New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Executive

Seth G. Abraham

Seth G. Abraham (Executive.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Aug. 20, 1947.) On June 7, 2001, Seth G. Abraham, who had joined Madison Square Garden only eight months earlier as executive vice president and chief operating officer, was promoted to president of Madison Square Garden/Radio City Entertainment. Before he resigned in January 2004, he had responsibility for, among other things, the MSG Networks, MSG Sports Properties, and Radio City Entertainment, the entity that manages Radio City Music Hall, which the Garden controls. Abraham succeeded Dave Checketts as president of the Garden when the latter resigned after almost seven years as Garden president. Abraham had been with Home Box Office for 22 years before joining the Garden, starting at HBO as director of sports operations in 1978 and became, in 1990, president and chief executive officer of Time Warner Sports, a position he held for 10 years before joining the Garden. Noted for seemingly always wearing a baseball cap, Abraham holds a B.A. from the University of Toledo and an M.A. from Boston U., both in journalism, and had a stint as a stringer for the Boston bureau of The New York Times.  He left the Garden in 2004.

Charles Bluhdorn

Charles Bluhdorn (Executive.  Born, Vienna, Austria, Sept. 20, 1926; died, aboard corporate jet between Santo Domingo, D.R., and New York, NY, Feb. 19, 1983.)  Charles G. Bluhdorn was the creator of the conglomerate that controlled Madison Square Garden for two decades.  Starting with an auto parts company in Grand Rapids, Mich., Bluhdorn formed Gulf + Western Industries (1956), purchased Paramount Pictures (1967), and took over the Garden (1974).  Madison Square Garden had been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1925 when G+W acquired control with a tender offer and took it private.  Bluhdorn served as a board member and was the controlling power of the Garden, but never held a corporate title with the company, which became a G+W subsidiary.  When Martin Davis became the C.E.O. after Bluhdorn’s death, the company became Paramount Communications and, in 1994, Paramount was taken over following a fierce proxy war by Viacom, which outbid QVC.  Viacom then sold the Garden to a combination of Cablevision and I.T.T., paving the way for control of the Garden, and its teams, by James Dolan.

Avery Brundage

Avery Brundage (Executive.  Born, Detroit, MI, Sept. 28, 1887; died, Garmisch-Partenkirschen, West Germany, May 8, 1975.)  A wealthy contractor from Chicago, Avery Brundage became the most important administrator in U.S. amateur athletics ever.  Brundage participated in the 1912 Stockholm Olympiad in the decathalon and pentathlon.  In 1921, he founded his construction company.  In 1928, he was elected president of the Amateur Athletic Union, then based in New York.  Almost from that moment, Brundage ruled U.S. amateur athletics and pursued a policy of “pure amateur” sports modeled, many thought, on an idealized concept of 19th century English country gentlemen.  He headed the A.A.U. until 1933 and again in 1935.  Brundage became president of the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1929 (until 1953), was vice president of the International Olympic Committee (1945-52), and its president for 20 years (1952-72).

Michael Burke

Michael Burke (Executive.  Born, Enfield, CT, June 8, 1916; died, Galway, Ireland, Feb. 5, 1987.)  One of the most colorful characters in New York sports in the 1960s and 1970s, Edward Michael Burke was president of both the Yankees (1966-73) and Madison Square Garden (1973-81).  Burke spent nearly a third of his life in Europe for a variety of reasons:  as a child when his family moved to Ireland for several years; during his World War II service in the O.S.S. (forerunner of the C.I.A.), while working for the U.S. State Department in the early 1950s; and again in retirement in Ireland.  In between, he was a two-time football letter winner at Pennsylvania (1937-38), chief executive of Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus (1954-56), and an executive at CBS Television (1957-66).  During his early years at CBS, Burke was based in London, but he returned to the U.S. in 1962.  Two years later, he was instrumental in persuading the network to buy control of the Yankees from Dan Topping and Del Webb.  When CBS bought the remaining 20% in 1966, Burke became president of the team, succeeding Topping.  On his watch, the team floundered, but he became a highly visible presence, often watching games from a box seat behind the Yankees dugout and signing autographs.  He also had the Stadium refurbished, turning it from traditional green to blue and white.  Burke negotiated the deal with the Lindsay administration that led to the Stadium’s two-year renovation (1974-75) at city expense.  But after the syndicate led by George Steinbrenner bought the team, Burke left in 1973.  Later that year, he was hired by Gulf + Western, owner of the Garden, as the arena’s president.  Burke’s years at the Garden were relatively uneventful, though he did promote the Garden’s final ballpark fight, when Muhammad Ali decisioned Ken Norton at the new Stadium (Sept. 28, 1976), as well as the first Ali-Frazier rematch, at the Garden (Jan. 28, 1974).  There were those who thought Burke, with his stylish hair and English suits, more style than substance.

Bill Carey

Bill Carey (Executive.  Born, Hoosick Falls, NY, Sept. 14, 1878; died, Indio, CA, Feb. 24, 1951.)  An engineer who was involved in the construction of the Panama Canal, William F. Carey was a dedicated boxing fan who became president of Madison Square Garden in 1929, following the death of Tex Rickard.  His association with the Garden came about as one of the contractors who helped build the third Garden in 249 days in 1925.  In 1930, he leased both major New York ballparks (Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds) for boxing, but then decided that the Garden should have its own outdoor venue.  Carey constructed the mammoth Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City in 1931 and for several years made it a principal site for major outdoor fights.  With the Garden slipping into debt, Carey resigned as president in June 1933, having promoted some 90 major fights, indoors and out.

Joe Carr

Joe Carr (Executive.  Born, Columbus, OH, Oct. 22, 1880; died, Columbus, OH, May 20, 1939.)  A very active sports administrator for two decades, Joseph F. Carr had his greatest impact on the National Football League.  Carr succeeded Jim Thorpe, the first president, in 1921 and worked to expand the league from its small-town roots into large metropolitan areas.  He succeeded in selling a franchise in New York to Tim Mara and Will Gibson in 1925 (the Football Giants).  Carr headed the N.F.L. until his death.  He was also president of the American Basketball League for three years (1925-28) and, for a time, the Ohio State League in minor league baseball.

Frank Cashen

Frank Cashen  (Baseball.  Born, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 13, 1925.)  There is little doubt that J. Frank Cashen was the principal architect of the Mets championship team of 1986.  Having previously served the Orioles in his native Baltimore, Cashen was working in the office of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn when the Mets were sold by the Payson family, which had owned the club since its inception.  When new owner Nelson Doubleday asked Kuhn for a recommendation for general manager, the Commissioner suggested Cashen.  He became the team’s g.m. Feb. 21, 1980, and held the position longer (1980-91) than anyone else in Mets history.  Cashen was named major league executive of the year by The Sporting News when his 1986 club was 108-54 and went on to win the World Series.  In four years (1985-88), the Mets won 398 games.  Cashen remained chief operating officer through 1992 and then became senior vice president.  He is a graduate of Loyola (Md.) and the University of Maryland Law School.  Early in his career, Cashen was a sportswriter with the old Baltimore News-American.

Dave Checketts

Dave Checketts (Executive.  Born, Salt Lake City, UT, Sept. 16, 1955.)  David Wayne Checketts first became directly involved in the pro sports field as executive vice president of the N.B.A. Utah Jazz in 1983.  He was named the club’s president the following year, and tabbed as a rising star in the sports executive firmament.  He assumed the general manager’s responsibilities with the Jazz in 1987 and moved to the Knicks as team president in 1991 after a stint as vice president, development, for the N.B.A.  On Sept. 20, 1994, he was named interim president of Madison Square Garden, succeeding Bob Gutkowski.  His appointment was made permanent the following year.  Checketts oversaw the creation of the W.N.B.A. Liberty, the first-ever presentation of the Grammy Awards in an arena (1997), and the management of the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center before his dismissal June 7, 2001.  Checketts earned a B.A. in Management and finance from the U. of Utah before beginning his career with the management consulting firm of Bain & Co. in Boston in 1980. He subsequently earned an M.B.A. from Brigham Young U.  In 2012, he was named chairman and chief executive officer of Legends Hospitality Management, a hospitality company that provides services at, among other venues, Yankee Stadium.

Walter Chrysler

Walter Chrysler (Executive.  Born, Wamego, KS, Apr. 2, 1875; died, Great Neck, NY, Aug. 18, 1940.)  Starting as a manager with the Chicago Great Western railroad, Walter Percy Chrysler was soon drawn to the automobile business.  In 1912, Chrysler became works manager for Buick; then vice president, operations, for General Motors four years later; and, in 1918, executive vice president to revive the Willys-Overland Co.  A year later, he was named chairman for the reorganization of the Maxwell Motor Corp. and he brought out his first Chrysler in 1924.  Chrysler sold over $5 million of his first model and laid the foundation for the modern Chrysler Corp.  He then moved to New York and began construction of the Chrysler Building, planned to be the world’s tallest.  In 1933, Chrysler and several other prominent financiers, including Stanton Griffis and Floyd Odlum, joined the board of Madison Square Garden during a reorganization.  Two years later, Odlum led a move that forced out John Hammond as head of the Garden, replaced him with John Reed Kilpatrick, and started the Garden back to financial stability.  Chrysler served on the Garden board until his death.

Joe Cohen

Joe Cohen (Executive.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Mar. 4, 1947.)  Until his resignation in 2002, Joseph Maxwell Cohen was responsible for strategic planning for a new Garden, the fifth in the arena’s history.  After joining the Garden for the first time in 1970, Cohen rose to vice president of Madison Square Garden Cable in 1975 and four years later became the first president of the MSG Network, which he expanded into a national, 24-hour program service.  He also was a co-founder of USA Network, one of the leading cable networks in the nation.  In 1986, Cohen led a group of investors that purchased Hughes Television Network, a pioneer in remote sports production.  In 1987, he became chief executive officer of Z Channel in Los Angeles, Calif., which he revitalized with sports programming.  Cohen was chairman of the N.H.L. Los Angeles Kings from 1993-95.  He returned to the Garden in Sept. 1995.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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