Ward picked over Schmoke as chief executive of USOC

Ex-Maytag Corp. head sets precedent as first African-American in job


October 22, 2001|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - The U.S. Olympic Committee yesterday selected as its chief executive a former college basketball player and corporate leader who will become the first African-American to hold the high-profile position.

In hiring Lloyd Ward, a former chairman of Maytag Corp., as secretary general, the organization passed over former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who had been one of three finalists for the job.

The decision, which angered athletes on the USOC executive committee who had hoped for a CEO with an Olympic background, came after a day of meetings and presentations by the finalists.

"We felt like we brought three very fine candidates to the executive committee with three very different styles," said USOC president Sandra Baldwin.

"Lloyd Ward was selected primarily on the basis of his traditional management skills, his understanding of marketing and his public presence."

Ward served as captain of the 1969-70 Michigan State basketball team while he earned an engineering degree. He went on to obtain a master of business administration degree from Xavier and rose through a number of executive positions with Procter & Gamble, Ford Motor Co. and PepsiCo.

He joined Maytag in 1996 and became its chairman in 1999 - the second African-American to head a Fortune 500 corporation.

His tenure was short there, and he was asked to resign after 15 months because of "strategic differences" with the board of directors. He then took over an Internet car-sales firm called iMotors, which went out of business in July.

He wasn't available for comment after the meeting and is scheduled to hold a news conference today in Salt Lake City, where the Winter Games will be held in a few months.

Asked by Baldwin not to speak publicly, committee members leaving the meeting declined to comment. A few who represent athletes and sports federations, however, expressed private disappointment that the interim CEO, Scott Blackmun, wasn't selected.

Blackmun has repaired relations with the athletes since the stormy reign of Norm Blake, the former Baltimore-based insurance executive who quit a year ago after nine months as the USOC's chief executive.

The secretary general is the top staff position at the USOC, a sprawling organization with 550 employees and a four-year budget of nearly $500 million. It governs the United States' Olympic and Pan American teams and athletes. The secretary general reports to a volunteer board and president.

Baldwin said she was impressed with Schmoke and hoped he would play a role in volunteer Olympic leadership in the future. "You don't let good people like Kurt Schmoke get away. ... He's an extraordinary human being," she said.

Schmoke, 51, said: "Obviously, I feel pretty honored to have been selected for the final four. It's a real honor, and I'm pleased that I participated."

A member of the board overseeing the joint Washington-Baltimore bid to hold the 2012 Summer Games, Schmoke said: "I'm just hopeful that our city does better in the bid process, which I intend to remain active in."

Schmoke, a former Rhodes Scholar and high school football star, served three terms as mayor of Baltimore, leaving office in 1999. He is now a partner with the blue- chip law firm of Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering.

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