By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) - USA Track & Field (USATF) ended a 16-month search to replace its former chief executive by naming ex-board member Max Siegel, who has extensive marketing ties to sports and entertainment, to the job on Monday.
Siegel, whose selection comes at a crucial time with the organization preparing for the London Olympics, did not shy away from his predecessor's stated goal of 30 athletics medals for the American team at the July 27-August 12 Games.
"We said 30 medals and we are sticking by the 30 medals," Siegel, the founder of Indianapolis-based Max Siegel Inc, said during a conference call.
"The thing the organization does better than anyone else is field the number one track team in the world."
Siegel, 47, received a two-year contract with a base salary of $500,000 as the successor to the embattled Doug Logan, who was fired in 2010. Chief Operating Officer Mike McNees had been serving as the interim CEO.
Siegel, a unanimous selection of the board, will take over on May 1 with a focus on increasing marketing and sponsorships.
But changes need to come in how USATF interacts with its commercial partners as it tries to diversify its revenue opportunities, according to Siegel.
USATF's first black CEO, Siegel and his firm have been under contract to USA Track & Field since October to revamp marketing, sponsorship and broadcasting. He served on the USATF board from February 2009 until resigning last September.
The contact will terminate with his employment, Siegel said.
While some in the Olympic community raised concerns about his hiring being a conflict of interest, USATF and U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) officials said Siegel had their full support in his new role.
"The real issue is that Max was not on the board when he was selected for this position," USATF president and chair Stephanie Hightower said in a statement.
"Countless members of the track & field community had suggested that we consider Max for the position, citing his success as an executive, his rolodex and his ability to bring people together to get things done."
USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said the timing of the selection was important after the long off-and-on search.
"Having a CEO in place will add a measure of stability as we complete our preparations for London," Blackmun said. "Max will have our full support and we look forward to working with USATF as they continue to refine their governance model and find ways to enhance the effectiveness of the organization."
Siegel's background includes presidency of global operations for motor racing's Dale Earnhardt Inc - one of NASCAR's leading franchises - and as a music company executive where he helped oversee the careers of Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Usher.
Hall of Famers Tony Gywnn (baseball) and the late Reggie White (American football) have been among his sports clients.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)