January 10, 2020 – Following a comprehensive search across North America and internationally, Turnkey Search, a subsidiary of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, has assisted in placing George Killebrew as the new commissioner of Major League Rugby (MLR).
“George Killebrew has the right experience, temperament and tenacity to be successful as commissioner for Major League Rugby,” said Rick Alessandri, managing director of Turnkey Search. “His thorough understanding of local and national sports sponsorship coupled with his marketing and ticketing background will pay dividends immediately for MLR. Thank you to the MLR executive committee for engaging Turnkey Search on this critical role. Rugby resonated within our industry and this search shows how bullish sports executives are on the future of rugby in North America.”
Mr. Killebrew, the former executive vice president and chief revenue officer of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. He has 27 years of experience with the Mavericks in sales, marketing, ticket sales, corporate activation and arena management as he rose to CRO. He has also worked for the athletic department at SMU, the Dallas Sidekicks indoor soccer, Professional Sports Publications and Learfield Communications. His lengthy resume and passion for sports set him apart in the search for the new commissioner, said the search firm. Mr. Killebrew and his team have been recognized 15 times with NBA Awards for excellence in sponsorship sales, suites sales, sponsorship services and corporate activation.
Mr. Killebrew was hand-selected to lead the league, which will grow to 12 teams in 2020, as it enters the third season. “MLR has outperformed expectations in its first two seasons in part because of a tailwind of rugby’s large global following, and our incredibly passionate domestic rugby community,” said Errik Anderson, chairman of the board of governors and principal owner of the New England Free Jacks. “George brings nearly three decades of commercial sports, media and entertainment experience, which is crucial as we transition MLR into our next phase of growth. George is a visionary sports leader grounded in commercial fundamentals while staying true to the inclusive values and traditions of our global sport.”
As commissioner, Mr. Killebrew will be responsible for driving the league’s vision, overall commercial and operational management, and will work on creating and growing key relationships with internal and external stakeholders. He will also work directly with the 12 current teams to drive commercial success both nationally and locally.
“I plan to build upon the groundwork that the MLR has laid in its first two seasons and use the third season to cement the league in the professional sports market,” said Mr. Killebrew. “I will be working towards building ticket sales and sponsorships revenues and developing the very best media platform possible as we continue to help grow rugby participation across North America.”
20-Plus Years of Experience
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 1,000 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.
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Turnkey’s clients include the University of Alabama, the Atlanta Hawks, CitiGroup, the University of Denver, Louisiana State University, the University of Michigan, the Milwaukee Brewers, the University of Mississippi, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the University of Nebraska, the Oakland Raiders, Richard Childress Racing, RocNation, Rutgers University, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Temple University, Ticketmaster, Townsquare Media, the United Center, VStar Entertainment Group and the Washington Nationals.
Len Perna, founder, president and CEO, 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. Alessandri 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. He joined Turnkey in 2018 after spending 35 years at Disney/ ESPN, Dow Jones and SportsTicker.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media