Co-founder of Riot Games, Co-managing owner of Los Angeles FC
Brandon Beck and partner Marc Merrill are the co-founders of Riot Games and co-creators of the widely popular game League of Legends. Lifelong gamers, they started Riot (13th on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for list in 2015) as a studio that would reimagine game development, delivery, and support from the enthusiast player’s perspective. Riot is a pioneer in the emerging world of esports and the recent League of Legends World Championships at Staples Center drew over 40mm live viewers on its broadcast.
Brandon is also a co-managing owner of the newest Major League Soccer club, Los Angeles FC.
COO, National Football League
Tod Leiweke is the Chief Operating Officer of National Football League, a position he’s held since August 2015. Prior to the NFL, Leiweke served as CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Before that, he led Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, a position that included overseeing Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s interests in the Portland Trailblazers, Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders FC. He’s also held executive positions with the Minnesota Wild, the PGA Tour, the Vancouver Canucks and the Golden State Warriors.
Russ D’Souza is a co‐founder of SeatGeek, the leading mobile app and search engine for live event tickets. Russ leads SeatGeek’s business functions, including business development and the growth of SeatGeek’s primary ticketing platform, SeatGeek Open. Since the company’s inception in 2009, Russ and the SeatGeek team have built best-in-class, fan-friendly features that include a top-notch user experience, the industry’s best selection of tickets, interactive seating maps, and proprietary Deal Score™ technology that ranks ticket listings by value.
The company has been named one of “America’s Most Promising Companies” by Forbes and one of the “World’s 100 Greatest Apps” by Business Insider, and Russ was named one of Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30” in 2013, as well as one of Business Insider’s “Silicon Alley 100” in 2010. SeatGeek is the Official Ticketing Partner of Major League Soccer as well as the primary ticketer for MLS team Sporting Kansas City. Russ has grown SeatGeek to over 100 employees and raised more than $100 million in venture financing from the world’s leading investors, including Technology Crossover Ventures, Accel Partners, and Founder Collective, along with sports icons Peyton Manning, Shane Battier and Carmelo Anthony.
Prior to founding SeatGeek, Russ worked as a management consultant with Monitor Group in Boston. He is also the founder of two successful startups — Evolving Vox, a student-run furniture rental business at Dartmouth College, as well as Scribnia, a Yelp-style web application to discover bloggers and writers online. Russ graduated from Dartmouth College in 2007 with a degree in History.
ESPN Senior Writer
John Clayton began covering sports while still a student at Churchill Area High School. Starting with the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ 1972 training camp, he covered the team in twice-weekly dispatches in the St. Marys, Pennsylvania Daily Press. He later wrote for Steel City Sports, a weekly publication in Pittsburgh. In 1975, Steel City Sports changed into Score! Pittsburgh and Clayton was a staff writer, covering the Steelers. He also served as a stringer for a number of radio networks, including AP Radio, and covered games, providing the network with sound clips from locker room interviews after games involving Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams.
Clayton graduated from Duquesne University in 1976. He was hired by the The Pittsburgh Press during his senior year at Duquesne. He had done part-time work for the paper while attending college.
Clayton eventually worked his way up to become the Steelers beat writer at the Press, before leaving the paper in 1986. He moved across the country and began covering the Seattle Seahawks for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington.
In 1995, Clayton joined ESPN as a reporter and later added to his duties a weekly radio show during the NFL offseason. In 1998, Clayton was hired fulltime by ESPN> He hosted the show with former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury; the show included “Four Downs,” a debate with Salisbury over current NFL issues. In the early 1990s, he hosted a radio show KJR (AM) called “Sports Saturday” show on Saturday mornings. He is a regular caller to sports-talk radio stations around the country. Because of the transition to all-sports of KIRO (AM) Seattle, Clayton moved his show to the new ESPN station.
Clayton received the Dick McCann Memorial Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007. This distinction puts him in the “writer’s wing” of the Hall of Fame.
He was also inducted into the sports hall of fame of his alma mater, Duquesne University, in 2001
Co-Chairman and CEO, Topgolf Entertainment
Erik Anderson is a leader in global innovation. He is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of WestRiver Group (WRG) since 2002. WRG provides integrated capital solutions for the global innovation economy. Anderson is the Co-Chairman and CEO of Topgolf Entertainment Group, a global sports entertainment company. In this role, he has received numerous honors, including the 2014 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Southwest Region.
Anderson is Vice-Chairman of ONEHOPE, a cause-centric consumer brand and technology company, most commonly known for its award-winning wine and world-class vineyard in Napa, Calif. Anderson is also on the Board of Directors for Singularity University, a global community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. Additionally, Anderson is the founder of America’s Foundation for Chess, currently serving 160,000 children in the United States with its First Move curriculum. He serves on the Board of Play Magnus, an interactive chess app inspired by Magnus Carlsen, the reigning World Chess Champion. In addition, he is on the Board of Avista Corp (NYSE:AVA), an energy management company, where he serves as Chairman of the Finance Committee. His investment experience includes being Partner at Frazier Healthcare Partners, CEO of Matthew G. Norton Co. and Vice President at Goldman, Sachs & Co.
He earned a master’s and bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree (Cum Laude) in Management Engineering from Claremont McKenna College. Anderson lives in Kirkland, Wash., with his family, including his wife Deborah and children Natalie, Claire and Trevor.
Guard, Seattle Storm
Sue Bird is a one of the greatest players in WNBA history. Bird, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, is entering her 15th season with the Seattle Storm. She helped the team win a WNBA championship in 2004 and again in 2010, while being named to the WNBA All-Star team nine times. She’s a three-time Olympic gold medalist and won two NCAA championships at the University of Connecticut.
Executive Vice President & General Manager, Seattle Mariners
Jerry Dipoto was named as the ninth General Manager in Seattle Mariners history after being hired on Sept. 28, 2015.
In his first months on the job, Dipoto completely remade the Mariners Major League roster, as well as revamping the Mariners Major League staff, scouting and player development departments. From his hiring to Feb. 9, 2017, Jerry and his staff completed a MLB-high 39 separate trades (involving 99 players), including 13 trades (involving 35 players) from the end of the 2016 season to Feb. 9.
The reshaping of the roster and minor league system resulted in the 2016 Mariners organization playing 927 total games (at all levels) and only one — the final regular season game for the big league club — not having playoff implications.
Prior to being hired by Seattle, Dipoto was working as a Special Assistant for the Boston Red Sox. He joined the Sox after resigning from his position as the Los Angeles Angels General Manager on July 1, 2015.
Dipoto was the Angels GM from Oct. 29, 2011-July 1, 2015, helping guide the club to the American League West title in 2014, finishing with the most wins (98) in the Majors.
A veteran of 15 seasons as a baseball executive, he got his start immediately after retiring as a player in 2001. He was a special assistant for the Colorado Rockies (2001-02), followed by two seasons working in the scouting department for the Boston Red Sox (2003-04). He returned to the Rockies as the Director of Player Personnel (2005) and then moved to the Arizona organization as Vice President of Player Personnel (2006-10) and was appointed the Diamondbacks interim General Manager on July 1, 2010. he spent the 2011 season as the D-Backs Sr. VP of Scouting and Player Development.
Dipoto appeared in 390 Major League games, all in relief, with the Indians (1993-94), New York Mets (1995-96) and Colorado Rockies (1997-2000). The right-handed pitcher compiled a career 27-24 record with 49 saves and a 4.05 ERA prior to retiring during spring training in 2001 with a bulging disc in his neck.
He was originally selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 3rd round of the 1989 June Draft out of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Founder, Oak View Group
Tim Leiweke founded Oak View Group (OVG) in 2015 and serves as the company’s CEO. With over 30 years of global sports and entertainment experience, Leiweke is a widely respected industry leader and has been deeply involved in the evolution of the NHL, NBA and MLS. Leiweke partnered with music industry titan Irving Azoff (Azoff Madison Square Garden Entertainment) to launch OVG, a development and investment company comprised of an Arena & Stadium Alliance, a sponsorship subsidiary, an advisory group and a venture fund division which recently invested in Miami Beckham United led by global soccer icon, David Beckham.
Prior to OVG, Leiweke served as President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). In his first year with MLSE, Leiweke led a transformation of the Toronto Raptors, which resulted in a record for wins and back-to-back Division Championships. With Toronto FC, Leiweke orchestrated a dramatic overhaul, which ignited the club’s first ever playoff berth in 2015. It was during this time that Leiweke ranked fifth on the Sports Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential and eighth on Billboard’s 100 Most Powerful in Music – the only President & CEO to rank on both lists.
During his 18 years at the helm of AEG, Leiweke led the company’s evolution into a global live entertainment organization capable of developing, producing, marketing and managing sports and entertainment programming in its venues worldwide. It was through Leiweke’s vision that the $2.5 billion L.A. LIVE complex was built in Downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to the STAPLES Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center. In addition, Leiweke architected AEG’s global expansion, including development of O2 Arenas and stadiums in London, China and Germany. Leiweke then built AEG Live into the second largest promoter in the world with artists including; Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Rolling Stones, Black Eyed Peas, Kenny Chesney, Celine Dion, The Eagles and Katy Perry. AEG Live also became one of the world’s largest festival organizers through partnerships with the Coachella and Stagecoach Festivals.
Director of Performance & Sports Science, Seattle Sounders
David Tenney enters his third season as Director of Performance & Sports Science after spending the previous five seasons as fitness coach. He is one of Major League Soccer’s most respected and progressive minds in sports science.
Tenney implemented the Catapult GPS program which measures player movement in games and practices, as well as the Omegawave technology that tests player’s heart rate variability and state of readiness before and after participation.
Prior to joining Sounders FC, Tenney served as both Fitness and Goalkeeper Coach in Kansas City in 2007 and 2008, helping the Wizards reach the postseason both years. Kansas City reached the Conference Finals in 2007. He also holds an “A” license from the Czech Republic FA and NSCAA ‘Premier’ Diploma.
Executive Vice President, Catalyst Sports & Media
Bryce is an Executive Vice President at Catalyst Sports & Media, where he co-manages the esports advisory division. Catalyst serves as the bridge between traditional sports and esports, advising major sports teams and owners, brands, and investors on how to successfully enter and navigate the esports space. Bryce also founded ESG Law, the world’s first dedicated esports law firm, where he represents preeminent esports teams, talent, and institutions. Bryce’s work spans across the esports landscape – he has worked on major deals involving every esports title, and his clients range from long-standing, endemic esports entities to marquee sports, media, and entertainment companies looking to capitalize on the explosive growth of the industry. Bryce is a contributing writer for ESPN, and drives industry standards as a thought leader on key legal and business issues facing all aspects of the esports ecosystem.
Managing director, Gensler
Karen Thomas is Principal and Managing Director of the Seattle office of Gensler, a global design and planning firm that is networked across 45 locations on five continents. Consistently ranked by U.S. and international industry surveys as the leading architecture and interior design firm, their diverse market type expertise in sports, technology, hospitality, brand design, retail, and mixed use, allows them to bring an integrated design perspective to any project.
With over 30 years of experience as an award-winning architect, senior executive, and University of Washington faculty member, Thomas is a proven leader with an energetic passion for design, environmental sustainability, and community building. She has served on numerous executive boards supporting the arts, education and economic development. Thomas currently serves as the Vice Chair for the Seattle Sports Commission, and has worked with several local sports franchises and university athletic groups to further their brands and create memorable places and experiences. She believes that by fostering a strong sports culture in Seattle, we can bring together local businesses, people, and communities to create a world class sports destination.
CEO, Bleacher Report
Dave Finocchio launched Bleacher Report in 2008 with three good friends who shared a common belief that the most knowledgeable and insightful fans deserve a meaningful voice in sports media. Since then he has positioned the brand to reshape the way millennial males consume content, moving from a website that reports aggregated sports news to a publisher that is provoking conversation at the crossroads of sport and culture.
Dave transformed the site both in terms of internal operation and external reputation. In 2012, Turner acquired Bleacher Report, calling on Dave to provide high-level direction for the rapidly evolving company. Through his leadership, the company now sees more social engagement across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram than nearly any other publisher in the U.S. Its video content and editorial caliber have grown significantly, and its companion Bleacher Report mobile application is among the most widely downloaded of any such offering in the industry.
A life-long sports nut with passion for hyperbole, Dave is consistently belittled for his views on Tim Tebow, The San Antonio Spurs, and Kurt Warner. Dave holds a BA in economics and history from the University of Notre Dame. He has previous experience in venture capital and private equity.
Reporter at Root Sports, Seahawks Sideline Reporter
Jen Mueller, America’s Expert Talker is rarely at a loss for words. A 16-year sports broadcasting veteran, Mueller currently serves as the Seattle Seahawks sideline radio reporter. She is also part of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team on ROOT Sports.
In addition to her work on the sidelines, Mueller launched Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and teaches corporate professionals how to make sports conversations useful in business. Mueller published her second bookTalk Sporty to Me: Thinking Outside the Box Scores in January 2015.
Mueller graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2000 with degrees in Broadcasting Journalism and Public Policy.
Co-founder and CEO, FANchise
Sohrob Farudi is founder and CEO of FANchise – the company with an ambitious plan of giving power to the fans.
His Indoor Football League team, the Salt Lake City Screaming Eagles, allowed fans to design the team logo, hire the coach, draft players, and call all offensive plays for the team via a mobile app.
Next year, the company is kicking off the eight-team Interactive Football League, with all teams playing in a single venue which is akin to a studio than a stadium. Games will be live streamed on Twitch, and fans will be in control of the offense, defense, and personnel of every team in the league.
Sohrob is a seasoned entrepreneur and C-level executive, having cut his teeth at Accenture before making the move to startup life. In 2005 he was co-founder and CEO of device trade-in company Flipswap, which he led to #81 on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies. After a successful exit in 2011 Sohrob has founded, invested in, and led a handful of startups across a range of industries including web and mobile technology, cannabis, and retail.
Sohrob holds a BS in Finance from the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business and a MS in Information Systems from the George Washington University School of Business. He currently resides in Manhattan Beach, California.
Sports Director, Q13 Fox
Aaron Levine is the Sports Director at Q13 Fox, who hosts nightly sportscasts, along with “Seahawks Gameday,” “Q It Up Sports,” and “Seahawks Saturday Night.” Even though he’s originally from Southern California, he hopes he can be accepted as a native from the Pacific Northwest, now that he’s been in Seattle more than ten years. He attended Stanford University with a major in History, and will always remember the championship celebrations – from the Seahawks Super Bowl win to the Sounders MLS Cup title to both Storm championships and the most recent Seattle T-Birds title as well.
Los Angeles Dodgers CFO
Tucker Kain is in his sixth year as the CFO of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The MLB executive was vice president at Guggenheim Partners when he helped lead the group’s $2 billion purchase of the Dodgers in 2012. Now as the club’s CFO, Kain negotiates TV broadcast deals and also oversees the team’s startup accelerator.
More than 1,000 startups have applied to the program over the past two years. Participating companies have raised more than a collective $21 million since graduating from the accelerator.
“For us, the accelerator has served as an incredible funnel to get a better view of what’s going on in the broader sports and entertainment space,” Kain told GeekWire in November.
Kain, now the managing director of Guggenheim Baseball Management, grew up in Cleveland and received his B.A. degree in Economics from Williams College.
Director of Business Development for Smart Solutions, CenturyLink
As Director of Business Development for CenturyLink’s Smart Solutions practice, Jesse focuses on developing CenturyLink’s go to market strategy as part of CenturyLink’s IoT intiative. Jesse works in conjunction with customers, business partners and internal resources to develop turnkey solutions for verticals such as Smart Venues, Smart Cities, Smart Hospitality and Smart Fleet. Jesse’s expertise comes in the Smart Venue/District vertical. Jesse has led projects at Target Field, US Bank Stadium, CenturyLink Complex and District Detroit, focusing on enhancing the patron experience while driving revenue growth. Jesse began his 17 year career as a Sr. Sales Specialist at AT&T and has held numerous technical sales related positions at CenturyLink. Jesse attended college at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN. Jesse enjoys staying active in his free time golfing, boating, playing ice hockey and spending time with his family. Jesse is married and has two children.