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Pac-12’s new hire George Kliavkoff ‘is the new prototype for a sports commissioner’

SHARE Pac-12’s new hire George Kliavkoff ‘is the new prototype for a sports commissioner’

George Kliavkoff, previously the president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts, is the new Pac-12 commissioner, the league announced Thursday, May 13, 2021.

Business Wire via Associated Press

The Pac-12 has its new commissioner to replace the departing Larry Scott.

The Associated Press’ Ralph D. Russo was the first of multiple media outlets to report Thursday that sports entertainment executive George Kliavkoff of MGM Resorts will be the league’s next commissioner. The league confirmed the news soon thereafter.

The 54-year-old Kliavkoff’s five-year contract begins July 1.

“I am thrilled to be the Pac-12 commissioner. This is a challenging time for intercollegiate athletics, but I believe these challenges also create significant opportunities,” Kliavkoff, who was a collegiate rower at Boston University, said in a news release. “I loved being a student-athlete, and I’m passionate about the doors that college sports and higher education open for young women and men. My job at the Pac-12 will be to help manage the balance between continued academic excellence, student-athlete well-being and an even higher level of athletic achievement.”

George Kliavkoff’s work history

  • Kliavkoff joined MGM Resorts International in 2018 as president of sports and entertainment, after prior serving as the president and CEO of Jaunt Inc., a virtual reality start-up whose clients included Disney and sports organizations like the NFL, NBA and MLB, per Sports Travel Magazine.
  • He served as a member of the board of governors of the WNBA, and also managed the Las Vegas Aces WNBA franchise prior to selling the team earlier this year to Mark Davis, owner of the Las Vegas Raiders.
  • Kliavkoff’s resume also includes roles at Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, NBCUniversal and MLB Advanced Media. While at NBCUniversal, he worked with News Corp. to launch Hulu.
  • Kliavkoff emphasized something that will help him as he leads the Pac-12 in coming years, which includes negotiating the league’s new media rights deal, is his understanding of how large-scale events are built, particularly in regard to television and sports. “I made the jump because I am passionate about the vision of the Pac-12 Conference,” Kliavkoff said.
  • “At each step of his career, George has navigated complex, quickly changing environments and has been a successful consensus builder. George is a visionary leader with an extraordinary background as a pioneering sports, entertainment and digital media executive, and we are delighted and honored that he has agreed to become our next Pac-12 commissioner,” Oregon president Michael H. Schill, chairman of the five-member search committee, said in a news release.

The interview process

  • Schill said more than 200 qualified candidates interviewed for the position, among them executives from the traditional sports, entertainment and media fields.
  • “He is the new prototype for a sports commissioner,” Schill said of Kliavkoff. “While George has deep sports experience, his biggest asset is his ability to listen, connect with diverse groups, find common ground, collaborate and navigate an evolving landscape. We believe George’s overall skills and experience will become even more prevalent in college sports leadership.”
  • Outgoing commissioner Larry Scott, whose final day is June 30, said, “It has been an honor to serve as commissioner of the Pac-12 for the past 11 years, and I believe the conference is well-positioned for continued success and growth. I look forward to working with George and ensuring a smooth transition.”

What’s next

  • Kliavkoff said he is in favor of expanding the College Football Playoff and supports legislation that would allow student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness. “We believe they are good for sports fans ... and good for the Pac-12,” he said.

  • The new commissioner plans on going what he called a “listening tour” of the Pac-12’s institutions once he begins work in July to learn about the needs on each campus. “My intention is to listen and to learn,” he said.  
  • He also mentioned the job will bring new challenges for him personally, working with college administrators among them, and left the door open to the conference adding a senior executive to help in that regard. “Stay tuned,” Kliavkoff said.

What others have said

Several national reporters shared their thoughts and insights about the hire.