When Chris Clements first visited Northwood University Michigan back in 1990 he likely had no idea how dramatically the experience would shape his personal and professional future. Now happily married to his Northwood sweetheart, the father of three recently landed the role of Chief Financial Officer for the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.
Having first learned of his alma mater as a high school basketball camper, Clements knew that he’d like to play the game at the college level and to eventually work in the sports industry, so he was intrigued by Northwood’s business degree programs and its philosophy stressing the values of free enterprise, integrity and ethics. “They also had a beautiful wooded campus and I knew that I was interested in starting right into my major the first year,” recalled the Petoskey, Michigan native.
It wasn’t long before the young Accounting major delved into his studies gaining a mentor along the way.
“Professor Jeff Bennett played a role in my life from the day I’d stepped onto campus and had even contacted me before my arrival,” smiled Clements of the Accounting program Chair. “He helped me get my first accounting job while in college in the controllers department of Lobdell Emery in Alma, Michigan and prepared me to pass the CPA exam. To this day, I still look to him as a personal friend and a respected professional advisor,” shared Clements’, who added that in addition to instilling that the vocation could be enjoyable, Bennett, now retired, taught students how to present themselves professionally by wearing proper attire, and honing their interview and presentation skills.
It was in his sophomore year, that a chance encounter with a young freshman would change the course of his life forever.
“On the Northwood University Midland campus, they had a project once a year where they had mannequin modeling night in the store windows on Main Street through the Fashion Marketing & Management program. One of my college roommates was in the program and talked a bunch of us guys into participating, so I got placed in a window with a theme that a young Fashion Merchandising and Marketing major had to stage. I failed miserably at modeling, but the rest is history,” laughed Clements, of the day he’d first met his wife Sherry Lautenbach.
Now married over seventeen years, the two are parents to Riley, Ella, and Blaine, and enjoy the adventure that comes with family life and success in business.
“I became drawn to businesses and experiences that were entrepreneurial and innovative, which were things I learned at Northwood,”
said Clements who’d moved to New York City right out of college to work as an accountant at IMG, a global leader in sports, fashion and media operating in more than 30 countries. “We did live television, post production, and sold TV rights globally, so I spent a significant amount of my time accounting for golf events on TV which led me to a new role at our corporate headquarters in Cleveland where company founder Mark McCormack was based,” added the executive who’d spent three-years traveling to golf events in North America on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours where he handled event budgets and on-site finances before becoming global Business Unit CFO for the Golf, Tennis, Consulting, and Academies divisions.
“Northwood opened my mind and prepared me for the international sports business, providing me the opportunity to travel internationally and to work in different leadership roles within most IMG divisions. My career there concluded in early 2014 after 18 years when I decided to accept the new challenge with the Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium,” said Clements.
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“I am extremely blessed to have now worked in two companies which have been amazing organizations. The NFL is the gold standard in professional sports, and the opportunity to work for proven, innovative, and bold business leaders such as President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Garfinkel and owner Stephen Ross makes me extremely excited to be part of the historic franchise, and to be involved with the renovation and modernization of Sun Life Stadium. I’m excited to be part of the team and to bring my family into the local South Florida community, so I think I’m living my ultimate professional goal,” he smiled.
- Suzi McCreery