Miami sports authority to look nationally for new CEO
By Susan Stabley
Despite requests from board members that he reconsider his resignation, Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority CEO James Jenkins plans to step down Dec. 31.
Board members agreed last week to spend up to $25,000 to advertise nationally for a replacement.
The board may decide later to use an executive search firm. The board considered hiring a search firm on its own but later decided to use the City of Miami's list of headhunters as an option.
Mr. Jenkins, the 10th executive director in the authority's 20-year history, declined a plea from board members Marianne Salazar and Maritza Gutierrez to stay.
"A transition at this point would not be a savvy move for MSEA," Ms. Gutierrez said at the authority's meeting Nov. 5, when the board accepted Mr. Jenkins' resignation but declined to appoint an interim director.
"I think it's best for me to move on as an individual," said Mr. Jenkins, who added that he was "very grateful" for the request.
Mr. Jenkins offered to provide consulting after his departure and possibly work on a month-to-month basis, but the authority will be without an established leader just as it is beginning to consider revamping and expanding its mission.
A search for a replacement would likely take six months though many board members said the process would be its priority.
Created in November 1982, the sports authority is financed largely by Miami-Dade County's convention-development tax and operates on a $1.15 million budget.
A study earlier this year from accounting firm Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant, which surveyed 17 other US cities with multiple public arenas, said Miami should turn over operation of such venues as the Orange Bowl, Miami Convention Center and Bayfront Park Amphitheater to the authority.
Consolidation of several city facilities under the authority would increase performance and save money by eliminating redundant management and staff, centralizing promotion and increasing access to funds, according to the Berkowitz study.
The recommendation is being reviewed by the city, but City Commissioner Tomas Regalado, vice chairman of the authority, said during the meeting that the authority should be independent.
"The board cannot sit up and wait for the bureaucrats at MRC (the Miami Riverside Center administration building) to decide what we should be," he said.
Some board members questioned whether Mr. Jenkins was pressured to resign, which he denied.
He said last month that he is leaving to pursue other options. "I made that decision," he said in October. "For a while, I struggled with it. There are many things I like about the job, but it's time. There are other things I want to do."
Mr. Jenkins said he is paid about $93,000 annually plus health benefits and a car allowance. As head of the authority, he runs a staff of five that plans entertainment events such as Raceweek, Miami's Grand Prix Americas event. The authority also serves as landlord for the city's Watson Island properties.
During Mr. Jenkins' tenure, the authority took control of Miami Arena and its 30 employees from a management company. The facility is home to a minor-league hockey team, the Miami Manatees. It has been mentioned as a possible site for a $325 million baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins.
The arena has been struggling since the loss of the NBA's Miami Heat and the NHL's Florida Panthers to newer venues. Built in 1988 for more than $47 million, the 16,600-seat arena carries an outstanding debt of $32.8 million on revenue bonds issued to finance construction, according to figures from the authority.