Olympic committee gets new chair

Posted: Monday, October 22, 2001

CHICAGO -- The U.S. Olympic Committee is going with an outsider again, picking former Maytag chairman Lloyd Ward as its new chief executive officer.

Ward, the unanimous choice Sunday of the USOC's executive committee, will begin work Nov. 1 at the Olympic House in Colorado Springs, Colo.

''Lloyd has great charisma, is an excellent speaker and understands marketing,'' USOC president Sandra Baldwin said. ''He will bring the USOC not only charismatic leadership, but a great sense of being able to elevate the organization to the next level.''

Ward is the permanent replacement for corporate turnaround artist Norm Blake, who resigned under pressure in October 2000, after just nine months on the job. Blake, the USOC's first CEO, angered many with his sweeping staff cuts and controversial funding reform plan, and critics said his management techniques were better suited to the business world than athletics.

Scott Blackmun, who joined the USOC in 1999, has been the interim CEO since then. He's been credited by many with soothing conflicts sparked during Blake's tenure between the USOC and the national bodies that run individual sports, and easing tensions among the committee's staff. He had the support of the national governing bodies, and Baldwin tried to have him named to the position on a permanent basis in January.

But others wanted either a national figure or someone from the corporate world. A nine-member search committee was formed, led by Donald Fehr, head of the baseball players association.

Blackmun was one of the three finalists, along with Ward and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke.

''Obviously I feel pretty honored to have been selected for the final (round),'' Schmoke said. ''It's a real honor and I'm glad that I participated.''

But Ward, a former captain of the Michigan State basketball team, seemed to impress the executive committee with his enthusiasm and energy. Instead of coming into the interview with simple notes and thoughts, he brought his laptop computer and gave a presentation.

He seemed upbeat as he left the interview, the last the board conducted. He could not be reached for comment after the decision was made.

Blackmun was flying back to Denver and couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

''We wanted this executive committee to have the opportunity to pick from different candidates,'' Baldwin said of why a national search was done. ''In our last search we had only one candidate (Blake) brought forward.''

Ward will be the first African-American to lead the USOC, but Baldwin said that wasn't a consideration.

''I believe the executive committee was trying to pick the best possible candidate, yet we know we always look for diversity,'' she said.

The USOC has 500-plus staff members and a budget of just under $500 million every quadrennium. Ward will take over just three months before the Salt Lake City Olympics, so he'll have to get off to a quick start.

But Baldwin said she's confident Ward is ready for the challenge.

''I think he's a very quick study,'' she said.

Ward joined Maytag in 1996 and was the company's chairman and CEO for 15 months before leaving last November. He then served as chairman and CEO of iMotors.com in San Francisco until July.

Before going to Maytag, Ward was an executive with Pepsico, serving as president of Frito-Lay Inc.'s central division from 1992-96. He was named executive of the year by Black Enterprise Magazine in 1995.

He has also served on the board of directors for General Motors, J.P. Morgan Chase and Company and the Belo Corp.

Ward graduated from Michigan State in 1970 and got his MBA from Xavier in 1984.

''I'm very pleased with how the process went,'' Baldwin said. ''We're really looking forward to our real mission, and that's getting ready for the games in Salt Lake.''

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