July 29, 2016 – Korn Ferry has been retained by the Minnesota Twins to replace general manager Terry Ryan. Vice President and assistant general manager Rob Antony will assume GM duties on an interim basis until a full time replacement is named. Mr. Ryan was fired July 18, ending a three-decade stretch with the organization.
The Twins started today with the worst record in the American League at 37-63, 20 games out of first place in the American League Central Division. Mr. Antony, whose assistant general manager contract runs through the 2017 season, is expected to have a formal interview for the position once the process progresses. He also could return to the team as a deputy GM. Whatever happens, the Twins have said their goal is to fill the position before the end of the season, or about three months from now.
Giving Minorities and Women a Leg Up
Korn Ferry has a history of working with Major League Baseball, having placed Rob Manfred into the commissioner’s post. At the end of last season, MLB retained the executive search firm to provide league-wide talent support services, which includes assisting candidates who reach the interview process for baseball operations positions.
Korn Ferry is providing the league’s baseball clubs with potential candidates for senior-level positions, including manager, general manager, scouting director and player development director. MLB hopes this effort will give minority and female candidates a better chance to land higher visibility positions.
“That’s an important part of this process, by all means,” said Twins president Dave St. Peter. “We all know that’s a huge priority for Major League Baseball. I can assure you we’re going to do everything within our power to make sure we not only abide by the guidelines put forth by baseball but hopefully, at the end of the day, over time we’ll be able to exceed them.”
Korn Ferry also helped the Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays last year in GM searches that resulted in the hiring of first-time GMs David Stearns and Ross Atkins, respectively, though neither is a minority. Mr. Stearns was hired out of the Houston Astros’ front office to become the youngest GM in the sport. It took six weeks from the time Korn Ferry was retained in mid-August last year to Mr. Stearns’ hiring, which was announced in late September. A Harvard graduate who spent three seasons as Astros assistant GM, Mr. Stearns worked in the commissioner’s office from 2008-11 and later spent two years as director of baseball operations for the Cleveland Indians. After Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos let his contract expire, Mr. Atkins was hired out of the Indians’ front office, where he had worked with newly installed Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro.
Korn Ferry, which Mr. St. Peter termed “a one-stop shop,” typically handles background checks and psychological testing in the Twins’ hiring efforts, and he’s likely to continue that pursuit in this search.
Sports: A Growth Industry for Executive Recruiters
Korn Ferry’s highly developed sports practice is led by Jed Hughes, who has distinguished himself as an expert in identifying, assessing, and developing leaders. His relationships within sports and intercollegiate athletics are extensive, having spent 20 years coaching in professional and intercollegiate football and working for five Hall of Fame coaches.
The firm’s sports practice has conducted a number of prominent searches in the field, including commissioner for the National Football League (NFL) as well as the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee. It has also been active filling head coaching and general manger roles for both professional and collegiate sports teams. Korn Ferry recently assisted the Cleveland Browns with the hiring of Hue Jackson as its new head coach.
Mr. Hughes’ highest profile placements include New York Jets GM John Idzik; Mark Murphy, CEO of the Green Bay Packers; Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12; Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12; and Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke, the athletic director and the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines respectively. He has also conducted searches for the USOC, LPGA, PGA of America, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, Arsenal Football Club, Liverpool Football Club, Ohio State, ATP Tour, and Women’s Tennis Association, among others.
The sports industry continues to be a growth area for executive search businesses. Many C-suite focused recruiting firms are now active in the sector and some specialize only in the sports field itself — but all are dedicated to providing sports-related executive search and leadership advisory services.
Among them: Alder Koten, Allegis, Cornerstone International Group, DHR International, Diversified Search, Hanold Associates, Harvard Group International, Hoggett Bowers, JDG Associates, Kaye / Bassman, Kennedy Executive Search, Kingsley Gate Partners, Odgers Berndtson, Rosenzweig & Co., and SRi, as well as Collegiate Sports Associates, Eastman & Beaudine, Egon Zehnder, Hartmann Mason, Heidrick & Struggles, Neinas Sports Services, Nolan Partners, Parker Executive Search, Russell Reynolds Associates, and Turnkey Search.
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media