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USOC board approves addition of 5 members

Fri, 12/17/2010 - 8:05am
EDDIE PELLS - AP National Writer - Associated Press

The U.S. Olympic Committee added five new members to its board of directors Thursday, including former Microsoft executive Robbie Bach, as part of the restructuring of a leadership group that had been widely criticized the past few years.

Former John Hancock CEO James Benson, four-time Olympian Nina Kemppel, former Visa executive Susanne Lyons and USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean also were voted in at the USOC's quarterly board meeting.

The additions bring the board to 15 members, as recommended earlier this year by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's advisory panel. Tagliabue was brought on after the USOC went through a rough 2009 — unexpectedly firing CEO Jim Scherr and taking the brunt of the blame when Chicago came in fourth in the bid for the 2016 Olympics that went to Rio de Janeiro.

Ogrean represents the national governing bodies of the Olympic sports and Kemppel the Athletes' Advisory Council. The other three are "independent directors," meaning they come from outside the Olympic family.

"When we talk about independent directors, we were looking for expertise in the following areas: fundraising, good governance, international relations, new media, marketing," said chairman Larry Probst. "If you take a look at the three independent candidates, they cover a lot of ground on each one of those fronts."

Bach, who spent 22 years with Microsoft Corp., also is heavily involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Benson is founder and chairman of World T.E.A.M. Sports, an organization dedicated to providing opportunities through sport for people with disabilities, and is expected to be a voice for paralympic athletes on the board. His former company, John Hancock, was a longtime USOC sponsor that was among the harshest critics of the federation back in 2003, when it was going through another spell of management and financial turmoil.

It was that turmoil that led to the last set of major changes, including reducing the board's size from 125 to 11. Thursday's expansion to 15 is not considered the start of a backslide to the days of old.

"That's the number the recommended by the Tagliabue committee and that's the number we see ourselves going forward with," Probst said.

The board on Thursday also approved its 2011 budget — usually around $150 million in off-Olympic years — and CEO Scott Blackmun said "we're not looking at any meaningful changes from head count or program stand points."

That's a sign of stability for an organization that last year had cut to 54 jobs to save $7.1 million from the 2009 budget as it dealt with the rough economy.

Blackmun said the USOC would continue to put money into programs where the most medals can be won but would not shun developing sports programs with potential.

"If they're not a medal contender in the short term, it's not preventing us from supporting them if there are long-term prospects or if it helps deliver" on the USOC's mission of telling inspiring stories about American athletes, he said.

Also Thursday, marketing officer Lisa Baird presented the board with its new media plan, though Probst said the plan is still taking shape and details aren't yet being made public.

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