SBJ Behind the Scenes: Forty Under 40, presented by TurnkeyZRG, Anheuser-Busch and MGM Rewards – Sports Business Journal

NEW YORK — The sports industry’s brightest stars descended on Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers on Tuesday night to celebrate and connect across all facets of the business as we honored this year’s Forty Under 40 class. SBJ brought together over 500 industry execs (including 50 past Forty Under 40 honorees), as well as family members and friends, to raise a glass to the next group of young leaders.
There was also a great video highlighting the Forty Under 40 event through the years. Check out how many industry execs you can spot from back in the day!
A big shout out to our presenting sponsors — TurnkeyZRG, Anheuser-Busch and MGM Rewards! Also to sponsors Fevo, BirdieBox and SafeSpace.
Abe Madkour got the crowd going early and often with his monologue this year. Some of his top hits:
SBJ's Abe Madkour delivered his annual Forty Under 40 address
As Abe Madkour noted to attendees at Forty Under 40, Tucker Kain literally grew up in the sports business, watching his father, Bob Kain, navigate at IMG for years. Tucker has displayed an incredible work ethic where he always overachieved.
In high school in Cleveland, he was the only three-sport star at his school — QB on the gridiron, first baseman on the diamond and sharp-shooting forward in hoops. He went to Williams College where he was the captain of the basketball team that won the D-III national championship, and then he played pro hoops in Europe.
Once his playing career was over, Tucker worked on Guggenheim’s deal to buy the Dodgers in 2012 and joined the franchise as CFO. He turned the Dodgers into one of the most successful business organizations in sports before moving on to Fanatics last year to lead strategy and growth at one of the most talked about companies in sports.
An honoree in 2014, 2019 and 2022, he’s now the newest member of the SBJ Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame.
Fanatics' Tucker Kain became the newest member of the Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame
Notable sights and quotes from across the Forty Under 40 celebration:
Two-time honoree Dan Cohen from Octagon taking a page from the traditional hora dance and getting raised in a chair by his brother, the Cowboys’ Jason Cohen (a past honoree), as well as Deltatre’s Jeff Volk and Octagon’s Williams Mao and Justin Beitler
TurnkeyZRG’s Len Perna gave some remarks to attendees, many of whom want to continue rising to positions of power within the industry. A host of past Forty Under 40 honorees now run leagues, conferences or networks, such as NASCAR’s Steve Phelps, the NBA’s Adam Silver, NWSL’s Jessica Berman, Pac-12’s George Kliavkoff, Big 12’s Brett Yormark and NBCUniversal’s Jeff Shell. Perna noted the question he gets more than anything else is, “What does it take to get from Forty Under 40 to actually get to be a commissioner at the very top of the industry?” MGM Rewards’ Stephanie Maes added, “I’m proud to be in a community that continues to strive for greatness and raises the bar year after year. May this celebration and recognition reinspire your passion and may you reflect on the year of accomplishments and look ahead to what has to come.”
“SportsCenter” anchor Max McGee was our emcee for the awards ceremony and pumped up for his debut effort. “We work in the best industry in the world. … Most of you who are in the audience are the ones that keep this industry moving forward, keeps us paid, keeps the lights on to make me look good on camera in Bristol, Connecticut. So I’m thrilled to be here to be a part of this, to see some old friends, meet some new ones.”
There were several rowdy tables when their honoree was being recognized on the stage or the screens around the room, including Teamworks, KAGR, LA28, ESPN, CAA and more.
We’re not sure who it was exactly, but someone even brought a referee’s whistle to the event to spice things up (we did not have any vuvuzela sightings).
Some of the bold-faced names chatting up the room during the course of the evening were KAGR’s Jessica Gelman, NASCAR’s Phelps and Steve O’Donnell, Meadowlark Media’s John Skipper, CAA’s Paul Danforth, Mike Levine and Howie Nuchow, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Properties’ Zaileen Janmohamed, LA28’s Kathy Carter and Amy Gleeson, Oak View Group’s Dan Griffis, the NHL’s Rachel Segal,  MLS’s Mark Abbott and Seth Bacon, a couple of big-time ADs in Greg Byrne (Alabama) and Dan Radakovich (Miami), ESPN’s Omar Raja, MLB’s Uzma Rawn and Chris Marinak, Elevate Sports Group’s Al Guido, Chip Bowers and Ben Gumpert, the Pistons’ Joe Dumars, Underdog Ventures’ Dan Mannix and Nicole Jeter West, the Pac-12’s Jamie Zaninovich, Teamworks/INFLCR’s Reggie Love, CSM’s Peter Honig and Stephanie Smilowitz, Latham & Watkins’ Frank Saviano and former USTA CEO Arlen Kantarian (on hand as his son Brian was being honored).
Also spotted throughout the night were MLS’s Gary Stevenson and Dan Courtemanche (just prior to his leaving for Qatar and the World Cup), Excel Sports Management’s Casey Close and Alan Zucker, former YES Network President Tracy Dolgin, NBC Sports’ Jon Miller, the Stronach Group’s Craig Fravel and Heather Higgins and the Magic’s Alex Martins and Shelly Wilkes.
It was a bar mitzvah-esque celebration for Octagon's Dan Cohen
U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Properties' Katie Bynum Aznavorian
NASCAR's Brandon Thompson
Whalen Rozelle from Riot Games was honored for the second time this year
"SportsCenter" anchor Max McGee was the emcee for this year's Forty Under 40 ceremony
All 40 of this year's honorees were in attendance on Tuesday night
The chatter on Tuesday night at the Forty Under 40 event included a number of sports business topics. A number of people could not believe the huge TV number that Fox pulled for Cowboys-Packers in Week 10 (the season’s best number by far) — and what it could mean for the Giants-Cowboys number on Thanksgiving. Anyone with NFC East games these days is smiling.
People were also talking about another new venue coming to the New York market, as just hours before the event, NYCFC finally landed a stadium deal next to the Mets’ Citi Field at Willets Point, with the mayor already on board.
But beyond the industry talk, this was a group that was ready to cut loose. As the crowd poured into the waterfront spot and drinks flowed, folks from leagues, brands, networks, teams, agencies and more bonded enthusiastically over mutual success stories.
As is custom at Forty Under 40, honorees were able to choose their walk-up music, but which selections cut through the noise this year?
A few honorees showed some love for country music, with Octagon’s Dan Cohen and CAA’s Alexa Cook picking George Strait songs, while Clemson’s Graham Neff went with Tim McGraw.
The Boss is still in vogue with the younger crowd in 2022, as both CSM’s Gina Hagedorn and the Breeders’ Cup’s Drew Fleming went with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” for their walk up.
There was a wide variety of rap/hip-hop throughout the evening. KAGR’s Kathryn Hodel and AmEx’s Lindsay Ulrey both went with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Also with selections in the genre were Dapper Labs’ Juan De Jesus (Notorious B.I.G.), the Piston’s Richard Haddad (Kanye West), Navigate’s Jeff Nelson (Drake) and LA28’s Allison KatzMayfield (Lizzo).
Perhaps the most “interesting” choice for the night went to the Trail Blazers’ Christa Stout, who selected the “MacGyver” theme song.
Seven years after Navigate founder A.J. Maestas took home the organization’s first Forty Under 40 honor, the agency feted its second, President Jeff Nelson, over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Worthwild, just a few blocks from Pier 60, notes SBJ’s Terry Lefton. Outside the group of Navigator staff, which included Maestas and Chief of Staff Matt Zajac, Sportfive co-President Neil Glat told tales from the NFL’s recent game in Munich, while Inner Circle Sports’ Steve Horowitz cautioned us to watch those escalating franchise values of teams in U.S. women’s pro sports.
Meanwhile, CAA Sports celebrated its honoree Alexa Cook after the ceremony, who had more than 40 friends and family in a back room at Seville at the James NoMad hotel.
Thanks again to everyone who attended Forty Under 40 and New Voices Under 30.
We look forward to seeing the industry gather again after Thanksgiving for the Media Innovators conference. The event will be held Nov. 30-Dec. 1 at the Westin New York at Times Square.
Happy a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
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