Among his responsibilities, Lewand is the chief player contract negotiator and he oversees all day-to-day business operations of both the Detroit Lions and Ford Field entities. This includes the management of finance, football administration, player development, security, equipment operations, medical staff, ticketing, sales and marketing, public/media relations, broadcasting, digital media, human resources, Ford Field operations and administration, acquisition of events and the development of Ford Field’s lease space in the stadium’s progression as a multi-use facility.
An extremely talented, creative and aggressive businessman, Lewand has held a myriad of positions and responsibilities within the front office during his tenure with the Lions, most recently as executive vice president and chief operating officer.
On a League-wide level, Lewand is involved in several key business and labor issues. He serves on the Super Bowl Advisory Committee and the NFL Management Council’s Club Executives Committee, and he was on the Committee on Revenue Sharing Qualifiers and Special Committee on League Economics. Lewand represents the organization for all League-level business matters.
Lewand’s leadership positions every aspect of the Lions’ organization, including Ford Field operations, to significantly impact the Lions’ drive for a Super Bowl title. For Lewand, everything from football transactions to Ford Field events influences the team’s ability to compete and win.
Working alongside General Manager Martin Mayhew and Head Coach Jim Schwartz, Lewand is leading one of the NFL’s most-improved teams.
In January 2009, Lewand and Mayhew completed an exhaustive and thorough search for a head coach that would lead the team on the field. They completed that process with the hiring of Schwartz, who brought to the organization impressive results as a defensive coordinator as well as experience in player personnel. Schwartz’s philosophy on the game and how to build a successful team, along with his contributions to winning organizations and working under successful coaches, made him the right choice for the Lions new head coach. The hiring of Schwartz has brought stability to the coaching staff and tremendous development on the field as the team continues to move in the right direction.
The results have steadily improved with the team increasing its win total by four wins in each of the past two years, in addition to claiming 10 wins last season and earning a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
During his tenure with the Lions, Lewand has negotiated player contracts totaling more than $1.3 billion.
Since 2009, Lewand has completed three of the most extensive and complex contract negotiations by re-signing All-Pro WR Calvin Johnson to the highest contract by a receiver in League history and inking QB Matthew Stafford and DT Ndamukong Suh to their rookie contracts. Johnson was the biggest off-season move for the Lions this past year as Lewand negotiated a new eight-year contract that has him signed with the Lions through 2019. Stafford’s contract occurred within just a few hours of the 2009 NFL Draft allowing the team to sign the first overall pick prior to the draft. Suh’s contract was the largest by a drafted player who did not play quarterback in NFL history.
Johnson, Stafford and Suh represent three of the young, highly-talented core of players who will help continue to lead the Lions progress on the field.
Lewand’s additional contract highlights include: the Lions’ last 20 first-round draft choices, RB Barry Sanders’ last NFL contract, the contracts of several Pro Bowl players and recent key free agent acquisitions.
BUILDING THE LIONS BRAND
On the business side, Lewand constantly evaluates and reviews opportunities to grow the team’s operations in order for those to impact the team’s ability to win on the field. Lewand desires to combine a championship team with unique fan engagement and experiences.
One key area of improvement the past two seasons has been the growth in season ticket holders and ticket sales. Combined, the Lions have sold out 15 of their last 16 home games. Last year, the Lions sold out all eight home games for the first time since 2007. In 2010, the team sold out seven of eight home games, which tallied the combined totals of sellouts in 2008 (3) and 2009 (4). The introduction of numerous fan-friendly and family-oriented ticket options has greatly improved attendance at all Lions games.
When the Lions defeated the Chicago Bears 24-13 during its first Monday Night Football appearance since 2001, the team claimed victory in front of a Ford Field record crowd (67,891) for a Lions home game. In fact, this past season the Lions registered the five largest crowds since the team moved into Ford Field in 2002. Overall, they topped the 500,000 mark for total attendance (509,940) for all eight home games for the first time since 2002.
In 2010, attendance to Lions games increased 14-percent. It was the largest increase by any NFC team, and Detroit was one of only two teams in the NFL to experience a double-digit increase in ticket sales.
Lewand not only wants the team to provide the best possible product on the field for the fans, but he also is determined to make the experience affordable and one of the most valuable investments for Lions fans. For season ticket holders, the team offers additional unique interactive opportunities, such as town hall meetings, conference calls, online chats, meet-and-greets with players and special training camp access among others to complement their purchase of season tickets.
Heading into the 2012 season, the Lions have the largest growth in season ticket holders among any club since 2009. A similar trend has also occurred with regards to the team’s premium club seats, where the holders of those seats have increased as high as any team in the NFL.
The interest in the Lions has not only increased at the gate but in home viewership as well. Over the past two seasons, local television ratings (Detroit market) have increased 58-percent (27.5 rating in 2011 from 17.4 rating in 2009), the highest jump in local ratings among all NFL teams. In 2011, the Lions averaged a local household rating of 27.5—the highest for the team on record since 1998. Additionally, the Lions 27.5 local household average rating represents a 15-percent increase from 2010, which was tied with Carolina and the New York Giants for the second-highest increase in the entire NFL.
A sampling of the Lions television ratings includes the team generating its highest regular season single-game rating ever with a 36.4 household rating against Chicago on Monday Night Football. The Lions Thanksgiving Day game against Green Bay was the second-most watched TV program of the 2011 Fall season with 30.2 million viewers (30.5 local rating), and 31.8 million viewers (40.6 local rating) tuned into the Lions Wild Card game at New Orleans January 7, 2012.
The team appeared on national television three different times, including the NFL flexing its Week 13 game at New Orleans that gave the Lions their first-ever appearance on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
In 2012, the Lions are slated for five nationally televised games for just the fourth time since 1970. The Lions will have four prime time games this season for only the second time (1998) in the past 43 seasons.
In 2010, TV ratings for Detroit Lions games increased 37-percent, and the overall ratings for the season were the highest in five years. As the team ended the year on a high note with a four-game win streak, so did the TV ratings. The Lions ratings (27.9) during their 20-13 win over Minnesota at home were the highest for the team in a Week 17 game since 1998.
Seeking opportunities to reach and communicate with more fans, Lewand emphasizes the importance of growing fan interaction through digital media. During the 2011 season (August-December), Detroitlions.com attracted 4.7 million unique visitors during that five-month span, a 71.1 percent increase compared to the 2010 season (2.9 million). Despite the NFL’s labor situation during the offseason, Detroitlions.com still generated a 36.0 percent increase in unique visitors in 2011 (6.2 million) than 2010 (4.6 million). There were more unique visitors for the final five months of 2011 than the entire 2010 calendar year.
In just two years, the number of unique visitors to Detroitlions.com during the regular season (September-December) has jumped 153-percent (3.9 million in 2011 and 1.6 million in 2009).
Extending the team’s outreach to fans also occurs through various social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, with over 900,000 fans currently engaged through those two social networks.
In 2009, Lewand completed two major initiatives that continue to help transform the Lions business operations. The Lions unveiled a new comprehensive brand that launched changes to the team’s logo and uniforms, a new team logotype and font and streamlined branding elements. The evolution of the Lions brand is the most complete and all-encompassing modification in franchise history. The new brand now extends beyond the logo on the helmet and presents a consistent visual identity in new, versatile and distinctive ways.
Additionally that year, the team partnered with MainGate on a 10-year exclusive retail and merchandising agreement. The partnership focuses on providing greater service to Lions fans and consumers, includes significant improvements to the organization’s retail operations. Headlining the overhaul was the re-vamped team store at Ford Field, now known as “Lions Pro Shop,” and the re-launch of the Lions’ online store, Detroitlionsstore.com.
FORD FIELD PHENOMENON
Under Lewand’s guidance and direction, Ford Field has become the crown jewel of downtown Detroit and serves as a cornerstone in the city’s urban renewal and revitalization efforts. The facility opened to rave reviews in 2002, with the publisher of the Detroit Free Press stating that Ford Field “tells [Detroiters] who we are and suggests what we can be. Now it’s up to the rest of us to create a downtown and a city that matches the vision Ford Field realizes.”
Few venues, considering space, amenities and operations, have the flexibility to host and execute the variety of large-scale events as does Ford Field.
Lewand leads in the development of these events at Ford Field, including college football, MHSAA high school football, concerts, motorsports and various trade shows. Few venues in the U.S. host as many football events of all levels as does Ford Field, filling virtually every weekend in the Fall. In any given year, approximately 14 high school, college and NFL games are played at Ford Field from Thanksgiving Day through December.
For the past 10 years, Ford Field has been the home to the Little Caesars Bowl, and for the MAC Football Championship Game for the past eight years as well.
In 2010, Ford Field and the Lions hosted the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings on a re-scheduled Monday Night Game, December 13, a day after the Lions defeated the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, 10-3, with just less than 20 hours to prepare for the relocated NFL game.
SUPER BOWL XL
Ford Field dazzled in 2006 when the city of Detroit hosted Super Bowl XL. Lewand served as the point person for the Lions and Ford Field on the Host Committee for Super Bowl XL, and he was among the key figures leading the city’s hosting of the game and events surrounding Super Bowl XL, which was widely-acclaimed as successful and critical to Detroit’s future growth. Super Bowl XL injected a $260 million economic boost to the Metro Detroit region.
OTHER SHINING MOMENTS
Behind Lewand’s leadership, Ford Field once again stepped to the forefront in April 2009 as Detroit, for the first time, hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. The championship culminated six years of planning, including Lewand representing the organization in a partnership with the NCAA to present the Final Four in a groundbreaking manner that has set the standard for all future sites.
The event featured a center-stadium configuration that utilized the entire stadium seating structure along with customized risers. Ford Field broke long-standing records, including: attendance for Final Four Friday (nearly 30,000), the National Semifinals (72,456) and National Championship game (72,992). Overall, a record 145,378 fans attended the Final Four. By hosting the Final Four, Ford Field was the centerpiece for a weekend that had an estimated $30-50 million impact on the city of Detroit. Attendance records were not only set inside Ford Field, but the ancillary events, such as Hoops City, set their own records as well. All of these events generated a tremendous opportunity for both residents and visitors to enjoy downtown Detroit over a five-day period.
Paced by Lewand’s leadership, the organization followed up that tremendous accomplishment with the highly successful hosting of the 2010 Men’s Hockey Frozen Four. Like the basketball championship, Ford Field allowed the NCAA to elevate one of its marquee events to even greater heights. For the first time, the 2010 Frozen Four was held in a large-stadium venue with the portable ice configuration set-up used in the NHL’s annual Winter Classic. The championship garnered record crowds (34,954 for the National Semifinals and 37,592 for the National Championship) that not only set NCAA Frozen Four records but world indoor hockey records as well.
Ford Field became the first venue to host the Men’s Final Four and the Men’s Frozen Four in back-to-back years.
In April 2007 Ford Field hosted WWE’s Wrestlemania 23 that set a new Ford Field all-events attendance record (80,103) and had a $25 million impact on the Metro Detroit area.
In June 2011, Ford Field hosted the opening round of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup with two soccer matches between Panama and Guadeloupe and the United State and Canada. The opening round match was the first soccer game played by the U.S. Men’s National Team played in the Metro Detroit area since the World Cup in 1994, and it drew the largest crowd for a U.S. match in the Gold Cup opening round since 2003.
A “LEADER AND BEST”
Lewand possesses a strong educational background, having received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan in 1991, and completing both his Juris Doctor at the University of Michigan Law School and his Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan Business School in 1996. Lewand aided the Michigan football program in various capacities on a volunteer basis while attending the school. He also worked for the Lions on a part-time basis while completing work on his graduate degrees.
In 1991, Lewand served as an environmental advisor for the Governor of Indiana, Evan Bayh. Following a year in that position, he entered graduate school at Michigan. He spent time working for the law firm of Dickinson Wright in Detroit, and the Chicago law firm of Kirkland and Ellis. In the summer of 1993, he worked in the White House in the Counsel’s Office for Presidential Personnel.
Lewand’s family history is entrenched in the Detroit area community. His father, F. Thomas Lewand, works as an attorney and was both the Chief of Staff for former Governor James Blanchard and the Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. His late grandfather, Joseph B. Sullivan, was a judge in the Michigan Court of Appeals and was the deputy mayor of Detroit in the 1960s.
OFF THE FIELD
Lewand is active in the community, acting as Past Chairman of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau and serving on the Boards of Directors of the Detroit Zoological Society, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the Parade Company.
In a collaborative effort to reduce and prevent youth sports concussions, Lewand represents the Lions and the organization’s work with Michigan legislators, the NFL and various youth sports organizations to enact laws that would provide an increase in concussion education and awareness and a medical protocol for young athletes to return to action.
Lewand also is on the Corporate Advisory Board for the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Lewand was named as one of Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40” in 1998, which honored and recognized 40 top business people in the Detroit area under the age of 40. Lewand has also been recognized nationally twice, in 2003 and 2005, by the Sports Business Journal as one of the top “40 under 40” sports executives in the United States.
He and his wife, Suzanne, have four daughters: Cayleigh, Paige, Shannon and Erin.