Once considered a reluctant conscript to the U.S. Olympic Committee, Larry Probst now embraces his role.
So much, in fact, that he's staying on for another four years.
The USOC board unanimously voted in Probst for a second term as chairman, a position the 62-year-old chairman of the Electronic Arts video game empire has used to try to shore up America's standing in the international Olympic community.
CEO Scott Blackmun said he welcomed another four years with Probst, whom he called "the ideal partner for me."
"He really holds us accountable but in a supportive way," Blackmun said. "He's laser-focused on strategy and policy and that gives us the freedom to manage the day-to-day. But he also does that in a way that keeps us motivated."
Probst replaced Peter Ueberroth as chair in late 2008, a time that led to turmoil, when the federation suddenly ousted its former CEO, Jim Scherr, and replaced him with a member of the board, Stephanie Streeter.
It was an unpopular move in almost every corner and Probst didn't do a great job articulating the reasons for it. Critics, and there were many, said Probst, a successful veteran from the bottom-line, corporate world, wasn't built for the glad-handing, politic-heavy role that he had assumed. Many wondered if he would stick around the job for long.
But Probst refocused himself and embraced his role, along with the daunting task of rebuilding the image of a federation that was widely viewed as a rich bully that didn't much care about the concerns of its global partners.
One of the few ways members of the International Olympic Committee could make the USOC pay for its recalcitrance was by humiliating it when it came time to award future Olympic Games. In 2009, it took that opportunity, banishing Chicago to fourth place in a four-way race for the 2016 Olympics, eventually won by Rio de Janeiro.
The biggest roadblock in Probst's restoration project was managing the tough negotiations that led to an agreement earlier this year on the USOC's long-simmering feud with the IOC over revenue sharing.
"To me, whether we win the Olympic Games is a little bit out of our control," Blackmun said. "What's in his control as the leader is the fact that he's trusted by people we do business with and people in the Olympic movement and that we're taken seriously. Larry has already achieved that. ... That's going to be his legacy, is that he's part of this worldwide movement."
Also on Thursday, the board filled spots being vacated by Jair Lynch and Mike Plant with Bill Marolt, the president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, and Whitney Ping, a member of the U.S. 2004 table tennis team.
Marolt, a skier for the U.S. Olympic team in 1964, has 16 years leading what is widely considered the most successful national governing body in Olympic sports.
"One of the hallmarks of Bill's career with the USSA has been the growth of our sphere of influence in both the (international ski federation) and USOC," said Dexter Paine, chairman of the USSA board. "That has had a direct impact on our own athletic success, but has also has been instrumental in the development of Olympic sport."
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