Andrew Abdo has long been touted as Todd Greenberg’s replacement. Picture: Richard Dobson
Andrew Abdo has long been touted as Todd Greenberg’s replacement. Picture: Richard Dobson

Who’s the boss: Financial guru gets shot at NRL’s top job

A South African born commercial guru is now tasked with leading the NRL through one of the most turbulent times in the game's history.

Andrew Abdo has long been touted as Todd Greenberg's replacement and the game's chief commercial officer will get his chance to shine after being appointed interim boss.

Abdo has been in his role for the past six years and generated commercial revenue growth of about $200 million last year.

His brief includes coming up with marketing campaigns for the season launch, locking in grand final entertainment and everything else that comes with promoting the game.

Other responsibilities include commercial revenues such as sponsorship, bringing in new brands and commercialising the digital network.

 

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Abdo led the relaunch of the controversial Simply The Best campaign earlier this year and helped secure superstar Macklemore to perform at the NRL grand final in 2017.

He joined the NRL having spent 15 months as a director of Deloitte - his first job in Australia. He has a bachelor of business science, accounting and finance from the Cape Town University and a master of business administration from the Pretoria University.

Abdo has quickly built the trust of ARLC chairman Peter V'landys and is held in high opinion by most in clubland and members on the commission.

He has played a large part in discussions with the game's broadcast partners and led a meeting with Fox Sports executives last week.

 

CONTENDERS LINE UP TO REPLACE GREENBERG

Matthew Johns reckons the secret to replacing Todd Greenberg is simple, find someone who understands "what lies in the long grass".

Among rugby league's most respected voices, Fox Sports analyst Johns has urged the Australian Rugby League Commission to replace its outgoing NRL chief executive with an administrator who understands intimately the tribes and personalities of rugby league.

The suggestion comes as those already in contention to work at the right hand of ARLC chairman Peter V'landys include NSWRL boss David Trodden, Canberra CEO Don Furner and Channel 9 personality Phil Gould.

Others discussed for the top job are NRL commercial officer Andrew Abdo, former Channel 9 boss David Gyngell, South Sydney CEO Blake Solly and Accor COO Simon McGrath.

There has also been suggestions that V'landys himself take on the role.

 

Phil Gould. Picture: AAP
Phil Gould. Picture: AAP

 

David Gyngell.
David Gyngell.

 

Shortly after Greenberg walked on Monday, Abdo was appointed acting CEO.

Speaking with The Daily Telegraph about a replacement for Greenberg, Johns said: "As you know with rugby league, there are a lot of things go on in the long grass.

"And the person who comes in, they have to understand that.

"The new CEO has to understand the clubs and personalities, the nuances of how everything works.

"Over the past 10 years, there has been a degree of naivety.

"People were after business acumen more than an understanding of the game.

"And while I realise you need both, it got out of control."

Johns suggested the commission look to revive those qualities that made the partnership between ARL chairman Ken Arthurson and his CEO John Quayle the code's greatest ever double act.

"If you look at those two men, and why they worked so well together, it was because Quayle new all the personalities in the game, knew who all the agitators were," Johns said.

 

Ken Arthurson and John Quayle.
Ken Arthurson and John Quayle.

 

"People in the game at that time will tell you how, before anyone even spoke up at meetings, Quayle knew what they were going to say.

"So he could control all aspects of the game.

"John Quayle had some great strengths, but he also had great understanding of the tribes."

Johns also praised the work of incoming ARLC chairman, V'landys.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been the man who doubles as Racing NSW CEO who has led the way with not only the 16 NRL clubs, but also the players, broadcasters and NSW Government.

"With Peter V'landys, there is strength there," Johns said.

"So whoever becomes his right hand man, they don't just need to understand the game but the personalities in the game.

"That will be vital.

"There are so many clever people in club land who know how to pull strings and get things done.

"And if you bring someone in who doesn't understand that, who hasn't got the knowledge of who is lying where in the long grass, it can make things very, very difficult."

 

Originally published as Who's the boss: Financial guru gets shot at NRL's top job