Siegel’s bosses on USA Track and Field’s board of directors have resisted calls from former employees and volunteers for an independent audit to examine the nonprofit’s relationship with Matchbook Creative, but in Lananna, some saw an independent voice who would push for a new review. In a recent phone interview, however, Lananna said there are is no new audit in the works, and he has no plans to take a closer look at the relationship between USA Track and Field and Matchbook Creative, a company owned by two women who have had a longstanding business relationship with Max Siegel Inc., Siegel’s sports marketing company.
“I really don’t have enough information to really have an opinion on it,” said Lananna, a former track and field coach at Stanford, Oregon and for the U.S. national team. Lananna said he has no plans to discuss the issue with Siegel.
Siegel, CEO of USA Track and Field since 2012, declined an interview request for this story. While Siegel’s tenure has been one of record financial growth — USA Track and Field’s budget more than doubled from $17 million in 2011 to $35 million last year — some former employees have questioned whether the former record executive is improperly benefiting from his position, potentially violating IRS provisions against self-dealing by those who run 501(c)3 nonprofits.
Last October, a Washington Post story detailed these concerns. Siegel, who owns a NASCAR team, has flown to NASCAR events on USA Track and Field’s expense on multiple occasions, which he has defended as worthwhile because he discussed business strategies with NASCAR officials. And Siegel has for years awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars of business to Matchbook Creative, which has done contract work for Siegel’s marketing company and his race team. Matchbook employees have used email addresses that end “@maxsiegelinc.com,” and for a period of time, the companies shared office space, where the window billed Matchbook Creative as “a Max Siegel company.”
Siegel does not have any public ownership stake in Matchbook, Indiana corporate records show. Matchbook Creative CEO Donna Gray has said the “Max Siegel company” stencil did not mean Siegel owned the company or shared in profits.
Former USA Track and Field employees also took issue with Siegel’s lavish spending habits on travel for him and his leadership team. Siegel routinely flies first-class, and last year rented a private jet to bring him and several other USA Track and Field officials back to Indianapolis from an event in Portland, Ore.
Lananna said he has no plans to examine what Siegel spends on travel, and any questions about private jet usage should be directed to board chairman Steve Miller, who directly oversees Siegel. Miller declined an interview request for this story. Last year, Miller initially offered to release information justifying the private jet rental, but then declined to disclose cost details.
“Max has done a spectacular job,” Miller said last year. “Max makes decisions based on what he believes is best in order to . . . run his organization, and as long as he does not exceed the budgets that are allocated, I’m comfortable with that.”
David Greifinger, former counsel to USA Track and Field’s board and a critic of Siegel, is among those who expected Lananna to call for a closer look at Siegel’s spending practices. In a phone interview, Greifinger said he was “disappointed, but not surprised” to hear Lananna had no interest in an audit. Lananna is only one vote on a 16-member board, Greifinger pointed out, and would need support for a potentially divisive measure.
“Even though Vin is the president, his power is limited,” Greifinger said.
Lananna praised the job Siegel has done increasing USA Track and Field’s revenue, which in turn has increased the amount of money the Olympic nonprofit has paid its top athletes. Under Siegel, USA Track and Field has become one of the most generous Olympic national governing bodies when it comes to paying elite athletes: those who make the national team each year earn $10,000 each, and can make more than $100,000 through competitive bonuses.
“I’m not afraid to speak what I believe,” Lananna said. “Right now, my position [with Siegel] is I’m comfortable with what I’ve seen. If it comes to the point where I’m not comfortable, I will speak up.”