November 1, 2018 – Turnkey Search, a subsidiary of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, has added longtime media executive Rick Alessandri as managing director and general manager to its media practice. In this role, he will oversee 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.
Mr. Alessandri spent 35 years at Disney/ ESPN, Dow Jones and SportsTicker. Most recently he was Univision’s executive vice president, tapping into Hispanic America. “At Disney/ESPN and again at Univision, innovation was always Rick’s focus and priority to create growth and obtain goals,” said Len Perna, CEO of Turnkey. “He hired hundreds of positions and built winning teams to follow through with that mission.”
“Content and media have seen a paradigm shift – not only at traditional media, new media and OTT companies, but also now leagues, teams, venues, and events that need in-house media skills,” he said. “Today, every company needs to be a media company on some level.”
During his 20-year tenure at Disney/ESPN, Mr. Alessandri served as chief of staff and right-hand man to George Bodenheimer, who was then ESPN president, senior vice president of ESPN Enterprises and CXO of the X Games. Turnkey noted that all of these roles had a common thread: stitching together a seamless, integrated media and non-media experience which was immersive, engaging, consistent and had the potential to be monetized.
“Rick Alessandri is perfectly suited for this leadership role in the executive search business at Turnkey – his background provides the necessary perspective across multiple disciplines in media that will serve Turnkey’s wide array of sports and entertainment clients,” said Sean Bratches, managing director, Formula 1 and former ESPN EVP. “I had the pleasure of working with Rick at ESPN for decades, and witnessed firsthand his capacity to lead new initiatives and manage adroitly incumbent ones.”
Kevin Conroy, former Univision chief strategy and data officer and president, enterprise development, described Mr. Alessandri as a humble, quietly effective leader, and among the best at Univision. “Rick was such a good partner because he put the team first and made sure others did the same,” he said. “He has an eye for talent and is a natural team builder.”
Since 2011, Mr. Alessandri served as EVP, enterprise development at Univision Communications Inc. (UCI), a media company serving Hispanic America. His team at UCI was responsible for all new business development, licensing, direct-to-consumer businesses and the launch of UCI Live, Univision’s live events business. All of these start-up initiatives required hiring and managing business teams that could connect, leverage and monetize media and non-media assets together.
Mr. Alessandri will now assist Turnkey clients along the same lines. “It’s a people business,” said Mr. Alessandri. “That’s always been my passion and my point of connection. With the explosive growth in content creation and distribution as well as OTT, social media and live events, Turnkey will help media and non-media clients build their in-house capabilities for storytelling, content creation, production, directing, programming, delivery and all of the closely-connected businesses that arise from those skills and assets.”
Mr. Alessandri recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss his reasons for entering executive search, what he will bring to his new role at Turnkey and the recruitment of 21st century media executives. Following are excerpts from that interview.
Rick, what led you to pursue a career in executive search?
I’ve always been a team builder. I love piecing together winning teams, with the right people, the right culture, the right skills and the chemistry to win. All my roles at ESPN, Univision and even going back to SportsTicker were team building roles. The pieces have to fit together in every business, but especially in creative spaces like media, sports & entertainment. And Turnkey showed me that talent recruiting is really team building. I’m looking forward to helping our clients continue to build great teams!
What does your background in media bring to Turnkey?
I believe that my experience, relationships and overall knowledge of the media industry can provide Turnkey with an advantage as we begin to expand our presence in media. I’ve been lucky enough to work for and with some terrific companies and colleagues. In addition, much of my career in media was focused on building partnerships with others who, like me, are senior execs who have grown up in this industry and are now scattered across the media landscape.
“I believe that my experience, relationships and overall knowledge of the media industry can provide Turnkey with an advantage as we begin to expand our presence in media.”
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What is the hiring landscape currently for media executives?
Media is changing at such a rapid pace. Every company is a content producer today so the thirst for high-quality, A+ players is critical. It’s an exciting time as start-ups are seeking senior level, experienced leaders while more well established media entities are trying to identify the next generation of media leaders. I think my experience can help on both ends. While at ESPN and Univision, I took a very active role in mentoring and coaching our high-potential colleagues. In fact, I was fortunate to lead our employee resource group at Univision for our millennial colleagues. The future of media is in good hands.
How in demand are they and how difficult are they to recruit?
The need for “rock star” media talent is always high but I believe it’s even more important today with the content creation explosion we’re experiencing. As for the difficulty in recruiting, to me it’s about more about building strong personal relationships and trust with both those companies recruiting and high-quality talent. If you have a trusted relationship and truly know your client and candidate, the likelihood is you will be in a much better position to bring the two together. Turnkey is not about volume and churning out candidates and searches. This firm takes its time to deeply understand our client’s needs and to make the ideal match. It’s much more than just a resume or skills. It’s about understanding the overall organization, the personalities and the overall expectations. On the candidate front, it’s about maintaining contact even when there are no searches for which they’re a fit. It’s about understanding their goals, their personal lives and the subtle nuances that can make a good fit a perfect fit.
Not sure if you started working on any searches yet, if so can you share them? What type of search work will you be conducting for Turnkey?
While I’m only on Day 3, I am helping the team on a few searches (which I can’t name yet). What I love about Turnkey and what Len has built here is that it’s truly a team approach. I’m the new guy so I’m trying to be a sponge and learn as much as I can as quickly as I can. The team has been incredibly welcoming and helpful so I hope to be contributing in a big way soon. My focus will be on expanding our presence and brand awareness in the media space although, as I said before, everyone does everything here so I’m sure I’ll be involved in a host of other opportunities.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media