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The Top 13 Sports Power Players In Maryland

July 11, 2013

By Marty Conway

From the northernmost point of the Baltimore beltway to the southernmost tip of the Washington, D.C., beltway, the area's ties to sports include a combined eight NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, WNBA and MLS franchises; two major Division I athletic programs; a leading sports-performance apparel company; a leg of horse racing's triple crown; a high-speed open-wheel street race; a PGA Tour event; ATP and WTA tennis tournaments; and countless minor league teams and corporations that invest heavily in sports.

Sports and athletics contribute to the area's economy, driving tourism dollars for the area as well as enhancing the overall quality of life. Focusing on Maryland residents specifically, a good question would be: Who are the people behind all of these important economic and community-building activities, and which ones are the most powerful among that select group?

For years, social psychologists have studied power, coming to various conclusions about the definition of the term itself. In several of those studies, the term "impact" has been identified as a visible illustration of power. In the business of sport, there is such a correlation. One way to think about power in sports is the impact or influence people have in their industries or in the communities that follow their sports.

For the many leading figures in the sports industry, their impact can be measured by a formula that would include factors such as their overall wealth, financial success and social influence; the value of their sport enterprise; the influence their work has had on other places or people in sport; their philanthropy efforts in the community or across sport; their community engagement; and the strength of their particular brand in the sports industry.

PressBox combined these factors to come up with an impact score for sports-industry leaders living in Maryland, and ranked them according to their score. The following list comprises the top 13 sports power players in Maryland.

1. Ted Leonsis: Impact Score 10 

Leonsis is the majority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which holds three professional teams (Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics), the Verizon Center, the Patriot Center and the Monumental Network. In addition, Leonsis is a co-CEO of Groupon. He is an active venture capitalist, philanthropist, filmmaker and author. His impact score of 10 is attributed largely to his role in three major sports leagues and his active role in supporting community causes, as well as the support he provides entrepreneurs and the impact they have in their respective communities. His book "The Business of Happiness" focuses on his double-bottom-line business principles, which are meant to be both financially profitable and socially responsible.

2. Steve Bisciotti: Impact Score 9.8 

The owner of the defending world champion Baltimore Ravens, Bisciotti is a self-made billionaire who bought 49 percent of the Ravens in 2000, purchasing the remaining 51 percent in 2004. Bisciotti has been at the forefront of turning a franchise that was valued at about $600 million into one that Forbes valued at more than $1.1 billion in 2012. Since Bisciotti took control of the franchise, it has become a model of consistency for winning in professional sports, including five consecutive playoff appearances from 2008-12. Bisciotti's impact score is attributed to the power of owning an NFL franchise and the positive role the Ravens have played in the community, including leading efforts to bring national and international sport and entertainment events to M&T Bank Stadium and the benefit those activities have on area businesses.

3. Kevin Plank: Impact Score 9.6  

The chairman and CEO of Under Armour, Plank sits at the head of a $6 billion enterprise. A University of Maryland graduate, Plank has an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion, which in 2012 earned him the rank of No. 3 on Forbes' list of the United States' most powerful CEOs younger than 40. Plank is a leading supporter of Terrapin athletics and has spurred Under Armour's efforts to compete with Nike for innovative and colorful uniforms, which can enhance brand identification. Plank's impact score is derived from his leadership of one of the area's top public companies, his investment in and commitment to reviving horse racing through his ownership of Sagamore Farm, and his and Under Armour's philanthropic efforts in inner-city schools and sports programs.

4. Peter Angelos: Impact Score 9.2  

The majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, a nationally recognized trial lawyer, and a political activist and philanthropist, Angelos spearheaded the effort to bring ownership of the Orioles back into local hands. He led a group of investors to purchase the club for $173 million in 1993. Angelos, 84, has had his share of ups and downs with Orioles fans, as well as organizations that partner with the team, including city and state officials. Angelos' impact score is attributed to his longtime ownership of the Orioles and the contributions he has personally overseen, including the placing of statues honoring the team's six Baseball Hall of Famers in Oriole Park at Camden Yards during the 2012 season, and the millions he has given to civic and community organizations.

5. Ted Lerner: Impact Score 9.1 

A D.C. real estate developer and owner of the Washington Nationals, Lerner has a net worth estimated at $4 billion, according to Forbes, and the Lerner family is the one of the largest land owners in the D.C. area, second only to the federal government. Having owned the Nationals since 2008, Lerner is relatively new to the sports-ownership scene, yet his track record of business success has earned him points with MLB commissioner Bud Selig. The Lerner family plays a major role in philanthropy and giving to education, health care and civic causes throughout Maryland and D.C., as well as Israel.

6. Daniel Snyder: Impact Score 9.0

The owner of the Washington Redskins, a franchise that plays in Prince George's County, Snyder dropped out of the University of Maryland and went on to start several businesses, some of which failed. But he found his footing with Snyder Communications, which he sold in 2000 for $2 billion, reportedly netting himself $300 million as part of the transaction. Snyder has led efforts to expand FedEx Field, turning it into a year-round profit center by hosting concerts, entertainment shows and international soccer matches. According to reports, the Redskins, along with the Dallas Cowboys, are the highest-grossing revenue teams in the NFL. Snyder's impact score is related to his ownership of one of the leading brands in the NFL, his business acumen and his philanthropic commitments.

7. Ron Shapiro: Impact Score 8.9  

A local attorney, businessman, sports agent, author, speaker, and civic and community leader, Shapiro changed the image of the sports agent in the 1980s and '90s. He shepherded the careers of Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and other major league players, while partnering with Brooks Robinson in a sports-advisory capacity. Team owners, business leaders and civic leaders keep Shapiro on speed dial because he is known for his deft touch in dispute resolutions, business transactions, public relations and negotiations. He founded the Shapiro Negotiation Institute in 1995 and his first book, "The Power of Nice: How to Negotiate So Everyone Wins -- Especially You!" is used in business schools and boardrooms all over the world. Shapiro has served as chairman of the boards of more than 25 civic and charitable organizations. His impact score is derived from his network of relationships in sports and the many organizations that have relied on his influence in setting their course and direction.

8. Cal Ripken Jr.: Impact Score 8.5  

Ripken, a Hall of Famer and baseball's Iron Man, has become a force in the sports-business world. Ripken Baseball is involved in ownership of minor league teams, youth baseball training and tournaments. Since his retirement, Ripken has been named a special sports envoy by the state department, become a sought-after corporate spokesman, authored children's books, and been a broadcaster and studio host, among other efforts. He has established the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation in honor of his late father. The foundation has raised millions of dollars for civic and community organizations. Ripken's impact score is based on his history with the game, his sports-business acumen since his retirement, and his iconic presence for Baltimore and Maryland.

9. J.P. Grant: Impact Score 8.1 

James Preston "J.P." Grant III, the leader of Race On Baltimore, has stepped forward to financially solidify the Grand Prix of Baltimore and has brought calm to an event that got off to a turbulent start in Baltimore in 2011. The Grand Prix is this area's entry into a major motor-sports series, IndyCar. Grant's company, Grant Capital Management, has financed billions of dollars in deals for Baltimore City, Prince George's County, Howard County and several government agencies. Grant is an active contributor to Democratic candidates.

10. Michael Phelps: Impact Score 7.9 

The most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, Phelps has single-handedly brought millions of dollars in exposure to Baltimore and Maryland during the span of his four Olympic Games appearances. Now that he has left the pool behind, he is building an empire of ongoing endorsements. Aside from New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Phelps may be Under Armour's most valuable endorser. The Michael Phelps Foundation focuses on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthier lifestyles. Phelps' impact score is based on his ability to bring focus to Baltimore and Maryland anywhere he goes around the world.

11. Janet Marie Smith: Impact Score 7.2 

Smith led the team that designed Oriole Park at Camden Yards when it first opened in 1992. Her vision for how baseball stadiums would integrate into an urban setting was transformational in sports-facility design and development. Since the opening of Oriole Park, Smith has gone on to lead the transition of Olympic Stadium in Atlanta into what is now Turner Field. From there, she moved on to leading the renovation and updating of Fenway Park. She is now lending her expertise to the multi-million-dollar upgrade of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Smith's impact score is reflective of the ripple effect her work has had on stadium and ballpark design in the United States. After Oriole Park opened in 1992, teams and public officials from other cities beat a path to Smith's door to try to mimic the success she had achieved in Baltimore.

12. Kevin Anderson: Impact Score 6.7  

The athletic director at the University of Maryland, Anderson was at the forefront of leading the school's transition to the Big Ten Conference, along with school president Wallace D. Loh. Faced with a cash-strapped athletic department, which fans expected to compete for national championships, Anderson began the restructuring of the athletic department by cutting eight teams in 2012. From that experience, Maryland got serious about making a switch from the Atlantic Coast Conference, of which it had been an original member. Anderson's score is attributed to bringing one of the most high-profile college football conferences to the area.

13. Tom Chuckas: Impact Score 6.5

The president and COO of the Maryland Jockey Club, Chuckas is leading the effort to broaden the audience for horse racing, specifically the Preakness. After the one-year ban on alcohol being brought into the Pimlico infield in 2009, attendance at the second jewel of horse racing's triple crown has rebounded to the levels it had reached before the ban. Nearly $82 million was wagered on the Preakness in 2013 and between live racing and simulcast, the gross handle was nearly $190 million for the year. Chuckas is leading a turnaround for Maryland Racing that many thought was not possible.

Impact scores are based on the following categories: overall financial net worth; value of their sporting enterprises; social impact of their sports franchises/events/projects; effects of their work on their sports/related industries/people in sport; philanthropy in the community, across sports and overall engagement; and strength of their sports properties' brand, and their personal brands across sport.

Are there other sports-business leaders you think should have made the cut? Click here to let us know your thoughts.

Issue 187: July 2013