When Adam Silver and the NBA announced that they would be appointing an interim CEO to run the Los Angeles Clippers in the aftermath of Donald Sterling's lifetime ban as the league prepares a strategy to force Sterling to sell the team, I was asked numerous times whom I thought they might pick to be the new CEO. And each time I replied the same: I have no clue.
Given the visibility of the situation, I assumed they'd try to find a highly competent and respected business executive. But interim CEO of an NBA team isn't necessarily a great job, and I wondered who they could get, and who might want it.
It never occurred to me that it would end up being the former CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
David Aldridge is reporting that the NBA is going to choose Richard (Dick) Parsons, the former Chairman of Citigroup and former CEO of Time Warner. That's Citigroup and Time Warner. This is a huge "get" for the NBA, and an incredibly shrewd one as well. As one of the first ever African-American CEOs of any Fortune 500 company, Parsons is almost the perfect choice to take over the team in the wake of a racial scandal. Heck, the guy even played college basketball at the University of Hawaii in the sixties.
When the NBA took over the Hornets in 2010, they named Jac Sperling president of the franchise. Sperling was a respected New Orleans businessman with ties to sports and entertainment ventures, and I really expected someone along those lines to be named for the Clippers -- someone whose resume was impressive enough, but not anyone that I'd actually heard of. Parsons blows that pick away.
It's not clear exactly what the NBA envisions going forward, what they expect Parsons to do, how they'll transition to a new ownership group, etc. I mean -- do we even know who is paying Parsons' salary, the NBA or the Clippers? But one thing is clear with this choice: the league is not screwing around.
[Note by Steve Perrin, 05/09/14 1:17 PM PDT ] Here's the official announcement from the league on Parsons:
The National Basketball Association has named former Citigroup chairman and former Time Warner chairman and CEO Dick Parsons the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers, effective immediately, it was announced today by Commissioner Adam Silver. Parsons is currently a senior advisor at Providence Equity Partners and sits on the board of directors for the Commission on Presidential Debates.
"I believe the hiring of Dick Parsons will bring extraordinary leadership and immediate stability to the Clippers organization," said Silver. "Dick's credentials as a proven chief executive speak for themselves and I am extremely grateful he accepted this responsibility."
"Like most Americans, I have been deeply troubled by the pain the Clippers' team, fans and partners have endured," said Parsons. "A lifelong fan of the NBA, I am firmly committed to the values and principles it is defending, and I completely support Adam's leadership in navigating the challenges facing the team and the league. The Clippers are a resilient organization with a brilliant coach and equally talented and dedicated athletes and staff who have demonstrated great strength of character during a time of adversity. I am honored to be asked to work with them, build on their values and accomplishments, and help them open a new, inspiring era for their team."
After attending the University of Hawaii, where he played basketball, Parsons earned a law degree from Albany Law School in 1971 and began his distinguished legal career as a staff lawyer for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. When Rockefeller was appointed Vice President of the United States, Parsons followed him to Washington, where he also worked closely with President Gerald Ford.
Parsons returned to New York in 1977 and became a partner and ultimately managing partner of the law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler. In 1988, Parsons left his law firm to become president and then chairman and CEO of Dime Bancorp, Inc. Parsons began his long and distinguished career at Time Warner in 1995, joining as president and then becoming chairman and CEO from 2002 until 2008. In 2009, after retiring from Time Warner, he served as chairman of Citigroup until stepping down from that position in 2012.
Parsons' extensive list of accomplishments also includes having served as a member of President Barack Obama's economic advisory team.