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IFL Announces Jay Larkin as CEO

From a press release sent out by the IFL this morning:

NEW YORK, November 20, 2007 - The International Fight League (OTC.BB: IFLI), the world's number one team-based professional mixed martial arts league, today announced a change in its senior leadership, naming Jay Larkin acting Chief Executive Officer.  Larkin, who had joined the IFL as President and Chief Operating Officer on September 21, 2007, replaces IFL co-founder Gareb Shamus, who resigned his positions as chairman and chief executive officer, effective immediately.  Shamus will remain available to the IFL as a consultant.

"Taking a sports and entertainment entity from an idea to an established brand in 14 months is nothing short of amazing.  Gareb should be commended for his vision and leadership during that period," Larkin said.  "From first class events with rising athletes to quality broadcast television and landmark licensing and sponsorship deals, the IFL brand that has been built is very strong, and I look forward to the challenge of taking that growing brand and working with our television partners, business partners, staff, coaches and athletes to make it the best organization possible for a very long time to come."

Larkin joined the IFL after having spent over 20 years at media giant Showtime, rising from a junior publicist to one of the most powerful and respected dealmakers in the sport of boxing, during his storied career.  An accomplished television and theatrical producer, his educational background has included time at the Boston Conservatory of Music; the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; and a degree in theater and directing from C.W. Post.  He began at Showtime in 1984, and helped create some of the channel's greatest entertainment specials involving legends ranging from Frank Sinatra and Paul McCartney to The Rolling Stones, Britney Spears, and The Spice Girls among others.

During that time, the Brooklyn native also oversaw the channel's growth in boxing, beginning in 1986 with Marvelous Marvin Hagler's middleweight title defense against John Mugabi. He negotiated the deals and helped create some of boxing's most legendary matchups of the last quarter century, including numerous Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Julio Cesar Chavez fights.  He also was one of the key negotiators and co-executive producer of what was then the biggest money fight in history, the 2002 heavyweight championship bout between Lennox Lewis and Tyson that happened because of a landmark deal between Showtime (Tyson's network) and rival HBO (Lewis' network).

Larkin certainly has a strong boxing background and a good business sense.  I think the biggest thing he has going for him is the understanding of television.  I've not been a big Larkin fan in the past and he has really shot himself in the foot, he was basically fired by Showtime after promising over twice the amount of PPV buys that actually came in for Castillo/Corrales rematch.  A great fight on paper, but no one outside of Larkin (and the people at Showtime he convinced to sink cash into the fight) believed the 500,000 buy estimate he was giving.

Regardless of his past I think it is important for Larkin to come in and use his knowledge to really improve the IFL's TV situation.  Hopefully starting with live fights.

As I've said in the past, I like the IFL and want them to succeed.  But having taped fights aired for an already difficult to follow (without really going out of your way) team format isn't a formula for success.  I know a lot of the "live fight" formula falls on the network (the majority of the rest falls on the added cost of live TV), but if you're telling me that My Network TV has anything better to air...you're lying.

Here's hoping that the IFL continues to move in the right direction.