Senior Sports Executive with a Legal Background
Whether it’s negotiating complex program contracts with governments or addressing issues of players’ rights, Jimmie Lee Solomon’s knowledge of the law furthers organizations and society.
As a fundraising chieftain, some Jimmie Lee’s programs are the following:
Perhaps one of the most important shifts we are seeing in corporations today is a focus to grow both socially and economically at the same time. As today’s institutions and sports organizations connect more with the environment around them, the bridge between company and community has grown tighter. Jimmie Lee Solomon understood this and was one of the originators of the formula. Alliances between influential people, governments, and organizations facilitated his creation of programs that made history. He addressed societal issues head on, as well cementing this position for a great number of years at the organizations of his employ.
From the Playing Field to the Boardroom
Between the records set at Dartmouth College in track and catching thirty-seven passes for 420 yards over two seasons in the football program, Solomon spent the early years of his education in sports and would never leave. He graduated from Harvard with honors in 1981 and immediately started working for the prestigious law firm Baker and Hostetler, in Washington, D.C. Solomon was the firm’s first black attorney. After eight years at Baker and Hostetler, Solomon became a partner. However, he eventually felt burnt out, so he began looking for another career opportunity, which came in the form of Major League Baseball. At around the same time that Solomon was looking for a new venture, the League was looking to fill the new executive position. While practicing law, Solomon had represented a number of clients in the sporting industry, including the NFL Management Council and some professional athletes and coaches. Solomon’s love of sports had not disappeared, and he even toyed with the idea of becoming a sports agent, so when the offer to interview for the position with the MLB arose, Solomon took it. He applied for the post, was hired as Director of Minor League Operations in 1991, and moved to the MLB’s main offices in New York.
League major, Solomon’s minor
Jimmie Lee Solomon established himself as one of the most influential executives in professional sports in the United States. As the executive vice president for baseball operations for Major League Baseball (MLB), Solomon had administrative responsibilities ranging from organizing the All-Star game to negotiating legal agreements between the major league franchises and the minor league farming system. When Jimmie Lee began his career at Major League Baseball, the organization was embroiled in the bitter dispute with Minor League Baseball surrounding contract negotiations. The relationship between the two leagues had disintegrated to the point where the major franchises had threatened to drop the minor teams entirely to develop a new system for “farm” teams. Solomon dove into the issues immediately, crisscrossing the country to meet with owners and managers, identifying the problems and creating resolutions. Ultimately, his ability to repair the partnership and negotiate agreements has helped the Major and Minor leagues increase revenue dramatically, grow the fan base to nearly 50 million in 2012, and initiate development of new facilities around the country.
Jimmie also knew he wanted to make an impact in the lives of young people, as well as help the organization grow and prosper. Through the departments he led, Jimmie Lee was responsible for the production and integrity of baseball on the field, and managed over 300 people, with a large-scale budget. As he oversaw the policy-making and implementation of rules and regulations, Jimmie Lee simultaneously supervised the Minor League administration, umpires, scouting, security and much more. When he joined the organization, major changes were needed between various divisions of both the Major and Minor leagues. Jimmie Lee successfully negotiated agreements that not only led to more cohesive relationships, but to substantial increases in revenue and attendance and the building of new facilities.
His efforts off the field were perhaps some of his most gratifying, as he brought together many different parties to develop programs for under-served youth around the country. His ambition to promote cause-based management allowed MLB to grow revenue, while opening new opportunities for young people interested in sports. The major one was the Urban Youth Academies. He dug deep into the segments of the country where children needed greater chances for development, and with the help of fellow executives, scouts, parents and coaches, his programs were able to help young people get exposure to sports, both on and off the field.
Jimmie Lee has the management background and the leadership experience to inspire new organizations to grow, both socially and economically. While at MLB, his ability to streamline operations by developing a new umpire system led to $5 million costs savings and helped create a $170 million surplus for the organization when negotiating the contract between the Majors and the Minors. He has proven his ability to successfully bridge the divide between company and community, and develop new and challenging opportunities for young people, making him a successful executive in the sports arena.
Solomon’s contribution to MLB continued unfalteringly, and his accomplishments were rewarded. Solomon was promoted to Executive Director of Minor League Baseball Operations in 1995. Essentially every important decision in baseball passed across his desk. He was responsible for Major and Minor Leagues, international baseball operations, the Major League Scouting Bureau, the Arizona Fall League, and other special projects. One of those projects was the rejuvenation of minority participation in baseball, particularly African Americans and Latinos. With the number of black players in the major leagues on par with those during the times of the earlier Negro Leagues, the MLB was looking for ways to bring baseball to the inner cities. Solomon oversaw the project, negotiating deals for the major league franchises to invest in their local communities and providing financial support for new facilities and equipment. The Rookie League, for kids twelve and under, and the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) League, for thirteen to eighteen year olds, were launched in cities across the country. However, Solomon’s vision was larger than just new venues. The new developments are designed to provide educational and vocational opportunities, promoting academic success as well as an appreciation for baseball. Launching the Major League Baseball Youth Academy at Compton College in Compton, California in 2005 was a major landmark in Solomon’s efforts.
Solomon continued to demonstrate his business savvy and leadership ability and was promoted again in 2001, this time to Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations; in 2005 he became the highest-ranking minority official in MLB as the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations. In addition to his other responsibilities he oversaw on-field discipline, security, and facilities management. In addition to his other responsibilities he oversees on-field discipline, security, and facilities management. Solomon established the annual Civil Rights Game in response to the decreasing number of African-Americans in MLB, with the intention of paying homage to and reminding the league of its rich legacy of minority players. And The All-Star Futures Game is just one of Solomon’s displays of his compassion for those who dream of a career in Major League Baseball, but may be starting off behind their peers. In the early 2000s, Solomon’s accomplishments continued to mount, then he was honored with the 2011 2nd annual Triumph Award honoring Humanitarians in Art,Entertainment and Sports, and many believed he would be the next commissioner of Major League Baseball.