Published in time for ESPN’s 30th anniversary on September 7, 2009, a new book, ESPN THE COMPANY: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports (John Wiley & Sons, hardcover, $24.95), tells for the first time the insider tale of ESPN’s unlikely rise from a fledgling regional sports network to a global business empire valued at nearly $30 billion.


ESPN THE COMPANY, written by Dr. Anthony F. Smith with Keith Hollihan, chronicles the evolution of the franchise, drawing on Smith’s 20 years at ESPN spent counseling, coaching and critiquing company leadership as they built an unrivaled sports entertainment superstar. The authors detail the hard lessons the company learned through 30 years of trial and error which now serve as the guiding principles behind the success of the biggest brand in sports.

As Smith tells it, “Along the way, I saw a wild start-up become an industry threat and finally the industry leader. I got involved with ESPN at a crux moment, when the company was scrambling with the transition to achieve the scale and capabilities of its future self… What I’ve learned firsthand at ESPN about growing a great company I’ve written down in this book.”

From his vantage point high inside the company, Smith gathered insights on how and why ESPN persevered and succeeded where others might have failed:

ESPN THE COMPANY offers eight guiding principles by which it was able to survive, thrive, grow and constantly innovate over the last thirty years:

  1. Turn Fanatics Into Fans
  2. Think Like an Incumbent, Act Like a Challenger
  3. The Right Leader at the Right Time
  4. Create Your Own Game
  5. Expand the Brand
  6. Playing Well With Others
  7. Blow the Whistle, Spot the BallAre Y
  8. ou Having Fun?

DR. anthony F. Smith is a Co-Founder and Managing Director of the Leadership Research Institute, based in Rancho Santa Fe, California, specializing in Leadership Development and Assessment. In addition to his work with ESPN, Smith has been an active consultant for over twenty years in the areas of organizational change and assessment, team building, executive coaching and development, and leadership training and design. He has served a list of enviable clients in a variety of fields, including, American Express, The National Football League, the Coca-Cola Company, The National Geographic Society, Seimans AG, The Walt Disney Company, Deutsche Bank, Spencer Stuart, Hewlett Packard, ESPN, KKR, Goldman Sachs, and McKinsey and Company. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed business book, The Taboos of Leadership: 10 Secrets No One Will Tell You About Leaders And What They Really Think, published by Jossey Bass, May 2007.

Keith Hollihan is a writer who has collaborated with Smith and many other top business and leadership experts on books and articles covering the gamut of issues that leaders face today. He is also coeditor of The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching: 50 Top Executive Coaches Reveal Their Secrets and Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Path to Leadership, and Co-Author of the best-seller, Everybody Wins: The Story and Lessons Behind ReMax, all of which are published by Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. Keith lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The V Foundation for Cancer Research

Proceeds from the profits of ESPN THE COMPANY will benefit The V Foundation for Cancer Research, founded by the late, great basketball coach Jim Valvano. To learn more visit the website at