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Road Runner

Elisha Chauhan finds out about the fast-paced career moves of former AEG senior executive, Mike Tomon, who became president of north American sports and events for fan engagement agency, Legends.

I started off at IMG as an intern and coffee slinger. From there I pursued my law degree, but as I was studying for my LSATs (Law School Admission Test) I had the opportunity to join NBA (National Basketball Association) team Cleveland Cavaliers as a sales consultant. 

I found my passion for team sports at the Cavaliers. As a result, I decided to postpone my law school education. I was working there when we got the lottery pick to draft NBA legend LeBron James, and as fate would have it, also at that exact time I got a great opportunity to run the sales team with NBA’s Phoenix Suns and [women’s team] Phoenix Mercury, as well as the now-defunct minor league ice hockey team, Phoenix RoadRunners. 

I really enjoyed being entrepreneurial at the Cavaliers. I stayed in Phoenix for almost five years before I was offered a role with [NBA star] Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets [then known as the Charlotte Bobcats], but only stayed for two years as the Cavaliers then-president and now CEO Len Komoroski asked if I’d like to come back to his franchise.

Sport is a very small business. It wasn’t long before Shervin Mirhashemi [most recently president of global partnerships at Anschutz Entertainment Group] and Tim Leiweke [current CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and former CEO of AEG] wanted me to be senior vice-president of premium sales at AEG’s Global Partnerships division. However, I was only there a few years before Shervin asked me to join his new agency Legends.

The only thing I can say about the law suit is that it is now solved

It was a no-brainer moving to Legends. I had seen how large the Legends agency had grown, and I knew all of its staff who were people I had worked with over the years. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime chances to join a lot of talented people that you enjoy being around. Legends is also a platform that I really believe is going to explode in growth.

I do not see myself as poached at all. It was completely my proactive choice to move from AEG to Legends. When I had a chance to sit down and really look at the Legends opportunity, I didn’t think it was that big of a risk moving from AEG. I can absolutely see why people would think that, but if you look at the ownership team from the (National Football League’s Dallas) Cowboys to (Major League Baseball’s) New York Yankees, we’re very well capitalised, so there was no financial risk moving here. The only thing I can say about the law suit filed by AEG against Legends and Mirhashemi is that it is now solved. 

Legends doesn’t chase every opportunity that is out there. Our business model is quite different in that we look for brands or sports teams that have similar principles to ours. That vets down who you’re looking for, as we only work with companies that really believe in partnerships and are best in class.

I’ve always been put in a good light. I was very fortunate in enjoying success at every sports franchise and company I worked at, because my teams have set financial records and created meaningful new revenue. 

The lowest point of my career is, in retrospect, also the highest point. I was having a quarter-life crisis when I was studying for the LSATs and selling tickets for the Cleveland Cavaliers back before LeBron James when the team was terrible. The most challenging thing is when you’re not exactly sure what your next step is, and you’re definitely not sure what the big picture is. At the same time, that was one of the greatest points of my career as it really made me think about what I really wanted to do, and more importantly, why I wanted to do it. 

I would spend all my time with my family if I won the lottery. I love my job, so I’m not unhappy being on the road and the move all of the time. Especially at AEG, on the global side, I really found how important face-to-face interaction were and continues to be. Even with all of today’s communication mediums, nothing replaces being with someone in their environment to really understand the different nuances and challenges they face and how our businesses can align.

A NFL team in Los Angeles will absolutely happen. I left AEG around 18 months ago so I don’t really know what went wrong with Farmers Field after I stopped managing the project, but I certainly think that it’s just a question of when a franchise will be set up in LA rather than if. Legends is owned by National Football League team Dallas Cowboys, so the sport is part of our DNA, and we’d love to engage in any American football projects. 

I’ve definitely had missteps, but I don’t have any regrets. I’ve been really fortunate in that every experience has helped build the next one.

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