A Major League Hit: MLB CFO Talks Baseball Economics to Business of Sports Club

The Business of Sports Club hosted a very special guest presenter on Wednesday, October 5, when Jonathan Mariner, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Major League Baseball, visited his alma mater as a speaker for the first time.

Mr. Mariner (HBS ’79) enlightened a classroom full of HBS students about the economics of sports in a presentation entitled “The Business of Professional Sports: An Insider’s View of Comparative Business Models.”

Armed with a PowerPoint presentation arranged in A, B, and C cases (HBS style), Mr. Mariner delivered a riveting case for how each of the professional sports leagues delicately balances economics and labor relations. Examining each of the four major sports, detailed financials illustrated the different business models and the sustainability of each. Each of the four sports has suffered multiple labor stoppages or lockouts in the past 20 years, including the loss of the entire 2004-05 National Hockey League season.

Mr. Mariner highlighted the downward path Major League Baseball was on until the contract re-negotiations in 2001, when contraction of two baseball teams was discussed. After months of difficult bargaining, an agreement was reached which allowed both sides to achieve satisfaction and provide financial stability for league owners.

The presentation was followed by a half-hour question and answer session which featured a wide-range of questions. Mr. Mariner provided advice on how to pursue a career in professional sports, the current state of labor relations, and insights into the owners’ perspectives. The program was warmly received by all those in attendance. Many club members commented after the presentation that Mariner’s talk compared favorably to those given by sports-world luminaries such as Bob Kraft and Wyc Grousbeck last year, as well as to those of high-profile executives in other industries.

“We were fortunate to have a sports executive with a truly diverse background who was willing to share his time and knowledge with a classroom of interested students,” said Chris Harlan, co-president of the Business of Sports Club. “Jonathan Mariner really connected with the audience and delivered an excellent presentation on the comparative financials of the major sports leagues,” Harlan added

Mr. Mariner currently serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Major League Baseball in the Office of the Commissioner.ÿ In addition to his daily responsibilities for overseeing the Major League Baseball’s central office budgeting, financial reporting, and risk management activities, Mr. Mariner’s responsibilities also include administering MLB’s $1.5 billion league-wide credit facility; providing updates at Owners’ Meetings on the industry’s financial health; overseeing all team-level financial reporting through the team CFOs; and providing financial reviews on potential ownership applications.ÿ Mr. Mariner also serves on several Commissioner-appointed League-wide committees, including Finance and Compensation; Revenue Sharing; Long-range Planning; Franchise Relocation; and the new Debt Service Rule Committee, which governs the level of Club indebtedness.

Mr. Mariner has also served as the Chief Operating Officer and CFO of Charter Schools USA (CSUSA); Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the Florida Marlins Baseball Club; Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the Florida Panthers Hockey Club; Chief Financial Officer for Pro Player Stadium, home for both the Florida Marlins and Miami Dolphins; and Vice President of Finance and Administration for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Mr. Mariner also currently serves on the Board of Directors of BankAtlantic Bancorp (commercial banking); Ryan, Beck, and Co. (investment banking); and Steiner Leisure, Ltd., the worldwide leading provider of salon and spa services to the cruise ship industry.

A graduate from the University of Virginia with a B.S. degree in Accounting, an MBA from the Harvard Business School, and a Certified Public Accountant, Mr. Mariner has been listed in the Top 10 of Sports Illustrated’s annual listing of the 101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports. ÿ

October 17, 2005
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