Executive Stories

Executives Spotlight stories appeared on this website starting in 2001. Some of the executive's professional experience may have changed since they were published.

Executive Spotlight - October 14, 2007

Paul Garofolo


President/CEO, Wolstein Sports and Entertainment Group


I guess I've lived by the idioms, "one good turn deserves another" or "I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine."

I've spent years doing business on handshakes and fought to conclude agreements with clients with minimal legal language.Terry AngstadtBut in these days of too many lawyers and the fear of sexual harassment suits, how can anyone navigate one's way in life without making business relationships become personal relationships? If that's a no - no, I've failed. Yet in that failure, I've knitted together moments leading to great joy.

In the late 80s, I recruited Paul Garofolo to join a once competitor to my former employer, ProServ. He impressed me with his organizational skills, the notebooks, the ticket programs, the scripted pa announcements, as well as comprehensive integrated marketing sponsorship proposals he learned with indoor soccer's Cleveland Force. He also had a charitable heart. ProServ was looking for Director of their events in Chicago for their Chicago tennis event and whole host of other events. After being a tennis promoter myself, Paul Garofolo, and really many of the team executives I had interviewed, possessed far superior event management and presentation skills than any of us in tennis. During the heydays of the 1980s, professional indoor soccer's laser light shows, birthday parties, and indoor fireworks attracting hundreds of thousands of screaming kids to "Y-M-C-A" trumped many of the NBA teams in fan appeal. Not surprisingly the NBA scooped up many of those executives, like Tim Leiweke, and now the NBA looks like indoor soccer! Why, these team executives knew much more about creating ticket sales staffs than did tennis or golf events - and only now they embrace them!

My friends know I like chapters to begin and end and life isn't quite as well organized. So, when Paul decided to leave ProServ and eventually came back to Cleveland as Senior Vice President for the Wolstein Group, I felt I had failed my client. I was disappointed in Paul. We drifted apart. But Paul's heart was into soccer and his wife's family in Cleveland. Before bringing back professional indoor soccer to Cleveland, Paul acquired an interest in North American Sports Camps and negotiated licensing agreements with MLS, NFL, and Jack Nicklaus. He formed Signature Sports Marketing representing athletes for their endorsements. He also oversaw the MLS' City Bid Program in 7 cities. And with the Wolstein's also kept the outdoor soccer alive by signing a letter of intent for an expansion MLS team for Cleveland. After Bart Wolstein's unexpected death, Paul and Bart's son, Scott, resurrected the idea and enhanced it with the intent to build a new complex around a team.

Two years ago, my son's high school, Hawken School, challenged parents of his grade to help create internships - a pathways program to experiencing careers they might desire in the future. Two of us mothers chimed in that we should create a sports marketing internship and instead of leaning on the CAVS or the Indians or the Browns to create a seat for our kids in their offices, we would invite their executives to Hawken School to teach the students how to professional promote sports events just as the pros do. Unbeknownst to me, my parent colleague had Paul Garofolo as her child's godfather. Paul became a member of my parent volunteer team!

While Paul has been busily trying to get this new soccer stadium project built in Cleveland, navigating both the political and commercial landscapes, he's worked with me on promoting Hawken sports events and enlisted Hawken parents and former IMG superstar promoters, Stephanie Tolleson and Peter Johnson to help.

So, while we circled around an activity both of us were skilled in - running events like the pros - we circled back through our children. When the death of my stepfather this summer halted me from being able to lead an activity, Paul came through for me. Did we have disagreements? You bet. Did we settle those with a hug? Sure. Like family, like brothers and sisters. And the line is so blurry; I'm not sure whether we're professional colleagues or friends...we're both.

Another one of my sports executive recruits once told me she had worked for her father in her last 3 jobs. Really, I didn't know he was in sports, I responded. No, she replied, my bosses were just like my father.

We're all family really out there...at least in the sports business. We are brothers and sisters knitting together moments of sweat, agony and ecstasy. I won't let potential legal threats bring friendships to an end. And I won't let the fear of harassment suits spoil a good hug. The rabbi at a friend and sports executive, Craig Tartasky's funeral said Craig had eternal life because his heart still goes on through the memories of those of us in the sports business still living. He'd embrace this. The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates theme song remains a favorite of mine and hopefully all of us, "We are family."

(CHORUS:)

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up ev'rybody and sing
Ev'ryone can see we're together
As we walk on by
(FLY!) and we fly just like birds of a feather
I won't tell no lie
(ALL!) all of the people around us they say
Can they be that close
Just let me state for the record
We're giving love in a family dose

(CHORUS x2)

Living life is fun and we've just begun
To get our share of the world's delights
(HIGH!) high hopes we have for the future
And our goal's in sight
(WE!) no we don't get depressed
Here's what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won't go wrong
This is our family Jewel

- Buffy Filippell


"Like any brother, Paul can be a pain in the ass. But seriously, he makes a great presentation, speaks well, works hard and is the kind to roll up his sleeves."

--Tim Leiweke, when the two were in the MISL League.


What I do...

In June, 2005, Scott Wolstein, Bart's son, and Paul resurrected the idea of building a stadium. They formed Wolstein Sports & Entertainment Group (WSEG) in which Paul serves as the CEO & President to pursue building a $170 million dollar stadium, 25-field sports complex, retail center and health care facility in a Cleveland area suburb anchored by an MLS expansion team.

HOW I GOT HERE...

THE WOLSTEIN SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT GROUP; Cleveland, Ohio ; 2005 - present
President & CEO

CLEVELAND FORCE; Cleveland, Ohio; 1999 - 2005
President & General Manager

SIGNATURE SPORTS & MARKETING, INC.; Cleveland, Ohio; 1992-1999
President

THE WOLSTEIN GROUP; Cleveland, Ohio; 1990 -1992
Senior Vice President of Sales

PAWS/WATERSKIING ASSOCIATION; Florida, 1990
Executive Director/Vice President Marketing

PROSERV; Washington, DC; 1989
Director of Events, Chicago Office

CLEVELAND FORCE (MISL); Cleveland, OH; 1981-1988
Vice President/General Manager
Assistant General Manager
Director of Marketing
Director of Public Relations

PITTSBURGH SPIRIT (MISL); Pittsburgh, PA; 1978-1980
Director of Operations
Sales Representative

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