The World Surf League has just named a new CEO: London-born sports marketing executive Sophie Goldschmidt, who will become one of the few women heading up a league in any sport. She replaces Paul Speaker, who held the post until last January.
Goldschmidt proved her business genius while working for the National Basketball Association: She convinced an athlete worth $285 million to take an internship with the league. Ain’t that some business savvy! (It turns out that Goldschmidt, a former tennis player sidelined by injury, is best buddies with Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova and recommended her for the position to gain experience for life after tennis.)
Leading the WSL will be Goldschmidt’s first foray into the surf world, though she once told reporters that surfing is her guilty pleasure, “Even though I’m terrible!”
Goldschmidt will officially take the reins from interim CEO Dirk Ziff in August. Speaker stepped down after a five-year tenure which saw the league overhaul its broadcast format, Big Wave World Tour schedule and, perhaps most importantly for the future under Goldschmidt, acquire the Kelly Slater Wave Company.
Now in her mid-40s, Goldschmidt worked at the NBA from 2007 to 2011, overseeing the league’s expansion into Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Since leaving the basketball league, she served as an executive in the Rugby Football Union and, most recently, at the sports marketing firm CSM Sport and Entertainment. She also held marketing posts at the Women’s Tennis Association and Adidas.
The WSL made the announcement on Wednesday. “It is an honor to lead the WSL,” Goldschmidt said in a press release. “The League has experienced tremendous growth in recent years and has pioneered incredible innovations to transform surfing into a remarkable, digital-first and world-class sport that naturally also transcends into the lifestyle sector so well.”
As CEO, she will “evolve the landscape of competitive surfing around the world with the Kelly Slater Wave Company and its groundbreaking technology,” the press release said, as well as continue to expand the league’s presence globally, and reach fans “through new formats, live content and other media.”
In the press release, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver endorsed Goldschmidt, saying: “Sophie is a wonderful executive with an incredible breadth of experience and relationships across a variety of markets and sports organizations.”