Kim Pegula forces ‘old guard’ to rethink professional sports’ business model

Photo of Bills and Sabres owner Kim Pegula from WKBW.com.

Just when you think it’s safe to take a deep breath after the most contentious Buffalo Bills’ draft in years and the Sabres winning the lottery, a bomb drops on Tuesday – Russ Brandon, President of the Bills, Sabres and Pegula Sports and Entertainment abruptly resigned, allegedly under pressure because of some sort of misconduct.

via GIPHY

Imagine that.

Truth be told, I have. Many times. Probably like a large segment of long-time Bills fans.

However, my ever-suspicious mind immediately wondered if this was some sort of set-up by the universe to test my ability to put my money where my mouth is about showing grace.

Just as Lorenzo Alexander did when he discussed rookie quarterback Josh Allens horrible tweets from the past, maybe I should just put a sock in it about Russ Brandon’s departure.

So that’s exactly what I did. It’s never been my style to celebrate any professional’s misfortune anyway, because there are often unintended victims – whether it be family, friends or other innocent people – either physically injured as in the case of medical malpractice, or socially as in this case.

Gratitude to one of my favorite guardian angels for that realization. Thank you for being a voice for those who are innocent of wrongdoing yet feel the full force of the impact on their lives.

Point taken and graciously received.

Sigh.

So, where do we go from here? We go on to the next era in Western New York professional sports.

Welcome, Mrs. Pegula.

Kim Pegula at the helm of the Pegula dynasty’s joint venture, Pegula Sports and Entertainment. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Lost in all the drama of a change in leadership after over 20 years with Russ Brandon at the helm is the realization Mrs. Pegula just slipped into the most powerful role a woman ever assumed in professional sports – leading role for an NFL and NHL team (as well as lacrosse and women’s hockey).

Brava!

As much as this may chap the hide of conventional thinkers about an owner daring to be in total charge of a professional sports team (or two), I think it’s a breath of fresh air for Mrs. Pegula to step up and fearlessly lead these teams into the future.

My thoughts on this ‘daring’ challenge?

Huzzah.

Who says you have to have another layer of management (and in some cases obfuscation) between owners and GM/coaches? The key in my mind is this… if the owner is willing to work that hard (and juggling three entities; Bills, Sabres, Pegula Sports and Entertainment is no small task), why would you need another layer of “management” to “oversee” the GM/coaches?

How about thinking out of the box a little here?

Not all billionaires are willing to dedicate their entire lives to their businesses the way the Pegulas do. Many are very happy to let others take care of day to day operations.

What some may choose to define as interference, others like myself believe is the core trust the Pegulas have placed in themselves to lead the way.

Finding the right people to implement the culture you want in your organization isn’t as easy as it seems. From this very outside view, it seems the Pegulas learned a very important lesson when they bought the Sabres, and then the Bills.

They found out the hard way (Tim Murray, Rex Ryan) allowing other people to make critical decisions involving their top tier managers of corporate culture wasn’t a good idea.

The belief that only “football people” can run football organizations and likewise for hockey is as antiquated as most espousing these beliefs ;) CEOs of Fortune 500 companies run different types of companies with regularity.

Photo of Kim and Terry Pegula from blogs.buffalobills.com.

The Pegula family did not rise to the top of their empire by relying on other people to define their corporate culture. They know exactly what transferable skills are necessary for each position they hire They also carefully hand pick their own corporate people to represent their interests without regard to background if they think they have the right fit.

Furthermore, why be in a hurry to bring in another person who becomes a filter between ownership and the front office and obviously complicates relationships. What if they bring in someone that isn’t going to play well with Botterill, Housely, or Beane and McDermott?

It’s not only logical, but likely a very good idea for the Pegula family to take their time in deciding how best to structure their organizations. They may discover a better paradigm for owners who want to be directly involved in shaping their own corporate culture.

We are blessed to have the Pegulas as the stewards of our beloved Bills and Sabres. The synergy between the organizations is a breath of fresh air. If it becomes a disaster, how much worse can it be than the last combined century of seasons without a championship?

I say let’s be bold.

What say you?

Editor’s babble: I’m getting too old for all this drama. However, as a lifelong feminist who railed incessantly about the ‘good old boys’ club in all professions, it gives me great pleasure to watch Mrs. Pegula be our fierce leader and challenge the status quo. You can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.

*Views expressed by authors are not necessarily endorsed by the owners of the BillsMafia.com website.

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at BillsMafia.com. She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the glorious Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @robynmundyWYO.

9 Replies to “Kim Pegula forces ‘old guard’ to rethink professional sports’ business model”

  1. She isn’t qualified. She isn’t even close, running a Fortune 500 company is technically an easier job to get by the way. Since there are only 32 teams in the nfl, that is. The Sabres have the worst record since she bought the team and promised playoffs year 1 lmao now we give her more persenal power. Makes you wonder who really drafted Allen for the bills…. most analysts agree we reached

  2. Thanks for pointing out that Ms. Pegula has more involvement in the organization than your typical owner’s wife (or first lady for that matter) with a superficial position just to be placated. She seems like a very smart, sensible lady and whether her thinking is out of the box, in the box- it’s all good as far as i’m concerned based on the organizational decisions the Pegula’s have made for the Bills.
    Russ Brandon out- not really a bomb IMHO. It was a matter of time before that happened, he just made it easy.
    However- one word of warning to the charming lady- stay away from roster or lineup decisions!
    She should recall the movie Any Given Sunday, where the aggressive owner played by Cameron Diaz got involved in coaching and starting lineup decisions much to the chagrin of the coach (Al Pacino). That was her first mistake- never mess with Al Pacino for crying out loud!
    So her dumb meddling alienated her successful coach who left the team and took the star QB with him.
    We do not want that to happen!

    • God forbid a woman make any decisions. Why would a dumb woman ever think she could do that better than a man… Seriously dude? You were off to such a great start.

  3. IMO, the less layers of management the better. Also, I’m glad to see more barriers broken down. There’s no reason to think Kim Pegula cannot be a successful team president just because she is a female. Anyone who thinks that is very ignorant. It doesn’t matter in business if you’re male or female, if you have a smart business plan/strategy and employ the right people to execute that plan, then most likely you will be successful. A big problem I had with the Bills for years is that they had no plan on how to build a successful team, the only goal was just to make the playoffs. During the drought, the Bills were never built to win the division and to beat the Patriots. For years, we’ve seen numerous first round draft picks wasted on DB’s and RB’s and nowhere near enough emphasis on the most important position on the team…QB. It seems now that the Pegula’s have some experience in being owners of sports franchises, that they have but together plans on how to build their teams and have hired their own GM’s [Botterill, Beane] and coaches [McDermott, Housley] to execute those plans. We’ve seen progress with the Bills this past year, now it’s time to take the next steps as well as getting the Sabres going on the right path.

  4. the nfl is too big for its own good. hes fired already for crap sakes.