August 14, 2020 – Turnkey Search, a subsidiary of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, and Ventura Partners have teamed to lead the commissioner search for the Atlantic Coast Conference. John Swofford recently announced his intention to retire after serving 24 years in the position. Len Perna, Turnkey chairman and CEO, will be joined by colleagues Gene DeFilippo, Kelly Lewis, Allie Crone and Rick Alessandri who will serve as the leadership team for the search, while Chad Chatlos and Katy Young Staudt will represent Ventura Partners.
“With the dynamic landscape of collegiate athletics, this is an opportunity for ACC leadership to select the commissioner that will propel the conference into the next era,” said Kent Syverud, board chair. “We believe that Turnkey Search is the right partner to conduct this critical search that will shape the future of the conference. Their industry expertise, history of open, inclusive searches, and commitment to finding a diverse and expert pool of candidates will allow us to find the right leader who will ensure the future growth and fiscal sustainability of the conference.”
A comprehensive national search will be directed by the ACC board of directors, led by Mr. Syverud (Syracuse), which includes the chancellors and presidents of the 15 member schools. A search advisory committee, led by co-chairs president Nathan Hatch (Wake Forest) and president Rev. John Jenkins (Notre Dame), will be responsible for collecting information and feedback from member schools. The committee will be comprised of conference representatives including athletic directors, senior woman administrators, faculty athletics representatives and student-athletes. A five-member finalist selection committee will be responsible for identifying a diverse and accomplished group of candidates for the board of directors to review.
“We are humbled and honored to serve the ACC,” said Mr. Perna. “But Turnkey will have no further comment on the ACC search.”
“There are immediate challenges that face not only college athletics, but our entire country, and I will continue to do my very best to help guide the conference in these unprecedented times through the remainder of my tenure,” said Mr. Swofford. “Nora and I have been planning for this to be my last year for some time, and I look forward to enjoying the remarkable friendships and memories I’ve been blessed with long after I leave this chair.”
“All of the conferences are doing their very best,” said Mr. Perna. “It’s a no-win situation. One size does NOT fit all. College presidents and athletics directors care deeply about student-athletes. Everyone is doing their best during these unprecedented times.”
Over the last 23 years, the ACC has been at the forefront of college athletics, winning 92 national team titles in 19 of the league’s 27 sponsored sports. Current members of the conference are Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Florida State University, North Carolina State University, Syracuse University, the University of Louisville, the University of Miami, the University of North Carolina, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Wake Forest University.
Founded in 1996, Turnkey Search is a specialized talent recruitment/executive search firm focused on recruiting C-level, senior-level and mid-management-level talent for sports, entertainment and media enterprises. Over the past 20-plus years, Turnkey Search has filled more than 1,200 positions across these three sectors. The search firm helps teams, leagues, stadiums, arenas, theaters, college athletic departments, events, sponsors, agencies, media companies, private equity firms and other clients identify, recruit and hire top management talent.
Track Record of Diverse Placements
Turnkey has a track record of diverse placements and deep expertise in higher education and professional sports assignments, including placements for Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgetown University, University of Michigan, University of Southern California, University of Alabama, the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, and others.
Mr. Perna, manages all aspects of Turnkey Search. A top executive in the sports industry since 1985, he began his sports career as a business attorney for Cap Cities ABC/ESPN and also served as a top executive for the Detroit Red Wings/Tigers and the Dallas Stars/Texas Rangers.
Mr. DeFilippo, senior executive director with the firm, has 39 years of experience in intercollegiate athletic administration and higher education. He has served as athletics director at Boston College, Villanova and the University of South Carolina-Upstate.
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Ms. Lewis, a director with Turnkey, focuses on advancing diversity and inclusive recruitment practices in all of Turnkey’s talent and candidate pipeline initiatives. Ms. Lewis is also responsible for supporting and servicing human resource professionals across sports, entertainment and media. “Kelly’s job, every single day, is to improve the level of diversity and talent in all of our searches. There’s nothing more important,” said Mr. Perna.
Ms. Crone, a vice president with Turnkey, leads all marketing and communications-centered searches for Turnkey’s clients. She is in her second year with Turnkey after 10 years in the collegiate sector with Rutgers University, Oregon State University and the University of Delaware.
Mr. Alessandri is managing director and general manager of Turnkey’s growing media practice and oversees talent recruitment/executive search for media, digital and tech companies, as well as for non-media entities including leagues, teams, venues, events and tours looking to build their in-house content creation and production capabilities.
Ventura Partners is one of a growing cadre of search firms dedicated to the explosive growth sector of sports. The firm is focused on finding preeminent leaders in college and professional sports recruitment, and leading searches for college athletic directors, commissioners, premier coaches and senior executives across all sports. Ventura recently completed searches for Ole Miss, Clemson, Texas A&M, Auburn, Iowa, Utah, Kansas State, Nebraska and Purdue. With offices in Beverly Hills, Chicago and Atlanta, the firm also serves an array of other clients, including top-performing private equity funds, well-known and industry-disrupting brands, and leading industrials.
Mr. Chatlos, a partner with Ventura Partners, specializes in senior executive searches across the sports industry with a focus on diverse roles in the intercollegiate athletics landscape. His clients include major sports leagues, teams, conferences, and leading colleges and universities. He has completed Power Five athletic director and commissioner searches as well as head coaching searches for football, basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, strength and conditioning, and more, with marquee programs. In addition, he has led innovative searches in marketing, revenue-generating roles, eSports and player personnel positions.
Over the past 15 years, Ms. Staudt has established herself as one of a leading number of professional search consultants in the sports and entertainment worlds. Before joining Ventura Partners as managing director in 2018, she spent time at Witt/Kieffer and Eastman & Beaudine, where she conducted numerous searches for Division I head coaches and directors of athletics, and has worked closely with clients across professional sports properties including MLB, NBA, NHL, PGA TOUR, USTA, Churchill Downs and others.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media