Phins.com is pleased to
present an exclusive interview with new Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee. Mike
joined the Dolphins this past offseason from the Boston Red Sox, but has been a
Dolfan since the 1985 season. Mike shared his insight on the team, some
information about himself, and his thoughts on the future of the team.
Aside from the Dolphins,
working for the Red Sox is as good as it gets. Tell us how you became
interested in the Dolphins.
one of the few jobs that caught my attention as a place that I loved with an
opportunity and circumstances that were very compelling. I turned down a number
of opportunities when I was with the Red Sox. I was offered the opportunity to
become president of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I turned that down. I had other
opportunities that knocked that just wasn’t the right time or opportunity. This
one was special because of my roots in Florida.
Even with the Red Sox, I had a home on the west coast in the Ft Myers area. My
parents live here. It’s always been a second home to me. And this franchise,
dating back to my conversion in 1985 (when the Colts left Baltimore, Dee switched allegiances to the Dolphins), has always
been special to me as a fan. From a business standpoint, I just thought with
the football operations staff and the strength of that side of our business, as
well as new ownership…it was still a tough decision because I was deeply rooted
in Boston. But
this was one (opportunity) I couldn’t pass up.
Did Red Sox owner John
Henry try to talk you out of leaving?
We have a great relationship, friends to this day. He knew that I needed to
grow beyond my role. He, in effect, told me that last year, “It doesn’t
preclude you from coming back and being a part of the situation here (Red Sox)
but I know you want to be a CEO. You’re ready. If you find the right
opportunity we’ll support you and bless it.” You couldn’t ask for anything more
than that from somebody you worked with for that long a period of time. It’s a
great relationship with him, a terrific guy.
What’s majority owner
Steve Ross like?
When I met Steve, I was immediately convinced that he was the kind of owner
that would make the fans very happy. He’s a tremendous, energetic, creative
thinker (who) doesn’t want to run the franchise like it’s a bank. He wants to
run the franchise like it’s a team. He wants to have fun with it. He wants the
fans to have fun, and he wants to win. When you come in as I have in every new
sports experience (where there’s an ownership change), the winds of change are
very appealing and compelling. You’re able to build on the great tradition and
history that’s here.
You have a lot of
experience managing high expectations associated with having a strong
international brand. Aside from winning games, how should the Dolphins manage
and meet those lofty expectations?
doing the right things on a daily basis. I know that’s not a glamorous answer,
but it’s at the core of successful franchises. If there’s something that Adam
(Grossman, Dolphins Public Affairs VP) and I bring from Boston, and I sense that it’s here as well,
it’s that you’ve got to think like a fan. When you miss the mark, as we may
have with the fight song (T-Pain’s version of the Dolphin fight song), you
listen to the fans and you move on. Blocking and tackling in the front office
is important, making sure we’re doing the little things right, we’ll be a
franchise that our fans can be proud of, not just in wins and losses but what
we do in the community is (also) a huge part of that. We’ve made these three
fundamental commitments; dramatically ratchet up our Miami Dolphins Foundation,
use our alumni more, and partner with our players (existing and former) who
have foundations to do more in the community. Generally speaking, fans that
have a good feeling about their team and what they do in replenishing and
renovating youth fields, or being involved with medical institutions, or
schools and scholarships (are the) things that carry you through seasons where
you may not have an 11-5 record or be AFC East Champions. That’s really what we
want to build: stability. We don’t want to have a great team one year with
60,000 season ticket holders and then have a not-so-great year the next year on
the field and drop to 50,000. We want to build a sustainable, stable fan base
that transcends those peaks and valleys that winning and losing bring on the
field. The best way to do that, we feel, is to be active participants in the
community. We not just here to sell tickets, we’re part of the fabric of the
community as well.
You have 81 home games in
baseball to enhance the fan experience. In football, you get 8. What are some
of the challenges you are facing in that respect?
get asked that question all the time, but I always plead “the fifth” because I
haven’t lived through a football season yet. I feel the pressure to get it
right, immediately. There’s not a lot of time to make corrections. The stakes
are higher, there’s a higher sense of urgency on and off the field. I think the
NFL regular season compares to baseball like the MLB playoffs. We’re taking it
very seriously and treat all eight regular season home games as our time in the
spotlight. We have to make sure that we’re focused; that we pay attention to
the details, and most importantly that we make the fan experience unparalleled
and keeps fans coming back. We’re trying to dramatically increase our season
ticket base over time. To do that, we feel as though we need to offer an experience
that makes people come back. That’s not just about football. Obviously winning
helps; it’s at the center of the table. But we have to make the entire
experience right, from when the fan buys the tickets, to the time they come to
the stadium, to the time they leave, the “Dolphin Experience”, a discernable
difference in the way people feel this year when they walk through those
turnstiles at Land Shark Stadium.
Share with us some of the
thinking behind involving the Estefans and Marc Anthony in the re-vamp of the
in-game entertainment at Land Shark Stadium?
(Estefan) has been working with Adam in helping us to produce a more engaging,
high energy game presentation. It’s not going to turn into a nightclub, but it
is going to take on a different feel. There’s a lot of TV timeouts and breaks
in the action where you’re at a game in person, and we just felt as though
there’s a great opportunity to program those non-football moments in a way that
enhances the entertainment experience for our fans. You couldn’t go out and
purchase that kind of expertise with Marc Anthony, Emilio, and Gloria (Estefan)
that we’re getting. The fact that their partners (part owners) in the team and
are contributing that as part of their ownership stake is something that we’re
really excited about. These contributions are far more important to us than how
many Grammys they’ve won.
With the Land Shark
naming deal only for one year, have you made any progress towards a long term
naming deal for the stadium before the Super Bowl?
are working towards a long term naming rights agreement, but unclear at this
point whether the Land Shark name would extend beyond that. There’s no
indication (yet). Our focus will be on a long term agreement. This is not
something where you want to be changing the name of your facility a lot. We are
focused on the stadium for future Super Bowls and National Championships.
It was a challenge for
you and the Red Sox to take Fenway
Park, with its limited
space, and enlarge and enrich the fan experience (e.g. Monster Seats). Land
Shark Stadium, with the surrounding real estate, poses quite a different
challenge for you. That being said, how does your experience with Fenway help
you to take a similar next step with Land Shark?
was about doing a couple of things. One was like renovating an old house; you
would walk into a room and say ‘I think we can turn that closet into a club
lounge’. That type of ingenuity was helpful. We also prided ourselves on those
improvements that we undertook that, when we finished, the greatest compliment
to us were from fans who said ‘Wow, that looks like it’s always been there’.
Those same principles apply here, although (Land Shark is) a radically
different facility in terms of size, age, location, and atmosphere. We are
looking at spaces trying to make sure we are maximizing the use of those spaces
for fan amenities. Despite the fact that this is a 22 year old facility,
football facilities have changed a great deal in the last two decades. Some of
the creature comforts you see at the newer facilities, we’re struggling to
catch up. A good example of that is concession areas where we did quite a bit
of work this offseason to renovate (them) to expedite the time they spend
there, to speed up the transaction. We want to make sure that whatever we do
grand in scale moving forward, that it’s something that fits, reflects the
architecture and the ambiance of south Florida
and is something that the fans can be proud of. As we look forward, I think
that we’re going to need to undertake some renovations to areas, not just club
level, but like the 400-level, the 100-level that will bring it up-to-speed
with those that you see designed and constructed today.
Given the heavy crowds
during training camp, is there any thought to expanding the fan accommodations
at the Davie training
on the list but we haven’t gotten there yet. We did have great crowds at this
camp. Having said that, there was probably only two or three sessions where we
could have accommodated more people than showed up. Obviously, Football
Operations has a huge hand in that decision, but we’ll continue to monitor it
and see if there are better ways to do it moving forward. From my point of
view, camp worked very well this year. Everybody I talked to had a good time.
You want it to be a big party in a small place. The energy that was felt here
when the stands were full was good, and we like having that. It was a Fenway-esque
ambiance on those days when we had overflowing crowds.
Fenway Sports Group was
created to grow new income outside of the encumbrances of Baseball. Do you have
any plans to create an equivalent of FSG here with the Dolphins?
in the near term. The Dolphins and Land Shark Stadium is a big business. On the
Stadium side we have multiple tenants (e.g. Florida Marlins, University of Miami)
and that in of itself is a diversification outside of our core business of the
NFL. In Boston,
we were operating at 105% of capacity on attendance, near capacity on
advertising and sponsorship revenue, and concession revenue. We’ve got our
challenges here with the Dolphins to reach that level. If one day we have a
season ticket base of 67,000 for five consecutive years and we’ve finished the
work we’re going to do on the stadium, maybe then we would look to tackle other
You’ve worked with some
strong personalities in the past, guys like John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Theo
Epstein. Here, it’s Bill Parcells. What’s the secret to working effectively
them the space to do their job, to do what they do well. There’s a lot of
similarities in Coach Parcells and Theo in terms of their commitment and
dedication to what they do. 24 Hour Per Day type of attention. There are times
when you can engage, but there are many more times when you step back and allow
them to make the decisions and surround themselves with the people that they
need to drive team success and the product on the field. We’re certainly going
to do that here. Steve and I have tremendous respect for Coach Parcells, Jeff (Ireland), and
for Tony (Sparano) and what they’ve accomplished in a short period of time, but
also for their work ethic and what they stand for as men, they type of players
that they’ve brought here. Not just good players but the kinds of players and
community leaders that are great off the field as well. You’re not going to see
Steve or me meddle in that. We want our guys to have everything they can have
at their disposal to be competitive, to draft the best players, to go after the
free agents when it’s appropriate to do it, to be this team into a position to
compete year in and year out. We are going to have a laissez faire approach and
allow our guys to make those decisions as they have over the past couple of
What is your vision as CEO?
Where do you see this team 5 years from now?
I’d love to be looking at another Lombardi Trophy which the fans so richly
deserve after a 36 year gap since our last one. We want to make sure our guys
have all the tools that we can provide for them to do their jobs well. Beyond
that, we would love to be known as a franchise that is best-in-class in the NFL
and in professional sports, known for innovation, known for aggressive
marketing, and known for what we stand for in the community.