Schmoke no shoo-in for USOC job

2 others in running

vote is set tomorrow

Olympics

October 20, 2001|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Top officials of the United States Olympic Committee are scheduled to meet in Chicago tomorrow to select a new chief executive, and there is strong support for former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke - although the voting could get messy.

Schmoke, now in private law practice, declined to comment, but several sources familiar with the search say it appears to have come down to him and two others: Scott Blackmun, the acting chief executive, and Lloyd Ward, a former chairman of appliance maker Maytag Corp.

The chief executive officer, also known as the secretary general, is the top staff person for the governing body of America's Olympics and answers to its executive committee and part-time president/chairman.

The next CEO will take over the organization barely 100 days before the Winter Games are to be held in Salt Lake City and as key decisions will need to be made about the nation's bid to hold the 2012 summer games.

"It's an extremely challenging job. This is an organization built from the ground up. It's all about athletes and volunteers and at the same time you are running a very large business," said John Moag, the Baltimore-based head of Legg Mason's sports industry practice and a former chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Each of the finalists appeals to elements of the USOC executive committee, which will make the final selection, and the search committee that was empowered to come up with the candidates.

But none heads into the voting with unified support.

Schmoke, a three-term mayor, former Rhodes Scholar and high school football standout, brings star power and charisma to the job, as well as experience at the top of a large and fractious organization.

"I think the job is perfect for him and he is perfect for the job," Moag said.

One source involved in the selection, however, said some members of the committee are concerned about Schmoke's lack of experience in business - the USOC raises and spends millions of dollars.

"We need a consensus builder. But we also need an action guy, a guy with proven managerial experience," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ward brings the strongest private-sector background to the search, having been an executive with Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo. before being named chairman of Maytag. He served in that job just 15 months, resigning in a dispute over corporate strategy. He then took over iMotors, a San Francisco-based internet car seller that shut down in July.

But some find him too similar in background to Norm Blake, the last man in the job. Blake, who headed Baltimore-based insurance giant USF&G for much of the 1990s, took over the USOC job, which pays $500,000 a year, last year. He cut staff, proposed cutting money for sports in which Americans don't ordinarily dominate, and otherwise ruffled feathers before being forced out in less than a year.

Blackmun joined the USOC in 1999 as its chief lawyer and was promoted by Blake to a top job overseeing the organization's relations with member sports. He appears to have the backing of many athletes, who say he repaired relations that had been damaged during Blake's stormy tenure.

USOC spokesman Mike Moran said Blackmun is "cherished by the senior staff."

But other sources involved in the search said there are lingering questions about Blackmun's executive bona fides and whether he has the experience to lead the massive organization. A Dartmouth and Stanford Law School graduate, Blackmun had worked with the USOC on legal matters since 1991.

Some have suggested creating a No. 2 position for Blackmun.

Yesterday, Blackmun said, "I will be glad when this is over and we can go back to focusing on the athletes."

He holds one of the 23 seats on the executive committee, but will not be allowed to vote on the job. The rest of the committee is comprised of five representatives of sport federations, five athlete representatives, four U.S. members of the International Olympic Committee, one representative of community-based organizations and six other USOC officers.

Two other Baltimore figures were recruited for the USOC job but dropped out: sports agent and attorney Ron Shapiro and investment banker Mayo Shattuck.

Sun staff writer Candus Thomson in Salt Lake City contributed to this article.

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