Tom Lewand, who was named team president December 29, 2008, oversees the team’s day-to-day operations and reports to Mr. Ford on all business, organizational and NFL matters. Now in his 19th season with the Detroit Lions, fifth as president, he guides the overall direction of the franchise.
Among his responsibilities, Lewand is the chief player contract negotiator and he oversees all day-to-day business operations of both the Detroit Lions and Ford Field entities. This includes the management of finance, football administration, player development, security, equipment operations, medical staff, ticketing, sponsorship and marketing, communications, broadcasting, digital media, human resources, Ford Field operations and administration, acquisition of events and the development of Ford Field’s lease space in the stadium’s progression as a multi-use facility.
An extremely talented, creative and astute businessman, Lewand has held a myriad of positions and responsibilities during his tenure with the Lions, most recently as executive vice president and chief operating officer.
On a League-wide level, Lewand contributes to several key business and labor initiatives. He serves on the Super Bowl Advisory Committee and the NFL Management Council’s Club Executives Committee, and he was on the Committee on Revenue Sharing Qualifiers and Special Committee on League Economics. Lewand represents the organization for all League-level business matters.
Lewand’s leadership positions every aspect of the Lions’ organization, including Ford Field operations, to significantly impact the Lions’ drive for a Super Bowl title. For Lewand, everything from football transactions to Ford Field events influences the team’s ability to compete and win.
In January 2009, Lewand and General Manager Martin Mayhew completed an exhaustive and thorough search for a head coach that would lead the team on the field. They completed that process with the hiring of Head Coach Jim Schwartz, who brought the organization an impressive resume in both coaching and players personnel.
Schwartz’s philosophy on the game and how to build a successful team, along with his contributions to winning organizations and working under successful coaches, made him the right choice for the Lions new head coach. The hiring of Schwartz has brought stability to the coaching staff and tremendous development on the field as the team continues to move in the right direction.
Over the past four seasons, the team has increased its win total from the previous season three times, and Detroit won 10 games in 2011 to earn a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
During his tenure with the Lions, Lewand has negotiated player contracts totaling more than $1.4 billion.
Since 2009, Lewand executed some of the NFL’s more extensive and complex contract negotiations by re-signing All-Pro WR Calvin Johnson in 2012 to the highest contract ever signed by a receiver in League history and inking QB Matthew Stafford and DT Ndamukong Suh to their contracts.
Johnson was the biggest off-season move for the Lions in 2011 as Lewand negotiated a new eight-year contract that has him signed with the Lions through 2019. Stafford’s rookie contract occurred within just a few hours of the 2009 NFL Draft allowing the team to sign the first overall pick prior to the draft. This offseason, Lewand led the negotiations with Stafford to extend his contract through 2017. Suh’s contract was the largest by a drafted player who did not play quarterback in NFL history.
Johnson, Stafford and Suh represent three of the young, highly-talented core of players who will help continue to lead the Lions’ progress on the field.
Lewand’s additional contract highlights include: the Lions’ last 21 first-round draft choices, Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders’ last NFL contract, the contracts of several Pro Bowl players and recent key free agent acquisitions.
BUILDING THE LIONS BRAND
On the business side, Lewand constantly evaluates and reviews opportunities to grow the team’s operations in order for those to impact the team’s ability to win on the field. Lewand desires to combine a championship team with unique fan engagement and in-stadium experiences.
One key area of improvement the past three seasons has been the growth in season ticket holders and ticket sales. The Lions have sold out 23 of their last 24 home games, including the past 21. The introduction of numerous fan-friendly and family-oriented ticket options has greatly improved attendance at all Lions games.
When the Lions defeated the Chicago Bears 24-13 on October 1, 2011 during its first Monday Night Football appearance since 2001, the team claimed victory in front of a Ford Field record crowd (67,891) for a Lions home game.
In fact, the Lions have set new season attendance records for Lions games at Ford Field in each of the past two years as the club has attracted over 500,000 during both the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Among the top 12 largest Lions crowds in Ford Field’s 11-year history, all 12 have occurred the past two seasons, with seven generated last season. In 2012, the Lions reached a record 510,158 fans at home.
In 2010, attendance to Lions games increased 14-percent. It was the largest increase by any NFC team, and Detroit was one of only two teams in the NFL to experience a double-digit increase in ticket sales.
Lewand not only wants the team to provide the best possible product on the field for the fans, but he also is determined to make the experience affordable and one of the most valuable investments for Lions fans. For season ticket holders, the team offers additional unique interactive opportunities, such as town hall meetings, conference calls, online chats, meet-and-greets with players and special training camp access among others to complement their purchase of season tickets.
Since 2009, the Lions have achieved the NFL’s largest growth in both total season ticket holders and percentage of Club Seats sold.
The interest in the Lions has not only increased at the gate but in home viewership as well. Over the past two seasons, Lions games have averaged a local television rating (Detroit market) of 26.6, which is an increase of 37.8-percent over the prior two-year average during the 2009-10 seasons. In 2011, the Lions averaged a local household rating of 27.5—the highest for the team on record since 1998.
During the team’s Monday Night Football game October 10, 2011 vs. Chicago, the Lions generated its highest regular season single-game rating ever with a 36.4 household rating.
Over the past two seasons, Detroit has played on national television eight times, including three on MNF, three on Sunday Night Football and twice on Thanksgiving. The Lions’ eight nationally televised games tied the most appearances by Detroit on national television during a two-year stretch in the past 43 seasons. In 2012, the Lions played five nationally televised games for just the fourth time in team history, and also had four prime time games for only the second time since 1970.
Seeking opportunities to reach and communicate with more fans, Lewand emphasizes the importance of growing fan interaction through digital media. In the past year, the team has attracted over 7 million combined unique visitors to Detroitlions.com and engaged fans on various social media and mobile app platforms.
Establishing the Lions as a great partner in the community has remained a top priority for Lewand. In September 2012, the Lions launched its new Living for the City philanthropic program that produces transformational efforts that improve the well-being of metro Detroit’s underserved communities by focusing on sustainable health and wellness initiatives and community development. Living for the City supports organizations that pursue integrated approaches to physical fitness, healthy eating, housing, land use and environmental planning, public transportation, community infrastructure, and aligned workforce opportunities.
In 2009, Lewand completed two major initiatives that continue to help transform the Lions business operations. The Lions unveiled a new comprehensive brand that launched changes to the team’s logo and uniforms, a new team logotype and font and streamlined branding elements. The evolution of the Lions brand is the most complete and all-encompassing modification in franchise history. The new brand now extends beyond the logo on the helmet and presents a consistent visual identity in new, versatile and distinctive ways.
Additionally that year, the team partnered with MainGate on a 10-year exclusive retail and merchandising agreement. The partnership focuses on providing greater service to Lions fans and consumers, including significant improvements to the organization’s retail operations. Headlining the overhaul was the re-vamped team store at Ford Field, now known as “Lions Pro Shop,” and the re-launch of the Lions’ online store, Detroitlionsstore.com.
FORD FIELD PHENOMENON
Under Lewand’s guidance and direction, Ford Field has become the crown jewel of downtown Detroit and serves as a cornerstone in the city’s urban renewal and revitalization efforts. The facility opened to rave reviews in 2002, with the publisher of the Detroit Free Press stating that Ford Field “tells [Detroiters] who we are and suggests what we can be. Now it’s up to the rest of us to create a downtown and a city that matches the vision Ford Field realizes.”
Few venues, considering space, amenities and operations, have the flexibility to host and execute the variety of large-scale events as does Ford Field.
Lewand leads in the procurement of all events at Ford Field, including college football, MHSAA high school football, concerts, motorsports and various trade shows. Few venues in the U.S. host as many football events of all levels as does Ford Field, filling virtually every weekend in the Fall. In any given year, approximately 14 high school, college and NFL games are played at Ford Field from Thanksgiving Day through December.
Lewand and the Lions are currently working with the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conference to launch a new college bowl game at Ford Field in 2014.
For the past 11 years, Ford Field has been the home to the Little Caesars Bowl, and for the MAC Football Championship Game for the past nine years as well.
An example of Ford Field’s unique capability occurred in 2010 when it hosted the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings on a re-scheduled Monday Night Game, December 13, a day after the Lions defeated the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, 10-3, with just less than 20 hours to prepare for the relocated NFL game.
SUPER BOWL XL
Ford Field dazzled in 2006 when the city of Detroit hosted Super Bowl XL. Lewand served as the point person for the Lions and Ford Field on the Host Committee for Super Bowl XL, and he was among the key figures leading the city’s hosting of the game and events surrounding Super Bowl XL, which was widely-acclaimed as successful and critical to Detroit’s future growth. Super Bowl XL injected a $260 million economic boost to the Metro Detroit region.
OTHER SHINING MOMENTS
Behind Lewand’s leadership, Ford Field once again stepped to the forefront in April 2009 as Detroit, for the first time, hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. The championship culminated six years of planning, including Lewand representing the organization in a partnership with the NCAA to present the Final Four in a groundbreaking manner that has set the standard for all future sites.
The event featured a first for the Final Four—a center-stadium configuration that utilized the entire stadium seating structure along with customized risers. Ford Field broke long-standing records, including: attendance for the practice session on Final Four Friday (nearly 30,000), the National Semifinals (72,456) and National Championship game (72,992). Overall, a record 145,378 fans attended the Final Four. By hosting the Final Four, Ford Field was the centerpiece for a weekend that had an estimated $30-50 million impact on the city of Detroit and the metro area.
Attendance records were not only set inside Ford Field, but the ancillary events, such as Hoops City at the COBO Hall Convention Center that also set attendance records.
All of these events generated a tremendous opportunity for both residents and visitors to enjoy downtown Detroit over a five-day period.
Paced by Lewand’s leadership, the organization followed up that tremendous accomplishment with the highly successful hosting of the 2010 Men’s Hockey Frozen Four. Like the basketball championship, Ford Field allowed the NCAA to elevate one of its marquee events to even greater heights. For the first time, the 2010 Frozen Four was held in a large-stadium venue with the portable ice configuration set-up used in the NHL’s annual Winter Classic. The championship garnered record crowds (34,954 for the National Semifinals and 37,592 for the National Championship) that not only set NCAA Frozen Four records but world indoor hockey records as well.
Ford Field became the first venue to host the Men’s Final Four and the Men’s Frozen Four in back-to-back years.
In April 2007 Ford Field hosted WWE’s Wrestlemania 23 that set a new Ford Field all-events attendance record (80,103) and had a $25 million impact on the Metro Detroit area.
In June 2011, Ford Field hosted the opening round of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup with two soccer matches between Panama and Guadeloupe and the United States and Canada. The opening round match was the first soccer game played by the U.S. Men’s National Team played in the Metro Detroit area since the World Cup in 1994, and it drew the largest crowd (28,209) for a U.S. match in the Gold Cup opening round since 2003.
A “LEADER AND BEST”
Lewand possesses a strong educational background, having received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan in 1991, and completing both his Juris Doctor at the University of Michigan Law School and his Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan Business School in 1996. Lewand aided the Michigan football program in various capacities on a volunteer basis while attending the school. He also worked for the Lions on a part-time basis while completing work on his graduate degrees.
In 1991, Lewand served as an environmental advisor for the Governor of Indiana, Evan Bayh. Following a year in that position, he entered graduate school at Michigan. He spent time working for the law firm of Dickinson Wright in Detroit, and the Chicago law firm of Kirkland and Ellis. In the summer of 1993, he worked in the White House in the Counsel’s Office for Presidential Personnel.
Lewand’s family history is entrenched in the Detroit area community. His father, F. Thomas Lewand, works as an attorney and was both the Chief of Staff for former Governor James Blanchard and the Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. His late grandfather, Joseph B. Sullivan, was a judge in the Michigan Court of Appeals and was the deputy mayor of Detroit in the 1960s.
OFF THE FIELD
Lewand is active in the community, acting as Past Chairman of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau and serving on the Boards of Directors of the Detroit Zoological Society, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the Parade Company.
In a collaborative effort to reduce and prevent youth sports concussions, Lewand represented the Lions and the organization’s work with Michigan legislators, the NFL and various youth sports organizations to pass state laws that have implemented concussion education and awareness programs along with a medical protocol for young athletes to return to action.
Lewand also is on the Corporate Advisory Board for the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Lewand was named as one of Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40” in 1998, which honored and recognized 40 top business people in the Detroit area under the age of 40. Lewand has also been recognized nationally twice, in 2003 and 2005, by the Sports Business Journal as one of the top “40 Under 40” sports executives in the United States.
He and his wife, Suzanne, have four daughters: Cayleigh, Paige, Shannon and Erin.
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