Pac-12 business affairs: New CFO hired with revenue growth, financial controls in mind

Arizona Sports News online

The dead-of-summer appointment of a senior-level staffer by one of the Power Five conferences typically wouldn’t rise to the level of significant news. But when the conference is the Pac-12, the role is chief financial officer and the executive is Morane Kerek, our attention feels warranted.

Kerek joins the conference in the midst of its existential crisis following her seven-year tenure as CFO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee — a major role in the sports space that seemingly prepared her for the unique challenges awaiting in the Pac-12.

The terms of her contract were not revealed, but we suspect the deal comes with unlimited use of a bucket and mop.

The conference has been without a full-time CFO since Brent Willman was fired in January for his role in the Comcast financial scandal, which resulted in the media company overpaying the Pac-12 Networks by at least $50 million over the course of a decade even though Willman and networks president Mark Shuken were aware of the overpayments beginning in 2017.

Kerek will report directly to commissioner George Kliavkoff, who announced the hire Thursday afternoon.

“Morane has a track record of success working as a leader in complex sports industry environments to develop best-in-class financial systems and business strategies,” Kliavkoff said, adding that Kerek “brings world-class financial expertise and experience to our CFO role.”

She’ll need every ounce of it.

In addition to navigating the Comcast mess and negotiating a media rights deal to ensure the Pac-12’s survival, Kliavkoff is attempting to streamline conference operations in order to return a higher percentage of overall revenue to the schools.

(So far, he’s making good on that goal: Expenses related to conference operations dropped 12.7 percent in the 2022 fiscal year, to $41 million, compared to the $47 million spent in the year before COVID.)

In her role, Kerek will drive “the overall strategic financial vision for the Pac-12, including establishing the internal infrastructure to connect financial performance to the overall strategic plan,” according to the conference.

What does that mean?

Kerek’s responsibilities are as follows:

— “Development of financial strategies and goals”

— “Supporting and managing strategic revenue growth initiatives”

— “Evaluating new business models and enhancing operating results”

— “Oversight of all accounting, budget planning and forecasting; risk management; and ensuring best-in-class standards in financial control, audit practices and financial reporting”

In other words: Kerek is charged with preventing financial scandals; ensuring every available dime is being distributed to the campuses; and creating a financial model that aligns with the broader strategic vision for the conference — a vision that she will help create.

This isn’t your standard conference CFO position, folks. Not even close.

Other notes on the news:

— Kerek spent a total of 17 years at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee in a variety of financial roles. Prior to joining the USOPC, she served as IMG’s vice president of finance for sports, entertainment, and media. She will continue to live in Colorado, taking advantage of the Pac-12’s remote-work environment. (Kliavkoff lives in Las Vegas.) Her first day on the job is Aug. 9.

— Kerek will join the nine other executives who report directly to Kliavkoff, a group that includes not only deputy commissioner Teresa Gould and football operations chief Merton Hanks but also executive vice president of content Larry Meyers and senior vice president of engineering and products Ryan Currier.

— The conference does not plan to replace departed deputy commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, who left the Pac-12 in April to become managing director at TrailRunner International, a global strategic communications firm. (His first assignment for TrailRunner: Advise the Pac-12 on its media rights negotiations.)

— Zaninovich is the third senior executive to depart the Pac-12 in the past 18 months whose position won’t be filled. The other two are Shuken, the former Pac-12 Networks president who was fired in January, and Danette Leighton, the former chief marketing officer, who left in 2022 to become CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

The trio received more than $2 million in combined annual salary. Their roles have been assumed by existing staff members.

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