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.

Mike Tatoian


Executive Vice President, Dover Motorsports, Inc.


Recently "Meet the Press" host, Tim Russert, passed away of a heart attack. Mike Tatoian It was his colleagues at NBC and competitors at other television stations who deeply mourned the loss. People, to this day, caution me that business is business and friendship is something else. Somehow it's been hard for me to separate the two. As a veteran executive recruiter, I have relished the time spent with prospective recruits as I share their journey through life's transitions. Like all reunions thereafter, they are warmly welcomed.

Two years ago, Mike Tatoian called to say he was leaving minor league baseball to move into the newest American pastime - motorsports - with Dover International Speedway. I couldn't believe it. Mike had been in minor league baseball for years and even became an owner of a team. To many he had achieved the pinnacle of success in the sports business. It caused me to reminisce about how we shared another possible transition. It was 1994.

1994 was a year of economic ramp-up. The country would be knee deep into dot-coms and everyone's belief that money was flowing from every blade of grass to leaf on a tree. We were a part of a glorious growing economy. I called Mike about an opportunity to build youth bowling!

Presenting him to a group of middle-aged (my same age!) men and women, I positioned Mike, who could double for Omar Shariff, at a table with his prospective employers. The women with open-toed shoes played nuzzle knees with him under the table and the men coveted his youthful but progressive marketing wisdom. He was talking baseball, the real American pastime. Perhaps not surprisingly, the job went to a fellow who had majored in "youth sports."

But through that transition, Mike and I developed a friendship and continued to keep in touch, annually relaying stories of our children and sharing updates on other friends in the sports business. We sought advice from each other on sales and marketing programs and hiring techniques. Mike continued to develop his minor league baseball business but by 2006, he was approached to help Dover Motorsports transform their facility business into the theme park/fun park atmosphere he had been creating with his minor league sports teams.

Mike has brought a sales culture to Dover Motorsports and built a broader based marketing and entertainment venue for the usual 250,000 visitors per race weekend at Dover. He built a 50 ft. fiberglass monster as part of his main entrance or victory plaza in Dover and doubled the FanZone space for his sponsors and supporters. He's updated the food and beverage selections and increased the "cool merchandise" in his vans. For the 40-year old Dover track where only a few come from the Dover area, business is up! He's repeated these efforts in the three other motorsports tracks he oversees.

16 years ago, Mike and I both had 2 year old children. We mailed baby pictures to each other. And now, we are chagrined to think that our first (and in my case only) borns are going off to college. We still talk about family and friends in the business. And Mike and I smile when we reminisce about the transition that got away.

We often refer to the sports industry as relationship-driven. When I was meeting with a college career counselor a few days ago, I explained, that the sports industry is filled with great people, many of whom will be your friends for years. It's nice we can share these warm feelings and deep respect with each other before we too have our heart beat its last beat.

- Buffy Filippell


"Mike has the ability to elevate the production of those around him and always make those working for him and with him feel like they are important to him and an integral part of the team."

--Jason Hartlund, Vice President of Brewers Enterprises, Milwaukee Brewers


What I do...

Mike reports to a CEO and board of directors. He is responsible for overseeing 4 tracks - Memphis, Nashville, Dover and St. Louis - on all aspects of their entire operations including food and beverage, sponsorship, ticket sales, sanctioning body relationships, track operations, and the finances of a publicly-traded company.

HOW I GOT HERE...

DOVER MOTORSPORTS; Dover, Delaware, 2006 - present
Executive Vice President

VICTORY SPORTS GROUP; 2001-2006
Founder

UNITED SPORTS VENTURES
COO

FT. WAYNE WIZARDS (A); Ft. Wayne, IN; 1992-present
General Manager

QUAD-CITY RIVER BANDITS (A); Davenport, IA; 1987-1992
General Manager
Assistant General Manager

TULSA DRILLERS BASEBALL (AA); Tulsa, OK; 1985-1987
Director of Media Relations
Director of Stadium Operations
Telemarketing Representative

TULSA NAUTILUS ATHLETICS CENTER; Tulsa, OK; 1984
Marketing Director

CEDAR VALLEY UNITED WAY; Waterloo, IA; 1983
Communications Director

TeamWork Innovators

Daryl Morey, General Manager, Houston Rockets

Daryl Morey brought some amazing talents to the sports industry. Upon graduating from Northwestern where he worked part-time while in school for Stats, Inc., before entering graduate school at MIT Daryl was hired as a Senior Knowledge Management Engineer and helped Mitre develop a computer program for NSA which could scan all the international videos and bring up clips of specific items - such as "Hussein" - and show just those clips across all international broadcasts. This technology was later developed for commercial use and marketed under the company, Virage. Mr. Morey wrote the code and algorithm. He could convert speech to text and frames and mark when a story started and ended on the video. Is it a surprise he has become the thought leader in advancing database analytics, algorithms and technology in the sports industry?

Learn more

Others Say

"Morey is the whiz-kid stats analyst who made news last month when he was hired from the Celtics, where he worked on the business side, to take over as (GM) Dawson's eventual replacement. With his background as a Bill James disciple, Morey's hiring was hailed as the NBA's first venture into "Moneyball."

- Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated