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Jeff Snader Resigns As CEO And Commissioner Of MLU Amidst Major Strategic Shakeup

Major changes are coming to Major League Ultimate.

Photo: Scobel Wiggins -- UltiPhotos.com
Photo: Scobel Wiggins — UltiPhotos.com

Major League Ultimate announced today the resignation of CEO and Commissioner Jeff Snader in a league-wide email and press release.

Although Snader will remain as a board member for the MLU, the decision — a mutual one between Snader, the executive team, and the board — marks a major shift in strategy and priority for the fourth-year semi-professional ultimate league.

“It’s really plain and simple: you’ve got to take a step back sometimes and see what is going on with your company and the progress it’s making,” Snader told Ultiworld. “And I really want there to be a positive boost in the 2016 season. I want there to be a ton of positivity around the MLU and that’s going to require someone else to come in and give it that boost.”

In the short-term, the league will be led by a newly created Executive Committee as it looks for a new CEO. CFO Lindi Sabloff, Executive VP Nic Darling, and VP of Operations David Kucherlapati will remain on board at the executive level.

“It’s not that we’re losing one of our founders,” said Darling. “We’re making a strategic shift in the way our organization is run and managed.”

Snader has long been a fiery voice in ultimate, especially since he pulled his team — the Philadelphia Spinners — out of the AUDL after the 2012 season to start Major League Ultimate. The MLU has reflected his personality and vision since day one, making his departure particularly surprising. But that outward personality is what many within the league — and Snader himself — pointed to as a reason for making a change.

“I was very critical of USA Ultimate, I was very critical of the AUDL,” Snader said. “All of these things, I think, were poor choices in the end. We should be embracing each other and marching together.” 

“His leadership style was particularly well-suited to the introductory stages of the company,” said Darling, calling Snader “motivated” and “aggressive.” But, he said, the company needs a new face as it heads into its fourth year.

MLU officials downplayed any concerns about the financial status of the league, which has seen flat or declining attendance in the last year. A major financial infusion from the now-majority ownership group was necessary in 2014 to keep the league funded for the rest of that season and through 2015.

“I think the fact that this development is occurring should probably allay some concerns,” said Darling, adding later, “We have very good assurances from our partners and investors that we are fine and well-funded through 2016. Beyond that, we have some good strategic plans for the future.”

The league will particularly be looking to build upon some successes in its sponsorship sales in 2015 as well as developing the digital media platforms.

”The reason this is comforting is that I’m leaving the MLU on the up,” said Snader.

MLU’s main competitor, the American Ultimate Disc League, saw impressive growth in 2015, mostly due to team expansions and a new division. The MLU, by contrast, has struggled to maintain attendance in many of its eight markets and has continued to lose player talent to the AUDL.

The AUDL went through a similar management shakeup when the founder of the league, Josh Moore, stepped down as CEO and Commissioner in late 2012 after a tumultuous first year. The league was bought out by Rob Lloyd, a high-powered business executive, and installed Steve Gordon as CEO.

Here is the full text of the press release sent out from MLU headquarters.

***

To whom it may concern,

Following an in depth review of our past three seasons and an evaluation of our current strategic position, we have gained a better understanding of what we have accomplished and where we would like to see this organization go. In the process of this review Jeff Snader, in cooperation with the Board of Directors and Management, has decided to step down from his position as the Commissioner and CEO of Major League Ultimate. As of this weekend, Jeff will no longer be involved in the day to day management of the Company. He will, however, maintain a role within the company as a founder and investor.

We would like to take a moment to appreciate Jeff’s contribution to the organization over the past three years and his commitment to the success of the MLU; his role as a founder and as a key driver of the Company’s growth cannot be overstated. We are very grateful for the hard work and dedication he has shown over the last three years.

Jeff has issued the following statement regarding this transition:

“Sometimes you have to step back and look at what is best for the league and its people and sometimes you have to make tough decisions. Over the last three years we’ve truly achieved some amazing things that everyone who was a part of it can be proud of. However, the MLU is ready for a new chapter and I think it would be best to have someone new lead the charge to push the MLU to new heights. It’s a bittersweet day for me but I know this is the best path for the MLU and I’d like to thank all of the great people I’ve had the pleasure to work with over these last three years. I look forward to supporting all of the them from the board room and the stands on game day. I’m looking forward to chasing a few other projects I’ve been thinking about so you’ll be sure to hear from me. I’m also excited to get back to coaching which is my first love when it comes to ultimate.”

In the interim, the Company will be managed by a newly formed Executive Committee comprised of the management team and select board members. This committee will evaluate and refine organizational strategy while maintaining the operation of the Company. The group will also embark on a search for a new chief executive officer to lead the Company into the future.

In terms of league management, Lindi Sabloff, CFO, will continue to attend to the league’s finances while managing its various revenue sources. David Kucherlapati, VP of Operations, will assure the continuity of league operations and player/staff relations. While Nic Darling, Executive VP, will oversee the Company headquarters in Philadelphia while continuing to build the brand and develop new content.

Should you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to reach out to the MLU via info@mlultimate.com or by contacting a member of the Executive Committee directly.

We thank you for your ongoing support of the MLU and we look forward to successful 2016.

Sincerely,
David, Lindi and Nic

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