Sid Hartman: Leiweke brothers have made their marks as sports executives

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2007 - 11:02 PM

Tim and Tod helped launch the Wolves and Wild, and now they have positions of power on the West Coast with sports and entertainment organizations.

This is the story of the two Leiweke brothers, Tim and Tod, who respectively played a big part in getting the expansion Timberwolves and Wild started and now have two of the biggest jobs in professional sports.

Tim, one of the original employees of the Wolves, was vice president for four seasons; Tod was president of the Wild.

Tod is now chief executive officer of the Seattle Seahawks, who will play the Vikings on Saturday night. He also is involved in management of the Portland Trail Blazers; both teams are owned by billionaire Paul Allen.

Tim is president of Anschutz Entertainment Group that manages Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team and other entertainment companies owned by Philip Anschutz.

With Tod as CEO of the Seahawks, season ticket sales jumped from 32,000 when he took over in 2003 after leaving the Wild to 62,000, with 10,000 on the waiting list.

"It's worked out great," Tod said. "The Wild was and is such a great organization and so I felt like I had some wind in my sails, and we had some challenges here -- some on the football side, certainly plenty on the business side."

Tod credits Seahawks president of football operations Tim Ruskell and coach Mike Holmgren for the great surge in season ticket sales.

"All you've got to do is give people something to believe in, and right now they believe in the Hawks," Tod said. "It was a heck of a lot of work, there was a little bit of stress early on, but it's turned, [using] many of the principles [we] used for the Wild. ... I was on a great team there, and I learned a lot."

How does Tod feel about working for a rich, powerful man like Allen?

"He is a very empowering guy," Tod said, "and he knew there were challenges here. He's been pretty great to work for. [Allen's orders are]: 'Get it fixed.'"

Tod is looking forward to the game with the Vikings.

"It will be fun," he said. "I feel a strong connection to Minnesota; so does my brother Tim. We both had some very important years in our life there, and so it's always fun."

After the Packers scored 48 points against Seattle last week, Tod looks for the Seahawks to be a tough opponent for the Vikings.

Ex-Gophers run well

During the 2004 season, Marion Barber III, Gary Russell and Laurence Maroney were running backs on the Gophers football team.

Now Barber is a top running back for the Dallas Cowboys after scoring 16 touchdowns (14 rushing), running for 654 yards and catching 23 passes for 196 yards last season. Maroney is with the New England Patriots, and he scored seven touchdowns (six rushing), ran for 745 yards and caught 22 passes for 194 yards last season. He missed the first two exhibition games this year while recovering from shoulder surgery, but he is healthy now.

And Russell, who flunked out of school and signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh, has been one of the surprises of Steelers training camp. Russell leads the NFL in preseason rushing yards with 121 in three games.

"I'm just amazed that I've still got it a little bit," Russell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

In the same article, Steelers tight end and former Gophers teammate Matt Spaeth said: "I loved having Gary in there, especially when we needed 3 yards, because if we needed 3, he was going to get 4."

Spaeth also has played well for the Steelers in the preseason.

Jottings

Former Gophers interim men's basketball coach Jim Molinari will join new Ball State coach Billy Taylor's basketball coaching staff. ... GopherIllustrated.com reports that Dallas Wilson High School guard Nathen Garth, who committed to Minnesota, has changed his mind and will consider West Virginia, Vanderbilt, California and New Mexico. It could be that Minnesota coaches weren't as high on him after watching him have an unremarkable AAU season.

Gophers baseball coach John Anderson will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame during ABCA's annual convention in January in Philadelphia. Anderson, who has coached the Gophers to 946 victories in 26 seasons, will join former Gophers baseball coaches Dick Siebert and Frank McCormick and former Gophers player Jerry Kindall in the Hall of Fame. Anderson is the winningest coach in Big Ten baseball history.

Major League Baseball will have teams playing early-season games in China and Japan in 2008. The Twins, who don't have any Japanese players, have asked not to be included among those making the trip.

Twins attendance is at 1,934,574 in 65 home games, compared to 1,814,892 in the same number of games last season. The average attendance this year is 29,673 (seventh in the American League) compared to 27,921 a year ago.

It was good to see Sheldon Burns -- the team physician for the Wild, Vikings and Wolves -- on national television behind the USA basketball bench as the American team walloped Venezuela on Wednesday night. Burns has been a doctor for the U.S. Olympic team for many years. And it's no surprise that my close personal friend Mike Krzyzewski has the U.S. team playing great basketball and the players are saying great things about him.

Gophers football coach Tim Brewster says he has 500 already registered for the first women's football clinic from 6 to 9 tonight at the Gibson-Nagurski football complex on the university campus.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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