Updated: March 5, 2009 at 12:00 am
Jim Scherr resigned Thursday as chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee, shocking the Colorado Springs-based organization that's battling an economic downturn, finalizing a 2016 Olympic bid and preparing for the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Longtime board member Stephanie Streeter, a 51-year-old businesswoman and former Stanford basketball player, will replace Scherr on an interim basis. Scherr is expected to remain with the USOC through March 31.
Chairman Larry Probst called the move "something that was mutually decided upon" after Tuesday's board meeting in Washington, where the USOC announced it would trim a 425-person staff by 10 to 15 percent and reduce programming and administrative costs.
A former Olympic wrestler, Scherr, 48, wouldn't discuss specifics of his resignation, which comes seven months before Chicago states its case for the 2016 Summer Games and less than a year before 215 Americans compete in Vancouver.
"The USOC is a great organization with a great mission," Scherr said. "I wish the organization well, and hopefully it will continue to prosper. I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life."
In Scherr's six years as CEO, the USOC underwent massive reform in its management and governance structure, revamped its international relations efforts and adopted a much tougher stance on doping.
The U.S. won 25 medals in 2006 in Turin, its all-time high for a Winter Games not on American soil. Its 110 medals last summer in Beijing - China beat the U.S. 51-36 in the gold-medal count - were its most in a non-boycotted Olympics.
With a $560,700 salary two years ago, Scherr oversaw an expansion of the USOC's athlete training services and the doubling of financial support to athletes and national governing bodies of Olympic sports - a total that reached $57.6 million.
The past four years, the USOC, under a $135.5 million budget for 2009, did not draw on a line of credit, as its total revenues increased from $490 million to $617 million. It closed 2008 with a $103 million operating reserve.
"Jim became CEO at a time of crisis and chaos for the USOC," former USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said. "He performed admirably. He is a young and capable leader. He will take on many other challenges in the world of sport, both at the collegiate and professional level."
USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said Scherr's exit was "very much a surprise. I'm sad for him. I hate to see this happen to someone I've always admired and enjoyed."
Said USA Wrestling head Rich Bender: "It's a bad day for the movement. It was refreshing to have a leader that understood all aspects of the business, understood what it took to run a national governing body, understood the challenges athletes were facing."
Streeter, of Neenah, Wis., helped generate $1.6 billion in annual sales as CEO of Banta Corp., a printing, imaging and supply chain management company acquired in 2007 by RR Donnelley & Sons Inc.
She maintains that her business skills should pay dividends for the USOC, as it continues negotiations with corporate partners over sponsorship renewals and awaits the possible restructuring of an International Olympic Committee deal regarding TV rights fees.
"Just like athletes have a code where they can communicate easily on the field of play," Streeter said, "CEOs have the same kind of ability to communicate quickly and efficiently. We can attack some of these issues in a different way."
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♦ ♦ ♦
FORMER USOC CEO
Residence: Colorado Springs
Family: Divorced with two sons
On the field: Under his guidance, the U.S. dominated the 2004 Athens Games, winning 102 medals and 36 golds. In 2006 in Turin, it finished second behind Germany, with 25 medals and nine golds. Last year in Beijing, it led with 110 medals and was runner-up to China with 36 golds.
Off the field: Will be best remembered for overseeing a sweeping reform that resulted in a downsized board of directors and doubling the financial support to athletes and national governing bodies. Also played a pivotal role in the USOC's improved commitment to international relations and took a stance in the fight against doping.
In his words: "It has been an honor to serve the USOC in this capacity and to lead such a talented team. Working together, we have accomplished things that may have seemed impossible six years ago. ... I remain committed to doing all I can in support of America's athletes, the national governing bodies and the USOC."
♦ ♦ ♦
INTERIM USOC CEO
Residence: Neenah, Wis.
Family: Married with 17-month-old twins, a boy and a girl
Education: Earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Stanford in 1979. Four-year starter and two-year captain on Stanford's women's basketball team.
Job experience: Former chairman, president and chief executive officer of Banta Corp., group vice president of Avery Dennison Corp. and chief operating officer of Idealab. Also held management positions at Xerox Corp. and Decision Data Computer Corp. Member of the USOC, Chicago 2016 and Green Bay Packers boards.
In her words: "I've been a passionate observer of all things Olympics. You couldn't pry me out of my seat during the Olympic Games, both winter and summer. Were it not for the passion that I feel in this organization, I would not have made myself available for an assignment like this, if I didn't feel that down to my toes."