THE European Tour has plumped for an expert in modern media markets to guide it into a new era with the appointment of Canadian Keith Pelley as George O’Grady’s successor as chief executive.
Pelley, who negotiated the largest sports rights deal in Canadian history with the acquisition of a £3.5 billion National Hockey League package for 12 years, is set to join the Wentworth-based organisation this summer.
The 51-year-old is currently president of Rogers Media, a media conglomerate in Canada, with responsibility for all lines of the media business, including 51 radio stations, 56 publications, 12 national TV stations plus 42 local stations, 300 digital properties as well as the Toronto Blue Jays, Canada’s only Major League baseball team.
Prior to joining Rogers, he was president of Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, where he created and led the media consortium for all broadcast rights holders for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, with responsibility for all production, programming, marketing, sales and sponsorship in the run-up to and during the Games. Earlier in his career, Pelley, who had a spell at Trinity College, London, in between studying at the Martingrove Collegiate Institute and Ryerson University in Canada, was CEO of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, during which the team won the championship title in his first year of leadership.
“I am delighted to welcome Keith Pelley to the European Tour as our new chief executive,” said chairman David Williams.
“Keith’s proven track record, extensive experience and outstanding leadership skills in both sport and media will be invaluable as we continue to further develop our strategy.
“Throughout the interview process, it was clear that Keith has an unwavering passion for golf as well as a strong grasp of the challenges and opportunities facing not only the European Tour, but the wider game of golf as a whole. He knows the game, respects its history and I have no doubt he will bring an innovative approach to the development of the European Tour on the global stage.”
Pelley’s appointment has been met with the approval of both O’Grady, who announced last November that he would be standing down from the post once a successor had been found, and Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the European Tour’s tournament committee.
“I look forward to welcoming Keith to the European Tour and ensuring a smooth transition as I continue to develop my new role. I am certain that Keith will bring a fresh and business-focused perspective to the Tour,” said O’Grady, who was promoted from within when he stepped up to succeed Ken Schofield a decade ago.
Bjørn, speaking on behalf of the Tour’s membership, added: “I am delighted to welcome Keith Pelley as our new chief executive.
“Having spoken to him at length, I know the passion and commitment he will bring to the role as the Tour moves forward. You only need to look at what he has achieved in sports and business to date to see that his record speaks for itself.”
Guy Kinnings, global head of golf for IMG, was instantly mentioned once O’Grady’s departure was made public, but Williams and his fellow board members have opted instead for an unknown quantity in the golfing world, although Pelley is said to be very passionate about the sport, playing off five at both Lambton Golf and Country Club and Goodwood Golf Club in Canada.
“Keith has a highly successful career in the worlds of sport and media,” said a press release announcing his appointment. “He has a deep understanding of the professional athlete, having worked with them for over 30 years across several major sports including the National Football League, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and the Canadian Football League.
“This, combined with his extensive experience in rights management and negotiations; sponsorship creation; television production; marketing; communications; brand development and event management, made Keith the unanimous choice of the board’s nominations committee.”
Pelley said he was “honoured” and claimed that his arrival coincided with a “an exciting stage in its development”, which could refer to recent speculation about a possible merger with the PGA of Australia.
“The Tour already has a highly regarded reputation and I look forward to building on this using my previous experience in both media and sports to ensure it remains at forefront of the game across the globe,” he said.
“Throughout my career in North America, it has been a privilege to work with the best sports organisations, athletes, and media assets. I am excited to build on these experiences on the international stage.”