CAA Stalwart David O’Connor Named President-CEO of MSG

David O'Connor MSG
Courtesy of MSG

MSG has made it official, tapping CAA managing partner David “Doc” O’Connor as president-CEO of the company that encompasses sports teams, event promotion and high-profile venues including Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.

O’Connor, a 32-year CAA veteran, takes the reins of Madison Square Garden Co. on July 15.

MSG executive chairman James Dolan said O’Connor “brings with him an extensive understanding of the entertainment and sports worlds, including deep industry relationships and a history of successfully creating platforms for growth. We are confident that his expertise will be crucial to our efforts to strengthen our legendary brands and pursue growth opportunities that expand our business and increase shareholder value.”

O’Connor succeeds Tad Smith as MSG’s chief exec. He comes to MSG as the company is preparing to separate its entertainment and sports content holdings from its sports teams, including the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, and entertainment venues. MSG is likely to be deal mode with O’Connor taking the reins; the company said he would be tasked with pursuing “new strategic alliances and transactions.”

O’Connor in recent years had focused on CAA’s various sports activities and its Evolution Media Capital investment banking arm — experience that will undoubtedly help him as he transitions from the private world of CAA to serving as CEO of a publicly traded company. CAA has represented the Madison Square Garden venue in property rights sales for the past several years, among other areas.

“Growing up in New Jersey, some of my earliest and fondest memories involve The Madison Square Garden Company – from my first professional hockey and basketball games to my first rock concert to Radio City Music Hall and the Christmas Spectacular,” he said. “It is a privilege for me to come full circle and work with MSG’s legendary brands. I believe my experience and relationships in the sports and entertainment industries have given me a unique perspective on how to maximize assets and pursue strategic growth.”

O’Connor had transitioned out of day-to-day agenting duties at CAA several years ago, meaning that his departure is unlikely to set off a scramble for his clients. But CAA will feel the loss of his presence at a time when the agency has faced internal turbulence, as reflected in the departures of more than a dozen agents to UTA in March and April. O’Connor has long been a warm and well-liked figure at the agency.

“Doc is more than a great partner and business executive; he’s an incredible person and close friend whom we’ve had the tremendous pleasure of working with for more than 30 years,” the CAA partners said in a statement. “We couldn’t be happier for Doc. It’s a dream come true for a lifelong New York sports fan, and we know he will be terrific in his new role.”

O’Connor joined CAA in 1983 and rose through the ranks as film literary agent representing writers, directors and producers. He was among the core group of leaders who took over the agency in 1995 after the departures of co-founders Michael Ovitz and Ron Meyer.

O’Connor spearheaded the launch of the CAA Foundation in 1996 to accelerate the company’s philanthropic efforts. He was key player in the 2006 launch of CAA Sports and a co-founder of Evolution in 2008.

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