Tim Bezbatchenko, '04

Tim Bezbatchenko, '04

April 1, 2014
Alumnus is playing to his strengths as general manager of a professional sports team

Tim Bezbatchenko has a long history of leading on the field. Now he’s leading from the front office.

The Ohio native is kicking off a new season in his career as general manager of major league soccer franchise Toronto FC and setting his sights on a fresh goal—using the leadership studies and economics knowledge he garnered as an undergraduate to turn the franchise around and put his team in a position to win.

He’s learning valuable lessons along the way. “Leadership really is about what we learned at the Jepson School—understanding people's motivations, communicating well and marshaling a mission. Jepson helped me learn how to approach intricate problems in complex environments,” he says.

His skills have already proven to be a valuable asset. He has added three new marquee players to the roster—former league MVP Dwayne DeRosario, U.S. international midfielder Michael Bradley and England striker Jermain Defoe—and is working with the coaching staff to collaboratively shape a vision for the club. He is also making a play to boost player and fan morale in the process.

“Jepson taught me effective organizations are driven by a vision,” he says. “One of the first things I did was sit down and talk with the players, coaches and fans to carefully listen and understand the club. Those conversations helped to create the vision that we're now striving to achieve.” 

A former lawyer with the international firm Shearman & Sterling in New York, he left his job as senior director of player relations and competition for Major League Soccer to go to Toronto FC. Headlines across the sporting world announced his hiring. “Brainiac,” “soccer wonk,” “player relations guru” and “young rising star” where just a few of the words used to describe him.

“No pressure,” he laughs.  

If he needs to discuss leading in the spotlight, he can always turn to his wife, Dr. Annie Bezbatchenko, ’04, a higher education executive search consultant and former program director with the Teagle Foundation. The two met in a Foundations of Leadership class as undergraduates.

“My fondest memories and deepest learning took place at Richmond,” he says. “And I met my wife. What more could you ask for? It’s a unique and special place.”   

Leading in a high-profile position has “been an adjustment,” he says, “but one that comes with the territory.” As a midfielder at Richmond and then for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds after graduating and as a lawyer, “I was leading from behind the scenes. Being out front now is high-risk, but it’s also high-reward if we’re able to do something special with this team and club.”