Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, et al, and now … Russ Brandon?
The list of powerful men brought down by inappropriate behavior with women grew by one on Tuesday afternoon when Brandon, 51, “resigned” as president of both the Bills and Sabres.
He was the highest-ranking executive under owners Terry and Kim Pegula, and his power extended to overseeing Pegula Sports and Entertainment which controls their many holdings, including the Buffalo Bandits (indoor lacrosse) and Rochester Americans (hockey).
Brandon announced his resignation, but if you wonder whether he jumped or was pushed, you need only know that his profile was scrubbed from the PSE website the very same day the Pegulas offered their statement.
The release said, “Terry and Kim Pegula have announced they have accepted the resignation of Russ Brandon as president of the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres and Pegula Sports and Entertainment.”
Nowhere was there the usually obligatory “we thank him for his service and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
It was notably brief and emotionless … sort of like throwing out a dead mouse.
For his part, Brandon, a master of marketing, had his own spin.
In a written statement, he said, “I have been contemplating transitioning out of my role for some time. My goal, when the Pegulas purchased the franchise, was to reach 20 years with the Bills, which I achieved this past November.
“As grateful as I am for the amazing experience and the incredible people I’ve had the privilege to work with the past two decades, I am just as anxious for the professional opportunities that lie ahead.”
That sounds reasonable enough … but even Brandon can’t put lipstick on this pig.
Both the Buffalo News and Associated Press have reported that his ouster was the product of allegations of personal misconduct in the workplace, including an inappropriate relationship with a female employee.
Brandon is married with three adult children.
The AP reported that the relationship first became apparent to a number of team employees when the Sabres were in New York City to play the Rangers in the NHL’s Winter Classic at Citi Field on New Year’s Day.
Kim Pegula, who takes over Brandon’s duties, according to The Buffalo News informed him of an internal investigation on Friday. Reportedly, Brandon denied any relationships, but the investigation indicated that he was untruthful about that and other job-related issues that were uncovered.
THE “RESIGNATION” was a shocker in as much as the Pegulas were known to genuinely like Brandon … enough to promote him to the highest corporate position under them.
Forcing him out, his career in tatters, had to be profoundly difficult, and to Kim Pegula’s credit, she had the wisdom and courage to do it.
This situation needed a woman’s decisive touch.
It’s not been revealed how soon she became aware of the allegations against Brandon, but since she informed him of the investigation less than a week ago, you get the idea it took awhile for the situation to come to her attention.
With the #metoo movement and seemingly endless revelations of men behaving badly, this wasn’t a time to be tentative … and, to her profound credit, Kim wasn’t.
Talk about an immediate response.
Brandon’s abrupt exit ends a controversial tenure.
When first hired by late Bills owner Ralph Wilson, his marketing skills were totally on display. He moved training camp to Rochester as part of a bid to regionalize the franchise and the reward was impressively increased ticket sales even in the face of a decided lack of on-field success.
Most Buffalo fans say his decision to move some home games to Toronto was an insult to the faithful and the worst-ever gaffe by a Bills team that had a history of them. But it WAS a financial bonanza, bringing Wilson nearly $10 million for each of those games in Canada.
However, Brandon wanted to be more than a marketing guru and achieved that when first being named chief operating officer in 2008, then adding the title of general manager a year later.
Ultimately, that role was given to his close friend, Doug Whaley, who famously way overpaid to trade up to draft wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the opening round and made the ill-considered decision to make failed quarterback EJ Manuel a first-rounder. Due to his presence in the draft room, Brandon shared Whaley’s ignominy … and according to the faithful was ultimately responsible. Guilt by association.
He also got some of the blame, unfairly, for the Sabres’ seven-year playoff drought, especially after being named president of both teams.
But, in the end, it wasn’t Brandon’s limited knowledge of pro football and hockey talent potential that proved his undoing.
Instead, it was the same type of behavior that sabotaged Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey and Garrison Keillor … and leaves him about the same chance for future employment.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)