National Football Foundation

News Detail

Tod Leiweke Enters the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame
Sports marketing visionary honored for community leadership.
Published: 1/6/2017 1:00:00 PM
(Pictured: NFL Chief Operating Officer Tod Leiweke (left) was inducted into the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame at the Tampa Convention Center on Jan. 5 during an event kicking off the College Football Playoff National Championship weekend. NFF Chairman Archie Manning conducted the formal induction and presented Leiweke with his ring.)

TAMPA, FLA., (Jan. 6, 2017)
– Having established himself as one of the nation’s top sports business innovators and impacting numerous communities along the way, Tod Leiweke received high praise last night during his induction into the National Football Foundation (NFF) Leadership Hall of Fame at the Tampa Convention Center during an event kicking off the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship weekend.

“Only those who have achieved the most remarkable levels of achievement meet the threshold for induction into the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame, and Tod’s stellar track record clearly makes him worthy of this honor,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “Tod’s hallmark for success has always been serving the fans first, and it’s a formula that has allowed him to not only build winning franchises but to make an impact well beyond the playing field. We are extremely proud to recognize him tonight.”

Leiweke, the current chief operating officer of the National Football League (NFL), began his impressive sports business in the early 1980s, working with his brothers in a small sports marketing firm in Kansas City, Mo. The experience led to a series of positions and promotions with some of the top sports franchises across the country, including stops in Minneapolis, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Tampa, Vancouver and now nationally with the NFL. Along the way, he developed a deep understanding of the positive impact that sports can have to transform communities.

“Tod has always realized the significance of being in a position where he can make an impact,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “And he has continuously stepped forward to give back and make a difference. He is a proven leader, and we are proud to shine our national spotlight on him by inducting him into the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame.”

Leiweke (pronounced LIGH-wih-kee) paid tribute to the more than 600 hundred friends and family who attended the event while talking about his life journey and the adversity of losing his mother at age nine and his stepmother at age 17. He referenced his lack of a college degree, and he credited his fire to succeed to his stepmother’s advice at the end of her life to make every day count. He recounted many of the steps in his career, including a well-received reference from the local crowd for the $1.5 billion real estate development that he helped launch during his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He ended by talking about football and its meaning to his family.

“The one thing that remained constant in our life was football,” said Leiweke. “And in fact the day that my mother passed we were at a football game. Football has been an incredible part of my life and to think that I am one of the leaders of the National Football League and one of the guys who can make true the idea that the best days are still in front of us is really quite a thrill.

“But it comes with responsibility because it’s more than just driving revenue. It’s about caring about a game, and caring about a game like the National Football Foundation does. I love the game. I really believe our best days are in front of us, and I look forward to coming back and celebrating those days with you for many days to come. God Bless, and I could not be more proud of this ring… Thank you so much for this incredible honor and for being here tonight and the friendships, love and support along the way.”

Established in 2013, the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame provides the NFF with a powerful platform for recognizing the country’s most influential individuals who have ascended to the highest levels of success and exhibited the critical leadership qualities that transcend ordinary enterprises. Members of the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame must embody the same qualities in amateur football that define excellence in American life: hard work, discipline, determination, teamwork, integrity and the relentless pursuit to improve.

ESPN studio host Joe Tessitore emceed the event, and he conducted a panel with four people who had captured various insights into different points in Leiweke’s life: Gates Foundation Chief Investment Officer Michael Larson, University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft, world-class climber and bestselling author Ed Viesturs and Tod’s brother, Tim Leiweke. NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell delivered remarks on behalf of the NFF, and NFF Chairman Archie Manning conducted the formal induction and ring ceremony. CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock provided the official welcome, and Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik took the stage at the start of the event, talking about Leiweke’s impact locally in Tampa and recounting interviewing him for the Lightning CEO job.

“Immediately, I knew that I was talking to an amazing individual,” said Vinik. “We both love hockey. We both know the history of hockey. We could have talked about the history of hockey for hours, but we talked about community. We talked about the United Way in Seattle where Tod chaired the highest grossing campaign in all of the country. We talked about children. We talked about parenting. Hockey was barely part of the conversation, and I knew that there was somebody special there.

“Tod has so many great characteristics as we all know. He’s smart. He’s thoughtful. He’s a great leader. He inspires others. He’s generous. He’s funny. He is extremely loyal… He impacted so many lives in this community in five years. It’s just wonderful to have him here tonight to honor him and his family. Nobody could be more deserved of this award, especially here having it at this place in Tampa.”

The event’s Host Committee included Paul Avery (World of Beer CEO and President), the Honorable Bob Buckhorn (Mayor of Tampa), Bryan Glazer (Tampa Bay Buccaneers Co-Chairman), Ken Hagan (Hillsborough County Commissioner), Ken Jones (Third Lake Capital CEO), Kathleen Shanahan (Ground Works Solutions Chairman) and Jeff Vinik (Tampa Bay Lightning Owner).

Some of the other notable attendees included College Football Hall of Fame CEO Dennis Adamovich, NFF Board Member and former Boston College Athletics Director Gene DeFilippo, ESPN Programming and Acquisitions Manager Eric Loh, Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Mike Nealy, the Football Writers Association of America Executive Director Steve Richardson, former Seattle Seahawks President Tim Ruskell, Minnesota Wild CEO Jac Sperling and University of Florida Athletics Director Scott Strickland.

Tod Leiweke’s induction marked the third year of a tradition, which began with the inaugural CFP National Championship after the 2014 season, where the NFF has staged a Leadership Hall of Fame induction as part of the kickoff celebration in the title game’s host city. The next championship game will be played in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 8, 2018, and the NFF will stage a Leadership Hall of Fame induction on Jan. 4, 2018.

“Led by its executive director Bill Hancock, the College Football Playoff has done a marvelous job of using the title game’s national stage to shine a light on everything right with our great game,” said Hatchell. “The NFF Leadership Hall of Fame plays an important role in highlighting the value of football off the field, and I want to thank Bill and his incredible staff for all their support that allowed us to recognize Tod Leiweke this year with a kickoff event for the CFP title game. We truly appreciate their efforts.”

The NFF Leadership Hall of Fame events serve as a centerpiece of the NFF’s annual fundraising efforts, providing critical support for the organization’s outreach efforts that emphasize the value of football to society. By creating a powerful fundraising opportunity, the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame allows those who have reached the pinnacle of success to help the NFF strengthen its programs and fulfill its mission of Building Leaders Through Football.

Leiweke becomes the ninth inductee into the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame, joining Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the father or aerobics Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, legendary attorney Joe Jamail, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Bruin Sports Capital CEO George Pyne and Wasserman Chairman and CEO Casey Wasserman. Each inductee’s accomplishments are enshrined in an exhibit at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta as role models for future generations to emulate.

Click here to learn more about the NFF Leadership Hall of Fame.

Tod Leiweke’s Bio

A top executive with a proven track record of success in the sports industry, including more than 30 years of experience and stints as the CEO of NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLS organizations, Tod Leiweke was named the chief operating officer of the NFL in July of 2015.

Throughout his career, Leiweke, 56, has developed a reputation for building outstanding management teams that achieve excellence, allowing him to leave a series of world-class franchises in his wake. His impressive track record includes leading the Seattle Seahawks to the franchise’s first ever NFL Super Bowl appearance in 2006 and the Tampa Bay Lightning to the NHL Stanley Cup Finals in 2015. Possessing a keen understanding of brand loyalty, his hallmark for success has always focused on serving the fans and developing deep ties to the community and all of the key stakeholders.

Before taking on his current job with the NFL, Leiweke spent five years (2010-2015) as the CEO of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment, where he helped transform the Tampa Bay Lightning into an NHL Stanley Cup contender. While in Tampa, Leiweke helped lead a $40 million renovation of the team’s home facility, now known as Amalie Arena. The upgrades included significant improvements to enhance the fan and sponsorship experiences, including a party deck, improved lighting, an old-fashion pipe organ, a new restaurant and Tesla coils that produce the world’s largest indoor lightning strikes. The project finished on time, which also allowed the venue to serve as the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Leiweke’s devotion to fans resulted in increased ticket sales, placing the Lightning in the top 10 for average NHL home attendance during his last three years in Tampa. Season ticket sales jumped more than 35 percent after the team’s Stanley Cup run, and Leiweke helped introduce an innovative program for season ticket holders, creating microchipped jerseys that provide discounts at concession stands throughout the stadium. The Tampa Bay Lightning recently welcomed Leiweke back, honoring him as their 41st Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season.

Prior to his time in Tampa, Leiweke served as the CEO of the Seattle Seahawks for seven years (2003-2010) while adding CEO responsibilities in 2007 for Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, the management company for all of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s sports-related organizations, which also includes the Seattle Sounders and Portland Trailblazers.

In Seattle, Leiweke took over a Seattle Seahawks organization that failed to sellout its games, suffering local TV market blackouts. He revived the team’s now-famous 12th Man tradition, and he made several other changes to enhance the stadium experience. His efforts re-energized the fan base, resulting in a string of 60 consecutive sellouts at Qwest Field, now known as CenturyLink Field, and season ticket sales went from 29,000 to 62,000. During his tenure and with the fans on board, the organization earned five straight playoff berths, four NFC West Division titles and an appearance in Super Bowl XL.

The Seattle Sounders, which share CenturyLink Field with the Seahawks, benefited from his leadership when his efforts resulted in the team joining Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 2009. The team immediately set the record for average attendance and led the league in season ticket sales in its inaugural season, two benchmarks that the franchise has continued to achieve annually ever since.

For his efforts with the Seahawks, Trail Blazers, and Sounders, Leiweke was named a finalist for the 2009 Sports Executive of the Year by Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal.  The same year, he was named Executive of the Year by the Puget Sound Business Journal and CEO of the Year by the Seattle Sports Commission. The following year, The SportsBusiness Journal named the Seattle Sounders the 2010 Professional Sports Team of the Year.

While in Seattle, Leiweke also oversaw the $60 million construction of the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, which serves as the Seahawks’ practice facility and headquarters, and he chaired the 2008-09 United Way of King County donation drive, raising more than $100 million during the recession for the charity. As part of the campaign to raise funds, he led a highly publicized expedition to climb the 14,410-foot Mount Rainer along with NFF Board Member and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Before landing in Seattle, Leiweke served from 1999-2003 as the first president of the Minnesota Wild, which had landed a coveted NHL expansion slot, and the chief operating officer of Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (MSE). During his career, he has also held top executive positions with the PGA Tour’s First Tee, NHL's Vancouver Canucks and NBA's Golden State Warriors.

Born on Jan. 12, 1960 in St. Louis, Mo., Leiweke currently resides in New York City with his wife Tara and two children.


About The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame
Founded in 1947 with early leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl "Red" Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame is a non-profit educational organization that runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 120 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include FootballMatters.org, the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, The William V. Campbell Trophy presented by Fidelity Investments, annual scholarships of more than $1.3 million and a series of initiatives to honor the legends of the past and inspire the leaders of the future. NFF corporate partners include Delta Air Lines, Fidelity Investments, Herff Jones, Hofmann Brands, New York Athletic Club, Pasadena Tournament of Roses, PrimeSport, the Sports Business Journal, Under Armour & VICIS. Learn more at footballfoundation.org.

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