Inside job: U.S. track's CEO search finally ends

Post goes to Max Siegel for $500k per year

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Max Siegel with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Getty Images

Max Siegel with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Getty Images / April 23, 2012)

Six months ago, USA Track & Field handed Max Siegel a one-year deal as a consultant to give a struggling sport some new ideas in marketing, sponsorship, publicity and communications.

Monday, it announced Siegel will run the whole show.

The USATF board ended a painfully long and embarrassing search for a new chief executive by naming Siegel, 47,  to the job with a two-year contract worth $500,000 a year plus unspecified bonuses, which undoubtedly will be based on whatever new sponsorship revenues he can attract.

"It is substantially less than what we had with the previous CEO," USATF president and chairman Stephanie Hightower said Monday in a media conference call.

That would be Doug Logan, who was fired in September, 2010.  Logan's original base salary was $360,000 but he made more in bonuses.

(Note: Logan's base salary in the first year of his contract, 2008, was $360,000, not $350,000 as I wrote here yesterday. According to and USATF, a contract revision pushed it to $500,000 in 2010.) 

Siegel's deal also is $50,000 more a year than the base salary Scott Blackmun received in a four-year contract when he became CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee in January, 2010.

Siegel said the contractual relationship between his marketing firm, Max Siegel Inc., and USATF would end with his assumption of the CEO job May 1.  He said he no longer will have a role with the firm.

"There is nothing that has any conflict (or) encumbers my ability to do my (USATF) job," Siegel said.

But his selection as CEO still looks like an inside job, no matter that Siegel has strong qualifications in marketing and communications and experience in the Olympic movement.

USATF's first choice for the job, University of Oregon track coach Vin Lananna, turned it down last May.  That eventually led to a new search when the board decided there was not an acceptable alternative candidate.

"I failed miserably in the first search," said USATF vice-chair Steve Miller, CEO of the Andre Agassi Foundation.  "I was hoping we we be able to finish this process much sooner."

Hightower had kicked a hornet's nest within a few days of Logan's firing when, in an interview with me, she did not categorically deny her own interest in the CEO job.  That created obvious potential conflict-of-interest problems because the board is responsible for hiring and firing the CEO.

After Lananna's rejection, the board still considered giving the job to Hightower before leaving Mike McNees, the chief operating officer, in place as interim CEO and eventually hiring Siegel, a graduate of Notre Dame and its law school with impressive credentials in auto racing and the music industry as well as experience with Olympic business as a member of the boards of USATF and the U.S. Swimming Foundation.

"We went through a lot of anxiety-filled times talking about taking a board member and putting that person in place as the CEO and of course ultimately decided against it,'' Miller said.

But as the Associated Press noted last fall, hiring Siegel as a USATF consultant with a six-figure paycheck also reeked of conflict of interest because Siegel had been on the federation's board for 2 1/2 years until resigning a month earlier.

Blackmun told me soon after Logan was fired the USOC would be very critical of any USATF chief executive candidacy from a board member, especially after the mess fellowing Stephanie Streeter's moving from the board to become acting USOC chief executive after its board had fired CEO Jim Scheer.

"Max will have our full support, and we look forward to working with USATF as they continue to refine their governance model and find ways to enhance the effectiveness of the organization," Blackmun said in a statement Monday.

Hightower chose some disingenuous hair-splitting Monday in dealing with the conflict-of-interest situation.

"The real issue here is Max was not on the board when he was selected for this position," she said.

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