by Irvin Muchnick
USA Track & Field (USATF) paid nearly $300,000 to its chief executive officer, Max Siegel, in 2012 through his marketing company, Max Siegel Inc. Services. But that is just the start of the story of the huge sums of money-changing to “outside” marketing firms for this U.S. Olympic Committee’s national sport governing body, now in the quadrennial spotlight during televised coverage of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Until earlier this year, both Max Siegel Inc. Services and a company called Matchbox Creative operated out of the same office building in Indianapolis. (The Siegel company recently relocated headquarters 20 miles northeast to Fishers, Indiana.) “Max Siegel Incorporated” is still listed — along with the Olympic track organization and sister national governing body USA Swimming — as “clients” of Matchbox. See http://www.matchbookcreative.com/what-we-do/.
Siegel is a well-connected lawyer and entrepreneur whose role with USATF seems but a base of broader operations in the Indiana-centric world of what might be called Niche Sports Inc. Schedule L of USATF’s 2012 Form 990 — the public tax return filing of tax-exempt organizations — lists him as the only entry for Transactions With Interested Persons. According to the document, Siegel was paid $294,088. This was in addition to his regular $331,391 salary, plus $25,077 “from the organization and related organizations.” (Track and field sources say the $331,391 base pay represented a pro-rated figure for the last two-thirds of 2012.)
Concussion Inc. contacted Siegel for comment. We heard back from USATF spokesperson Jill Geer. In an email, Geer said Siegel “does not own a stake and has never owned a stake” in Matchbox Creative. She did not address the long-time office proximity of his company and Matchbox. Nor would Greer talk about the general policy and ethical question of a USOC body chief’s moonlighting as a freelance sports marketer with relationships doubling back to USOC contractors.
Greer pointed us to an audit of USATF’s 2012-13 books by the firm CliftonLarsonAllen. The report said the following with respect to Siegel’s 2012 compensation:
“Max Siegel Inc. (MSI) is a marketing and media agency specializing in sports, entertainment, and multicultural marketing. The CEO of USATF also serves as the CEO of MSI. MSI provided CEO outsourcing services to USATF during 2012, prior to USATF’s placement of Max Siegel in the role of CEO of USATF. Total amounts paid to MSI during 2012 were $294,088. No amounts were paid to MSI during 2013. No amounts were receivable from or payable to MSI as of December 31, 2012 or 2013.”
Siegel, something of a wunderkind in sports business circles, went to undergraduate and law school at Notre Dame, and is considered a protege of Jack Swarbrick, the athletic director at Notre Dame. Swarbrick, who has dealt with multiple allegations of cover-ups of sexual assault by Notre Dame football players, also has counseled USA Swimming on the handling of sexual misconduct by coaches in youth sports programs. Swarbrick has represented USA Gymnastics, as well, against similar allegations.
All told, Indianapolis takes the undisputed gold medal as the national capital of Olympian business abuses. As we have reported, long-time USA Swimming board member, and its former president, Dale Neuburger, steers event site contracts to clients of his TSE Consulting company in Indianapolis, in his capacity on the board of FINA, the international swimming body. Neuburger also brokers deals with foreign national swimming bodies for Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, and other American coaches.