Dave Checketts to Lead New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, Goldman Sachs Venture

Ken Kraetzer@SAL50NYRadioCorrespondent IIJanuary 20, 2012

David Checketts will lead sports hospitality venture including Yankees, Cowboys, and Goldman Sachs (Legends H.M.)
David Checketts will lead sports hospitality venture including Yankees, Cowboys, and Goldman Sachs (Legends H.M.)

The growth potential in the world of premium stadium seating and hospitality has attracted former Madison Square Garden boss David Checketts to join legends Hospitality Management, LL.  This appointment was announced Wednesday by the partner organizations.

This a venture founded by the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys, and Goldman Sachs to develop the new stadiums, manage food, beverage and merchandise services, and sell premium seating.  Checketts succeeds Mike Rawlings of CIC Partners who leaves to become mayor of Dallas.

Coming with Mr. Checketts is his private equity firm, Checketts Partners Investment Fund.  Mr. Checketts said in a release issued by the Yankees:

I have always looked to associate myself with strong brands and successful businesses.  This is no different.  In fact, between Goldman Sachs, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, I’m sure you cannot get any better.  Additionally, the ability for my Fund to join with Legends on future acquisitions provides us with the capital that will enable us to look to grow this company significantly.

Checketts has a long background in sports marketing and management, having led Madison Square Garden during their glamorous days of the 1990s when Pat Ewing made the New York Knicks a consistent NBA contender and Mark Messier and the New York Rangers hockey team won their only post WWII Stanley Cup Championship in 1994. 

It is notable that during the Cheketts era at MSG, the Knicks sold out 460 straight games and Forbes magazine named the Knicks the most valuable team in the NBA.  The Garden was the place to be and for celebrities to be seen.  Only recently has this aura returned.

Yankee Stadium Projects Grandeur (K. Kraetzer)
Yankee Stadium Projects Grandeur (K. Kraetzer)

Notably, this is the period that Madison Square Garden took over management of New York City landmark Radio City Music Hall and conducted a restoration of the famed theater.  In 1997, Cablevision bought ownership of Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and Rangers from ITT, according to the New York Times.

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You might say the organizational leadership skills of Dave Checketts was missed around MSG the past decade.

Checketts attracted professional sports management responsibilities early in his career.  At the age of 28 he was named president and general manage of the Utah Jazz.   This followed graduate school at Brigham Young University and a time at Bain & Company in Boston

Legends confirmed Dave Checketts is a friend and colleague of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

After leaving the Garden, Checketts started Sports Capital Partners in September 2001. In 2004, the firm bought a Major League Soccor franchise for Utah and opened a dedicated facility for the team to play in in Sandy, Utah, the 20,000 seat Rio Tinto Stadium.  The firm bought the St. Louis Blues and their home arena the Scottrade Center in 2006. 

Checketts hired John Davidson, former NHL goaltender and New York Ranger broadcaster for twenty years, to be the general manager of the Blues. 

Legends Hospitality Management, LLC was formed in 2008 based on the building of the two of the most expensive stadium projects in history, Yankee Stadium in New York which opened in 2009 and Cowboys Stadium in Texas which opened in 2010, according to Sync Weekly.    

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
Cowboys owner Jerry JonesWesley Hitt/Getty Images

Both stadiums are estimated to have cost over $1.3 billion dollars to construct and depend on enterprising premium seating and suite plans to be economically feasible. 

That these stadiums opened during the worst recession in generations forced the management of both facilities to be aggressive and innovative in finding premium customers.  This lead to a strong accumulation of organizational learning in what works and possibly what doesn't in planning, selling and providing hospitality to luxury-minded customers.

Currently, Legends has two major projects on going in California. The first is a multi-year effort to upgrade the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.  Second to help the San Francisco 49ers sell premium seating for their proposed new new 68,500 seat stadium near Great America theme park in Santa Clara, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Legends representative Eric Gelfand said:

The Steinbrenners and Jerry Jones share a commitment to a high value of fan experience.  The Stadiums were designed together, although the menu items may differ, fans experience the same level of service, the Legends Way

Hal Steinbrenner of the Yankees said of Dave Checketts, "He has proved himself an astute manager, entrepreneur and investor over the course of a long career built on a very solid sports and entertainment foundation."

Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones commented in the release:

Mike Rawlings did an outstanding job directing the creation of this partnership, and now we are well positioned to capitalize on the growth opportunities available to us in the future with the experience and expertise of Dave Checketts. Dave has a terrific track record of success in the business of sports and entertainment, and is one of the most respected entrepreneurial minds in the industry.

Mohegan Sun Area at Yankee Stadium (K.Kraetzer)
Mohegan Sun Area at Yankee Stadium (K.Kraetzer)

Legends Hospitality Management operates catering, concessions and retail merchandising at the two major stadiums as well as several minor league ball parks. They see a strong expansion market both domestically and internationally as professional stadiums are built or remodeled to generate more revenue.  

Have to imagine the college market often comprising much older facilities such as football stadiums, basketball arenas, offers considerable opportunities to design and upgrade facilities.  This should only increase as the economy slowly moves out of recession. 

Many job opportunities for those who master the business skills involved with food and beverage, merchandise retailing, digital signage and major account sales.

Ken Kraetzer covers West Point Football and Iona College basketball for WVOX in New Rochelle, NY and has taught sports marketing at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY.  His Twitter address in SAL50NYRADIO