Executive Stories

Executives Spotlight stories appeared on this website starting in 2001. Some of the executive's professional experience may have changed since they were published.

Executive Spotlight - December 20, 2004

Pierce O'Neil

Chief Business Officer, USTA

He called just to ask, Pierce O'Neil "How's your mother doing?" I answered, "Better, thank you." And then I went on to thank him over and over again for showing my mother and step-father a special time at the US Open one afternoon this past fall. I reminded him that my mother has been to almost every US Open for the past 20 years - before and after my father's death - and has been to Wimbledon nearly every year as well as home-country Davis Cup matches. I have often felt that Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport are more members of my family than family.

I told him of an 8 x 10 framed picture of my mom and me standing in front of Arthur Ashe Stadium I look at daily. Little did I know she would need major surgery less than two weeks after this picture was taken. Pierce was quick to add, "Well, let's just make sure that you update that picture with one from next year!"

My heart grew full. Throughout the 25 years I've been in the sports industry, the emotional and intellectual depth of some of the greatest leaders humbles me. Their compassion for others is as immense as their competitiveness and drive to make their lives meaningful.....for the benefit of others. These are men and women, like Pierce, who have orchestrated the building and promotion of immense facilities to bring together congregations of children, young adults, professionals, homemakers, and senior citizens to share an hour or two of heart-pounding, fiercely entertaining and competitive motion. These are lifetime remembrances, captured in photos hanging on all our walls. Maintaining the tradition of grandeur for the US Open Tennis Championships held every fall in New York seems obvious, but to those in our business, it's really unprecedented.

This year was my first US Open visit in nearly 10 years. Earlier in my career I worked for Wilson Sporting Goods and attended Forest Hills. Don't be fooled, I was an awe-struck 20-year-old. Its beauty coupled with the incredible play of what were then our most popular athletes of Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and John McEnroe, was what made me love my job and this industry. Tennis was "hot" in the late 70s. Thirty, nearly forty years later, the USTA and Pierce, have continued to build the US Open as one of the jewels of major sporting events in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the US Open every year, and the ambiance of the grounds and main court has the same feel as Forest Hills, thirty years ago. In fact, the US Open is the world's highest annually attended event and is watched in 190 countries around the world.

Pierce has been a driving force in building this prestigious event's status, but also in building upon it. I marvel at the beautiful new stadiums, the upgraded, quality merchandise, and yet, the spacious grounds extending well beyond its original borders in Flushing Meadow still feel intimate. Pierce has driven revenue increases by over 100% during his 10-year tenure. Television has increased 60%, sponsorship 200%, and licensing 270%. He's led the development of the US Open brand, website and the "look and feel" of tennis in America. He launched Arthur Ashe Kids' Day as an adjunct pep rally for the US Open and to honor America's wonderful US Open Champion, Arthur Ashe. He's done this in spite of other emerging sports, and American tennis names becoming less likely to be atop leader-boards. USTA membership has almost doubled...and he personally encouraged me to come out of hibernation to become a USTA league player just last year. The women with whom I play seem like friends from old times. How easy it was to get back in.

They say tennis is a lifetime sport. I was lucky to play in college (in those years it was "luck"), worked in tennis a few years and have spent the next 20 years of my professional career discovering a spectrum of wonderful people across all sports. And one of my greatest idols is Commissioner of the NBA, David Stern. No surprise, he, too, is a big tennis fan!

Elton John in "The Lion King" and Vanessa Williams in "Pocahontas" belt out reminders of the circle of life. At the age of 50 I've come full circle. I love tennis. I'm back. And as I nuzzled my head into my mom's shoulder and watched these tennis greats of Lindsay Davenport, Andre Agassi and Justine Henin-Hardenne, I could feel that same awe-struck feeling of being a fan. Thanks, Pierce, for being able to make me feel the same feelings I had as a young girl entering this business and being able to share them with the most precious member of my family, my mother.

--Buffy Filippell

"Pierce is a remarkably astute and creative executive who has overseen the explosive growth of revenue at the USTA, but he is first and foremost a family man...a devoted father, loving husband, and loyal friend."

--Sean McManus, President, CBS Sports

What I do...

Pierce is responsible for the majority of the USTA's revenue streams. He oversees the USTA's and US Open's Sponsorship, Licensing, Advanced Media, Membership and Special Events Departments. O'Neil is also responsible for all of the USTA's and US Open's television activities, including the sale of the US Open's television rights.


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