worked for the Washington Capitals organization for 9 years. Ian graduated from UC Santa Barbara and received his master’s degree in predictive analytics from Northwestern University.  He is currently the second-longest-tenured full time analytics staff member in the NHL.

Grant Fiddyment, Data Scientist, Philadelphia 76ers

Grant Fiddyment is an applied mathematician interested in modeling and simulation. During his graduate work he collaborated with Mark Kramer at Boston University and the Sydney Cash’s lab at Massachusetts General Hospital to build statistical models that describe how human seizures evolve and, eventually, stop. This work was awarded with a doctoral training grant from the Epilepsy Foundation. Previously, Grant has analyzed energy movement in ecological networks using graph theory and used Bezier splines to denoise images. Currently he works as a data scientist with the Philadelphia 76ers, now utilizing similar techniques to analyze the game of basketball.

Hannah Gaudet, Quantitative Analyst, Philadelphia Phillies

Hannah works as a Quantitative Analyst with the Philadelphia Phillies in Baseball Operations. Before moving to Philadelphia, they graduated from MIT in 2019 with a math degree and an intense love for real analysis. While they’ve settled on baseball for now, Hannah has jumped around between work with basketball, hockey, and soccer statistics. With the Phillies, they split their time between full stack software development and data science research with a focus on the MLB level. When not frustrated by defensive errors, Hannah is usually reading, baking, or mumbling about education theory.

Finance, M&A, and Investing in Sports

Moderator: K. Don Cornwell, Partner, PJT Partners

K. Don Cornwell is a Partner at PJT Partners. Mr. Cornwell joined PJT Partners in February of 2015 following an 18-year career at Morgan Stanley. At Morgan Stanley, Mr. Cornwell was in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group, and established a particularly focused area of expertise in media and entertainment, specifically in sports and gaming. Prior to leaving Morgan Stanley he served as Head of Global Sports Investment Banking. Mr. Cornwell also specialized in retail and apparel.

Mr. Cornwell has worked on some of the largest and most complex sports and entertainment deals in the industry, including the sale of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the sale of the Buffalo Bills, the sale of IMG to William Morris Endeavor, the sale of Access/DAZN owned Perform Group to Vista owned STATS Inc., a recapitalization of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the formation of Major League Baseball Advanced Media. In addition, he has served as a strategic advisor to the National Football League and the National Basketball Association on numerous occasions. 

Mr. Cornwell has also worked on several transformational transactions in the gaming space including the combination of Flutter Entertainment and The Stars Group, the sale of Caesars Entertainment to Eldorado Resorts, the acquisition of Sky Betting and Gaming by The Stars Group, the formation of a US sports betting joint venture between MGM Resorts and GVC and the acquisition of Double Down Casino by IGT.

Prior to Morgan Stanley, Mr. Cornwell worked at McKinsey & Co. as a management consultant and in corporate development for the National Football League.

He sits on the Board of Trustees of the East Harlem Tutorial Program, an after school program for children in East Harlem; the Board of Directors of New York Cares, New York City’s largest volunteer organization and the Management Board of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Mr. Cornwell received an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and an AB in government from Harvard College. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York and attended the Trinity School for high school.

David Abrams, W'80, Banker, Inner Circle Sports, LLC.

Mr. Abrams is a senior banker at Inner Circle Sports, LLC in New York City. He has over 34 years of experience as an investment banker and advisor to numerous sports team owners, developers and public and private assembly facilities. He has advised on the funding for 5 NFL stadium projects in Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville. Each stadium has been a Super Bowl host. Mr. Abrams has had a role in funding numerous other sports facility projects including several arenas, major and minor league baseball stadiums, motorsports parks, tennis centers, and golf courses. He has represented many municipal and private sector clients in the funding or negotiations of over $4.5 billion of sports facilities.

Below is a representative sample of Mr. Abrams’ experience with the private sector:

  • Detroit Red Wings/District Detroit/Ilitch Holdings – Advisor on Arena debt  
  • Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment – Advisor on master planned sports complex
  • Atlanta Falcons/Arthur M. Blank Family Office – Advisor on NFL Stadium project
  • Portland Trailblazers/Paul Allen/Vulcan – Advisor on Arena debt
  • Houston Texans/The McNair Group – Advisor on NFL Stadium project
  • Miami Dolphins/Florida Marlins/Huizenga Holdings – Lead Banker/Arranger on stadium financing
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Glazer Family – Lease Negotiations with Hillsborough County/City of Tampa
  • Florida Panthers/Huizenga Holdings – Advisor on NHL arena funding and refinancing
  • Pepsi Center – Lead Banker on arena funding
  • Madison Square Garden – Lead Banker to Cable Vision/ITT in purchase of Paramount assets

Below is a representative sample of Mr. Abrams’ experience for the government & non-profit sector:

  • City of Seattle – Advisor on NHL/Key Arena Renovation Project
  • City of Las Vegas – Advisor on NFL and MLS stadium projects
  • City of Charlotte – Advisor on City sports assets
  • Miami-Dade County – Lead Banker to Marlins Stadium Project
  • City of Miami – Lead Banker on Marlins baseball stadium garage project
  • Broward County – Lead Banker on Panthers NHL Arena debt refinancing
  • City of Jacksonville – Advisor on Jaguars NFL stadium project
  • Miami-Dade County – Lead Banker on Key Biscayne International Tennis Center
  • University of Central Florida – Lead Banker on football stadium funding

Mr. Abrams joined Inner Circle Sports in 2016 from Strategic Advisory Group where he was a Principal and National Director of the Sports Advisory practice.  Mr. Abrams has held senior investment banking positions at Jefferies LLC, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, A.G. Edwards and Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. Mr. Abrams is a frequent speaker at sports facility financing symposiums, and he is a full-time Clinical Assistant Professor at the NYU Robert Preston Tisch Institute for Global Sport.

Mr. Abrams has a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration from Northeastern University in Boston. He also holds several securities licenses through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Stuart Goldfarb, General Counsel & COO, Electronic Gaming Federation, Inc.

Stuart Goldfarb is an accomplished business and legal professional with more than 20 years of experience representing and advising clients, with a particular focus on those in the sports and media industries.  Stuart current serves as General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer of Electronic Gaming Federation, Inc., an esports company organizing and operating the preeminent collegiate, scholastic (high school) and youth varsity esports leagues in the United States

Stuart has practiced with the global law firms Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP,  Dorsey & Whitney LLP (as Partner and Chair of the Sports Practice Group) and continues to practice through the boutique firm Romano Law PLLC.  Stuart has additionally led legal and business affairs for Pelé, working with the soccer legend and humanitarian.

Stuart has represented regulatory bodies, leagues and teams across several traditional sports, having developed a particular expertise in domestic and international football (soccer).  Stuart has also represented professional sports teams in the United States and internationally, as well as European leagues and teams in connection with their business activities in the United States.  Stuart’s practice additionally includes the representation of buyers and sellers of teams, and technology, marketing, sponsorship, media rights and other businesses (at various stages of development) engaged in the sports marketplace. 

Stuart advises clients on all aspects of business, including corporate (acquisitions/dispositions, financings, restructurings and general corporate), intellectual property (trademark, licensing, media rights), regulatory, employment and litigation matters.

Stuart resides in Summit, New Jersey with his wife Marci and their two boys, Dylan (age 15) and Drew (age 13).  He spends much of his free time watching his boys on the ice and the pitch, as they are avid hockey and soccer players.

David Haber, W'04, SVP Corporate Finance and Strategy, NBA

As Senior Vice President, Corporate Finance & Strategy, David Haber oversees the strategic and financial analysis of all NBA franchise transactions, including acquisitions, arena financings, arena lease negotiations, and capital structuring.  In his role, Haber also manages the NBA’s corporate development initiatives including league investments.  Additionally, Haber is responsible for the implementation and operation of the league’s revenue-sharing policies as well as financial analysis pertaining to collective bargaining.

Since joining the NBA in 2009, Haber has advised all 30 franchises on matters pertaining to their capital structure and financial and operational performance.  Haber was also instrumental in the successful negotiations of the 2011 and 2017 collective bargaining agreements with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).

Before joining the NBA, Haber worked at MZ Sports, LLC, a boutique sports finance advisory firm.  While at MZ Sports, he represented buyers on more than 15 acquisitions of sports franchises, including successful acquisitions of, or investments in, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Portland Timbers, Seattle SuperSonics, and Washington Nationals.  In addition, he served as an advisor to teams and municipalities on more than 20 stadium and arena finance projects.

David graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2004.  He currently resides in New York City with his wife and two children.

The Future of Esports

Moderator: Brian Egger, W'87, Senior Gaming and Lodging Analyst, Bloomberg

Brian Egger (@eggernomics on Twitter) is Senior Gaming and Lodging Analyst and Consumer Team Co-Leader at Bloomberg Intelligence. He is an avid public speaker and frequent television, radio and panel commentator on the gaming, lodging and travel industries, including emerging forms of gaming, casinos and sports betting. He can be followed on the Bloomberg terminal at BI GAME <GO> and BI LODG <GO>. 

Brian was previously an Institutional Investor and Wall Street Journal ranked stock analyst at Credit Suisse and BMO Capital Markets and an adjunct finance professor at Columbia Business School. He held positions of increasing responsibility as a securities analyst at Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, BMO Capital Markets and Topeka Capital Markets and served as Associate Director of Research at BMO. His securities licenses included the Series 7, 63, 86, 87 and 24. 

Brian is Industry Events Chair of the Executive Board of the Chicago Booth Alumni Club of Greater New York. He is also author of Social Media Strategies for Investing (Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2014 http://amzn.to/1q4c1nJ). Brian earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Steve Flisler, ENG'06, Sr. Director of Product and Operations for Esports, Twitch

Steve Flisler is the Sr Director, Esports Product & Operations at Twitch. With over fifteen years of live broadcast experience, Steve is responsible for the recently launched Twitch Rivals program, a new competitive live tournament series for Twitch streamers. Steve’s goal is to bring entertainment and high value production and operations to Twitch Rivals streamers and game publisher partners. Prior to Twitch, Steve spent over a decade at NBCUniversal overseeing production across sports, entertainment and news winning two Emmy Awards.

Steve earned a BSE in Digital Media Design from the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science and an MBA from the New York University Stern School of Business. He was also a three year varsity letter winner for the Penn Quakers and a part of the 2002 and 2003 Ivy League Championship teams.

Walter Wang, Head of Operations, TSM

Walter Wang began his career in esports creating and developing from the ground up the esports/gaming division at HTC. There he built a small and agile team that was able to quickly make an impact across the esports industry. In his tenure at HTC, he oversaw the execution of multiple tournaments, including the first 1v1 CS:GO All-Stars Tournament which reached 100k+ concurrent viewers. In addition, under his leadership, HTC produced content such as Team Liquid’s Breaking Point, which garnered over 800k+ organic views, and created and managed an influencer portfolio which includes the likes of PewDiePie, Shroud, LIRIK, and Myth.

Walter brought this valuable expertise in the gaming and esports ecosystem to TSM, first as an investor and consultant, and now Head of Operations. He provided strategic guidance to TSM on their recent Series A $25mm round, their investment into new games such as Fortnite and Rocket League, and, most recently, assisted with the acquisition of blitz.gg.

In addition to his work in gaming, Walter manages WW Capital, the family office for the Wang family. WW Capital invests in the traditional public markets as well as select direct investments in funds and exciting startups.

He lives in Los Angeles.

Jason Woo, Chief Strategy Officer, NGE

Chief Strategy Officer/ General Manager
Jason Woo is the Chief Strategy Officer and General Manager for NGE (Next Generation Esports), an esports publisher that works directly with AAA video game intellectual property holders and world class distribution networks to produce premier esports content worldwide (in 2018 NGE produced over 4 billion consumed minutes of competitive esports entertainment). Jason currently leads strategic planning, partnership relationships and day-to-day operations for NGE and its many video game partners and networks.

Deloitte Sports is proud to present the inaugural Case Competition at the third annual Wharton Sports Business Summit on Friday, November 8. Summit attendees will be eligible to submit an entry in advance, and finalists will be selected to present to the audience and a panel of Deloitte judges.

Deloitte will be at the Summit from 11:00 – 12:30, with an informational session on Deloitte sports for the first 20 minutes followed by team presentations. If interested in participating, you will form teams of 4-6 people and submit a slide deck by October 25.

The prompt, which will be applicable to one of Deloitte’s clients so that your submission will actually be used, will be announced in the next week. The final five teams will be selected to present at the Summit to a panel of Deloitte judges. More details will come in the next week.



Event Organizers

  • Wharton Sports Business Initiative
  • Undergraduate Sports Business Club