EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND MANAGING DIRECTOR
Russell Wolff has served as executive vice president and managing director of ESPN International since November 2004. He is based in ESPN International’s New York City headquarters and reports directly to John Skipper, President, ESPN and co-chair, Disney Media Networks. Under his leadership, ESPN International has established itself around the world as the leading multiplatform sports business and brand, reaching sports hundreds of millions of fans in more than 190 countires and territories across all seven continents.
Wolff is responsible for all of ESPN’s international businesses, which include partial or whole ownership of 24 television networks reaching 61 countries outside of the United States, including a multi-platform sports business in Latin America (television, digital media, print and radio), multimedia businesses in Australia/New Zealand and the Caribbean (television and digital media), an equity interest in CTV in Canada (seven TV networks), the company’s international television content syndication business, as well as groundbreaking sports websites, broadband and mobile products. Wolff is also responsible for many other aspects of ESPN’s businesses outside the US, working closely with ESPN’s executive management team to develop strategies, especially for the areas of global advertising sales, digital and consumer products.
During his time at ESPN, Wolff has overseen ESPN’s launch of television networks in Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, the Middle East and Israel. He also served on the board and was a key figure in the launch and operation of ESPN Star Sports, the company’s 50/50 joint venture with News Corporation which operated in Asia for more than 16 years.
In September 2002, Wolff was appointed to lead the launch of ESPN Deportes, the company’s 24-hour Spanish-language network in the U.S. that celebrates its tenth anniversary in January, 2014. Since launching, ESPN Deportes has secured distribution agreements with all major cable operators in the U.S. In 2011, it became the fifth ESPN network in the U.S. to offer a high-definition simulcast service and has maintained its position as the most-watched and highest-rated Spanish-language sports network in the U.S. for years.
Wolff also oversaw the launch of ESPN’s international HD services in Australia (May 2008) and Brazil (April 2009), the acquisition of NASN (Europe) and played a key role in the acquisition and growth of some of ESPN’s leading digital brands, including ESPNCricinfo.com – the world’s leading cricket website and leading single-sport digital destination (acquired in June 2007); ESPNFC (formerly ESPNsoccernet) – one of the worlds leading football news and information destinations online and on mobile; ESPNfootytips – Australia’s leading sports tipping and fantasy games platform (August 2011); ESPNscrum.com – a leading rugby news, and information portal (acquired in August 2007), ESPNF1.com (Formula 1 news and information website), ESPNdeportes.com – the leading Spanish-language sports site, and multisport portals ESPN.co.uk and ESPN.com.br.
Under Wolff’s leadership ESPN has launched broadband platforms around the world under the WatchESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Play and ESPN Player – offering fans live and on demand sports video in Spanish-speaking Latin America (ESPN Play and ESPN3), the Caribbean (ESPN Play), Brazil (WatchESPN), Australia/New Zealand (ESPN3) and throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (ESPN Player).
Wolff has also managed ESPN’s international businesses as they have refined their business strategy and portfolio in recent years. In 2012, he participated in the negotiation of an agreement for ESPN to sell the company’s 50 percent stake in ESPN Star Sports. In July 2013, he led a team which reached an agreement with British Telecom (BT) for the sale of ESPN’s the UK and Ireland television channels. Under the agreement an ESPN-branded channel is now operated by BT Sport, under a brand licensing agreement and ESPN continues to operate its digital and content syndication businesses throughout the EMEA region.
Previously, Wollff served as senior vice president and managing director of ESPN International from June 2002 until taking on his current role. He first joined ESPN International in 1997 as vice president, managing the company’s business interests in the Pacific Rim. In 1998, he joined ESPN Star Sports, as vice president of programming and event management and was later promoted to senior vice president. Wolff returned to ESPN in the U.S. in 2000 as senior vice president.
After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1989, Wolff began his career at the Leo Burnett Company in Chicago (1989-1992). Shortly afterwards, he returned to Dartmouth and received his M.B.A. from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration. From 1994 to 1997, he worked at MTV Networks as director, market development, handling affiliate sales and marketing to alternative distributors for MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and Nick at Nite’s TV Land.
Wolff serves on the boards of CTV Specialty Television, Inc. and the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He also serves as ESPN’s liaison to the NBA China Board of Directors, which ESPN has an equity stake in.
In 2011, Wolff was named Youth Honoree of the Year by the UJA-Federation’s Sports for Youth Division for his continued commitment in bring the healing effects of sports to children around the world. He frequently returns to Dartmouth as a guest speaker, and is a member of the Alumni Council of his alma mater.