This week in the sports media and marketing ecosystem, Omar Raja leaves B/R for ESPN, longtime Xbox exec Mike Ybarra joins Blizzard, and For The Win hires Michael Sykes, II.
For job openings and more on who’s moving where, check out the Hashtag Sports Weekly roundup.
Omar Raja, the 25-year-old social media sage behind House of Highlights, is leaving Bleacher Report to join ESPN on a rumored seven-figure deal. Raja started the viral Instagram account, which currently boasts 14M followers, in his teens, and over the past four years has grown the account under the Bleacher Report umbrella (where it will stay after Raja’s departure).
House of Highlights is regarded as the “SportsCenter” for millennials, which gives Bleacher Report a leg up on ESPN in the social sphere and is a likely reason ESPN shelled out a pretty penny to snag Raja from its competitor. His new role was described as “multi-hyphenated,” including on-air appearances on all NBA-related programming, as well as coordinating the direction of ESPN’s social strategy.
Sportradar, an industry leader in sports data and content, has appointed Werner Becher to the role of Managing Director of US Betting. Bercher has 25 years of experience in the digital sector and was most recently CEO of Interwetten, where he more than doubled the sports betting operator’s revenue during his seven-year tenure. In his role at Sportradar, Becher will be responsible for the growth, development, and execution of the company’s betting strategy in the US.
Brett Daniels will join the CFP as Senior Director of Communications and Branding. Daniels worked as COO of the host committee for both the 2018 CFP National Championship Game and the 2019 Super Bowl, both of which were held in Atlanta. He also helped administer the 2014 NCAA Final Four and 2015 National Championship Game. Before that Daniels spent three years as Deputy Director of Athletics at Georgia University, after 25 years as Sr. Director of Corporate Communications and Brand Management for the Dallas Cowboys.
Michael Sykes, II has joined For The Win as a staff writer, editor Nate Scott announced on Twitter. Sykes, who received his masters in Digital Storytelling and Journalism from American University, comes to For The Win from Axios, where he was a sports reporter for roughly a year. The announcement did not include what Sykes’ beat would be, but before his time at Axios, Sykes spent five years at SB Nation reporting on sports business and the sneaker industry, writing about the relationship between major apparel brands and sports.
Blizzard is bringing on Mike Ybarra as Executive VP and General Manager, the longtime Xbox exec announced on Twitter. He will join the esports publisher just after Bilzzcon, which takes place this coming weekend. Ybarra spent 20 years at Microsoft where he was Corporate Vice President of Xbox Live, Gamepass, and Mixer. He comes aboard at a precarious moment for Blizzard, which has been embroiled in controversy after it suspended a Hearthstone pro who expressed support for the Hong Kong protestors in a postgame interview earlier this month.
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