Pac-12 announces George Kliavkoff as new commissioner
- Sports and media executive brings multifaceted expertise in managing change and driving results from roles at MGM Resorts, Hearst, NBCUniversal and Major League Baseball Advanced Media -
SAN FRANCISCO – The Pac-12 Conference announced today that, following a comprehensive global search led by its governing executive committee and TurnkeyZRG, accomplished sports business executive George Kliavkoff has been appointed Pac-12 Commissioner.
Kliavkoff (Klēē-ãv-cough), 54, brings unparalleled expertise and leadership in live sports and entertainment, fan experience, content creation and distribution, and navigating complicated environments. He comes to the Pac-12 Conference from MGM Resorts International, where he was president of entertainment and sports.
Kliavkoff’s appointment was supported by a unanimous vote of all Pac-12 presidents and chancellors. His five-year contract begins July 1.
“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,” said University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill, chair of the five-member search committee. “He is the new prototype for a sports commissioner. 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.”
“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 said. “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.”
In the coming weeks and months, Kliavkoff said he will meet with the athletic directors, coaches from a wide variety of men's and women’s sports, faculty athletic representatives, and a diverse set of student-athletes to learn more about the conference and begin building relationships at each of the Pac-12 institutions.
“The athletic directors in the Pac-12 look forward to working with George and supporting his success. As a student-athlete himself, George understands the challenges at all levels, including first and foremost from the student-athlete perspective,” said Bernard Muir, the Jaquish & Kenninger director of athletics at Stanford University.
An Accomplished Sports and Entertainment Executive
During his tenure at MGM Resorts International, Kliavkoff managed one of the largest live entertainment and sports businesses in the world and also oversaw the company’s sponsorship spend with professional and college sports leagues, conferences—including the Pac-12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments and the Pac-12 Football Championship Game—and teams. Additionally, he led the company’s global sponsorship sales efforts and sat on the board of BetMGM, one of the three largest U.S. sports betting companies.
A proponent of women’s sports, he served as a member of the Board of Governors of the WNBA and managed the Las Vegas Aces WNBA franchise prior to selling the team earlier this year to Las Vegas Raiders Owner Mark Davis.
In the media and entertainment space, Kliavkoff co-led the largest and most profitable division at Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, overseeing Hearst’s interests in cable television networks, including ESPN, A&E, Lifetime and HISTORY. He drove significant financial returns for Hearst by managing the purchase of a 50% stake in Mark Burnett Productions, which included signature programming such as Survivor, The Apprentice, Shark Tank, The Voice and The Bible, and then later negotiating a sale to MGM Studios.
Kliavkoff was the first chief digital officer at NBCUniversal, where he set corporate digital media strategy and developed new business models and markets. At NBCU, Kliavkoff partnered with News Corp to incubate and launch Hulu, which became a top five U.S. video site within six months of launch. Kliavkoff served as the interim CEO of Hulu until the first full-time CEO was hired, and he served on the joint venture’s board.
“One of the best hires I ever made,” said Beth Comstock, NIKE board member, the first female vice chair of General Electric and the former president of Integrated Media at NBCUniversal. “George is an inclusive team builder, consensus builder, thought leader and world-class collaborator. He’s brilliant at solving complex puzzles, again and again finding solutions that work for everybody.”
Prior to NBCU, Kliavkoff was executive vice president of business for Major League Baseball Advanced Media and managed corporate development, business development, and baseball’s digital media subscription and licensing businesses.
Kliavkoff started his career as an attorney at prominent law firms in Los Angeles and Seattle and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law.
About the Selection Process
The search committee included the Pac-12 executive committee, led by Schill as chair; Kirk H. Schulz, Washington State University president; and Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington. They were joined by University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano and University of Southern California President Carol Folt, forming a five-person search committee to reflect the diversity of the Conference.
The committee was assisted by TurnkeyZRG, which has placed more than 25 directors of athletics and recently placed the new Commissioner of the ACC. TurnkeyZRG and the search committee considered a global pool of more than 200 highly qualified and diverse candidates for the job, including traditional college sports, entertainment and media executives.
Outgoing Commissioner Larry Scott 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.”
The Pac-12 and Student-Athlete Success
The Pac-12 CEO Group expects the new Commissioner to continue to prioritize positive graduation rates for the Conference’s student-athletes in concert with its member institutions. President Schill reiterated the Conference’s improvements in graduation rates as measured by the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR). With 90% of NCAA Division I student-athletes now graduating during the measured period, the Pac-12 experienced improvements across the Conference, with some member institutions and athletic programs achieving 100% graduation rates among student-athletes in specific sports programs.
The Pac-12 Conference has led or tied the nation in NCAA Championships in 54 of the last 60 years, with the exceptions coming no lower than third. The Conference also debuted its Impact program using the power of sport to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion. It also played a leadership role with its Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative, which is doing groundbreaking research into injury prevention, brain trauma and mental health.
Other Pac-12 Conference milestones and those of its member institutions can be found on the Pac-12 website.
For more information regarding the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR), visit here.