Sports Media Veteran Gary Stevenson Hired to Run New Major League Soccer Business Unit
Gary Stevenson, former president of Pac-12 Enterprises, has been named president and managing director of Major League Soccer’s new business unit, MLS Business Ventures.
It is a critical hiring for the league as it rapidly approaches the negotiation of new television deals to replace those with ESPN and NBC Sports that expire after the 2014 season.
In addition, MLS President Mark Abbott, the architect of MLS’s business plan and its first employee in 1993, will assume expanded responsibilities as deputy commissioner of Major League Soccer.
Stevenson, who brings more than 30 years of industry experience to MLS including executive positions at the Pac-12 Conference, NBA, the PGA TOUR, and the Golf Channel, will oversee all commercial and revenue areas for MLS and Soccer United Marketing, including media/broadcasting, marketing, content and digital.
Prior to joining MLS, Stevenson was president of Pac-12 Enterprises, where he managed a diversified and integrated media company, including the Pac-12 Networks, the Pac-12 Digital Network and Pac-12 Properties. During his tenure with the Pac-12, he was instrumental in successfully launching the Pac-12’s national, regional and digital networks. Before joining the Pac-12, Stevenson was chairman and CEO of OnSport, a highly successful sports and entertainment consulting company he founded in 1997 and sold 10 years later to Wasserman Media Group.
“Gary’s vast experience in the sports and entertainment world, along with his deep understanding of the media landscape, will play a pivotal role in growing key areas of our business and forming new partnerships,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “I’ve known Gary for more than two decades and am thrilled to have him join us during an exciting time of growth for our League. He brings a fresh perspective and entrepreneurial spirit that will drive value for Major League Soccer and our key partners at Soccer United Marketing, including U.S. Soccer, the Mexican Football Federation and CONCACAF.”
Soccer United Marketing President Kathy Carter, a key architect in creating one of the leading commercial soccer companies in the world, will continue in her role and report in to Stevenson and the newly created MLS Business Ventures. MLS Chief Marketing Officer Howard Handler also will report to Stevenson, and continue to lead the League’s efforts to build the MLS brand and fan base.
“It is an exciting time for Major League Soccer and I believe the League and Soccer United Marketing are poised for tremendous growth,” said Stevenson. “I’m a big soccer fan and I am honored to work closely with so many talented people who have been so committed to building MLS into the top professional soccer league in North America. I look forward to doing my part to help MLS grow its fan base and media value, as well as expanding the commercial value of soccer in the region.”
Mark Abbott, who has served as MLS president from 2006-2013, has been instrumental in many of the League’s accomplishments since he became the organization’s first employee in 1993, three years before MLS’ first season. For nearly two decades, during which the League saw transformational growth, Abbott has been primarily focused on the business, legal and financial side of MLS. In his new role as president and deputy commissioner, he will lead and manage all areas of League operations and competition, including product strategy, player relations, strategic planning and communications. Abbott also will lead a new business development group to address new areas of opportunity for the League and Soccer United Marketing.
“Mark has been one of the key people responsible for the growth and success of Major League Soccer and has earned the respect of our owners and partners,” Commissioner Garber said. “In his new role, he will help us address key company-wide priorities, ensuring that our entire organization is more efficient and effective and to help grow the quality of our competition. His leadership will continue to help us move toward our goal of becoming one of the top professional soccer leagues in the world by 2022.”
Todd Durbin, executive vice president, player relations and competition, and Nelson Rodriguez, executive vice president of competition, technical and game operations, will continue to work closely with Commissioner Garber and report directly to President and Deputy Commissioner Abbott.
“The past 20 years have seen amazing growth for the sport of soccer and our League,” said Abbott. “I expect the coming years to bring even greater opportunity as we continue to transform the sport in North America. I look forward to working with Gary and our other colleagues, many of whom have been here since the early days of MLS, as we collectively focus on our next phase of development.”
Abbott assumes his new role immediately and Stevenson will join the MLS executive team in mid-July.