• Strategy
  • CFO Magazine

Olympic Trials

Fraser Bullock faces a world-class challenge: turn the scandal-plagued, debt-ridden 2002 Winter Games into a winner.

Roll-Up Lessons

Bullock has instilled that idea within other businesses. For three years before coming to SLOC, he made a fortune assembling companies from fragmented industries into three roll-ups for Alpine Consolidated, an outfit he co-founded in a nearby Utah town. And back in the 1980s, he served as CFO of troubled World Airways Inc. Both jobs, he says, provided numerous skills that have been applicable in his Olympic posts.

When he joined World 13 years ago, for example, he found a company that had moved away from its niche of providing contract flying services for the military and other airlines, and had started competing in scheduled service against a host of discounters. A consistent money-loser that was 90 days away from insolvency, he says, World was ripe for a turnaround. Soon, World secured $100 million in new financing, abandoned the commercial markets, and returned to its roots as a profitable contract carrier and cargo airline for three years running. It was, he says, the same kind of financial makeover the Salt Lake City Games needed.

The World experience also taught him to prize finance team-building, which is essential when the old crew has been associated with a losing operation. At SLOC, Bullock added the CFO title when the former finance chief left, giving him closer control of the team. He soon moved 11 financial analysts down to the operational level, so managers could see that “finance is not a threat, it’s an asset, and we’re not ogres trying to take money away.”

At Alpine Consolidated, he had learned not to be daunted by an unfamiliar business line, whether it was travel services — Alpine’s first roll-up — or the global delivery of world-class skiing and ice hockey competitions. “I knew I could enter an industry I knew nothing about and become conversant with it in 30 to 60 days,” he says. “So when I came to SLOC, I said, ‘Yep, I know nothing today, but in 30 days, I’ll know that business.”

Juggling Stakeholders

Some suggest the new management team has already helped erase the stigma attached to the 2002 Games. Romney has calmed old corporate supporters and lured new ones, adding 24 sponsors or suppliers and swelling revenues by $178.5 million since January 1999. Meanwhile, Washington, pleased with Bullock’s initiative to slash the federal transportation request from $140 million to $99 million, seems primed to approve the entire amount.

The Sydney Games are also expected to provide a needed boost. “After the Sydney Games are over, a lot more people are going to want to be involved with the 2002 Winter Games,” says Peter Ueberroth, whose management of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Summer Games is legendary. “The scandal will be more and more a footnote,” adds Ueberroth, now managing director at Contrarian Group Inc., an investment firm in Newport Beach, California.

Current sponsors are impressed. “Certainly, one of the reasons we chose to renew our sponsorship was because Romney and his team are in place,” says David D’Alessandro, president and CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, which last February agreed to continue through the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, in a deal valued at more than $50 million. Meanwhile, other companies are taking a second look. One is United Parcel Service Inc., a former sponsor still on the fence about reenlisting. The company’s market research shows that “the public disassociated the problems [in Salt Lake City] from the Games themselves,” says a UPS spokeswoman.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *