The Magic Touch

Recently named the Orlando Magic’s new chief operating officer, Charlie Freeman ’96 discusses how he got where he is, what a typical day with the Magic looks like, and his favorite Rollins memory.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Ever since he graduated from Rollins College—technically, even before then—Charlie Freeman ’96 has been a loyal employee of the Orlando Magic.

Freeman got his start with the Magic as an intern, while still a student studying economics at Rollins.

“I originally interned with the Magic because it was a great opportunity at a place with a great reputation,” Freeman says. “They invested in me at an early age and were willing to teach me key values that I will take with me throughout my entire career.”

Over the past 20 years, he’s worked his way up to chief operating officer—being named to SportsBusiness Journal’s Forty Under 40 along the way. Here, he shares what makes his job unique—and why Rollins will always hold a special place in his heart.

Rob Humphreys: Congratulations on your recent promotion. Has it always been your career goal to work in a high-level capacity for the Magic?

Charlie Freeman: When I began working for the Magic, I never knew where it would take me, but was grateful for all of the learning opportunities. I was fortunate to have many mentors along the way. This is a great organization, and I’ve been lucky to call this organization home for 20 years.

RH: As senior vice president of business development, you helped oversee the Magic’s efforts for approval and subsequent development of the Amway Center. Now, we hear you’re about to add more upgrades in the form of enhanced technology, especially when it comes to mobile devices. What can fans expect next year when they watch a game?

CF: In continuing the Magic’s commitment to our fans and their experiences at the Amway Center, we continually work on innovations that make our patrons mobile-enabled. We are working hard in the off-season to upgrade our technology where fans can interact in ways they never have been able to before. This includes everything from parking, ticketing, merchandise, gamification, and many more aspects. Fans can expect to see some of these functions rolled out as early as this season.

RH: In 2012, the Orlando Magic hosted the NBA All-Star game, generating an economic impact of nearly $100 million. What role did you play in making the event such a success?

CF: Working with the city, county, and NBA, All-Star Weekend was an unforgettable event that drove major economic impact while providing worldwide exposure. It was truly a collective effort. No one role was more important than the next, and it took a true public-private partnership to make it happen.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

RH: Take us through a typical day at the office. What’s on a chief operating officer’s docket? And what’s the best part of your job?

CF: Most of my days are filled with meetings, whether that’s strategy sessions on how we can improve our fans’ experience or how we can expand the brand globally. While every day is different, today, for example, I did a building walkthrough to see what needed to be fixed for the upcoming season; met with our sales and marketing teams to discuss key strategic issues that need to be addressed in July and August; reviewed sales goals with my direct reports and their departments for the upcoming season; worked with the league office to approve changes for our 2015-16 schedule; and worked with our client services department to better align our goals and objectives relating to the fan experience.

The best part of my job is being able to see the Magic’s impact in our community. Even when our season stops, we still have our players and staff out in the community.

RH: To that end, you’ve said that homelessness and child hunger are two of the most pressing issues in Central Florida. In what ways are you and the Magic working to address those areas of concern?

CF: Community service is one of the core values at the Orlando Magic. Starting at the top with the DeVos Family, we invest our time, talent, and resources to positively impact lives. At the forefront of our community efforts is helping children, especially those most at risk, reach their full potential by investing in their future. From volunteering at the Coalition for the Homeless to building and sponsoring Habitat for Humanity homes to packing meals for underserved children in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank and United Healthcare, we work every day to try and make a difference.

RH: In the business world, you make it a point to “keep learning every day.” What are you learning today?

CF: In my new role, my focus has shifted to creating synergy between our departments as we strive to live our mission of being world champions on and off the court, delivering legendary moments every step of the way.

Synergy can take place in many forms, but on a smaller scale we hold weekly sales and marketing meetings so the team feels included in what’s going on in other parts of the organization. This has built many strong relationships and overall makes our strategy more cohesive. On a broader scale, our CEO, Alex Martins, holds full staff meetings which can include everything from status updates, welcoming new members to our team, and reviewing key organizational objectives.  

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

RH: Away from the job, how do you spend your free time?

CF: When I do get some time off, I enjoy spending it with my wife and our two children. I enjoy watching my daughter play soccer on the weekends and playing golf with my son. While he’s only 11, I’m sure it’s only a couple of more years until he’s hitting it straighter and farther than me.

RH: What are some of your favorite memories from Rollins? And in what ways are you still connected to the College?

CF: My best memory is meeting the love of my life at Rollins! Pam and I became good friends freshman year and started dating sophomore year. Six years later we got married and now live in Maitland. In an effort to stay connected to Rollins, I joined the Hamilton Holt School Board in 2008 and have enjoyed that role for many years. I feel blessed to be a part of the Rollins family!