David O’Connor has stepped down from Madison Square Garden, and James Dolan is coming in as interim president and CEO. The abrupt move, announced in November 2017, was a surprise. The former longtime agent and CAA partner, better known as ‘Doc’ O’Connor, had gone to MSG just a little more than two years ago.
As head honcho at MSG, O’Connor made more than $54 million in total compensation in the job and was listed as the highest-paid CEO in America last year with combined salary and stock. He had been at CAA for 30 years and was considered part of the core team of agents after the exit of the agency co-founders.
David O’Connor is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), which includes renowned performance venues, entertainment properties, and professional sports teams. Mr. O’Connor is responsible for the Company’s overall strategic vision, and for leading the Company’s efforts to identify new initiatives that enhance MSG’s existing brands and represent new opportunities for growth, including the formation of new strategic alliances and transactions.
The Company's signature assets consist of some of the nation's most dynamic and powerful sports and entertainment brands. This diverse collection of properties includes a portfolio of iconic venues: New York’s Madison Square Garden, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; the Forum in Inglewood, California; The Chicago Theatre; and the Wang Theatre in Boston. In addition, MSG owns and operates professional sports teams, the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty; and entertainment properties, including the Christmas Spectacular and New York Spectacular, both starring the Radio City Rockettes; and is part of strategic partnerships, including Azoff MSG Entertainment and Tribeca Enterprises.
Mr. O’Connor joined the Company in June 2015 and has played a critical role in several new endeavors with a focus on expanding MSG’s live experience offerings. These include the Company’s plans to build a groundbreaking music and entertainment-focused venue in Las Vegas, as well as its investments in Boston Calling Events, which produces outdoor festivals, and TAO Group, a hospitality group with globally-recognized entertainment dining and nightlife brands.
Prior to joining MSG, Mr. O’Connor spent more than 30 years at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where he served as Managing Partner of the world-wide entertainment and sports agency his last 20 years. He began his career at CAA in 1983 in the mailroom and was soon promoted to agent in the Motion Picture department. In 1995, Mr. O’Connor took over day-to-day management and ownership of the agency along with his partners, helping to expand the agency’s operations and services around the globe, while maintaining the company’s reputation as a trusted agency.
In 1996, Mr. O’Connor and his partners broke new ground in the entertainment industry with the creation of the CAA Foundation, which involves the entertainment community and CAA clients in philanthropy and engages organizations to lend their support to a variety of philanthropic programs. This was followed in 2006 by the launch of CAA Sports, which today represents more than 1,000 of the world’s top athletes, coaches and broadcasters, along with many of the biggest brands and properties in sports worldwide, including The Madison Square Garden Company.
In 2008, Mr. O’Connor also co-founded and established Evolution Media Capital (EMC), a CAA affiliate that provides investment banking and advisory, asset management, industry research, and capital-raising services to the media and sports industries, as well as Evolution Media Partners, a $1 billion principal investing fund. And in 2012, Mr. O’Connor was instrumental in the creation of CAA Eleven, a dedicated CAA subsidiary that manages the media, sponsorship, and licensing rights for all National Team Football in Europe governed by UEFA (Union of European Football Associations).
Mr. O’Connor serves on the board of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit organization that works closely with all areas of MSG to make dreams come true for children facing obstacles. Since its inception in 2006, the Foundation’s relationship with MSG has enabled it to brighten the lives of more than 325,000 children and their families through once-in-a-lifetime experiences, college scholarships and larger community projects that make a real and lasting difference in children’s lives. He is also a member of the board of Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership (HLL), a school-based non-profit organization that changes life trajectories of at risk youth through daily wrap-around academic support, mentoring, leadership training, college readiness, career exploration, admissions counseling and lacrosse instruction. HLL has operations in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Los Angeles.
Mr. O’Connor is married to Lona Williams and has two children, Lucy and Angus