Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld today announced several personnel changes within the organization, as they relate to business operations. Most notable among the promotions is the formal announcement of Jeff Cogen's hiring.
Jeff Cogen is the President and CEO of the Nashville Predators, and has overseen several successes in business operations, ticket sales, and stadium financing that have propelled the Predators to become a successful franchise and model organization in the NHL.
The Rays announcement names Cogen as Chief Business Officer, with oversight over ticket sales and service, corporate partnerships, marketing and the communications departments.
Cogen will join the Rays in a full time capacity after Nashville hosts the NHL All Star Game in February. Here is what I wrote at the time of his hire:
Given the projected rise in future revenue... there is a lot of negotiating left to do, and a new stadium could not be built soon enough.
A New Executive
This is why the Rays are bringing in Jeff Cogen, who helps fill the void left by the departures of former stadium negotiator Michael Kalt, SVP of Development and Business Affairs, and Mark Fernandez, former SVP and Chief Sales Officer. Cogen could fill both of those roles any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
A previous resident of St. Petersburg who got his start with the Ringling Brothers Circus, he parlayed that experience in the entertainment industry into a career of success in baseball and hockey front offices, including time as President of the Texas Rangers from 2004-2007.
Cogen ran all business aspects of the franchise, and also served on the board of the Dallas Stars hockey arena, providing oversight and leadership on overall financial performance, capital expenditures, third party events, and team operations. He would transition to the Stars front office after leaving the Rangers.
With Texas he was also Chief Operating Officer for one year. Among his accomplishments with the Rangers, Cogen increased revenues by 20 percent over a three-year span, and pioneered revenue streams through several technological partnerships, as well as a landmark naming-rights deal for "Ameriquest Field" in Arlington, as well as its return to becoming Rangers Ballpark shortly before he left as part of a branding overhaul at the stadium.
When the Predators hired Cogen as CEO in 2010, it was a five year plan to get the franchise back on track before handing the reins to his deputy. Now he plans to leave Nashville ahead of schedule, joining the Rays full time in February after Nashville hosts the NHL All-Star Game. He leaves Nashville in a far better place than he found it, and the Rays stand to benefit from his experience and expertise.
SB Nation writer and Nashville Radio personality Dan Bradley [tabs] Cogen to be "a great hire!":
He got the city of Nashville and the team together on the arena lease, and was a beast at booking the building out. Plus, and Henry employed a great plan to fill the building.
Where I see him helping the Rays right away is his negotiation on the stadium. If there's anyone to stabilize the situation, it could be him.
Nashville was among the bottom in attendance and ticket prices in the NHL when Cogen took over, but true to the statement above, he brought attendance to a near 99-percent capacity last season, including 30 sold-out games.
Upon accepting the opportunity to join the Rays, Cogen called baseball his "true love." Whether that love extends to St. Petersburg remains to be seen.
The full list of new promotions within business operations are as follows:
- Jeff Cogen has joined the Rays organization as chief business officer, which includes overseeing the ticket sales and service, corporate partnerships, marketing and communications departments;
- John Higgins will now oversee the finance department in addition to his responsibilities as senior vice president & general counsel;
- Melanie Lenz will now oversee the broadcasting and community relations departments in addition to her responsibilities as senior vice president of strategy & development;
- Brian Richeson is now vice president, ticket sales & marketing;
- Eric Weisberg has been promoted to senior director, fan experience;
- Sean Liston has been promoted to director, corporate partnership services;
- Amy Miller has been promoted to director, marketing.
"The Rays organization is built on the strength of its remarkable employees, and I am both proud and excited to announce these hires and promotions," said Rays President Brian Auld, via press release. "The individuals we are recognizing today are proven professionals who will continue to carry the Rays to new heights."