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Ohlmeyer Skews Income Curve as ESPN Ombudsman

The average wealth of ombudsmen just took a dramatic leap forward with word that former NBC West Coast President Don Ohlmeyer will become ESPN’s new ombudsman, succeeding Le Anne Schreiber.

ESPN announced Tuesday that Ohlmeyer will begin an 18-month term in August, offering “independent examination, critique and analysis” of the cable sports network.

In the decade since he left NBC, Ohlmeyer went back to his sports roots by producing “Monday Night Football.” Less well known is that he has taken up painting seriously as well as teaching at Pepperdine University, including the establishment of a mentoring program.

His ESPN history, however, is even more interesting, inasmuch as he owned a piece of the channel early in its lifespan and cashed out pretty fabulously when he moved on, meaning that he was already independently wealthy when he went to NBC in 1993 — a situation that helps explain his take-no-prisoners attitude in running and helping revive the network.

Here’s the passage in the release detailing that background:

In 1982, Ohlmeyer formed Ohlmeyer Communications Company (OCC), a full-service advertising agency and
marketing firm, as well as a television consulting operation for clients such as
the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball.  In the
1980s, he also oversaw partner Nabisco’s 20 percent interest in ESPN, serving as
a member of ESPN’s board of directors.

At OCC, he served as executive producer for a variety of creative projects,
ranging from sports events to dramatic motion pictures for television.  These
included Crazy in Love, Cold Sassy Tree, Right to Die, Under Siege and
Crimes of Innocence
.  In addition, he has produced the Emmy Awards show and, in conjunction
with Bob Pittman, created and produced the MTV Awards Show.  He also was the
creator and producer of a magazine format series titled Fast Copy; a
series of reality specials for ABC, Crimes of the Century; the critically
acclaimed prime-time series Lifestories for NBC; and The
Skins Game, the most successful made-for-television golf franchise ever.

OCC
was sold to ESPN in 1993 and was merged with Creative Sports (purchased by ESPN
in 1994) to form Charlotte-based ESPN Regional Television.

Tough-minded and never one to balk when it comes to expressing an opinion, Ohlmeyer will certainly bring a strong outside voice to the ombudsman role, and kudos to ESPN for tapping into his experience. If he pursues this new task as vigorously as he has everything else in his career, though, I suspect ESPN might have just signed up for more “independent examination” than they bargained for. And given some of the excesses of ESPN’s coverage, that’s probably a good thing.


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