Madison Square Garden CEO Doc O’Connor leaves abruptly

  • Push-out Score suggests push-out forces
  • After less than two years and a half in the position
  • Jim Dolan taking over in the interim

(exechange) — New York, November 14, 2017 — Doc O’Connor, chief executive of Madison Square Garden, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by The Madison Square Garden Company in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Monday, November 13, 2017, David (Doc) O’Connor leaves the post as Chief Executive Officer at the sports and entertainment holding company after less than two years and a half in the position, effective immediately.

No company wants a CEO to flame out in the first years.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CEOs who departed over the past twelve months was 8.7 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 22 percent of the CEOs who departed over the past twelve months left the position within three years.

O’Connor’s duties are taken over in the interim by Jim Dolan, currently Executive Chairman at The Madison Square Garden Company.

No reason given

In the announcement, Madison Square Garden did not explicitly explain the obviously compelling reason for O’Connor’s sudden move, leaving room for speculation.

Precise information about the future plans of O’Connor was not immediately available.

Alarm signal

Generally speaking, it is often an alarm signal for investors when a CEO leaves the post abruptly and without a reasonable explanation.

“Stepped down”

Madison Square Garden said: “On November 13, 2017, David O’Connor stepped down as the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Madison Square Garden Company …, effective immediately.”

Share price rise since September 2015

The change follows a rise in the share price of The Madison Square Garden Company since September 2015.

Chaired by James L. Dolan

The Madison Square Garden Company is chaired by James L. Dolan.

Dolan is a director and the Executive Chairman of the Company since March 4, 2015.

In the position of CEO since 2015

David O’Connor served as the Chief Executive Officer and President of The Madison Square Garden Company since July 15, 2015.

David O’Connor was President and Chief Executive Officer of The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), which includes renowned performance venues, entertainment properties, and professional sports teams.

O’Connor was responsible for the Company’s overall strategic vision, and for leading the Company’s efforts to identify new initiatives that enhance MSG’s existing brands and represent new opportunities for growth, including the formation of new strategic alliances and transactions.

The Company’s signature assets consist of some of the nation’s most dynamic and powerful sports and entertainment brands. This diverse collection of properties includes a portfolio of iconic venues: New York’s Madison Square Garden, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; the Forum in Inglewood, California; The Chicago Theatre; and the Wang Theatre in Boston. In addition, MSG owns and operates professional sports teams, the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty; and entertainment properties, including the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes; and is part of strategic partnerships – Azoff MSG Entertainment and Tribeca Enterprises.

O’Connor joined the Company in June 2015 and, as one of his first tasks, helped drive the successful spin-off of MSG from its predecessor company, now known as MSG Networks Inc.

With the completion of this transaction, O’Connor laid out a plan to grow the new standalone sports and entertainment company.

In addition to implementing an organizational structure that has readied the company for future growth, O’Connor has played a critical role in several new endeavors with a focus on expanding MSG’s live experience offerings.

These include the Company’s plans to build a groundbreaking music and entertainment-focused venue in Las Vegas, as well as its investments in Boston Calling Events, which produces outdoor festivals; TAO Group, a hospitality group with globally-recognized entertainment dining and nightlife brands; and Counter Logic Gaming, a leading North American esports organization.

Prior to joining MSG, O’Connor spent more than 30 years at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where he served as Managing Partner of the world-wide entertainment and sports agency his last 20 years.

He began his career at CAA in 1983 in the mailroom and was soon promoted to agent in the Motion Picture department.

In 1995, O’Connor took over day-to-day management and ownership of the agency along with his partners, helping to expand the agency’s operations and services around the globe, while maintaining the company’s reputation as a trusted agency.

O’Connor serves on the board of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit organization that works closely with all areas of MSG to make dreams come true for children facing obstacles.

Since its inception in 2006, the Foundation’s relationship with MSG has enabled it to brighten the lives of more than 325,000 children and their families through once-in-a-lifetime experiences, college scholarships and larger community projects that make a real and lasting difference in children’s lives.

He is also a member of the board of Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership (HLL), a school-based non-profit organization that changes life trajectories of at risk youth through daily wrap-around academic support, mentoring, leadership training, college readiness, career exploration, admissions counseling and lacrosse instruction.

HLL has operations in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Los Angeles.

O’Connor is married to Lona Williams and has two children, Lucy and Angus.

At the time of O’Connor’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer at Madison Square Garden, James Dolan, executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, had said: “We are extremely pleased to welcome Doc, who brings with him an extensive understanding of the entertainment and sports worlds, including deep industry relationships and a history of successfully creating platforms for growth. We are confident that his expertise will be crucial to our efforts to strengthen our legendary brands and pursue growth opportunities that expand our business and increase shareholder value.”

At the time of his appointment as Chief Executive Officer at Madison Square Garden, O’Connor had said: “Growing up in New Jersey, some of my earliest and fondest memories involve The Madison Square Garden Company – from my first professional hockey and basketball games to my first rock concert to Radio City Music Hall and the Christmas Spectacular. It is a privilege for me to come full circle and work with MSG’s legendary brands. I believe my experience and relationships in the sports and entertainment industries have given me a unique perspective on how to maximize assets and pursue strategic growth, and I look forward to working with the well-respected management team and employees across MSG to help lead the company into its next celebrated chapter.”


Generally speaking, when a top manager announces to step down with no permanent successor available, it is a signal that the move was unexpected and too early.

In general, possible causes for an unexpected management change may be, among others, disagreement or dispute, health reasons, family reasons and surprising new career opportunities.

Push-out Score suggests push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Doc O’Connor’s sudden move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange suggests that push-out forces may have contributed to the management change.

Read the full story in the exechange report 47.2017 ($).