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USA Gymnastics hires sports marketing exec as CEO

November 7, 2017

USA Gymnastics on Tuesday announced the hiring of sports marketing executive Kerry J. Perry as president and CEO.

Perry, founder of collegiate marketing agency KP Sports, takes over for Steve Penny, who resigned in mid-March amid intensifying pressure on the organization for its handling of sex abuse cases.

Kerry Perry mugKerry Perry

Perry will assume her role Dec. 1 and be based at the organization’s headquarters in Indianapolis. USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for the sport in the United States.

The new CEO was formerly vice president of business development at Learfield Communications Inc. and president and owner of KP Sports, which was acquired by Learfield in 2015.

She founded KP Sports in New Mexico in 2006 and built it into a fast-growing marketing company that partnered with university athletics programs—primarily in the Big Sky and Southland conferences—to increase revenue opportunities in corporate sponsorships, ticket sales and events.

“We are fortunate to have someone as capable and energetic as Kerry step into this leadership role,” said Paul Parilla, chairman of the USA Gymnastics board of directors, which unanimously approved Perry’s appointment. “Her passion for the sport, commitment to athlete safety, and track record of motivating teams to succeed will help guide our vision for the future.”

As CEO, Perry will be responsible for the strategic direction of the organization and day-to-day operations. She will serve as a representative of USA Gymnastics to the United States Olympic Committee, the International Gymnastics Federation and all other affiliated organizations.

“I am thrilled to join USA Gymnastics and I look forward to creating a culture of empowerment that encourages our athletes, our members, our families and our staff to have a strong voice as we move this incredible organization to heightened levels of achievement,” Perry said in written comments. “As a lifelong fan of the sport, I will be relentless in our pursuit of athlete safety, collaborative with our board, constituents and corporate partners, and supportive of our members, parents and staff on our journey to making USA Gymnastics the pinnacle of success.”

Former CEO Penny joined USA Gymnastics in 1999 and was named the organization's president in 2005, overseeing one of the greatest runs in Olympic history. Led by national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, the women's program became a dominant force, producing each of the last four Olympic all-around champions and team golds in 2012 and 2016.

The success turned gymnasts like Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson into stars and made USA Gymnastics a magnet for big-time corporate sponsors who wanted to be aligned with its healthy, winning image.

That image took a serious hit this year when media reports portrayed USA Gymnastics as slow to act when it came to addressing allegations of sexual abuse by a former team doctor and coaches at member gyms across the country.

The 54-year-old organization launched an independent review of its policies in the wake of the allegations against Dr. Larry Nassar in the summer of 2016 following reports that highlighted chronic mishandling of abuse allegations against coaches and staff at some of its more than 3,500 clubs.

Dozens of women, including several high-profile gymnasts, have come forward to say they were molested by Nassar during his 25-plus years working for the organization.

In June, the federation immediately adopted 70 recommendations proffered by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the review.

The organization named Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of its Safe Sport program. Part of Stark's mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs, reporting and adjudication services.

 

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