Make us your home page

New Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke to focus on 'brand'

Tod Leiweke has earned a reputation as a builder and fixer of sport franchises. Most recently, he's run the business side of teams owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen: the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, the NBA's Portland Trailblazers and the Seattle Sounders Major League Soccer team. • On Tuesday, Leiweke took on new job that will test his interpersonal and financial skills: Chief executive and minority owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He held an introductory press conference at the St. Pete Times Forum Wednesday morning and will start work once a new Seahawks CEO is hired. • Leiweke, 50, talked with the Times about giving the Lightning a brand identity, deeper community ties and some much-needed front office stability.

You're taking on a big challenge rebuilding attendance and relations with corporate sponsors. What's the first step?

Early on, we're going to focus on figuring out what the brand of this team and organization is. Before you can get to economics, you've got to first understand who you are and what you stand for. If you can understand that, you can create consistency. What's happened here has been inconsistency just by the sheer nature of changes in ownership.

Does the Lightning have any brand now?

We've got work to do. If you asked people what the Tampa Bay Lightning means to them, you'd probably get a wide variety of answers. In Seattle, it's the number 12 (for the stadium crowd or "12th man''). It means passion. It means fans.

Why is that so important?

This isn't a commodity. We don't sell signs, we don't sell tickets. This is ultimately a relationship business and that is what we are going to get into. Relationships tend to pass the test of time. The Seahawks have had a couple bad years, but the stadium's going to be full. Sponsorships didn't fail because we had good relationships.

You've talked about making the St. Pete Times Forum the best arena in the NHL. Any ideas about where to start?

Sponsors get exposure here, but it's pretty overwhelming. You've got to get to the point where everything here reflects (fans') values. We're going to honor what's happened in this organization. They friggin' won a Stanley Cup and it was not very long ago. We're going to honor our players. Steve Stamkos is incredible. So, this building is going to sing hockey when we're done.

Another big deal for you in Seattle was involving the team in community activities such as the United Way. Is that part of your plan here?

I did over 50 speaking engagements on behalf of the United Way. We climbed (Mount) Ranier and planted the flag. Ultimately, we ran a campaign in arguably the worst economic times in my generation … and achieved over $100 million. We are going to pick some things here that are going to be game changers.

What convinced you to come down here from a pretty good gig in Seattle?

(Principal owner) Jeff Vinik ultimately was the guy I bought into in this whole thing. There was (general manager) Steve Yzerman. This is an awesome place to live. Boating in the morning and watching hockey in the afternoon is a really cool idea.

And the fans. The fans showed up here and had the same passion as any fans anywhere. The run up to the Stanley Cup — I watched some of the games on YouTube — was totally awesome. So, it's been here. It's not like you have to go start something.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

New Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke to focus on 'brand' 07/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 29, 2010 9:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach


    Target Corp. has agreed to pay Florida $928,963 out of a newly-announced $18.5 million settlement over a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  2. Gov. Rick Scott's family history of alcohol abuse could decide 'liquor wall' bill


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott must decide Wednesday whether to let Walmart and other big-box stores sell liquor, and he says a factor in his decision is the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering a veto of a bill that would allow Walmart, Target and other big box retail stores to sell liquor. [Andres Leiva | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. As St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit broadens its business, it shrinks its name to Jabil


    St. Petersburg's Fortune 500 company, Jabil Circuit, informally tossed aside the "Circuit" in its name some time ago. That's because circuit board manufacturing, the company's core business for decades, has been squeezed out by a broader business agenda ranging from consumer packaging to supply chain management.

    Jabil Circuit informally dropped "Circuit" from its marketing material and signage, like at its St. Petersburg headquarters, years ago. Now it's official.
[Times file photo]
  4. Kahwa Coffee to open second drive-thru store in St. Petersburg


    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.

    Kahwa Coffee will open its 12th location and fourth with a drive-thru in a former "farm store" in St. Petersburg.
[Times file photo]

  5. John Morgan 'prepared to invest $100M' in medical marijuana

    State Roundup

    John Morgan spent nearly $7 million pushing two statewide ballot initiatives to expand medical marijuana throughout the state of Florida.

    Personal injury lawyer John Morgan says he's ready to invest $100 million in medical marijuana. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]