USOC CEO Steps Down Citing Health; Investigation Ongoing

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is seeking new leadership and a new path forward, less than a week following the conclusion of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The USOC has announced that Scott Blackmun, CEO since 2010, has stepped down. Susanne Lyons, a current USOC board member, will serve as acting CEO.

Blackmun’s resignation comes at a time in which USOC has faced criticism for its reported handling of sexual abuse claims within USA Gymnastics by former physician Larry Nassar. USOC leadership reportedly learned of potential abuse in 2015, but did not intervene, according to multiple outlets. Lyons, in an organization release, stated that an independent investigation is ongoing.

The New York Times reported that Blackmun was initially expected to stay on until the completion of the investigation. In the release announcing Blackmun’s resignation, USOC Chairman Larry Probst cited Blackmun’s battle with prostate cancer as reason for the leadership change.

“The USOC is at a critical point in its history,” said Probst in the release. “The important work that Scott started needs to continue and will require especially vigorous attention in light of Larry Nassar’s decades-long abuse of athletes affiliated with USA Gymnastics. We will be working with key stakeholders to help identify a permanent successor to Scott. In the meantime, I am confident that Susanne is the right person to help us navigate this critical transition period.”

Blackmun departs after an eight-year tenure that featured, among other initiatives, a successful effort to bring the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics to Los Angeles. He was compensated $1,033,158 in 2016, the last year for which tax data is available.

A USOC spokesperson said that Blackmun will not stay on in a reduced role and that the resignation severs all formal ties between Blackmun and the organization. The spokesperson also stated that, once completed, the independent investigative report relating to USOC’s response to Nassar’s abuses will be made public in its entirety.

Lyons was selected in January to chair a working group aimed at addressing issues that the Nassar case brought to light. She has served as an independent director on the USOC board since 2010 and has 40 years of experience in management, marketing, sponsorship, and business strategy. She has served as executive vice president and chief marketing officer for VISA USA and has also held leadership roles at Charles Schwab & Co. and Fidelity Investments. Lyons has informed USOC leadership that she is not a candidate for the permanent CEO position, according to the spokesperson.

USOC, in addition to the change in leadership, announced a series of reforms related to the aftermath of Nassar’s abuses. They included new funding and resources to to provide support and counseling to athletes affected by Nassar’s abuse or similar abuse; the formation of an advisory group of survivors, advocates, child psychologists, and other professionals to better safeguard against abuse and support survivors; and working with USA Gymnastics to address governance and cultural issues based on the findings of the ongoing independent investigation.

USOC, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., reported revenue of $336.1 million in 2016 as compared to $141.6 million in 2015, $270.3 million in 2014, and $168.2 million in 2013. The spikes coincided with the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil and 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, respectively. In particular, program service revenue fluctuated from $9.4 million in 2013 up to $122.1 million in 2014 back down to $9.4 million in 2015 and up again to $183.4 million in 2016. Broadcasting rights was the primary driver of program service revenue in both Olympic years, $114.9 million in 2014 and just under $173 million in 2016.