Unexpected Exit for MSG’s Change Agent

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(from Sports Business Journal, September 10, 2012) Madison Square Garden president, Scott O’Neil, recently announced that he would be stepping down. Madison Square Garden is one of the largest and most complex assets to the sports industry. Separate releases were drawn up last Wednesday for O’Neil’s departure; the decision to leave was abrupt and remains a mystery to those people who are familiar with Scott O’Neil and Madison Square Garden.

During O’Neil’s time with Madison Square Garden he made a tremendous impact on their sports sponsorships and many organizational changes. Madison Square Garden is undergoing a $1 billion renovation. Many thought he might leave after the renovation was complete; however, they were only in phase two of a three-part renovation. Also, he was well known for the mega sponsorship deal he had with Chase, which was a 10 year $300 million contract. O’Neil confessed that he is still yet to have a set plan for the future, although it is obvious that he should not find troubles in any of his endeavors.

O’Neil left his previous position of running the NBA’s team marketing and business operations back in 2008 for the president position at Madison Square Garden. With this great opportunity of leading one of the most well-known and highest ranked properties, O’Neil would take on the extreme pressure to fulfill the duties of becoming the president of Madison Square Garden.

Almost instantaneously there were changes taking place all over Madison Square Garden he created new job titles like executive vice president of revenue performance and executive vice president of business development and operations. He also hired a new senior vice president of sales, some of the new employees that he brought in worked with him at his previous job. Restoring the ticketing system was also a major contribution that Scott O’Neil made to Madison Square Garden. He also brought in a couple other sponsorship deals with Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, and Delta. “He instilled an aggressive sales culture that had been lacking at MSG,” said industry consultant Bill Sutton.

Some suspect his reason for leaving to be an issue he had with the Dolan and Ratner the two at the top of the company. O’Neil said he was “looking forward to the process of discovering what lies ahead.”