September 27, 2021 – TurnkeyZRG today appointed Nzinga “Zing” Shaw into dual roles: She becomes the search firm’s first president; she also takes over as parent company ZRG’s managing director, chief inclusion and diversity officer, and global practice head of ZRG’s diversity, equity and inclusion client-facing practice. “Zing is an undisputed DEI trailblazer; in fact, she is the first person in history to hold the title chief diversity officer in the National Basketball Association and the entire sports industry,” said Larry Hartmann, CEO of ZRG. “She held similar roles at Marsh McLennan, Starbucks, the Atlanta Hawks and Edelman, all segment leaders globally. Zing brings a 21st century perspective and expertise as to why diverse talent and culture is the differentiator in today’s global economy.”
At TurnkeyZRG, Ms. Shaw will take a leadership role alongside chairman, founder and CEO Len Perna. In the last 12 months, the firm has recruited the commissioners of the ACC and the PAC-12, along with more than 120 other placements for clients, including Endeavor/WME, ASM Global, Kansas City Chiefs, Tepper Sports & Entertainment, Chicago Bulls, Portland Trailblazers, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Seattle Kraken, and the Universities of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wisconsin, among others.
“In sports, people who look like Zing are underrepresented for the core business driver roles,” said Mr. Perna. “Everybody knows Zing is a DE&I expert. But she’s so much more. She is a force as a connector, sales and marketing executive and business leader. I can learn a lot from Zing.”
“Hiring Zing as president is not only a great hire for TurnkeyZRG, it is a great hire for the sports industry,” said Grant Hill, vice chairman of the NBA Atlanta Hawks, managing director of the U.S. Men’s National Team and who sits on the board of governors of the NCAA. “TurnkeyZRG places industry leaders. They’re at the forefront of advancing equity and diversity in sports. Zing will turbocharge those efforts, and that’s good for all of us.”
“Zing’s sports career started right here at the NFL league office, where she was a member of our inaugural diversity council and served as an in-house talent recruiter, part of her HR role,” said Troy Vincent, executive vice president, head of football operations at the NFL. “Notably, she moderated the first general manager’s diversity forum discussing a variety of diversity challenges facing the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and the Arizona Cardinals, all teams that were being led by African-American GMs at the time. Not only is Zing a leader who will positively impact our industry, but TurnkeyZRG is modelling the hiring practices we should be emulating in our industry. It starts from the top.”
Ms. Shaw may be best known for her pioneering DE&I work with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, where she created many firsts for the Hawks that were then promulgated across the NBA and other leagues. She launched the Hawks’ MOSAIC symposium (Model of Shaping Atlanta Through Inclusive Conversations) that led the Hawks to become the first pro sports team to celebrate the LGTBQ community.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter appointed Ms. Shaw to serve a six-year term on the board of councilors of The Carter Center. Ms. Shaw sits on the board of trustees of HBCU (historically black college/university) Fisk University, the board of directors of ColorComm and the board of advisors of Arctos Sports Partners. Ms. Shaw received her bachelor’s degree from Spelman College and received her master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
“TurnkeyZRG and the parent company ZRG didn’t have this dual role sitting on a shelf. They created it for me and my two passions: sports and diversity,” said Ms. Shaw. “I’ll have a seat at the table, but more importantly a resounding voice at the table, influencing hundreds of organizations to cast a wide net and hire talent from different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, while concurrently helping those organizations to be thoughtful about how they onboard, embrace, nurture, support and retain a more diverse team.”
Other New Hires
Tom Truitt has also joined TurnkeyZRG as managing director, global practice head of music industry recruiting. Based in Nashville, Mr. Truitt has over 15 years’ experience in the music business. He is also executive producer of WHO KNEW, a bi-monthly networking event in the music industry, and The Smartest People in the Room, the online version viewed across the music business.
Mr. Truitt has placed senior executive roles across touring companies, booking, recording industry, production and creative roles, music licensing, tech platforms, gaming and other products leveraging music. He has worked for companies such as BMI, GMR, Universal Music Publishing, the Music Business Association, Live Nation, Sixthman, Danny Wimmer Presents, Primephonic, The Blues Foundation, Sound Cloud, Spectrio, Warner Music Group, Zeekit and others. Mr. Truitt previously served as a partner with Buffkin / Baker.
Curtis Walker has also joined TurnkeyZRG as vice president, head of sponsorship recruiting. Before joining TurnkeyZRG, Mr. Walker sold and activated marketing partnerships at the United Soccer League and Minor League Baseball where he led commercial outreach, strategy, and new business development across all marketing partnerships, creating innovative, record-setting deals with Nationwide Insurance, Nestlé Stouffer’s, Applegate Farms, Cartoon Network and ECHO Tools.
Mr. Walker has also been a sales executive with Learfield and the Tampa Bay Lighting. He is an experienced sponsorship dealmaker, not only on the property “sell-side,” but also on the brand “buy-side” having evaluated marketing partnerships while with Coca Cola Beverages of Florida. He co-founded the Black Sport Business Academy, a non-profit organization which exists to enhance the learning experience and career outcomes for students at HBCUs who are interested in pursuing a career in sports.
In addition to these hires, TurnkeyZRG also announced the promotion of managing director Diana Busino to chief operating officer/ chief of staff, and director of diversity Kelly Lewis to vice president.
Founded in 1996, TurnkeyZRG is a specialized talent recruitment/executive search firm filling C-level, senior-level and mid-management-level positions throughout sports, media and entertainment. Over the past 25 years, the firm has filled more than 1,400 positions. TurnkeyZRG helps teams, leagues, stadiums, arenas, theaters, college athletic departments, events, sponsors, agencies, media companies, private equity companies and other clients identify, recruit, and hire the best management talent.
A Blockbuster Acquisition
Earlier this year, search firm ZRG made a major move into the sports, entertainment and media sectors by acquiring Turnkey, and renaming it TurnkeyZRG. Mr. Hartmann has referred to the deal as a “blockbuster acquisition.”
Hunt Scanlon Ventures facilitated the introduction and transaction between ZRG and Turnkey, both perennial leaders in Hunt Scanlon’s rankings of executive search firms. “Len Perna built Turnkey into the most formidable sports recruiting brand in the nation,” said CEO Scott A. Scanlon. “This combination allows ZRG to deliver its ‘Moneyball’ approach to sports and entertainment, using a proprietary Z Score ‘scorecard’ to leverage data and analytics into better hiring decisions,” he said. “Unlocking hidden value in talent and skills makes this the ultimate Moneyball team. It is a game-changer in sports and entertainment recruiting,” Mr. Scanlon noted.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media