During this edition of my interview series, I was extremely lucky to be joined by Jacksonville Jaguars’ team president Mark Lamping, who has one of the most impressive resumes I have ever seen. Before Mark took over as president of the Jaguars, he was the CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company, team president of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Director of Sports Marketing for Anheuser-Busch. Mark has succeeded in every role he has been in, and offers great insight into how he was able to build such an impressive background.
Mark is a very humble person, but a quick review of his past shows just how intriguing he is. Mark knew he wanted to get into sports, but he started his career at Anheuser-Busch, which one could argue was the main reason he was able to work his way up to president of the St. Louis Cardinals. As Mark explains in our interview, many aspects of his career were serendipitous, but it all can be traced back to his days at Anheuser-Busch.
Throughout our conversation Mark talks about:
- How being president of a football team is both similar and different to being president of a baseball team
- What new owner Shahid Khan has brought to the Jacksonville Jaguars
- Mark’s role with day-to-day team activities, and his relationship with General Manager Gene Smith
- Advice Mark would give to those seeking to break into the business of sports
Sports Job Interview with Mark Lamping – President, Jacksonville Jaguars
Mark Lamping – Interview Transcription
Lucas Biebelberg: Ladies and Gentlemen thanks again for joining us today on sportsnetworker.com. Today I’m very humbled to be joined by Mark Lamping: former team president of the St. Louis Cardinals, former CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company, and current team president of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mark, how are you today?
Mark Lamping: I’m doing fine, and obviously you humble very easily!
Lucas Biebelberg: Well thanks for joining us today and let’s jump right into the first question here. As the former team president of the St. Louis Cardinals and former CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company, what path did you take that allowed you to build such an incredible background?
Mark Lamping: Well I got very, very lucky early on in my career. I started with Anheuser-Busch in a training and development program in their corporate finance and planning division and was fortune through that process to migrate into the marketing department and through a lot of very fortunate timing and relationships that I had built during my time there, I was fortunate to become the Director of Sports Marketing at Anheuser-Busch and after leaving the company for just a few months, the baseball strike of 1994 was getting very close. Anheuser-Busch owned the St. Louis Cardinals and at that point in time, August Busch III, the Chairman of Anheuser-Busch, decided that they needed to bring someone into the franchise that came from more of a sales and marketing background versus a labor relations background which traditionally what Anheuser-Busch had done. Generally what would happen in the past was when it was time to name a president of the St. Louis Cardinals, Anheuser-Busch would give that opportunity to the head of their Labor Relations group, particularly someone who was nearly the end of their career. So, I was really lucky that they had made a decision to go with the path of someone that had a sales and marketing background. Since I was a very familiar commodity and had worked very closely with senior management at Anheuser-Busch, I was given the unbelievable opportunity at a very young age to become president of the Cardinals. So, out of the blue at age 36 I was named president of the club.
Lucas Biebelberg: You’re now the current team president of the Jacksonville Jaguars. How would you say your position as president of a football team differs from your role as president of a baseball team?
Mark Lamping: Well, a lot of the fundamentals are the same. It’s about trying to build the best possible team you can no matter what type of sport you happen to be in or what type of industry you happen to be working in. You’re only going to be as good as the people that you work with, so those fundamentals are all the same. The aspect of having great employees and making sure that they recognize their importance is important. We invest in our employees and in turn we ask that our employees be focused on those things that are most important, and, given the resources to be successful we hold them accountable for results. So, from that perspective, football, baseball, and any type of industry are pretty much the same. Specifically, football versus baseball has a huge difference. The business model for football is very different than the baseball model. The emotion and importance of each and every game in football pales in comparison to baseball. Baseball is a great sport, but the season is like a slow, steady drumbeat and it unfolds like a great novel over many, many months. Football is not that way. You need to be ready to go as if it’s the seventh game of the World Series on opening day of the NFL season. That’s how important the games are, and that’s the importance that NFL fans put on the games each and every week.
Lucas Biebelberg: Since new owner Shahid Khan took over the franchise recently, have you noticed any changes, significantly within the organization?
Mark Lamping: Well I didn’t work here prior to Shahid purchasing the team, so anything I would be commenting about prior to me getting here would just be things that I did not have the opportunity to observe first hand. I can tell you that Shahid has brought a tremendous amount of energy to this organization, and his genesis is in a couple of areas. First, Shahid is a wonderful guy. He not only cares about the people that work for him, but he cares about their families as well. He has an unbelievable success story and as such, he has very, very high expectations for the entire organization. The great thing about Shahid is that he is also prepared to allow people to make decisions and give the resources necessary to be successful. And all we need to do in return is to be accountable for results, and there’s not a person around who wouldn’t take that structure each and every day. If you have a boss who believes in you and will give you the resources necessary to be successful and will allow you to make decisions, and all you have to is be accountable for your results, that’s about as good as it gets.
Lucas Biebelberg: What is your relationship like with general manager Gene Smith, and what role do you two have on a day-to-day basis within team decisions?
Mark Lamping: Well, we’re peers. Both Gene and I report to the owner Shahid Khan. We have very specific roles and responsibilities. Gene is responsible for providing players that compete on the field, and I’m responsible for activities off the field. In many respects, it’s my role to do everything we possibly can on the business side to support Gene in his efforts and the efforts of Mike Mularkey, our head coach.
Lucas Biebelberg: What would you say was the most powerful decision you made throughout your career in sports?
Mark Lamping: Well, that’s a tough one. Probably the decision I made when I was 35 years old to leave the job as Group Director of Sports Marketing at Anheuser-Busch to become the commissioner of the Continental Basketball Association. I made that decision at a relatively young age and probably didn’t realize the magnitude of the decision that I had just made. I left Anheuser-Busch on the best of terms and, low-and-behold, about five months later, I got a call back from Anheuser-Busch wondering if I might be interested in returning to the company as president of the Cardinals. I don’t know if the fact that I left reminded them that maybe I might be somebody who could fit into their plans long-term with the franchise or not, but it was sort of serendipity. Sometimes the best comes out of things that you don’t necessarily expect.
Lucas Biebelberg: Mark, the last question we have for you today is what advice would you give to those aspiring to break into the business of sports?
Mark Lamping: Well first, keep your options open. Sports Business is a very, very difficult industry to get into. Simple economics: you have a lot of people who want to get into sports, and you don’t have a lot of jobs that are open, with very few exceptions. Normally, sports teams aren’t adding jobs. It’s not a fairly mature industry, so you’re not going to see a lot of organic job growth. And that’s compacted by the fact that you don’t have a lot of turnover. So my advice to young people is to always keep your options open. You don’t have to go directly into sports, you can always migrate into sports, which is what I did. When you are young in your career and you want to go into sports, you think that’s the case, but keep your options open. If you can’t get into sports, go into an industry that provides you career opportunities and perhaps can take you down a path that can make you someone who can be very desirable for a sports team later down your career. Try to focus on those core competencies that you believe makes executives in sports very successful, and see if you can acquire those core competencies and develop them in other industries that quite honestly could pay you a lot more than an entry level position.
Lucas Biebelberg: Well Mark thanks very much for joining us today. For sportsnetworker.com I’m Lucas Biebelberg, have a great day.
Mark Lamping: Ok Lucas, take care. It’s been great speaking to you!
Is your dream to be the President of a professional sports team? Was there anything that Mark said in the interview that stood out for you to help you get closer to your dream? Let us know in the comments below or send us a tweet to @sportsnetworker
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