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?

the Ethics Oversight Committee didn’t change the continuous flow of negative news leaks. After the Senate hearings, he was hit with another barrage of negative allegations. His administration’s travel expenses came under scrutiny on Feb. 25, 2003. It was alleged that he billed $115,664 in 2002. His wife’s alleged portion of those travel expenses-$27,813-made some people speculate that he was misusing USOC funds for personal gain. Critics suggested that trips Lita Ward took to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and to the U.S. Open tennis tournament might have been inappropriate to be paid for with USOC funds. Flights to see ex-heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield fight in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and trips to Ward’s home in Florida were also questioned.

“I went [to the boxing match] because I was looking at sponsor connections and donor opportunities. I paid all of Lita’s expenses,” says Ward. He contends that his biweekly flights to his home in Florida were covered in his employment contract, which provides for that accommodation while he built a house in Colorado. Ward attributes other expenses to official business. Even with the allegations about misuse of travel expenses in the news, Ward pressed on. After all, despite the bad press, he had an impressive list of accomplishments while at the helm of the USOC.

Where Blake had failed to implement a more performance-based approach at the USOC, Ward succeeded. “For the first time, the executive committee, the compensation committee, and the CEO had a good understanding of what everyone’s goals and objectives were,” says board member Joy.

Ward and his team had also conducted comprehensive multi-year strategic planning sessions with 39 of the 45 National Governing Bodies that send athletes to the Olympics-something that had never been done before. According to Ward, this would help the National Governing Bodies improve their sports and raise money.

He also accelerated the signing of sponsorships-netting a 1,700% increase in Quad (the four-year period between Olympic Games) sponsorships, compared with the prior Quad-despite the nation being in the throes of a bleak business environment.

Ward also created the Titan Games, a new property for the USOC to showcase martial arts competition and combat sports, one of his passions. Held in California from Feb. 13-15, 2003, the Titan Games fulfilled his promise to create new properties to help market the Olympics during the four-year hiatus between games.

A mandate that the governance model of the USOC be changed came in the aftermath of the Senate hearings. With the move to reform the USOC underway, many thought that Ward should also resign to give the organization a clean slate. Although the allegations of Ward’s misuse of USOC funds were never proven, continued media scrutiny and threats from Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a former Olympian, to move ahead with more investigations finally took its toll. Ward resigned on March 2, 2003.

Ironically, Ward received a vote of confidence and “exemplary” job performance review from the USOC executive committee just weeks before he resigned, which begs the question of whether or not

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