Steve Cannon, Dietmar Exler and Arthur Blank upon Mercedes-Benz Stadium being named the first stadium in the world to achieve TRUE Platinum Certification for Zero Waste from Green Business Certification Inc. (Special: AMBSE.)

By Maria Saporta

Leadership changes are afoot within the Arthur M. Blank Sports & Entertainment (AMBSE) organization as a way to ensure a growing executive team.

In a telephone interview late Sunday afternoon, Steve Cannon said the leadership changes were Blank’s way of “positioning us for success for the long term.”

The moves are as follows:

  • Cannon, who currently is CEO of AMBSE, has been named the entity’s vice chairman
  • Rich McKay, CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, has now received the additional role as CEO of AMBSE
  • Greg Beadles has been elevated to president of the Atlanta Falcons, and he is managing the day-to-day business functions of the franchise
  • Tim Zulawski, chief revenue officer for the Falcons, will become president of AMBSE; rhere will be a search for a new chief commercial officer to oversee sponsorships
  • Dietmar Exler has been promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer of Mercedes-Benz Stadium while continuing as CEO of the Arthur M. Blank Family Office

“What I love about working with Arthur is that he has a long-term vision,” Cannon said. “This is an opportunity to grow our executive capabilities.”

Cannon conducted the interview right after the Atlanta Falcons’ win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the final game of the season.

Local leaders meet with FIFA officials during the September 2021 tour of Atlanta as a possible city to host the 2026 World Cup. Left to right: Dietmar Exler of MBS, Colin Smith of FIFA, Victor Montagliani of FIFA, Steve Cannon of AMB Sports, Darren Eales, then of Atlanta United and Dan Corso of the Atlanta Sports Council. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

“We had a nice day at the office,” Cannon said. “The table is now set for a new season, and we’re about to start off the Atlanta United season. It’s the end of one season and the beginning of another.”

Cannon, who has been AMBSE’s CEO for seven years, said he will be working directly with Blank on some strategic projects, which he said was premature to discuss. He then mentioned the 2026 World Cup and having the Blank organization work with the City of Atlanta to leverage that opportunity.

“You know Arthur. There’s no finish line,” Cannon said. “There’s a lot going on. I’m excited that I’m still going to add value for Arthur and our businesses.”

In a statement, Blank said the five leaders being promoted all embody the core values of the organization and are dedicated to outstanding business performance.

“I’ve always believed leadership continuity and thoughtful succession planning are hallmarks of great organizations,” Blank stated. “We have been intentional in developing an exceptional, deep group of seasoned executives to lead our businesses into the future.”

Cannon also called the leadership moves “proactive,” because they could prevent the leaders from being “poached” by outside entities.

The AMBSE portfolio includes the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.

“We are trying to make MBS one of the busiest stadiums in the country,” said Cannon, mentioning how it was a mass vaccination site, a voting place and a major concert venue. “It’s an amazing asset.”

Steve Cannon promoted to vice chair of AMBSE.

The organization also is continuing to make sure the stadium remains a state-of-the-art facility, which Cannon described as Mercedes-Benz Stadium 2.0.

“Arthur is not a status quo kind of guy,” Cannon said. “I’ve got a great working relationship with Arthur. It’s been an amazing journey – jumping out of the car world, where I had been my whole career, and making a move into the sports world.

I still pinch myself that I get to work with Arthur Blank. He’s such an entrepreneurial leader.”

Combined, the five leaders have a total of 78 years of experience in Blank’s organization – Cannon (seven years), McKay (19 years), Beadles (28 years), Zulawski (20 years) and Exler (four years).

Cannon became CEO of AMBSE in February of 2016. During his tenure, the organization opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium, launched Atlanta United and experienced exponential growth of its PGA TOUR Superstore retail business among many other milestones.

“Steve has been an exceptional day-to-day leader of our for-profit businesses and a valued associate member of our Family Foundation board,” Blank said in a statement. “He is a trusted leader and advisor who lives our core values in all that he does so I’m thrilled to have him by my side during the next evolution of our businesses as we craft the roadmap for the future for AMBSE.”

Rich McKay becomes CEO of AMBSE.

McKay has been with the organization for 19 years, joining as the Falcons’ general manager in 2004, He was named president and CEO of the team in 2011. McKay also has led the NFL’s influential Competition Committee as chairman since 2011, serving as co-chairman from 1998-2011.

As president and CEO of the team, McKay has overseen the expansion of the Flowery Branch complex. He also led the search process that culminated in Arthur Smith being named the Falcons’ 18th head coach, and Terry Fontenot becoming the Falcons’ 11th general manager.

Despite the leadership moves, McKay will continue reporting to Cannon. Beadles and Zulawski will report to McKay. McKay also will report directly to Blank in his role as Falcons CEO.

“Rich’s deep understanding of the NFL, his intimate knowledge of the rest of our businesses in the sports and entertainment portfolio, along with the trust he and I have developed over almost two decades together, uniquely qualify him to take on this complex dual role at such an important time,” Blank said.

Greg Beadles becomes president of the Atlanta Falcons.

Beadles started with the Atlanta Falcons as an intern after earning a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. In nearly three decades with the organization, Beadles has held numerous roles with the Falcons and AMBSE, including being part of the finance team that orchestrated the transfer of ownership of the Falcons from the Rankin Smith family to Arthur M. Blank in 2001.

“I grew up wearing Steve Bartkowski’s jersey and red helmet in my backyard as a child growing up in Georgia, so my love for the Falcons is part of who I am,” Beadles said in a release.

Blank said Beadles will continue to bring institutional knowledge, expertise and integrity to AMBSE

“The credibility he has across our organization, with the NFL and front office executives around the league is immeasurable and positions him very well to take on this new and very important role with the Atlanta Falcons,” Blank said. “He has my complete confidence and trust.”

Tim Zulawski becomes president of AMBSE.

Zulawski is now in his 20th year working with Blank’s family of businesses. He has led efforts to make the Mercedes-Benz Stadium one of the busiest venues of its kind in the world, hosting more than 50 major public events and over 150 private events annually.

The Buffalo, New York, native has also played a central role in landing major events for MBS, including the 2018 and 2025 College Football Championships, the 2018 MLS All-Star Game, the 2019 Super Bowl and the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

“Tim’s impact on our organization over the last 20 years has been nothing short of outstanding,” Blank said. “I’ve seen him grow from a tenacious young sales executive to a savvy operator skilled in negotiation, revenue generation and overall management.”

Exler joined the Blank Family of Businesses in 2019 after serving as CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.

Dietmar Exler becomes COO of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

He served as the organization’s point person in working with other parties across Atlanta and the state of Georgia in Atlanta and MBS being selected as a host site for the 2026 FIFA World Cup games. The FIFA World Cup 2026 will be the biggest event in Atlanta since the Olympics in 1996.

Exler has championed the organization’s steadfast march that resulted in the early January 2023 announcement that MBS had become the first stadium in the world to achieve TRUE Platinum Certification for Zero Waste from Green Business Certification Inc.

“Dietmar has been a wonderful overall addition to our management team and his impact has been felt in a number of operational areas, but none bigger than what he has done to make MBS the standard among stadiums in the area of sustainability,” Blank said. “I could not be prouder of our entire team and will be forever grateful for Dietmar’s laser-focused efforts in setting us so strongly on the leadership path in this area critical to the health of the world.”

Maria Saporta, executive editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state. From 2008 to 2020, she wrote weekly columns...

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