Mark Taffet resigns as senior VP of HBO Sports

Kevin Iole
Boxing

A massive overhaul at HBO Sports continued Tuesday when Mark Taffet announced his resignation as its senior vice president, effective at the end of the year.

Taffet’s departure comes quickly on the heels of the resignation of HBO Sports president Ken Hershman, who resigned last month, also effective at the end of the year. Taffet said Hershman's decision crystallized his own.

Mark Taffet in 2011 (AP)
Mark Taffet in 2011 (AP)

Taken together, the moves seem to solidify the power base of Peter Nelson, HBO Sports’ vice president of programming and the presumed successor to Hershman as the division’s president.

Nelson was recruited for his role by Michael Lombardo, the president of programming at HBO. It is unclear whether Nelson will replace Hershman as president of HBO Sports, but a source with knowledge of the situation told Yahoo Sports that Hershman’s successor would come from within.

That would seem to make Nelson, a Harvard graduate and one-time sportswriter, the frontrunner.

Taffet, 58, had been with HBO for 32 years and ran its pay-per-view department. He began as a manager in budgeting and finance for the sales and marketing departments before moving to Sports and becoming one of its most influential executives.

"I've been blessed to be at HBO for 32 years and in Sports for 25 years, and to me, it's not been a career but a way of life," Taffet said. "I love the company, and I'm indebted to it and the people who make it up for all they've allowed me to do over my career. It's been a magnificent run and extremely fulfilling."

He had great success and was involved in negotiating and then marketing the largest pay-per-views of all-time. Though rival Showtime eventually got into the pay-per-view business and had success, Taffet was recognized throughout boxing as the foremost authority on pay-per-view.

Pay-per-view in its current form began in 1991, when Evander Holyfield defended the heavyweight title against George Foreman in Atlantic City, N.J. It sold 1.4 million units, an astounding number considering the universe of addressable homes was vastly smaller than it is now.

During Taffet’s reign, boxers such as Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao became pay-per-view superstars.

Taffet plans to stay in boxing in an undefined consulting type of role, working with promoters and fighters.

"I think there is another great chapter in my life and I want to tackle that before I'm too old," said Taffet, who turns 59 in March. "I've been yearning to get closer to the promoters, the fighters and the venues in the sport than my capacity at HBO would allow. Given my contract was up at the end of the year, coupled with Ken's decision, that crystallized my thinking that the timing was right for me to do this and to try to help see the next generation succeed.

"I've had a magnificent run that I'll be forever indebted to HBO for, but this will allow me to keep my passion and my energies focused on the sport of boxing for the next few years."

No successor for Taffet was named and one likely won’t be until Hershman’s successor is hired.

Taffet’s one-time colleague at HBO Sports, Lou DiBella, said he was happy for him.

“He had a 30-something year run at HBO and he’s walking away with a lot of money and he never had a heart attack and he never had a stroke, so regardless of whether the decision to leave was his or whether he was forced out, that’s a huge win in my book,” said DiBella, who now runs his own promotional company. “From his standpoint and the standpoint of his family, that’s as good as it can get. He’s still a young guy and he can go enjoy his life.”

Taffet’s departure comes only days after the final pay-per-view of his career, the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto bout in Las Vegas on Saturday that Alvarez won by unanimous decision.

Sales figures for the bout have not yet been released.

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