Peter Ueberroth, former Major League Baseball commissioner and president of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, was named chairman yesterday of the 11-member U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors that grew out of last year's management and ethics scandal.
Ueberroth, 66, is considered an experienced leader with solid international credentials who was sought to bring stability to an organization that has been beset by leadership crises and management turnover throughout its history.
"You do [this job] because you think you can make a difference in your country," Ueberroth said during a news conference, which was made available for reporters via conference call, in Colorado Springs. "That's why any of us are serving."
District resident Jair Lynch, a two-time Olympian in gymnastics and silver medalist in 1996, was named to one of two posts reserved for athlete representatives along with rower Mary McCagg, a 1992 and 1996 Olympian.
Ueberroth, whose appointment was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, was named to one of four independent director posts along with Harold T. Shapiro, former Princeton University president and current professor of economics and public affairs; Stephanie Streeter, president, chairman and CEO of Banta Corporation and a former Stanford basketball player; and Erroll B. Davis Jr., Chairman and CEO of Aliant Energy.
The board also will include attorney Jim McCarthy and Atlanta Braves Executive Director of Business Operations Mike Plant, who were nominated by the USOC's national sport governing bodies, and U.S. International Olympic Committee members Bob Ctvrtlik, Anita DeFrantz and Jim Easton.
The board held its first official meeting yesterday morning.
Ueberroth signaled during the news conference that the board -- all unpaid volunteers -- intended to avoid what had become customary friction with the paid USOC staff, which has been led since Lloyd Ward's resignation last year by CEO Jim Scherr.
"We think this organization is blessed with an incredible staff," Ueberroth said. "We'll support them and provide some shelter to them as they move forward in the next 60 days" leading up to the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
"We're not going to have all of the solutions and all of the answers," Ueberroth also said. "In the short term, we're going to be in a highly intensified learning mode."
The board takes over as a drug scandal that could deprive the U.S. Olympic track team of some of its top stars unravels, but Ueberroth declined to weigh in on the matter.
"I'm not going to be the voice on high on that issue," he said.
Ueberroth oversaw the success of the 1984 Summer Games, which are credited with bringing the IOC from the brink of bankruptcy. Those Games produced a $238 million surplus and helped restore the Olympic brand value after the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.
Ueberroth, who also served as baseball commissioner from 1984 to '89, is managing director of Contrarian Group, Inc., an investment and management company in Newport Beach, Calif.
Last year's USOC scandal, which evolved from a power struggle between then-president Sandy Baldwin and Ward, led to several congressional hearings and pressure to enact major structural changes. It ultimately resulted in the streamlining of a 125-person board to one built on a traditional corporate model.
In March, acting president Bill Martin -- whose tenure ended when Ueberroth officially began work yesterday -- appointed a four-person nominating committee to choose the new board chaired by Indiana State Supreme Court Justice Theodore R. Boehm.
That group received about 200 nominations for the independent director positions and six for the two athlete and national governing body positions from the Athletes Advisory Council and the National Governing Body Council.
"We are not just pleased this day is here," Scherr said, "we are ecstatic."