THE SCION ALSO RISES DREW MCCOURT, 23, IS GETTING A CRASH COURSE IN RUNNING A BASEBALL CLUB, THANKS TO MOM AND DAD.
Drew McCourt stood in the back of a recent Dodgers news conference wearing a pastel pink Oxford shirt, hip blazer and jeans. With short-cropped hair and a boyish face, McCourt looked the part of a college kid heading out for a night on Sunset Boulevard.
What's en vogue for the 23-year-old son of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is finding creative ways to promote the Dodgers. As the team's new marketing director, Drew McCourt quietly watched his parents pledge money to the Dodgers Dream Foundation alongside Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel.
Frank and his wife, Jamie, are the outspoken faces of the Dodgers. Drew is more of an unknown quantity, a man two years out of Columbia University, where in just three years he earned a degree in astrophysics.
Now he's taking a crash course in Baseball 101. The whiz kid from Boston could be owner of the Dodgers someday.
``I think he's clearly up to the challenge,'' said Jamie McCourt, who also serves as the team's vice chairman. ``He's incredibly talented, broad-minded, and he's incredibly anxious to always be learning. He's involved himself in an array of opportunities that have given him experience in a lot of different matters. I think it's served him well.''
In her office, just down the hall from her son's, Jamie has an old picture of Drew in a Dodgers Little League uniform. With the help of his parents and other mentors, Drew is learning how to corner the Los Angeles baseball market in a time of change. The ownership transition has seen the highs of the playoffs and lows of fan violence at Dodger Stadium.
Marketing isn't rocket science. That, Drew could easily handle. This is a different ballgame, one Drew relishes.
``It's a great opportunity, and I feel fortunate,'' Drew said. ``Hopefully, I can make a significant impact.''
Drew already is a pivotal player in the organization, sitting in on all meetings of high-ranking officials. He started as assistant of baseball operations when the McCourts took over in January 2004, then became director of business development and last month was promoted to marketing director after the firing of three major Dodgers executives.
Frank says he'd like one or all of his four sons to own the team one day. And by exposing Drew to different aspects of the business, it seems he's being groomed for that role.
``He's very smart and very together,'' a source said. ``He's a good guy with some bright ideas. But at 23, he doesn't have the experience. That's the key at this point. What will be interesting to see is if he's held accountable for any of the mistakes. Can a McCourt actually fire a McCourt?''
Drew has an impressive resume - one that includes research on the universe's mass - but lacks experience in marketing, baseball and inner workings of the city. He says he has nothing to prove.
``I don't feel that way. It depends - to who? That's the question,'' Drew said recently. ``I feel I'm accomplished. I feel I bring a lot to the table. Hopefully, that translates into (our) vision (high road, long view, work hard) and the success of this business. I have something to accomplish. I don't feel I have to prove anything.''
Jeanie Buss, the Lakers' executive vice president of business operations, battled professional insecurities until five years ago. Buss started in the family business as a 19-year-old general manager of the Los Angeles Strings, a World Team Tennis franchise. Buss has always worked for her father, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, but said her one regret was not working outside the family business.
She immersed herself in business operations and learned first-hand how every department functioned. She invited Drew and the McCourt family to a couple of Lakers games, and, for Drew, who could be a better mentor?
``He's in a family business, and the fact it's such a highly visible organization adds to the pressure,'' Buss said. ``I think he'll do a great job. You can't be afraid to make mistakes. You're just going to have to gain experience. That's going to be the most important thing.''
Drew is well-traveled and educated. He landed his first job as a parking-lot attendant at age 12 and has worked in the family's Boston-based real estate empire and construction business.
After parking cars, he did manual labor, mostly highway and road work, digging and such, then became a superintendent. One summer in college, he helped run a project in Barcelona.
Drew played Little League baseball, quarterbacked his high school football team and played hockey. He was a forward for Columbia's hockey team. He has a passion for drawing and pottery, and some of his pieces are displayed in his parents' home. The Dodgers are hoping to tap into that creative side for their game-day entertainment and promotions.
The McCourts joke that every baseball team needs an astrophysicist. Drew said he has had many mentors, but his parents have been the steady, guiding influences in his life. Frank is very proud Drew is in the family business but implies his son in not receiving special treatment.
``Drew has a job, and with that responsibility, he's held accountable, like everybody else,'' Frank McCourt said. ``There's no hand-holding that goes on here. I want everyone to feel like they're part of a team and collaborative environment. We're all here for a common purpose. We all want to build a championship team for L.A. We want to create the single best environment, which is the most entertaining and family-friendly.''
The McCourts worked on Dodger Stadium's $15 million facelift. Drew was a project manager and primary spokesman for that project, which was barely completed before controversy sparked. The field's view is partially blocked for patrons in the 1,600 pricey, new seats, and no new restrooms were added in that section.
The Dodgers made a grand gaffe on April 27, when they distributed 50,000 fleece blankets in a promotion. The blankets celebrated World Series championships in 1962 and 1966, rather than the correct years, 1963 and 1965. The Dodgers still handed out the blankets - many of which are being auctioned on eBay, the errors highlighted - with a coupon to receive a corrected version. Sources say Drew signed off on the promotion.
Insiders say he's a good listener, an instrumental asset early in his career. He's well-spoken, too, but the crisis-management firm the Dodgers hired two months ago is keeping tabs on his every word.
Drew reports to Marty Greenspun, the club's executive vice president and chief operating officer, but the Dodgers plan to make another hire, who will oversee Drew.
Already, he has been involved with several new promotions. He was excited about the $2 True Blue Tuesdays promotion the Dodgers instituted this season, with $2 tickets in selected areas of the stadium.
The idea was created by the marketing team, and the Dodgers got what they wanted in terms of attendance, averaging 42,838 - up from the customary 20,000-something crowds.
But the promotion created a firestorm of bad publicity. The team had problems with fans and security both nights. On May 3, fans in the right-field pavilion delayed the game nearly 10 minutes by throwing debris on the field after two fans were arrested for running onto the field.
The promotion - not scheduled for this Tuesday - might be discontinued. The club also is promising a greater police presence at future games.
``I was thrilled to see the response and number of fans that showed up,'' Drew said. ``Obviously, I'm disappointed in that isolated event. We've taken every step necessary to address it. ...
``I'm always learning and downloading (information). From my vantage point, it was a very successful promotion, and a lot of people deserve a lot of credit. I wouldn't say it changed my perspective. It's more information, which is always great. The biggest thing to realize is how impactful it is.''
No days are bad days, according to Drew. He said he sees opportunities and challenges.
When Frank McCourt bought the team, he said at the time that Drew would see after a year how he liked working in baseball. Obviously, he was intrigued more by baseball than high-level consulting gigs.
He's enamored with Los Angeles culture and lives in Santa Monica.
Drew is said to be responsible for luring Playboy icon Hugh Hefner and a few Playmates to a game last year. That made for a star-studded front-row, with Frank and Jamie on one end and Phil Jackson and Jeanie Buss on the other.
Most marketing directors fly under the radar, unless, of course, they have the same last name as the owner. Drew's work undoubtedly will be closely monitored and critiqued.
``It's a very high-profile position, and you're being asked, on the one hand, to steward a cherished local sports brand and at the same time help take that brand to the next generation of sports businesses,'' said David Carter, a Los Angeles-based sports-marketing consultant. ``Those are the growing pains we're seeing at Dodger Stadium now. How do you become economically viable without the perception you're selling every square inch of the building to advertisers? It's how that's communicated and embraced that will determine how smooth of a transition this is going to be. It's difficult to take a storied brand and usher it through a new era.''
Carter said Drew must be as politically savvy around the office as he is around town. Avengers owner Casey Wasserman has become a master at that craft. Wasserman, 30, didn't work in the family business but is the grandson of the late Lew Wasserman, former MCA/Universal chairman and CEO. In conjunction with his grandfather, Wasserman bought the Avengers franchise when he was just 24. He's always been the sole owner and made it a success in the Arena Football League.
McCourt and Wasserman bumped into one another on a family vacation in Hawaii in December and have lunched together.
``He cares passionately about what he's about to do,'' Wasserman said. ``He works hard. The rest he'll have to gain by just doing it. That's what I did. It doesn't matter how old you are. You can't get a PhD in sports at any school.''
Whether the McCourt ownership takes hold in Los Angeles and Drew successfully markets the team remains to be seen. Drew was noncommittal on his desire to run the team someday but made it clear he is entrenched in the organization and this city.
``For now, I just have a job to do,'' Drew said. ``If (my father) wants that, there's a good reason for it. I trust his judgment implicitly. But I have a job to do.''
Jill Painter, (818) 713-3615
2 photos, box
(1 -- color) Drew McCourt, the 23-year-old son of Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, is the club's new marketing director.
(2) no caption (Drew McCourt)
Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
THE MCCOURT FILE
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 15, 2005|
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