DAVIE, Fla. - The Miami Dolphins hired a new president to complete a trade of sorts with the San Diego Padres.
Former Padres executive Tom Garfinkel was introduced Monday as president and chief executive officer of the Dolphins and their stadium. He succeeds Mike Dee, who coincidentally replaced Garfinkel in July as president and CEO of the Padres.
"Coincidental is the right word," Garfinkel said at a news conference. "It just happened to be that was the case."
Garfinkel will be responsible for the Dolphins' business operations, including all budget responsibility. He will also lead stalled efforts to obtain public money for stadium upgrades.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Garfinkel was considered for the same job four years ago before Dee was hired. This time, Garfinkel finished first among a field of 75 candidates, including 13 who received interviews.
"We were looking for someone who could think strategically, who is exceptionally bright, who is a proven leader," Ross said. "We found that man."
Garfinkel's primary assignment at the outset?
"Putting people in the seats," Ross said. Miami's paid home attendance last year averaged 57,375, the lowest since 1980.
Ross had to buy tens of thousands of unsold tickets to keep alive the Dolphins' streak of no TV blackouts at home since 2000. Sales are up this season, but Ross said he is again prepared to buy any unsold tickets.
"There will no blackouts this year," he said.
Another priority for Garfinkel will be to find a way to pay for $350 million in stadium improvements that Ross says are badly needed. In May, the Florida Legislature turned down the Dolphins' request for taxpayer help, and Ross said a new proposal will be formulated.
"I'm prepared to make my offer better," he said, "because I think the community needs it."
General manager Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin attended Garfinkel's news conference. They will continue to oversee football operations, reporting directly to Ross.
"First and foremost the Dolphins need to be about winning football," Garfinkel said. "Everyone in the organization, including me, is here to support that. Fans don't come out to see guys in suits and ties like me. They come out to see players competing to win, and that's where the focus needs to be for everybody in the organization."
Garfinkel, 44, had been with the Padres since 2009. Before that, he was executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He spent five years with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams as executive vice president but has no NFL experience.
"When I got out of college I thought, 'Boy, if I could get a job with an NFL team, that would be really special,'" Garfinkel said. "It took me 22 years."
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