Former ESPN/NBC Sports Exec Rob Simmelkjaer Named New York Road Runners CEO

by Weldon Johnson
October 6, 2022

The NYRR announced today that former ESPN/NBC Sports exec Rob Simmelkjaer is taking over as CEO on November 15th. He’ll replace interim-CEO Kerin Hempel who took over in 2020 after Michael Capiraso was pushed out due to complaints of racism and sexism.

The good – he’s smart (Dartmouth grad, Harvard law), a runner, with a big background in elite sports, having been an exec at ESPN and NBC Sports. Since 2019 he’s been on a full-fledged sports wilderness, an on-air host for the Tennis Channel, a consultant for William Hill Sports Book, was Chairman of the Board of the Connecticut Lottery where he helped launch sports betting in CT (Thank you sir), started a company to interview you professionally for your memories, and even contemplated a run for Sec of State in Ct.

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Plus as a bonus, despite the press release calling him a “native New Yorker” (despite NBC saying he’s a native of Haworth, NJ), it looks like he lives in Connecticut (it’s my personal mission for people in Connecticut to take more pride in our state), and is a soccer dad.

Rob Simmelkjaer

Rob Simmelkjaer via wikipedia

The bad- He hasn’t even started yet! We’re wishing him the best of luck as long as he’s committed to keeping the NY Marathon as one of the premier foot races in the world and not just a super popular charity run / fitness activity.

Talk about his hire on the Letsrun.com messageboard: MB: NYRR names Dartmouth grad and journalist as it’s new CEO…. but thankfully his name isn’t Jonathan Gault.

Twitter profile https://twitter.com/RobSimmelkjaer.

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-simmelkjaer/details/experience/

Press release when named Chair of Ct Lottery https://portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2020/05-2020/Governor-Lamont-Nominates-Rob-Simmelkjaer-to-Fill-Vacancy-as-Chair-of-the-Connecticut-Lottery-Board

*Company he started

*Wedding announcement

The full NYRR press release announcing his hire appears below:

Rob Simmelkjaer Named New York Road Runners CEO

20-Year Sports Business Executive and Government Official to Assume Leadership Position

New York, October 6, 2022 – New York Road Runners (NYRR) today announced that Rob Simmelkjaer [SIM-uhl-care] has been appointed Chief Executive Officer. Simmelkjaer will oversee all personnel and operations at the world’s premier community running organization. He will assume this role on November 15, 2022.

Kerin Hempel will step down as chief executive officer after leading the organization through her second TCS New York City Marathon. Over her two-year contract, she successfully guided NYRR through the pandemic while laying the groundwork for future success for the incoming permanent CEO.

“We are excited for Rob to lead our organization through its next phase of performance, growth, and impact. He brings sports leadership experience, a record of driving strategic transformation, and a commitment to our mission of helping and inspiring people through running,” said George Hirsch, Chair of the Board of Directors of NYRR. “I want to thank Kerin Hempel for her tireless dedication and managerial expertise throughout this critical transition period for NYRR. We simply couldn’t have done it without her.”

“I am thrilled and humbled to join NYRR at such a pivotal time,” said Rob Simmelkjaer. “Running has the unique ability to improve our physical and mental health, bring us closer together, and inspire positive community change. I look forward to working closely with NYRR’s talented staff, passionate volunteers, diverse communities, and its many partners and stakeholders.”

“It has been a true privilege to lead NYRR during this critical transitional time as we worked to strengthen our organization, better serve our diverse running community, and return our events and programming to pre-pandemic levels,” said Kerin Hempel, NYRR’s current Chief Executive Officer. “Rob Simmelkjaer has the capabilities and experience to take this great organization to the next level.”

About Rob Simmelkjaer

Simmelkjaer is a runner and two-time New York City Marathon finisher, a native New Yorker, an experienced sports business executive, and a government official, with a record of leadership and performance across a range of sports and media organizations.

During his nine-year tenure at ESPN, the world’s most successful sports media organization, Simmelkjaer served in positions of increasing responsibility and impact as Vice President of International Development, Vice President and Assistant to the President, and Director of NBA Programming. In 2011, he was named Senior Vice President of NBC Sports Ventures, where he led new business development and created and oversaw a number of NBC Sports properties.

In addition to his executive roles, Simmelkjaer has served as an on-air contributor for ABC News, ESPN, NBC Sports, NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, and the Tennis Channel. He anchored MSNBC’s coverage of the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. Most recently, Simmelkjaer founded Persona Media Inc., a social media platform and video production service.

In 2020, Simmelkjaer was appointed by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont to serve in a volunteer role as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Lottery. The NAACP named him one of Connecticut’s “100 Most Influential” African-Americans in 2021.

Simmelkjaer is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. He practiced law in New York City at Weil, Gotshal and Manges and Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

About the TCS New York City Marathon

The 2022 TCS New York City Marathon will be held on November 6. Following a pandemic-related cancellation in 2020 and a reduced field size in 2021, this year the race makes its return to full capacity, with 50,000 runners. The world’s largest marathon is one of the city’s most anticipated and iconic annual sporting events, attracting runners and spectators of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities from around the world.

About New York Road Runners (NYRR)

NYRR’s mission is to help and inspire people through running. Since 1958, New York Road Runners has grown from a local running club to the world’s premier community running organization. NYRR’s commitment to New York City’s five boroughs features races, virtual races, community events, free youth running initiatives and school programs, the NYRR RUNCENTER featuring the New Balance Run Hub, and training resources that provide hundreds of thousands of people each year with the motivation, know-how, and opportunity to Run for Life. NYRR’s premier event is the TCS New York City Marathon. Held annually on the first Sunday in November, the race features a wide population of runners, from the world’s top professional athletes to a vast range of competitive, recreational, and charity runners. To learn more, visit www.nyrr.org.

About the NYRR Board of Directors

As previously announced, Nnenna Lynch was nominated to serve as the next Chair of the NYRR Board of Directors, beginning her tenure on June 30, 2023. Lynch will be the first woman and the first African-American to serve in the position. George Hirsch will step down as Chair of the Board and he will become Chairman Emeritus.

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