At 43 years old, the Brothers Yormark, raised and shaped by a determined single mother, are legendary for working 17-hour days that begin around four a.m. Though the brothers are separated by more than a thousand miles, their daily routines are virtually identical. They typically hit the gym long before sunrise, swimming, doing cardio work, lifting weights, and in the case of Michael, pushing a weighted Cadillac Escalade 100 yards. (His body-fat ratio is about 7.8 percent, which he figures is “lower than some of our older players.”) Then they head for the office, firing off a fusillade of text messages and e-mails in advance to let staffers know the day’s marching orders. They set a grueling pace and challenge their people to keep up. “Brett can outwork anybody in the business,” says Leo Ehrline, the Nets’ senior vice president and chief relationship officer. “We start with the e-mails at 5:30 a.m., so before you brush your teeth, you know what your day’s going to look like and what challenges are ahead.”
The Yormarks knew early in life that they wanted careers in the world of sports. Both played basketball for their New Jersey high school (their coach, Charlie Weis, now coaches football at the University of Notre Dame), but in Brett’s words, they were “too slow and too short” to entertain dreams of glory on the court. “We had to find a way to get our foot in the door without being on the field,” he says.
Arlene Sloan, their mother, helped launch her boys’ careers after the two graduated from college in the late 1980s. (Brett attended Indiana University; Michael, University of Maryland for undergrad, then Ohio University for graduate.) A well-connected interior designer who typically started work by six a.m., she introduced Brett to higher-ups at the Nets, with whom he landed his first job, and Michael to a part owner of the Yankees, who eventually hired him. Working for the Bronx Bombers was a dream job for a kid who had grown up idolizing Yankees stars like Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson, but Michael’s sights were always set on the top.
“I didn’t care which sport, which team,” Michael recalls. “I just wanted the opportunity to influence a company, impact the culture, and build a first-class organization. It’s not just about championships. I’m a firm believer that if you build a strong organization, those things will come. But you can’t be successful on the court, on the field, on the ice without that organization.
After the Yankees, Michael moved to a media-rep firm in New York before taking a front-office post with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Then it was on to Front Row Marketing & Communications, the marketing and broadcasting arm of Wayne Huizenga’s sports holdings. After a stint with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Michael became chief operating officer of Sunrise Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Panthers and runs BankAtlantic Center, the team’s home in Broward County, Florida.
According to Hibbs, Michael’s success is all the more remarkable considering the obstacles he faces in South Florida. “If South Florida is any kind of sports market, it’s a football market,” Hibbs says. Not only are there endless things to do besides “watch a game on frozen water,” he adds, but the area’s burgeoning Latino population has few ties to hockey. In addition, many South Floridians are recent transplants.
“They didn’t grow up watching hockey here,” Hibbs says. “It’s not a generational thing like your father taking you to see the Bears or the Cowboys.”