Sam Kennedy ready for promotion to Red Sox president
Larry Lucchino could one day land in the Hall of Fame; such have been his accomplishments in baseball over the last 36 years. But in chief operating officer Sam Kennedy, the Red Sox have an executive ready to replace Lucchino as president of the team.
In recent months, team sources have asserted that Kennedy would be promoted if Lucchino were to step down as president and chief executive officer.
The transition, which started to pick up speed at the beginning of the year, will be complete by October.
“There’s a transition plan we’ve been talking about for a while,’’ Kennedy told the Globe late Saturday. “Larry has been a great mentor. I’m excited about the opportunity and grateful to [principal owner] John [Henry] and [club chairman] Tom [Werner] for their confidence in me.’’
For the Red Sox, the change will be dramatic. Lucchino has been front and center with the team since 2002, representing the ownership group aggressively locally and within Major League Baseball, bringing widespread changes to the organization.
The Sox won three World Series championships during his tenure, refurbished Fenway Park, and became a financial powerhouse within the game.
Kennedy was one of Lucchino’s closest advisers during that time, has steadily gained influence and power, and now stands ready to move up.
“This is Sam’s time,” one team source said. “Everybody in the building knows that.”
What is uncertain is whether Kennedy will assume Lucchino’s twin titles of president and CEO immediately. While Kennedy has not been directly involved in baseball decisions, he has been a voice in the room when significant decisions are made and has a close relationship with general manager Ben Cherington.
Kennedy has a background in sales and finance, a different path than the one Lucchino took through baseball.
Henry, who also owns the Globe, considers Kennedy a critical member of the organization. For several years now, there have been internal concerns that Kennedy would leave the Red Sox to become president of another team because he had hit a ceiling in Boston. Other teams, and even businesses outside of baseball, have recruited Kennedy.
“Sam, for many years now has been Larry’s choice to eventually succeed him as president of the club,” Henry said in an e-mail to WBZ and the Boston Herald. “Sam has also been the choice of the partners comprising Fenway Sports Group. He is surrounded by a very talented group of men and women.
“He has been a much sought-after baseball executive over the past ten years. At least one sports franchise a year has [offered] him their presidency but he knew this day would eventually come. We are grateful that he stayed here.”
The shift within the Red Sox front office also creates opportunity for widely respected executive vice president of business affairs Jonathan Gilula, who could replace Kennedy as COO.
Kennedy will bring a different manner to the position than the hard-charging and often gruff Lucchino. Kennedy builds consensus, initially agreeing with somebody he might disagree with then bringing them to his side of the issue.
That the 42-year-old Kennedy is ready for the job is not in question. He has been with the Red Sox for 14 years, coming to the organization with Lucchino in 2002 from the San Diego Padres.
Kennedy was with the Padres from 1996-2002, working in corporate partnerships and broadcasting. He sold radio advertising in New York from 1995-96, working with stations WABC and WFAN. And while this is left out of his official Red Sox biography, Kennedy interned with the Yankees and had his first full-time job with them in 1995 after graduating from Trinity College in Hartford earlier that year.
With the Red Sox, Kennedy quickly gained responsibility. He oversees most of the team’s business operations, including advertising, broadcasting, marketing, ticketing, social media, and sponsorships.
In 2004, Kennedy was one of the founders of Fenway Sports Management, a sports sales and marketing agency. Kennedy has profit and loss responsibility for FSM, which has forged agreements with Boston College, MLB Advanced Media, and golf’s Deutsche Bank Championship.
FSM has profited from its relationship with NBA star LeBron James but also made a misstep in representing troubled Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Kennedy was a key player in Fenway Sports Group acquiring Liverpool FC in 2010. He also oversees most of the non-sporting events at Fenway, including the concert series, hockey games, soccer games, and the upcoming football game between Boston College and Notre Dame.
In 2011, Kennedy developed the business plan that led to the team’s new spring training complex in Florida.
Kennedy grew up in Brookline, a short distance from Fenway Park. One of his first jobs was selling Red Sox T-shirts and caps at the Twins souvenir store across the street from the park on Yawkey Way.
A high school classmate of former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, Kennedy and his wife Amanda have two children, 11-year-old Jimmy and 10-year-old Ally.
Kennedy played baseball in college but is now more of a recreational hockey player and coaches his son.