Evening with an Executive

Evening with an Executive

RCB’s “Evening with an Executive” scores with 76ers’ corporate leaders

Price and O'Reilly take a selfie with students

That was the message Dec. 5 when the Rohrer College of Business’s on-going Evening with an Executive series welcomed two corporate leaders from the Philadelphia 76ers and the team’s parent company, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE).

Staged as an intimate conversation between HBSE/76ers Chief Operating Officer Lara Price and 76ers Chief Revenue Officer Katie O'Reilly, the program provided a window into career development, a masterclass into reaching the highest echelon of sports management and entertainment.

Price, a native Coloradan who played basketball for Colorado State University, said she dreamed of a career that built on a lifelong passion for the game and that was enough to get her started – after working in a liquor store as she sought a way in – with an entry-level position at an NBA minor league team.

“I did everything,” Price recalled. “In those positions you literally learn from the bottom up.”

Hard work and commitment paid off, Price said, as her career progressed from that entry-level job to a director in just three years. Hired by the 76ers in 1996, Price today carries a diverse portfolio of responsibility that includes leading business operations and corporate and team communications, serving as the team’s primary intermediary with the league, and more.

And, now in her 28th year with the team, Price said she’s still having fun.

“It’s been an incredible ride,” she said.

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As chief revenue officer, O’Reilly oversees virtually every monetary stream supporting the team including ticket sales, sponsorships and marketing. Now in her 11th season with the 76ers, she also spoke of her humble beginnings in sports management.

The lifelong Philadelphia sports fan was also an athlete in high school and college but said, after attending the University of Michigan, she graduated unsure how she’d launch her career. She maintained contact with other U of M graduates and that led to a one-year job selling tickets for the New York Knicks and Rangers.

“My parents thought I was crazy to take it but it was great!” she said.

O’Reilly segued from the Knicks/Rangers to a position with IMG Worldwide, a sports, fashion, events and media company, and that led to a position with HBSE, whose founders bought the Sixers in 2011. The company also owns the New Jersey Devils hockey franchise, the Delaware Blue Coats minor league affiliate of the 76ers, the Prudential Center in Newark, real estate and more.

When she started with the Sixers, O’Reilly said, the team had about 3,600 season ticket holders but, in the years since, reemerged as an NBA powerhouse that’s led the league in ticket sales the past five years.

“I didn’t set out to be in sales but you must understand that every opportunity that comes your way is important,” she advised students. “Be ready to roll up your sleeves, listen to people, and it will all be part of who you become.”

Inspiring student success

Sporting a 76ers windbreaker, senior marketing major Davion Jimenez said he couldn’t help but be motivated by Price and O’Reilly, and their message to persevere. A Sports Communication & Management minor, Jimenez is interning with the Blue Coats this semester through a Rowan partnership.

“My fear was leaving college and not having opportunities for this type of experience, but at Rowan we do,” Jimenez said.

Elisabeth Parker, an assistant director for the RCB's Center for Professional Development who organizes the corporate speaker series, described the one-on-one interaction between students and business leaders as invaluable. The program has hosted Wawa CEO Chris Gheysens, Holman board chair Mindy Holman and CEO Carl Ortell, and will welcome Mark Clouse, CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, in April.

“We’re exposing students to career paths and industries,” Parker said. “Hopefully it makes them dream a little bigger.”