Arthur Blank's big Super Bowl week

By Maria Saporta

So how does the owner of an NFL franchise that is hosting the Big Game spend his time during Super Bowl week? Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, has been spending his time as an ambassador for the city and the state.

For Blank, the kick-off to the Super Bowl LIII festivities began on the evening of Jan. 21 with a trip to New York City with a large delegation of local executives who serve on the board of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

The delegation, accompanied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, then rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange on Jan. 22 leading cheers of “ATL, ATL, ATL” on the floor of the exchange. It didn’t hurt that the New York Stock Exchange actually is owned by an Atlanta company – InterContinental Exchange Inc., whose CEO – Jeff Sprecher – chaired the board of the Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2017.

After the ringing of the NYSE bell, Blank taped a segment with CBS This Morning. Then he was interviewed by Yahoo Finance as well as by the New York Times’ food writer about Atlanta’s restaurant scene.

Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank at the ribbon-cutting of John F. Kennedy Park (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Blank returned to Atlanta on Jan. 23 where he touched base with all his other business – attending Atlanta United’s budget meeting, receiving a briefing on Super Bowl preparations, and visiting with the leadership of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to discuss future grants. He also spent a three-hour block to do media interviews that day.

That night, 23, Blank attended a welcome reception for Frank de Boer, the new coach of the Atlanta United Football Club, at the home of Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Group, which includes all of Blank’s for-profit entities.

The next day, on Thursday, Jan. 24, Blank held regular business meetings and spent time with his family.

On Friday, Jan. 25, Blank held an “Associate Huddle” at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for all the associates working at the facility. Huddles are held at the Stadium every other week. He was presented with a hand-carved football, and the associates called him “the best owner in the league.”

In a move that is reminiscent of what he did when he was president of the Home Depot, Blank then did a question-and-answer event at the Stadium, where he thanked the associates for all their hard work.

Over the weekend before the Super Bowl, Blank spent time resting up for what promised to be a jam-packed week of events and media interviews.

On Monday morning, Jan. 28, Blank was part of the kick-off press conference at the Georgia World Congress Center, where he was joined by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Dan Corso, chair of the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee; and Brett Daniels, chief operating officer of the Host Committee; among others.

Super Bowl kick-off press conference

At the kick-off press conference for Super Bowl LIII at the Georgia World Congress Center (Left to right): Peter O’Reilly of the NFL, Dan Corso of the Super Bowl Host Committee, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Arthur Blank and Brett Daniels of the Super Bowl Host Committee (Photo by Maria Saporta)

He then attended the Buckhead Rotary luncheon, where his ex-wife, Stephanie Blank, received a top award for her humanitarian work.

During the afternoon, Blank was interviewed by various media organizations, and later that evening, Blank attended the “opening night” event at the State Farm Arena.

On Tuesday, 29, Blank spent much of the day prepping for the rest of the week.

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, Blank attended a site check for the NFL owners dinner. The exclusive invitation-only dinner will be held Thursday, Jan. 30 at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Blank also attended Goodell’s annual press conference at the Super Bowl, which he attends every year.

Blank also spent a couple of hours going through Radio Row in the media center at GWCC before holding his own press conference with the credentialed media at the Super Bowl.

One of his busiest days was on Thursday, Jan. 21, when he started the day at the John F. Kennedy Park dedication – a legacy project done for the Super Bowl. He was joined by Atlanta Mayor Bottoms and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Afterwards, Blank was part of a hour-long interview with the Wall Street Journal to talk about efforts to revitalize Atlanta’s Westside.

He also led a civil rights tour with NFL players and the NFL commissioner.

Highlighting Atlanta’s role in the civil rights movement has been central to Blank’s mission during Super Bowl week. That culminated with the NFL owners reception at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the official dinner in the elaborate tent that has been set up right next to the Center, where a few hundred special guests were expected to attend.

“Atlanta was the cradle of the civil rights movement and home to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others who took the lead in the cause for civil and human rights and serves as the ideal place to reflect on the past, transform the present and inspire the future,” Blank said in a statement as to why he selected the Center for that prestigious event.

“I’m proud of the steps our league is taking to do its part in these important causes, and I look forward to welcoming our partners from around the league for a special evening in a special place,” Blank continued.

The dinner included the owners, head coaches, top sponsors and other special VIPs.

“It’s being done very purposefully for him to have it at the Center,” explained Brett Jewkes, who leads Blank’s communications team. “He’s excited about it.”

On Friday, Feb. 1, Blank attended the Hall of Fame pro-football luncheon at the Marriott Marquis. Then he planned to return to the Media Center for another two-hour block of interviews.

That night, Blank will go to the NFL Commissioner’s dinner at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Saturday, Feb. 2 will be down day with personal commitments with family and friends.

Then it will be Super Bowl Sunday. Blank is expected to arrive at Mercedes-Benz Stadium a little bit before the game, and then he will watch the Super Bowl from his suite. Blank will have a “robust guest list” with family, friends and VIPs.

It is typical for the host owner to have the mayor, the governor and other key political leaders in his suite, but Jewkes could not confirm the names of those lucky enough to watch the game with Blank.

Mayor Bottoms was asked Wednesday where she would be during the Super Bowl, she smiled as she answered: “I’m not really sure.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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