Everywhere He Wants to Be by Niall O'Dowd He travels the globe putting sponsorship deals toget
His dad was a high school principal and he gave Michael his love of sport. In 1976 his dad drove him from Katonah to faraway Montreal for the Olympics. All they could afford was standing-room for track and field tickets, but to the youngster it looked like heaven.
"I got the bug right there - to this day, seeing all these countries and people coming together, there was something truly special about it all. Right there I knew I wanted to work on the Olympics."
Many of his siblings became teachers, but from an early age Michael had a head for numbers, a heart for sport and an eye for a deal.
" I don't know where I got the business instinct from." He says part of it was the influence of Notre Dame. "I always felt really comfortable in the marketing areas, and numbers came easy to me. Sport was a given."
He got a bachelor's in business administration at Notre Dame and later went on to an MBA at Cornell. In between he fused his two great interests, sports and marketing, together.
"Prior to Cornell I worked as an in-house consultant for the Timex Corporation, and when we were developing the iron man triathlon watch, we hired two athletes, Alberto Salazar and Mary Slaney, to promote it. That's where I learned about the business of sports marketing."
It was a brand-new business. He joined Proserv, founded in 1984, then one of the first companies in the field. "It was predominantly lawyers who were handling the athletes," he remembers. "I came in with a marketing background to help build the athletes' brand. We felt there wasn't a single corporation out there that couldn't use sports in one way or another to develop their business"
He fondly remembers working with Jordan. "Michael is able to differentiate between the public person, the celebrity icon and the normal private person. He was a tremendously normal guy, and recognized that this celebrity thing was not who he was as a person. He was also raised by great parents and they raised him right."
O'Hara Lynch did Proserv for seven years before jumping to entertainment vehicles because he had a non-compete clause when he left.
He ran the events business for Radio City Music Hall, jumping into a business that, like sport, was starting to attract massive new coverage from paparazzi to mainstream media.
Radio City productions were not limited to the famed theater itself. They staged Super Bowl halftime shows, World Cup opening ceremonies, and of course the iconic Christmas shows. "It was a way for me to learn different skills and to be on the inside of entertainment just as it exploded as a medium."
But his wife Susan, a Northern California girl, had never fully settled in the Big Apple. When their first child became due they began thinking of moving to sunnier climes.
A meeting with a senior Visa executive sealed the deal. "Over breakfast she asked me if I would be interested in running the sports and entertainment stuff that Visa was doing. They had the Olympic team sponsorship, they were actually doing an Elton John tour, and it just sounded great."