AP sources: USOC tabs Blackmun as new CEO

A handful of key Olympic leaders applauded the U.S. Olympic Committee's hiring of chief executive officer Scott Blackmun, a good start for the new boss who will need that support to reshape the reputation of the struggling federation.

Blackmun, a former interim CEO at the USOC and chief operating officer for sports-and-entertainment behemoth AEG Worldwide, was tabbed Tuesday to take control of the organization at the end of the month.

Two people familiar with the search told The Associated Press that Blackmun would be announced as the new CEO on Wednesday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

But as word spread, Blackmun was generating support — a reaction quite the opposite of when Stephanie Streeter unexpectedly got the job last March after Jim Scherr was ousted.

"I think it's a good hire," said Doug Logan, CEO of USA Track and Field. "If you accept that the organization needs some stability, he'll bring some stability. He doesn't have much of a learning curve. He knows what the drill is all about. He'll hit the pavement running."

Steve Penny, the CEO of USA Gymnastics agreed.

"He's the right person for right now," Penny said. "He brings a great combination of Olympic experience and expertise in other type of sport and entertainment issues."

In an internal memo to his staff, obtained by The Associated Press, USA Swimming CEO Chuck Wielgus said he sent a congratulatory letter to Blackmun. Wielgus was the other finalist for the job.

"This is a great hire by the USOC Board of Directors and Scott is going to do a wonderful job," Wielgus wrote.

Currently working as an attorney in Colorado Springs, where the USOC has its headquarters, Blackmun will be trying to improve the reputation of a federation that has been consumed by problems, including Chicago's embarrassing last-place finish in the bidding to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Skip Gilbert, head of the National Governing Bodies Council that was most critical of Streeter and the USOC, called Blackmun's hire the "most critical hire at the USOC in years," and said the support of the NGB leaders was key.

"If the USOC had gone out and found a chief from some other part of the corporate sector who had absolutely no connection to anything Olympic or anything sport, we would've been screaming bloody murder," Gilbert said. "This way, we have a basic understanding of the type of guy who's coming in. I think they made a good choice."

The Chicago Tribune first reported Blackmun's hiring.

Blackmun was chosen from a list of six finalists for the spot that was more recently pared down to two.

He worked at the USOC from 1999 through 2002 and served as interim CEO in 2000. After that, he went to AEG Worldwide, which owns several teams and puts on sports and entertainment events across the globe.

Counting his own interim stint, Blackmun will be the seventh USOC leader since 2000.

"The high caliber of the finalists for the CEO position speaks well for their efforts," NBC Universal Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said. "As their long-term television partners, we at NBC wish good and great things for the USOC and for their new CEO Scott Blackmun."

Wracked by scandal, the federation underwent major restructuring in 2003, and Blackmun will be on board in March when the board of directors is supposed to receive a report from an advisory committee chaired by Paul Tagliabue that will recommend other possible changes.

Logan, who took over USA Track and Field before the Beijing Olympics, said Blackmun needs to quickly articulate his vision for the organization.

"He doesn't have the luxury of waiting six months or a year to do that," Logan said. "He needs to be out there with a clear message of where he wants the organization to go, and if he does, I think he'll find great support for that."

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