Alan Verlander was being groomed as the heir apparent to Jacksonville Sports Council president and CEO Rick Catlett, but that succession plan fell through Wednesday when the JSC chief operating officer resigned to start his own sports and entertainment marketing company.
Verlander, 46, has been with JSC since December 2013 after heading up the sports and entertainment division for the city of Jacksonville. He had also previously served as Jacksonville University athletic director from 2005-2012.
On June 30, Verlander will leave his JSC position to launch Airstream Ventures, which he legally registered nearly a month ago. He has already reached agreement with four Jacksonville Beach music festivals — Community First Music Festival, Salt Life Music Festival, Springing The Blues and the Great Atlantic Country Music Fest — to sell sponsorships for those events in 2019.
“Since I worked at Host Communications in the 1990s, it’s always been a dream of mine to run my own company and I’ve been seriously contemplating it for a while,” Verlander said. “I met with friends who are private equity guys that were willing to invest in it and get it going. I’m a big music fan and I’m into sports, and this was a good time to go into it.”
Verlander’s departure means Catlett and JSC will have to fill the No. 2 position at the Sports Council. That would presumably be someone to ascend into Catlett’s role whenever he decides to retire, but any hiring decision will have to be approved by the Board of Trustees that oversees Gator Bowl Sports and JSC.
“I’m going to be here as long as I need to be here,” said the 67-year-old Catlett. “The succession committee will have to go to work and try to find another person.”
In addition to marketing sports and entertainment events, Airstream Ventures will also be working with corporate partners to develop a high school platform. AV hopes to televise prep football games on WJXT-Channel 4, promote events that teach various life skills to high school students and make recruiting connections for athletes looking to find scholarships at non-Division I schools.
Catlett says it’s also likely JSC will partner with Verlander’s company on some sporting events outside of the Taxslayer Gator Bowl.
“I’ve known Alan since he was about 8 years old and I always tell my people, ‘If you want to do something and it’s not here [at JSC], go do it,’" Catlett said. “This is something he always wanted to do, be his own boss. In our business, you have trustees and volunteers who get to weigh in on the decisions. He will have to deal with his investors, but he has a free hand to do what he can do to make money.”
Verlander, who has a friend that runs a similar sports/marketing company in Birmingham, believes now was the time to make this career move because he feels there’s a niche for it in this market.
“If we do this right, we should have a very successful company,” Verlander said. “I’ll have total say in everything we do, and that’s kind of what I always wanted. I won’t have a Board, though I will have investors. It’s my entrepreneurial spirit kind of coming out. Nobody is doing anything like this in Jacksonville, so take a chance on it.”
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