Top MLB Media Exec Pushed Out Over Misconduct Claims

Bob Bowman - Getty - H 2016
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"This behavior and my personal behavior were wrong," Bowman stated.

New details have emerged about why Major League Baseball announced in November that it would part ways with Bob Bowman, the man who created the league's lucrative digital business.

Bowman, who served as CEO of MLB Advanced Media for 17 years, was forced out this year after he verbally abused a co-worker, the latest in a string of troubling incidents over the years, according to a report Thursday in The Wall Street Journal

In the report, the Journal cites anonymous sources who say that in July, Bowman also shoved an executive with Fenway Sports Group, the company that owns the Boston Red Sox. In the story, people familiar with Bowman's behavior also allege that he propositioned female colleagues, had consensual relationships with his employees and was integral in creating a loose environment that included after-hours partying and drinking. 

Responding to the report, Bowman said in a statement to the Journal that "this inappropriate behavior reflects my personal flaws and not someone else's. This behavior and my personal behavior were wrong." He also apologized "to those who felt the sting of my behavior" and to his family, friends and colleagues "who have been steadfastly supportive of me, and whom I have embarrassed."

Bowman was hired not long after the MLB's 30 owners created BAM in 2000 with a $120 million investment. The organization quickly drew accolades for its forward-thinking approach to streaming video and the use of technology in live sports. Under Bowman, BAM redesigned and created the streaming service Meanwhile, it began to build a lucrative business providing hard-to-build streaming technology to clients that included HBO, ESPN and WWE. 

According to the Journal, the culture at BAM — which had separate offices from MLB — under Bowman became problematic. Sources told the paper that a 2016 All-Star Game party included hiring women widely believed to be escorts to entertain guests. 

One of Bowman's goals was to eventually spin out BAM's streaming technology business, and in 2016, he did, first selling a small piece of the business to the National Hockey League. In August of that year, Disney purchased a 33 percent stake in the newly named BAMTech for $1 billion, valuing it to $3.5 billion.  

Four months later, BAM announced that Bowman would be stepping down from his day-to-day operational role with BAMTech as the company began to search for a CEO. At the time, the move was characterized as part of the plan for BAMTech and a way to relieve Bowman — who also served as president of business and media at MLB — of the additional workload of running a separate company. He remained on the company's board. In February of this year, former Amazon executive Michael Paull was tapped to become BAMTech's CEO. 

A year after its initial investment, Disney announced plans to acquire majority ownership of BAMTech by buying an additional 42 percent of the business for $1.58 billion.

In November, MLB announced that Bowman would step down from his roles with the league and BAM when his contract expired at the end of the year. "Bob's vision made our game even more accessible and enjoyable to millions of fans," commissioner Robert Manfred said in a statement at the time. 

Per the Journal, former MLB president and COO Bob DuPuy was notified about Bowman's behavior a decade ago. DuPuy is said to have told then-commissioner Bud Selig about BAM employees' concerns, but Bowman's influence within the league only continued to grow. 

Manfred, who became commissioner in 2015, told the Journal that the incident involving a BAM co-worker, which occurred in October, "was the culmination of a variety of issues that had gone on over a period of time, and it precipitated a conversation in which Bob and I agreed that the best thing for him to do was to leave." Manfred also said he wasn't aware of alleged relationships between Bowman and his subordinates. 

Representatives for MLB, BAMTech and Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.