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He Can Market His Experience

IOC PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION / OTHER CANDIDATES : DICK
POUND

July 08, 2001|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MONTREAL — As Juan Antonio Samaranch's marketing point man, Dick Pound of Canada built the Olympic movement into a billion-dollar financial juggernaut, making the rings perhaps the most recognizable symbol in the world.

Along the way, Pound, a Montreal tax attorney, took on every other tough job the IOC and Samaranch could throw at him. In the last few years, for instance, he headed the IOC's internal investigation into the 1999 Salt Lake City corruption scandal. He is the first head of the recently formed World Anti-Doping Agency.

Now Pound, 59, wants to be IOC president, and his candidacy forces each IOC member to assess Pound's incomparable experience and his invaluable contacts, and ask: Can we afford not to have this guy at the top?

"Dick Pound is brilliant," said John Lucas, professor emeritus at Penn State and one of the leading authorities in the United States on the Olympic movement.

"Not unimportantly," Lucas added, "he's also tall and handsome and articulate."

Belgian Jacques Rogge, Pound and South Korean Kim Un Yong are widely believed to be the three leading candidates in the July 16 IOC election in Moscow. The winner will succeed Samaranch, the Spaniard who has been IOC president since 1980.

Pound is not only sharp of mind. Sometimes, he's sharp of tongue. Supporters find him incredibly witty and often very funny. Detractors think he's too blunt to be head of an institution in which diplomacy often plays a key role.

Nonsense, Pound says: "Diplomacy is the art of achieving the objectives of your organization within an international environment. It is not smiling and saying nothing in five different languages. I certainly stand on my record there."

An Olympic swimming finalist at the 1960 Summer Games in Rome, Pound has been an IOC member since 1978. Alone among the current crop of presidential candidates, he was an IOC member before Samaranch took over the top job.

Pound took over marketing duties in the mid-1980s. His moves have not always been popular, even within the IOC, but he has demonstrated a remarkably keen business sense.

For instance, five years ago he directed the move of the IOC's marketing from the Swiss company ISL to Meridian Management, a company the IOC partly owns.

ISL had been formed by Horst Dassler of Adidas, the shoe and sportswear company. Until he died in 1987, Dassler was a key Samaranch contact. ISL had handled IOC marketing for years, since the mid-1980s.

Earlier this year, however, ISL collapsed financially. ISL was the marketing partner for FIFA, soccer's world governing body, and its collapse has thrown the sport into disarray at the highest level.

"We saw the warning signs earlier than anyone else and got ourselves out quietly and firmly and thoroughly, before the stuff hit the fan," Pound says now.

Meanwhile, the Sydney 2000 Games marketing effort was the best in history, with the IOC generating nearly $1.9 billion in broadcast and sponsorship fees.

Such examples are why, to Pound, the presidential election is less about personality politics and more about issues.

Among them: negotiating a new TV contract for the Winter Games of 2010 and beyond with a U.S. and other networks. Pound was the point man for the IOC in NBC's 1995 $3.5-billion deal to televise the Games in the United States from 2000 through 2008.

Other issues: How to maintain the "brand value" of the Olympic rings and how to divide the largess; and how to combat the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes.

Recently, Pound has issued position papers--each one titled "confidential memorandum to IOC members"--on anti-doping, financing the Olympic movement, the size and scope of the Games and the issue of IOC member visits to cities bidding for the Games. And more.

IOC election rules prohibit the candidates from sharing such papers with the press. Nonetheless, these papers--obtained from sources by The Times--outline at length Pound's breadth and depth of knowledge, and his management style.

On the issue of IOC member visits to bid cities, for instance, he recounts the history of the 1999 decision to ban such visits, acknowledges that many members still regard the move as "an offense to their personal integrity" and reiterates his oft-stated commitment to "reassess all elements" of the IOC's 1999 reform plan.

He says he would form a special committee and ask it to consider at least eight questions, including how to fund any visits and how to "ensure public confidence in the selection process." And he says the whole thing would have to be done by 2003, in time for the IOC to vote on the site for the 2010 Winter Games.

"Dick is the most intelligent [of the candidates], the most capable and therefore the most qualified," one IOC supporter said.

Pound also has worked hard at showing in recent months that he can be every bit the statesman.

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