12 February 2020, London – Global Executive Search and Talent Consulting Firm, SRI, today launches new research indicating a new era of cross-industry CEO movement across sports leagues, esports teams, media & entertainment, technology and sporting goods.
SRI examined leadership in a sample of the world’s largest 20 companies by revenue in the sectors of media & entertainment, technology, sports leagues, esports teams, and sporting goods (100 companies in total). It is in these areas that traditional industry lines are most obviously blurring.
Simultaneously, SRI conducted in-depth interviews with top leaders who have switched industry to decipher common traits of those that make such moves.
Our findings indicate that switching industries is on the rise among CEOs. Between 2015 and 2019, 45% of CEOs had experience of another sector in the last 15 years. The figure drops to 11% for those hired between 2010 and 2014- and to just 9% between 2005 and 2009.
Peter Moore, who transitioned from the California-based video gaming giant EA to become CEO of Liverpool Football Club, says his entire career philosophy has been one of “constant refresh”, with the purpose of “keeping me on my toes and fresh and learning and yearning for new experiences”.
The research shows that sports leagues are likely to hire CEOs from other industries. Eight cross-industry leaders were appointed by major sports leagues since 2005. The most popular pathway was from the media & entertainment sector, which produced four of these CEOs.
For example, Chase Carey transitioned from 21st Century Fox to Formula 1 and Rahul Johri went from Discovery to the Indian Premier League.
Esports teams were most likely to look elsewhere for their CEOs, with 12 outsiders hired to take charge of leading companies since 2005. Four of these were recruited from the traditional sports sector. Gen.G CEO Chris Park came from Major League Baseball while Immortals Gaming Club CEO Ari Segal was hired from Arizona Coyotes.
The sporting goods sector has brought in six new CEOs from other sectors since 2005, with three of those following a pathway from consumer goods industries. John Donahoe, a former President of eBay has been named CEO of Nike.
The largest media & entertainment companies and technology companies are supplying other industries with CEO talent.
Yet SRI found that such cross-industry CEOs still remain a minority in these industries in 2020. 27% of the CEOs in our sample had experience of more than one sector in the last 15 years.
Mark Moreau, SRI’s Co-Head of Europe, said: “The entertainment ecosystem is circling around three core challenges: content development and monetisation, engaging and retaining the developing consumer and digitisation. SRI’s Convergence Trailblazers research has demonstrated how leadership strategies are evolving – and should evolve – as a result”.
Through 19 in-depth interviews with top leaders – identified by SRI as ‘Convergence Trailblazers’ having swapped industries – SRI found a number of common qualities that combine to enable leaders to move successfully from one industry to another.
Linear progression up the career leader was not deemed essential and Trailblazers were prepared to move sideways to better their knowledge. Sarah Treseder worked in multiple sectors including newspaper publishing, gaming and the drinks industry before becoming CEO of the Royal Yachting Association. She says: “Be prepared to move sideways or even backwards in order to get where you ultimately want to go to.”
Moving across sectors has brought Trailblazers into the orbit of a breadth of inspiring figures whose influence has sustained them through their careers. Peter Hutton who heads the global sports operation for Facebook, travelled the world as a journalist and for a leading sports broadcaster. He was a managing director for Fox Sports and CEO of Eurosport, meeting inspiring figures such as Fox’s Chase Carey and Discovery CEO David Zaslav. “I really like that sense of people who can come into a room and make an immediate difference,” he tells SRI. “I think media and sport is a world where you are lucky to meet a lot of these people, because passionate, gifted individuals seem to gravitate towards those industries. As a result, you get to meet some pretty impressive characters.”
Many of the Trailblazers said their leadership style was based on having a strong sense of their ‘North Star’ and expressing that clearly to their teams. Sarah Martin, CEO of The Arts House in Singapore, was formerly director of operation for Formula 1’s Singapore Grand Prix. “You need to be very clear about what you’re trying to achieve,” she says. “If you don’t know where you’re going, or where you need to land, you’re not going to get there.”
Trailblazers appreciate the expertise of specialists on their teams and are prepared to look outside their own sectors and geographies for the right talent.
Gabrielle Toledano, a Silicon Valley strategist who has held leadership roles at companies including Electronic Arts and Tesla, says: “At a young age, I learned how to recruit and promote people who were better than me in their own crafts, and often knew more than I did. Then you learn to enable your decision making. I always surrounded myself with the best people I could get and focused on creating positive and collaborative team dynamics.”
Above all, they have the bravery to master the new
Liverpool’s Peter Moore has never been scared of turning what he calls the “reinvention wheel”. At one point in his career he was offered a role at SEGA and asked what he knew of gaming. “Not much,” he replied. But he knew about selling sporting goods to the same teenage male demographic and had recently bought his son a games console. “I was intrigued, I started to read up a little,” he recalls. “At 45 years of age, I thought, ‘What the heck, I can learn this stuff.”
SRI is an executive search and talent consulting firm across the sport, media, content and entertainment landscape. We have deep expertise in these dynamic, disrupted and increasingly interconnected sectors. We partner with our clients to find the game changing talent that will help them thrive. Our services include executive search, emerging leaders search, hiring strategy, board assessment, succession planning, salary benchmarking, new market entry consulting and multi-vacancy projects.
For more information, please visit www.sriexecutive.com
SRI examined a sample of 100 organisations, taking the 20 largest by revenue (or valuation for esports teams) in each of the following sectors: sports leagues, esports teams/franchises, sporting goods/apparel, media/entertainment and technology. We selected the companies by referring to third party company listings sources including Fortune Global 500, Forbes, Investopedia and organisations’ annual reports.
We reviewed the profile and backgrounds of the CEOs of each of these 100 companies to find out:
We invited 19 top industry leaders ‘Convergence Trailblazers’ – from media & entertainment, esports, sport, sporting goods and technology – to talk to us in some depth about their career journeys. We were looking for the common traits and competencies of those who successfully move across industries.
Chief Marketing Officer, SRI
 Used valuation as measure for esports teams.