In the World of Sports Business, She Has Game


The woman sitting next to David Stern in the center-court seats at Staples Center is Heidi Ueberroth, who has been traveling in elite circles her whole life.

Yes, she is the daughter of Peter Ueberroth, but that is not why she gets to sit with the NBA commissioner.

Ueberroth, 35, is the executive vice president for global media properties and marketing partnerships for NBA Entertainment, a position that makes her the highest-ranking woman executive in the NBA and one of the highest in all of professional sports.

She is hurdling triple barriers--being a woman in the international sports business, introducing the NBA around the world and breaking new ground for American business.

Ueberroth oversees a global operation unmatched in sports. The NBA Finals are being televised in 205 countries in 41 languages by 91 telecasters. Ueberroth is responsible for advertising and marketing internationally, plus non-game programming deals in the U.S.

She is selling the NBA--and all its high-tech marketing--to the world. And the world is buying it.

Ueberroth joined the NBA in 1994 as director of international media, became a vice president in 1997, a senior vice president in 1999 and was promoted to her current position in 2000.

The job, naturally, has involved a lot of international travel.

That doesn't bother Ueberroth. She loves to travel. It's in her blood.

Her father was in the travel business before becoming the head of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and then the commissioner of major league baseball.

She recalls traveling to Hong Kong with her family at 11. She made a trip to France with a friend, Allison Hahn, and Hahn's grandmother, Barbara Busby, when she was 13. She spent her senior year of high school studying in Switzerland.

Sports have also been a big part of Ueberroth's life. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley, one of four Ueberroth children, and attended Birmingham High in Van Nuys. She competed in youth soccer, volleyball, basketball and swimming, specializing in the butterfly.

Ueberroth says there are three things she loves, besides her family, of course. They are travel, sports and television. And now she has a job involving all three.

"It's great," she says. "I've been very lucky."

Ueberroth, who majored in English at Vanderbilt, is fluent in French and can also speak a number of other languages.

After college she landed a job marketing tennis for Ohlmeyer Communications in Paris. Before joining the NBA, she spent one year, 1993, with ESPN after Ohlmeyer Communications was acquired by the sports cable network.

Don Ohlmeyer was with NBC and involved in that network's unsuccessful bid for the 1984 Olympics when he met Peter Ueberroth in the late 1970s.

"One of the sayings I have up in my office reads, 'Next time hire someone who wants to work in this business, not just be in it,' " Ohlmeyer said.

"Well, Heidi works at her business. David Stern is a real genius and an excellent judge of people, and Heidi is a good example of that. She is very smart, talented and has always been mature for her age and serious about her work."

When Heidi was in the sixth grade, her teacher in Encino asked her to make a 20-minute class presentation on her trip to Hong Kong. It turned into a three-hour presentation. After that, she was known as Hong Kong Heidi.

Now she is All World.

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