Brian France is the CEO and chairman of NASCAR. France is widely credited with establishing NASCAR’s giant licensing business and TV rights deals. His experience with branding, advertising partnerships, negotiating broadcast fees, and dealing with big business in B2B situations makes him an ideal “expert” for the
Fortune Fantasy Sports Executive League
(Anyone can play, and scoring depends, in part, on how closely the player’s picks match those of experts like France.) France shared the reasoning behind his picks with Fortune’s Daniel Roberts by email. Here is an excerpt of his thoughts.
Brian France: For my chairman, I looked to businesses that have a sound strategy. However, to stay competitive in the technology sector, strategies have to change at an extremely rapid pace. Staying ahead of the curve can mean the difference between a good quarter and a bad one. Sam Palmisano has experience handling big industry changes on a frequent basis. His knack for adapting has helped IBM (IBM) be successful.
Chief strategist, I wanted Kevin Plank. He’s built a brand from nothing in one of the toughest industries out there, and he’s persevered in continuing to grow both the brand and the business. I’m in the sports industry myself and have an appreciation for what it takes to be competitive both on and off the track. All of the sports leagues are doing so well right now. I think that’s attributable to the fact that we’re all really competitive. Plus, sports still represents great content. Under Armour (UA) is something I can relate to.
I’ve spent some time with Hank Paulson and have gotten to know him. Here’s a guy that’s handled one of the most highly publicized crises of our generation. Managing through change like that is an enormous personal and business challenge; and I believe Hank’s done it well, so he’s my utility player.
I believe that competition breeds innovation. And it’s hard to find a better innovator than Twitter, when it comes to design. What’s happening at Twitter is impressive; my designer has to be Jack Dorsey. We got to know members of Jack’s team when Twitter chose NASCAR to launch their live-event product.
One of the most innovative companies in the technology space is Cisco (CSCO), and my choice for CIO, Rebecca Jacoby, is one of the most dynamic leaders in business today. I can’t think of a better provider when it comes to building global digital networks.
For a CMO, Joe Tripodi has done a masterful job at emotionally engaging consumers around a brand idea and using all marketing channels to do so. One of those channels is sponsorship, and Joe truly understands the power of sports in driving purchasing decisions. He runs a best-in-class brand.
Also from the Coca-Cola (KO) family, my choice for CEO would be Muhtar Kent. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Muhtar over the last several years. He truly understands the power of relationships, and he makes every one of them count. A leader who has a mastery of relationships is a leader who has the ability to influence behavior in a positive way. To that end, Muhtar is a champion of programs that foster and encourage sustainable behavior amongst consumers.
Developing a financial model almost from scratch puts Patrick Pichette at the top of my list for the CFO spot. My grandfather helped launch our sport from scratch. He did so by building consensus and taking calculated risks. That’s what Patrick does. It gives me even more appreciation of what they’re doing at Google (GOOG).
Oracle (ORCL) has been able to acquire and integrate numerous companies into its core business. That’s very hard to do. When you do that, it is always critical to keep people working together. Therefore my COO is Safra Catz. Being integrated is a core tenant of any successful business. If you’re not integrated, you put your business at a disadvantage. I’d want my top operator to have that skill, and Catz has it.