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Sparks select team president

Spears is a former entertainment industry executive and a longtime fan of the WNBA team.

February 06, 2007|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

Nancy Spears, a former entertainment industry executive, is the new president of the Sparks -- the result of a nationwide search that may have been superfluous.

Spears, whose appointment will be announced today by the WNBA team, is a recreation-league teammate of Sparks co-owner Carla Christofferson, who piqued her teammate's interest on a court last month at the Ketchum-Downtown YMCA.

Spears, who joins the Sparks from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, had recently returned from vacation and was unaware that the Sparks had been purchased from the Lakers two months ago by an investment group led by Christofferson and Kathy Goodman, lawyers who together bought a 55% stake.

As other teammates congratulated Christofferson on her new acquisition, "I was kind of being inquisitive about how it had come to be," said Spears, a 37-year-old former basketball and softball player at South Pasadena High. "She kind of threw it out there that, 'Hey, by the way, we're looking for a president.'

"And when she told me the skill sets that they were looking for, I'm like, 'Hey, I could do that. I'd be really interested in doing that.' "

Within hours, Spears was meeting with Christofferson and Goodman over drinks and within days the owners, impressed by Spears' extensive background in marketing to kids and families, had decided to bring her aboard. At one point in her career, Spears oversaw marketing involving such animation giants as Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, "Tom and Jerry" and DC Comics.

Spears will work in the Sparks' El Segundo offices until the team moves into its new downtown offices sometime in the next few weeks.

"We think she really is the perfect fit because of her experience and her attitude and her vision, so we are delighted," said Christofferson, adding that another plus for the Sparks was that Spears grew up in the Southland.

Like the new owners, the new club president is a sports business neophyte, but Spears implied that enthusiasm would outweigh their inexperience.

"The three of us bring a fresh perspective to the game because you've got three die-hard fans of the game and of the L.A. Sparks who have been very supportive of the team," said Spears, who regularly attended games.

"We understand it from a consumer side. That's going to help us in terms of making the in-arena experience a really, really positive one for the fans."

Penny Toler remains the Sparks' general manager, overseeing basketball operations.

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