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AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP


July 17, 2015


Carol Chaplin

Mark Killen

Jon Miller


STATELINE, NEVADA

THE MODERATOR:  We have a very special announcement to make today.  We have three of the tournament's major players involved to make that announcement.  First I'd like to introduce Mr.Jon Miller, president of programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports network.  On the left is Mr.Mark Killen, chief marketing officer of American Century Investments, and on the far right, Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.  Jon, we're going to throw it over to you to give you the pleasure of making this very nice announcement.
JON MILLER:¬† I'm excited to tell you that we have reached an agreement in principle with American Century to extend this wonderful championship here in Lake Tahoe out through 2022.¬† It's a seven‑year extension.¬† This was the last year of our current arrangement.
And through the hard work of Mark Killen and his team, along with Gary Quinn from NBC Sports and then Carol and the folks from the LTVA as well, we're very excited that this property is going to remain in this wonderful location for a long time to come.¬† So it's a very exciting day for all of us, and we're thrilled to be able to make this announcement today on the first day of what has already become our highest‑attended event ever.
THE MODERATOR:  Congratulations.  Mark Killen from American Century Investments, when this contract expires in 2022, that will mark 25 years of American Century Investments as the title sponsor of this tournament.
MARK KILLEN:¬† Yes, it's been a fantastic relationship so far.¬† We've had a great time and the partnership we've had with NBC Sports, with LTVA, it's been just terrific.¬† Makes us feel great about extending this seven years, getting to 2022, and as you all know, this is our premier branding event for the company.¬† It gives us an opportunity to tell our story on a national stage, a story we think is very unique, where our firm, which manages money for institutions and individuals, through our ownership structure, is able to contribute profits to help find cures for cancer and other gene‑based diseases.
So having that opportunity and being in this great venue is something that we really treasure, and we're very excited to extend this.
THE MODERATOR:  Carol Chaplin with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, you've seen this event from the beginning.  What does this mean for the area?  What does it mean for Tahoe South, for the folks who live here and for the entire destination?
CAROL CHAPLIN:  Well, we look forward to this event every year, and the fact that we're extending this seven years is just a testament to how good the partnerships are between American Century and NBC Sports, and of course Edgewood as well.
Over 40,000 people will be in attendance this year.  The economic impact to the area and the awareness that this event brings to the destination is just absolutely incredible.
And we look forward to the next seven years.  And every time I step foot on the golf course and see all our friends from NBC and American Century, it's just the greatest week in the world.
And there's a vibe in this community that really, really talks about the brand of not only the destination but of this particular event.  It's just got its own energy and its own life.
And so we are really, really looking forward to the next seven years and to all of our friends coming back year over year.

Q.¬† Jon, do you have any special memories from early days ‑‑ and Mark?
JON MILLER:¬† One of the great things about today is there's a very special person in the room, and it's the man who brought this idea to NBC in the first place back in 1989.¬† His name is Mike Trager, and he's back there in the left‑hand corner.¬† And a lot of you know him because he was here at the very beginning.
And I remember I had just taken over my job running programming for NBC Sports, and we had lost baseball six months after I had taken the job, and I was in fear for my career and life and everything else.
And Mike Trager walked into my office one day and he says, I've got an idea for you that might be kind of fun to do.  We had a lot of programming we had to fill and really did not know what we were going to do.  He said Jim Karvellas, who is a mutual friend, had kind of come to him as well.  They came up with this idea of bringing athletes and entertainers to play golf and play it down, which is the expression you count everything in a professional tournament.
We said, well, we'll give it a try for a year.¬† And that first year, in 1999, we had 48 players.¬† I think we had $400,000 in prize money.¬† And Joe Petrovich, who a lot of you know‑‑ Joe P, who is on the range, was our first tournament director.¬† And we pulled it off.
There was a lot of harrowing moments, and we didn't get a lot of sleep. ¬†As I remember there weren't a whole lot of laughs that first year.¬† But we stuck with it and we got ourselves to this day.¬† We were very lucky, quite honestly, in 1999, when the sponsor that we had left and we found, in our case, what was the best blue‑chip sponsor you could have in American Century.¬† And they understand how to work with us and how to do everything to make this better.
And a lot of credit goes to the other guys on the other side over here, Gary Quinn, who a lot of you know, who spends I think every waking moment, in addition to the job he has as vice president of programming for NBC Sports, where he does an amazing job, he really takes pride in ownership in this baby.  And there's nothing that goes on here that Gary's not involved in.
So having that combination of the idea from Mike Trager and the execution from Gary Quinn and his team and Mike Milthorpe, it's made it spectacular.

Q.  Have you given it any thought, Jon, have you thought about what the magic of this event is?  Is it just the beauty of the venue?  Is it the national audience?  What is it that makes it so magical, this event?
JON MILLER:¬† Yes.¬† (Laughter).¬† Look, Lake Tahoe‑‑ and we've said this before‑‑ is the most beautiful place in America, in the summertime especially, that you could ever find.¬† And anybody who has been here can't wait to come back.
And those people who haven't been here and who get to see it on television obviously look at it with envy and say, boy, I wish I was there.¬† And then you combine that with obviously the spectacular time of the year in mid to late July, along with this year our biggest field of 93 world‑class celebrities, athletes, entertainers, performers, you name it.¬† And all the fun that goes along with it, it's pretty hard to capture that.
And I know a lot of people have come to us with ideas and there have been similar type of events that have been started that haven't been able to make it.  And I think that's the thing.  We have a lot of endurance and we've made mistakes and we've learned from those mistakes.  But I think the great thing here is that we have an attitude that we're going to find a way to get it done, and we work hard and we put each other kind of out front and we put them first.  When you have that kind of a selfless partner from both our host and our title sponsor, you can't go wrong.
MARK KILLEN:  Jon, I think, too, having Chad Pfeifer here last year, talk about a memory.  Having him in the lead, it was fantastic and to be able to honor him and his service to our country and see him compete on the national stage and do so well, that was fantastic.  What a great memory.  And I think a tribute to you and your team to keep the field fresh, keep the energy going.  And I think the fact that this event has run so well for so long is part of the magic.
It's attracting people and great talent and everybody wants to come here and have a great time.
JON MILLER:¬† You're talking about refreshing the field.¬† We bring in 15 to 20 new players every year and introduce them to the event.¬† Last year we had Annika Sorenstam here along with Chad Pfeifer.¬† And she had a great time.¬† She liked it so much she even came back and participated yesterday in the pro‑am.¬† This year we have Justin Timberlake along with 18 other players making their debut here.¬† But Justin obviously brings an enormous amount of attention and energy.
I don't know if any have seen but he already tweeted something out from his experience on the seventh hole yesterday with the great knuckleheads who come down from Sacramento.  And he tweeted, this is the best golf hole ever.  Well, when Justin Timberlake tweets something he tweets it to 46.3million followers.  So that's the size of a few small countries.
We're always thankful when we have a player who can help get the word out like that.

Q.  You're talking about keeping the tournament fresh, and what you've always done, observed that over the years.  But these things still become hard to perpetuate.  And this one doesn't only seem to be perpetuating itself it seems to be growing, witness the crowds yesterday.  Maybe all three can comment on that.  At the end of these things you've got to have some evaluation and say, here's what we like, here's what we didn't like, here's what we want to do continuing on.  Could you share specifics with that?
JON MILLER:¬† One of the things that happened is a lot of dialogue that happens between all the different parties, both leading up to the event, while the event's going on, we're here 6:00, 6:30 every morning, and there are meetings that take place every day and things we'll correct.¬† And then we'll have several postmortems after the event‑‑ what went well, what should we work on, what can we improve.¬† And we're never stagnant.¬† We're never just sitting back saying, that's fine, we don't have to change anything.¬† We're always looking to make sure we can make it better.¬† Because we do want this to be a premier event.
We put our A team on it from the golf production side of it.  The same guys who do the Ryder Cup, who do The Players Championship, who will do the PGA TOUR playoffs are sitting in their camera tours, sitting in the trucks, sitting in the booth.  So I think when we message that to people, that we take it seriously, that we put cable day on today on NBC Sports Network, and then we put three hours a day on NBC.  That's the same level of attention that we give to a major PGA TOUR event.
So I think people say, well, if NBC feels it's strong enough to do that then it's worth investing time or coming to the event itself.¬† We have obviously, quite honestly, a no‑jerks policy and I think it's very importantly.
Basically what that means is that the players who come to play understand how important the fans are, the community is, the sponsors and the guests are.¬† And they all are terrific, whether it's signing autographs, whether it's playing with someone in the pro‑am, whether it's being at a party.¬† And they go out of their way and they've all become very engaged with American Century and their mission.¬† Those are the things that really help make it successful.
MARK KILLEN:  I would add to that, I think it's chemistry.  Among the different parties, certainly with NBC and LTVA, years ago, I think it was probably a decade ago, we went direct with NBC.  We cut an agency out of the mix.  So we're in direct conversations with them.
And I think that's allowed us to really partner and improve the event.¬† It gives us‑‑ we have a lot of trust among the team, and that chemistry is born over a period of a long time, 17 years for us, doing this event.
And I think that helps us come back and do it even better.  We have great people involved.
CAROL CHAPLIN:  Chemistry is a great word.  I think because of all the different partners and different organizations that swoop in to Edgewood every year and play their own different part, I think it's really important and it takes a village to put on an event of this scope and size.
So it's really always a pleasure to work with all the different partners that we have.¬† Some of them you see regularly, and there's a lot of behind‑the‑scenes people that make this happen.
Edgewood, I have to say, as far as keeping it fresh, they're undertaking a new part of their Edgewood company's product.  You'll see it in the ground next year and the year afterwards.  And so that helps us with the venue.  Of course, it's really spectacular now that No. 9 is right on the water and the views and just the inspiration of the whole tournament is really special, I think, to people.

Q.¬† Jon, you mentioned the first year there was 48 players.¬† Now we have, as you mentioned, 92, 93 playing this week.¬† But there's also another‑‑ there's a waiting list as well.
JON MILLER:  I think that, I kid Gary about it, he's got a great job.  He also has a tough job because we usually have to say we can't accommodate 20 or 30 guys every year.  We wish we could.  We don't have a cut, because we want people to know when they come out here any day that they come out that they're going to see their favorite celebrity.
We want to make sure we can fit it into a network window.  So that means we finish at 3:00 here, which is 6:00 on the East Coast, so that we can protect our affiliates news programs.
And then we have one golf course.  Now it's a spectacular golf course but you don't have the luxury of some events where they have 36 holes to use.  All of those things kind of limit the size of the field.  Mike Milthorpe, who's the tournament director, we usually have to wear football helmets when we see him, when we get close to the event, when we tell him how many people are coming because the number just keeps creeping up in time.
But he's been very good about adapting and making it work.  And you talked about seeing the same faces.  We have very little turnover in our staff and our team.  And that's something that we're very proud of.
It's not that we don't have people who are promotable go on to other things.  We have people who have very big jobs and have gone on to other things but they take a week every year, whether they're vice presidents at other companies and whatever they do, they put those jobs on the shelf and come back here and work and they work the same jobs year after year after year.
So you'll see the same guys on the driving range.  You'll see the same guys at registration.  You'll see the same guys handling tickets and stuff like that.
So that kind of cohesiveness and partnership and teamwork really helps make the event go, too.

Q.  One of the major components of this event, a major benefit, is the charitable dollars that it raises.  And I'd like a comment from you as far as that's concerned.  Mark, if we could start with you as far as American Century Investment's goal with that.
MARK KILLEN:  As you know our principal owner, our controlling shareholder is a medical research institute that is trying to do amazing work, and is doing amazing work.  In fact, the research underway there has potential to impact 160 million people in terms of the different therapies that they're working on.
So this event for us is incredibly important to be able to share that story nationally with our audience, as well as the people on site, because we think if you're an investor with American Century you're going to have an impact on the human health of the world, because of this unique ownership structure, where we're able to give or direct 40percent of our profits every year to this research institute.  And that's been over $1.1billion since year 2000.  So it's an amazing number.
This tournament also has a charity component.  Of course, our charity is the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.  And in addition to that, we dedicate a component of the prize pool every year to come right here to this community to benefit the different charities that are in need in the community.
So at least $100,000 every year will go to local charities to help them with their mission.  And I think that's a very important component of what we've done over the years.
JON MILLER:¬† I think the number, as of this year, is over $4million have been donated to national and local charities from this event, which for made‑for‑television event is pretty remarkable.¬† Because that's not usually the mission of a made‑for‑television event.¬† The fact we've been able to give back to the community and have partners who have worked with us to give back and help us direct those donations and stuff like that has been key.
And I think the local community sees that, appreciates it and realizes how much we want this community to thrive and be successful, where other communities may not have had the same results with tournaments and events that they've had.  We want to make sure that this tournament always thrives and is always in this community.
CAROL CHAPLIN:¬† That's ‑‑ the local communities and service clubs and organizations that benefit are always really a special part of this tournament.¬† It's year‑long for me.¬† I get letters all the time from these organizations that have received some of those donations of what they're doing with those funds, and actually in a lot of cases they wouldn't have had been able to execute the program that they're talking about unless American Century and NBC had made this possible for us.
So it really is a special time of year.  We get 40 or 50 organizations every year applying for those funds.  We touch as many of those people as we can.  And they are able to touch a lot of other people that wouldn't be helped otherwise.
And it's really‑‑ it's a story in itself how many people have really benefited from American Century's generosity in this program, and that's really sincere and very special to us.
JON MILLER:¬† I think what's unique here also, this is now the longest‑running, made‑for‑television event in television.¬† It's running longer than the Skins Game, which was around for a while.¬† The Superstars competition, which was around for 20‑plus years.¬† This event now kind of exceeds both of those events which were very popular, which had very long runs, but towards the end of their runs they kind of fizzled out.¬† This event is only getting stronger and only getting bigger.¬† So we're excited about that part of it.
MARK KILLEN:  There's one other thing, too, talking about keeping it fresh, this year if you walk the course you go to 17 you're going to see an amazing BMW out there.  And that is something that was donated by Harman International to again benefit charity.  The car will be auctioned off at Mecum Auction in August also on NBC Sports Network.  So we're doing a lot there to try to promote that charitable auction, and the proceeds will go again to Stowers Institute from that auction.  So that's a neat new component to the event, keeping it fresh.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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