Client’s Challenge: A Coveted Open Position, High-Profile Candidates – and a Frenzy of Media Attention

A few years ago, a national sports league player’s association entered the final stages in its search for a successor to the union’s executive director. A frenzy of U.S and international media attention surrounded the closely watched selection and voting process by player representatives from each of the teams – particularly in the weeks before formal election.

Six months before the drama began to build, however, the association’s leadership team and its executive-recruiting firm asked Hillard Heintze to conduct strategic background reviews of all of the candidates in line for what many consider to be the world’s most important position in sports labor.

Our Solution: Investigating the Backgrounds of Candidates with Extensive Public Records

Over the period of several months – as the extensive nationwide search unfolded – Hillard Heintze undertook a thorough and detailed investigation into the backgrounds of an elite “short list” of candidates identified by the formal search team.

In the days leading up to the election, the association’s leadership team and player representatives gathered to hear from each of the finalists in person, to evaluate all of the information gathered, and to cast their vote. As part of this process – far from the barricades that kept the bank of reporters and cameras at a distance – Hillard Heintze co-founders Terry Hillard and Arnette Heintze presented the key findings of the strategic background investigations to the voting player representatives.

Impact on the Client: The Association Chooses a New Leader

This election wasn’t a mere formality and the casting of votes wasn’t just an ex officio duty required of each member. Instead, the players’ representatives listened attentively to the information on each candidate carefully laid out by Hillard, Heintze and others. Then they deliberated among themselves. Four hours later – well informed of their options – the association’s voting members elected a new executive director by an overwhelming majority.

Unplugged: A Frank Opinion

The Project Manager’s Post-Engagement Perspective

“Two factors were crucial to this assignment. One was discretion, which is always at the core of our work. The other was independence.

Take discretion first. Each one of these candidates was a very successful, highly visible public figure, for the most part, with decades of accomplishments. Yes, that’s a lot of material to review. But just as importantly, it was vital – as it always is – that the integrity of our findings be matched with respect for the privacy, relationships and interests of both the client and the candidates.

Now take the second factor. If you read up on the press covering this event, you’d find that it was a contentious process with many third-party observers – from the media to player fan clubs – taking sides. Engaging a neutral, nonaligned party to conduct these background investigations was essential.”

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