Area coalition to announce its CEO today Insurance executive from D.C. to lead pursuit of Games

'He has the skills'

Knise was chosen from 60 applicants

he'll start Dec. 1

2012 Olympics

November 06, 1998|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

The Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition will formally announce today that Washington insurance executive Dan Knise has been named to lead the region's pursuit of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Knise, most recently managing director of J & H Marsh & McLennan, an insurance brokerage in Washington, where he worked for 13 years, was chosen from about 60 applicants for the job of president and chief executive officer of the coalition. The job was to pay a six-figure salary, but details of Knise's compensation package are not being released.

Knise (pronounced "Ka-nice") ran a major unit of Marsh & McLennan, overseeing 1,500 employees and $325 million in revenue, until he left on Oct. 30.

Only days after his first interview for the job, Knise said he started dreaming Olympic-style.

In his dreams, he saw crowds gathered at the Inner Harbor and the Washington Mall. At each location, an Olympic torch burned brightly.

"What was vivid was that it was a brilliant, sunny day and everyone was happy," said Knise, 43, who officially starts his new job on Dec. 1.

Knise first heard about the Olympic job after telling business friends, who happened to serve on the coalition board, that he planned to leave his post and take a three-month sabbatical. They told him about the Olympic CEO job and suggested he consider it.

He first interviewed in mid-September. A half-dozen interviews later, Knise was the pick. Approved unanimously by the board yesterday, Knise will report to the executive board, which is headed by John Morton III, president of NationsBank Corp.'s Mid-Atlantic Banking Group.

"Dan is a proven executive who will lead our effort with professionalism and a passionate and tireless commitment to win the bid," Morton said. "He has the skills to evaluate and strategically act on key issues."

Early on, there had been talk of recruiting a high-profile leader like retired Gen. Colin L. Powell or former U.S. Rep. Tony Coelho of California, a former majority whip in the House. But coalition members decided they needed a top manager to handle the details of the bid and the day-to-day operation.

"The coalition elected to pursue a person like Dan who would give us a hands-on, 80-hour-a-week commitment toward reaching our goal of bringing the 2012 Summer Games to our region," said Robert J. Flanagan, executive vice president of Clark Enterprises Inc. and vice president of the coalition, who also was chairman of its search committee. "We fully realize that once we're selected by the USOC, there may be a need for a more international persona as we pursue the International Olympic Committee's award of the Games."

Billy Payne, who headed the 1996 Olympic Games, was an unknown real estate lawyer in Atlanta until the city was chosen by the USOC, said Patricia Warr Marshall, a spokeswoman for the coalition. Former United Nations ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young was a huge asset when it came time to secure international support.

Although he's ready to put in 80 hours a week, Knise doesn't think he'll be on the road four days a week like he was for his last job.

"I was intrigued from the beginning," said Knise. "It didn't take me very long to realize that this was an opportunity of a lifetime."

The Washington-Baltimore region is competing against San Francisco, Dallas, Cincinnati, Houston, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles and Tampa-Orlando, Fla., for the 2012 Games.

The final selection of a U.S. city will be made by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2002. The winner then competes internationally, with a site for the 2012 Games chosen by the International Olympic Committee in 2005.

"After my first meeting with them, I was a little bit awed," he said. "Because there's a lot to do, and there doesn't seem to be anyone who knows how to do it. There's no real blueprint you can use."

Co-workers and associates describe Knise as a quick study, with a keen ability to assimilate information and devise a course of action. His expertise includes sales and marketing, project management and human resources.

"I know what I'm good at," he said. "I think I'm pretty good at leading a team. My greatest moments are when I see people I work with succeed. We need to get a whole group of people feeling this is their victory, and it will be their victory."

Knise hopes to hire an office administrator in December and to have an initial bid office open in Washington by Jan. 1, 1999.

Knise doesn't consider himself a rabid sports fan, but he did play soccer, basketball and baseball in high school in Downsville, N.Y., a small upstate town where he grew up. While in college at Cornell, where he majored in industrial and labor relations, Knise played intermural sports. He also is an experienced 10-K runner.

For the past five years, he has coached lacrosse, soccer, basketball and baseball for his sons' games. Once, several years ago, he flew home from a business trip in Chicago to coach a baseball game and to hand out trophies -- then hopped a plane back.

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