Don Garber, the managing director of the NFL's overseas operations and an experienced marketing executive, has been hired as Major League Soccer's new commissioner.
Garber, 41, succeeds Doug Logan, who was forced out this week after losing the support of MLS's major investors -- a group that includes NFL team owners Lamar Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots.
Garber will be introduced at a news conference this morning in New York. Neither Garber nor Logan returned messages yesterday.
Garber will receive a three-year contract, said Alan Rothenberg, the MLS founder who is involved in the negotiations.
Rothenberg said he first spoke with Garber a year ago. "We saw the writing on the wall with Doug. We didn't offer [Garber] anything but we wanted to check him out. Robert Kraft was his most vocal proponent."
Rothenberg said MLS planned to assess Logan's performance at the end of the season but, "It became increasingly clear Doug was losing support."
The shake-up comes at a time when MLS, in its fourth season, is struggling to improve attendance and television ratings. Several investors and team officials have become concerned about the future of the league under Logan, a former sports and entertainment executive who was hired prior to MLS's debut in the spring of 1996.
Garber, who has no experience in soccer, was the senior vice president-managing director of NFL International, a company in charge of expanding worldwide interest in the NFL and football. He oversaw television production and distribution, marketing and fan development activities, sponsorship sales, licensing and the organization of NFL exhibition games and other events. Garber also managed NFL Europe, a six-team league with players allocated primarily from NFL team rosters.
Prior to the international assignment, he was vice president of business development/special events at NFL Properties, the league's marketing arm, where he created the "NFL Experience," an interactive theme park at the Super Bowl. Before becoming a vice president, Garber was director of marketing and was responsible for managing corporate sponsorship sales.
Outside of the NFL, Garber's sports background includes serving on the board of directors of the Association of Volleyball Professionals and instructing disabled and blind skiers. MLS has had organizational problems since February when Logan fired deputy commissioner Sunil Gulati for allegedly renewing the contract of a player without notifying the team's management and investment group. A source said that Garber may consider re-hiring Gulati, who has remained a consultant to the league.
MLS's front office plays a more prominent role than its counterparts in most other pro leagues because of its single-entity structure. Individuals and groups invest in the league and gain the rights to operate a club. Hunt and Kraft run two MLS teams apiece and Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz controls three. Player contracts are owned and primarily negotiated by the league office.
Although there also are other prominent investors, MLS has been unable to find someone to operate the Dallas and Tampa Bay franchises.
D.C. United is operated by Washington Soccer L.P. -- an investment group funded primarily by Soros Fund Management, which is owned by international financier George Soros. That group has lost about $3 million annually and has been seeking to sell the club's operating rights for an estimated $25 million. United President and General Manager Kevin Payne, who has had differences with Logan, said he had no comment concerning the Logan matter.
Logan, who was born in Cuba and speaks fluent Spanish, was actively involved in the marketing of the league to fans in Latin American communities and acquiring players from Central and South America.