Brett Frood, the president of NASCAR’s Stewart-Haas Racing, has been hired as the next commissioner of the National Lacrosse League. The prominent racing executive is tasked with bringing a fresh perspective ahead of the NLL’s 36th season.
“My [immediate] priorities are to foster relationships with the stakeholders, players and owners,” Frood said in a phone interview. “I want to create a culture that is forged with collaboration and transparency. After that, we’ll get to the nuts and bolts of what’s going to grow this league—focusing on enterprise value and looking at the commercial ecosystem and how we can attack it aggressively.”
Frood, 47, believes it’s too early to map out an exact strategic vision but says increasing value isn’t limited to just adding more corporate partners. The fifth NLL commissioner since the league’s relaunch in 1997 says engagement with casual fans, licensing deals, leveraging new media and growing digital presence will be under his scope early on.
Frood joins the men’s indoor box lacrosse league after nearly 20 years of managing business for the stock car racing team owned by Hall-of-Fame NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, in addition to working with the driver on his other ventures. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Frood was integral in putting together the deal that gave Stewart a 50% stake in the NASCAR team owned by Gene Haas in 2009. Stewart came on as the team’s top driver, and the partnership turned the middle-of-the-pack team into a regular contender. (Stewart is retired from racing; his last NASCAR race was in 2016.)
Frood negotiated over $600 million in corporate sponsorships during his time at Stewart-Haas Racing. The Elbridge, N.Y., native will transition into an advisor role to Stewart and the racing team once he begins his commissioner tenure on Sept. 1.
The longtime executive isn’t new to the sport; he starred as a captain on Brown University’s lacrosse team, where he was two-time Ivy League champion, and he’s spent the last decade coaching youth and high school lacrosse in North Carolina.
Frood will replace Nick Sakiewicz, who left his post in February after six seasons to become the chief business officer for the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. When Sakiewicz departed, deputy commissioner Jessica Berman took over as the interim replacement; she left weeks later to become commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League.
NLL Board of Governors chairman and COO of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment Matt Hutchings took over leadership duties while the league conducted a search for its next commissioner, with help from CAA. The league hopes to find leadership stability with Frood now at the helm.
The NLL experienced significant business growth under the leadership of Sakiewicz and Berman, as franchise values have jumped 11x since 2018, according to the league. There has also been a 700% revenue jump over the last five seasons, thanks to various deals and new sponsors, such as sports merchandising giant Fanatics Inc. coming on board.
Television distribution has also picked up with the league signing its most extensive media rights deal in its history last year. The multiyear broadcast deal with ESPN and TSN launched at the start of last season. The league also continues to expand; it recently added a 15th team, the Las Vegas Desert Dogs, which will debut when the 2022 season starts in December.
“It’s early for me to say where we’ll go next but I know there’s no shortage of interest,” Frood said of expansion. “It will certainly be part of the strategy over time but my priority on day one is focusing and servicing the  existing teams, markets and fans… We want to make this (coming) season the best one yet then we’ll get into strategic endeavors involving expansion at a point after that.”