Lloyd Ward: Victim or Villain?

In an exclusive interview, the former U.S. Olympic Committee CEO tells his side about what led to his ouster. Was it a nasty campaign to discredit him, or did his unpopular business practices and management style derail his career?

It Was Almost By Accident That Lloyd David Ward discovered that the press didn’t welcome him as the new CEO of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). He had arrived at USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about a week before his official Nov. 1, 2001, start date so that he could meet with the staff. Upon returning to his hotel room, his wife, Lita, picked up a Colorado Springs newspaper and read this headline from the sports page: “USOC Sinks to New Low with New CEO.”

The Wards were shocked. The article criticized the USOC for its previous choice for CEO, Norm Blake, a former hotel and insurance executive known for engineering a turnaround at insurer U.S. Fidelity & Guaranty and guiding Promus Hotel Corp. toward a lucrative merger with Hilton Hotels. He lasted only nine months at the USOC when his “no holds barred” management style clashed with volunteer leaders. Arguing that an important event such as the Olympics should not be entrusted to corporate types, the article forecast that the already beleaguered USOC would continue its troubled ways since Ward also had a corporate background and no Olympic experience. Ward wondered how the press could make such a damning conclusion without meeting him.

That article was the first salvo in Ward’s highly publicized battle with members of the USOC. According to Ward, the political power structure within the organization was hesitant to adopt his new system that rewarded performance. There was resistance to displacing an entrenched system that often rewarded board members with political favors and considerations. His opponents claim that he used his position to try to pass along lucrative service contracts to his brother and travel with his wife at the USOC’s expense. Wave after wave of accusations culminated in a flood of negative media coverage, Senate hearings, sweeping reform within the USOC, and eventually Ward’s departure.

Whether Ward is a victim of cutthroat politics or an exec that made a series of miscues in an overzealous pursuit of an agenda, the 55-year-old son of a Baptist preacher provided BLACK ENTERPRISE with an exclusive look at the scandal that led to his resignation in March 2003.

WARNING SIGNS
Ward’s road to the USOC began during the summer of 2001, when he received a call from a headhunter about the USOC’s top spot. Ward seemed ideal for the USOC position. The native of Romulus, Michigan, had an impressive résumé that boasted a mechanical engineering degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Ohio’s Xavier University. Ward’s corporate experience was in abundance. He joined PepsiCo Inc. in 1988 as the vice president of operations for Pepsi-Cola East, and later, as head of Frito-Lay’s Western and central divisions, he raised the company’s market share in those regions from 50% to 56%. Frito-Lay made close to $5 billion in sales during 1994. Sales from Ward’s central division accounted for more than $1.3 billion, and he was named BLACK ENTERPRISE Corporate Executive of the Year in 1995. Ward left

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