Executives Spotlight stories appeared on this website starting in 2001. Some of the executive's professional experience may have changed since they were published.
Spotlight - July 12, 2007
Former Senior Corporate Vice President, IMG
"When you're down and troubled and need a helping hand..." (James Taylor)
My second father died unexpectedly a few days before this year's Wimbledon.I was to accompany my mother and him again for this year's event. My first father died twenty years ago. Although my two fathers were very different men, they both loved tennis.
Is it life's serendipity that two women who came most to my aid during these dark moments both happened to be professional women tennis players? Sue Stap sat by my side during my first father's lingering coma; and most recently, Stephanie Tolleson stepped in to cover for my volunteer activities with our children's high school sports internship.
These women were not my usual circle of close friends. For those who know me, I was never a pro caliber tennis player. In fact, I was a "isn't she nice when she loses" member of my college team who was allowed to play in the USTA national collegiate tennis tournament because "back in the day" when each college was given 2 places into the tournament, no top player on my team wanted to attend. So I did. It was my first tennis tournament, ever, and I lost to the #13 seed in 15 minutes, and that included 5 minutes of warm-up!
Three years later, I met Stephanie Tolleson in Salt Lake City defending her title in the women's national collegiate tennis championship. She was a sophomore at Trinity. I was working for Wilson Sporting Goods. In a tournament where I had been a blip on the screen, she had been its champion.
You never know why we meet the people we meet. We sporadically kept in touch. When she turned pro, she'd call and once sent me a postcard from South Africa. Our lives intersected briefly again when she joined IMG, my employer at the time, and she managed IMG's relationship with Women's Tennis' sponsor, Toyota. Then as a recruiter, I tried to persuade her to leave IMG a couple of times, but she continued to climb in stature with the company and women's sports. I bumped into her again last year after she retired from IMG to devote more time to her teenage daughter, Taylor, and to pursue activities she hadn't had time for. In order to enhance our children's high school experience, we both volunteered to help build a sports marketing internship this summer to promote the athletic department and new stadium enhancements. It was her warm, thoughtful and timely emails of concern and her rearranging of her weekend to comfort me over coffee after the death that I'll forever remember.
To some, I'm sure Stephanie was an intimidating competitor. She never wanted to lose a single point in a match, she said. She pushed herself and never stopped. She possessed the countenance of a classic when I met her in her twenties, and with time her business success is truly befitting a champion.
- Personally managing four of the #1 ranked women tennis players-Monica Seles, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Venus and Serena Williams-Stephanie negotiated record-setting commercial endorsements for female athletes with Matrix, McDonalds, Avon and Wrigleys.
- She represented the WTA Tour (the governing body of the women's professional game) for worldwide sales and strategies, negotiating global sponsorship deals over the past two decades with Corel, Sanex, Whirlpool and Sony Ericsson. Her Sony Ericsson deal, the current global title sponsor, is the largest sponsorship deal in the history of women's sports and men's/women's tennis at $88 million.
- Stephanie oversaw IMG's tennis tournaments such as the NASDAQ - 100, the largest tennis event in the world, other than the four Grand Slams and served as Tournament Director of WTA Tour Championships at the Meadowlands plus other events across the US and Europe.
These accomplishments are awe inspiring. It's not unexpected then that she was voted Woman of the Year by WISE (Women In Sports and Events) and, in 2005, "Sports Business Journal" listed her as #4 on their Most Influential Women in Sports list.
Compassionate? Perhaps that is unexpected. In as much as we crossed paths, I'm not sure I really knew her. And yet in my time of need, she stepped in, stepped up, cancelled her vacation plans and was heartwarmingly compassionate.
It is life's serendipity....
"And if you walk the footsteps with a stranger,
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew." (Colors of the Wind)
Thank you, Stephanie, with all my heart.
"Stephanie has the ability to take on any task, accomplish it in a manner that is beyond expectation. She puts her family and other significant relationships firmly in the forefront. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her."
--Jeff Orloff, Senior Vice President, Director of Worldwide Fashion Event Operations, IMG
What I do...
While at IMG, she had a variety of responsibilities including global head of the Tennis Division, Events Group, Corporate Communications and the Human Resources & Administration departments. As Senior Corporate Vice President, Stephanie was also a member of IMG's seven-person Management Committee and was the highest ranking female employee at IMG.
HOW I GOT HERE...
IMG; Cleveland, OH; 1981-present
Senior Corporate Vice president
Executive/Racquet Sports Division/London
Tour Coordinator/North American Tournament-Toyota
WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION; San Francisco, CA;
Administrator/Public Relations Coordinator
PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER/WTA; Phoenix, AZ;