Sonny Werblin

David Abraham "Sonny" Werblin (March 17, 1910 – November 21, 1991)[1] was a prominent entertainment industry executive and sports impresario who was an owner of the New York Jets and chairman of Madison Square Garden, and who built and managed the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

Werblin was born in Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of Rutgers University, he went to work for Music Corporation of America (MCA) in 1932 and was so successful that in 1951 he was made president of MCA's television division.

At MCA, Werblin made a considerable name at identifying and managing talent. His managed list of major stars were a who's-who in not only music, but also movies and television. During the 1950s and 1960s, Werblin led a production team that developed television shows for all three major networks, an offshoot of his ability to manage the stars that were featured in them. The list of top-rated television shows MCA developed under Werblin, again, is lengthy.

His power as a "star-handler" was such that eventually forces in the entertainment industry combined against him and MCA, resulting in lawsuits in 1962. The company's ability to manage stars would curtailed greatly under new industry rules after that point. Up to then, he had been known in management circles as "Mr. Show Biz," his power in the industry having been so great.

Werblin left MCA and found a new business vehicle soon after: the American Football League, which he revolutionized. His impact on professional sports is still well-felt today. His MCA connections at NBC (National Broadcasting Corporation) allowed him to singlehandedly negotiate the AFL's contract there, quickly elevating the league to near-parity with the rival senior NFL, and leading to the development of the Super Bowl as a television event.

The concept of The Sport Star as known today was first largely developed by Werblin, whose first developed " star " was New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who became the then-greatest star athlete in America under Werblin's guidance in the mid and late 1960s. It was also Werblin who signed for his Jets, the team he named and colored, football talent scout and coach Wilbur "Weeb" Ewbank. Ewbank quickly developed the Jets into a contender just as he previously had the NFL Baltimore Colts in the 1950s.

In 1938, he married Leah Ray Hubbard (1915–1999) of Norfolk, Virginia. Performing as Leah Ray, she was a well-known vocalist in the Big Band era. Ms. Ray sang with major orchestras such as those of Tommy Dorsey and Phil Harris, and acted in more than a dozen films. Among her film appearances, in 1936 she co-starred with Phil Harris in the Academy Award-nominated short film titled Double or Nothing. While performing with the Phil Harris orchestra she met Sonny Werblin. They married in 1938 and remained together for more than fifty years until his death in 1991.[1]

Werblin died of a heart attack on November 21, 1991, at the age of 81 at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. He had homes in Manhattan, Miami, Florida and Rumson, New Jersey.[1]

Sonny Werblin
BornMarch 17, 1910
Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York,
United States
DiedNovember 21, 1991 (aged 81)
Manhattan, New York,
United States
ResidenceNew York City, Miami, Florida, Rumson, New Jersey
EducationErasmus Hall High School,
James Madison High School,
Rutgers University
OccupationEntertainment & sports executive/owner
Known forNew York Jets, Meadowlands Sports Complex
Spouse(s)Leah Ray Hubbard
ChildrenRobert, Thomas D.,
Hubbard S. (1945–1991)

Sports business

In 1963, Sonny Werblin and his partners purchased the American Football League (AFL) Titans of New York from original owner Harry Wismer. Werblin changed the team's name to the Jets, and drafted Matt Snell in the first round, signing him away from the crosstown NFL Giants. His biggest coup came in 1965, when for $400,000 he signed University of Alabama quarterback Joe Namath, who had been drafted by the NFL St. Louis Cardinals. Werblin and the Oakland Raiders' Al Davis resisted the indemnity the NFL demanded, which was $100,000 per year for twenty years. Other AFL owners agreed to the terms, along with stripping the name and logo from the AFL.

Werblin was bought out by Jets management prior to the 1968 season, which concluded with the team winning Super Bowl III over the Baltimore Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Newark Star-Ledger sports columnists Jerry Izenberg and Sidney Zion would later speculate that, because the Jets fired Werblin, there was a "Curse of Sonny Werblin" on the team. By an unusual coincidence, Werblin and Izenberg were elected to the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey in the same year, 1997.[2]

Sonny Werblin built the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey which he ran from 1971 to 1977.[3][4]

When it was announced that the New York Giants would begin playing at the new Giants Stadium in 1976, a reporter ask Werblin about the New York Giants playing in New Jersey, he explained the geography in the New York City Metro area by saying "If you pave the Hudson River it becomes 13th Avenue." In 1978 Werblin took over as head of Madison Square Garden and its properties, including the New York Rangers and New York Knicks. In 1984, he gave up day-to-day control of Madison Square Garden but remained Chairman of its Board of Directors.

Thoroughbred racing

Sonny and Leah Werblin raced Thoroughbred horses under the nom de course, Elberon Farm. Among their racing successes, their colt, Silent Screen, earned 1969 American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt honors and their filly, Process Shot was the 1968 American Co-Champion Two-Year-Old Filly. In addition, Sonny Werblin was a major shareholder and member of the Board of Directors of Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, New Jersey. Of note here is that the first group of four co-owners / investors in The Gotham Football Club ( New York Jets ) were all horse racing associates. All were silent partners in the Jets, deferring to Werblin's legendary ability to handle, press, media and his developed stars.


Sonny Werblin and his wife established the David and Leah Ray Werblin Foundation which provides financial support for Rutgers University, charitable causes, and cultural activities. [2] Rutgers University built the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center on its Busch Campus, near High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey, across the Raritan River from its main campus in New Brunswick. The Center is home to weight-training facilities and the University's main venues for water-sports competition.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Thomas, Robert McG. Jr. "Sonny Werblin, an Impresario of New York's Sports Extravaganza, Is Dead at 81", The New York Times, November 23, 1991. Accessed February 14, 2011. "Mr. Werblin, who had homes in New York, Miami and Rumson, N.J., died of a heart attack, his wife said yesterday."
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-27. Retrieved 2010-01-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^'s+sports+empire&pqatl=google
  4. ^ [1]
American Football League Rookies of the Year

In each year of its ten-year existence (1960–1969), numerous sports-news services named their choice for the American Football League's best first-year player. The choices by the major services are shown below.

Bill Yearby

William M. Yearby (July 24, 1944 – December 20, 2010) was an American football player. He played college football as a defensive lineman at the University of Michigan from 1963 to 1965 and was selected as an All-American in 1964 and 1965. He played professional football for the New York Jets of the American Football League in 1966.

Busch Campus of Rutgers University

Busch Campus is one of the five sub-campuses at Rutgers University's New Brunswick/Piscataway area campus, and is located entirely within Piscataway, New Jersey, US. Academic facilities and departments centered on this campus are primarily those related to the natural sciences: physics, pharmacy, engineering, psychology, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, geology, and biology. The Rutgers Medical School was also built on this campus in 1970, but a year later was separated by the state, renamed the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and merge with the New Jersey Medical School and other health profession schools in Newark and New Brunswick to create the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Rutgers and the medical school continued to share the land and facilities on the campus in a slightly irregular arrangement. On July 1, 2013, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School was officially merged back into Rutgers University, along with most of the other schools of UMDNJ, with the exception of the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine.

The campus is named after Charles L. Busch (1902–1971), of Edgewater, New Jersey, an eccentric millionaire, who unexpectedly donated $10 million to the University for biological research at his death in 1971. The campus was formerly known as "University Heights Campus". The land was donated by the state in the 1930s, and a stadium was constructed. The land was formerly a country club, and the original golf course still exists on the campus.

Frank A. Ready

Frank A. Ready (1884 – 1961) was a hotel man, working mostly in New York City from 1903 until his death in 1961.He served at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan from 1931 to 1961, including many years as resident manager. He greeted visitors including Charles de Gaulle, Queen Elizabeth and presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Herbert Hoover. He was acquainted with residents and regular guests, including The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Gen. Douglas MacArthur

In 1920, The New York Hotel Review called him “one of the outstanding figures among the rising younger men in the hotel field.” At the time, he was chief assistant manager of the Hotel McAlpin. The story notes that he was chairman of the committee in charge of the upcoming New York Greeters Ball, an event for hotel industry staff to be held in the Hotel Biltmore.

President Eisenhower sent a letter to Mr. Ready noting that “This is a well-deserved tribute to and executive who has devoted fifty years of his life to the exacting business of making others feel at home, away from home."

From the program of the “Testimonial Dinner to Frank A. Ready for fifty years of distinguished service to the hotel industry. The Plaza, Tuesday June thirtieth, 1953”

“Frank A. Ready is a man who richly deserves the tribute accorded him tonight. He has been active in his chosen work for fifty years and has a multitude of friends throughout the world in hotels and allied fields as well as in public and private life. If all the people who have been greeted by his friendly smile and firm handshake were gathered together at one time, there would not be room enough for them in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria, the hotel where he has spent so many years."

Harry Wismer

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Hockey Sock Rock

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Jack Krumpe

John H. Krumpe (born January 26, 1936) is an American sports executive who served as CEO of the Madison Square Garden Corporation, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, and Javits Center and president of the New York Racing Association, New York Rangers, New York Knicks, and New York Islanders.

Jay Cross (American football executive)

Jay Cross is an American football executive. From 2001 until 2007, he served as the President of the New York Jets. He was credited with helping the Jets secure the rights to MetLife Stadium.

Leah Ray

Leah Ray Hubbard Werblin (February 16, 1915 – May 27, 1999) was an American singer and actress born in Norfolk, Virginia who performed in the Big Band era and who sang and acted in more than a dozen motion pictures.

Leon Hess

Leon Hess (March 14, 1914 – May 7, 1999, aged 85) was the founder of the Hess Corporation and the owner of the New York Jets.

Logos and uniforms of the New York Jets

The New York Jets' current uniform and primary logo, in use since 1998, are modernized versions of the design the franchise used from 1965–77. The team colors are hunter green and white. The helmet is white with two parallel green stripes down the center (i.e., over the top from forehead to nape) and a green facemask. The primary logo, which appears on each side of the helmet and on the jersey front by the player's left shoulder, is a green oval with the word "JETS" on the wide horizontal axis in thick white sans-serif italics over "NY" in outline serif lettering, and a white miniature football graphic at bottom center. The jerseys have standard one-color block numerals and serif lettering, alternating stripes on the shoulders, and opposite-colored sleeves and TV numerals. The team uses both white pants with two parallel green stripes from hip to knee on each side, and green pants with white stripes. The socks are white with either solid green above the ankle, or two parallel green stripes around the calf.

The Jets are currently the only team in the National Football League whose entire primary uniform, from helmet to socks, consists of only two colors (apart from the NFL shield and American flag decals). The Indianapolis Colts' blue-and-white uniforms have no third/trim color on their jerseys, pants or socks, but their helmets have gray facemasks. The Detroit Lions have an alternate/"throwback" uniform that is blue and silver only.

The Jets have announced that they will have new uniforms in 2019.

National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award

The National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award is among the highest offered by the National Football Foundation (NFF). Every year, the NFF & College Football Hall of Fame pays tribute to a select few with awards of excellence for exhibiting superior qualities of scholarship, citizenship and leadership. Additionally, the Foundation also recognizes individuals who demonstrate outstanding support for the NFF and its mission of promoting the game of amateur football. The Distinguished American Award is presented on special occasions when a truly deserving individual emerges, the award honors someone who has applied the character building attributes learned from amateur sport in their business and personal life, exhibiting superior leadership qualities in education, amateur athletics, business and in the community.

The recipient is not limited to a former college player or coach, must be an outstanding person who has maintained a lifetime of interest in the game and who, over a long period of time, has exhibited enviable leadership qualities and made a significant contribution to the betterment of amateur football in the United States.

New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA) is an independent authority established by the State of New Jersey in 1971 to oversee the Meadowlands Sports Complex, but which now contains the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, a regulatory, planning, and zoning agency, in addition to its original duties. Originally consisting of Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack in 1976, Meadowlands Arena was added to the complex in 1981 and New Meadowlands Stadium (now MetLife Stadium) replaced Giants Stadium in 2010. Its first Chairman and CEO was David A. "Sonny" Werblin. Its present Chairman is Carl Goldberg and its CEO is Vincent Prieto.

Over the years, the NJSEA's purview expanded to include Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport and the Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood. In Atlantic City, the Authority oversaw the construction and development of the Convention Center and the renovation of the historic Boardwalk Hall, the long-time home of the Miss America Pageant.

In the 1990s the NJSEA built the New Jersey State Aquarium (now known as the Adventure Aquarium) in Camden. The NJSEA also contributed to the construction of the Meadowlands Environment Center in Lyndhurst, just across Berry's Creek from the Sports Complex.

The 16-member Board of Commissioners is appointed by the Governor to four-year terms, subject to confirmation by the New Jersey Senate and it includes three ex officio members: The Authority President, the State Treasurer and a designated representative of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. The Authority holds regularly scheduled meeting which are open to the public. The minutes of all Authority meetings are subject to approval by the Governor. Joe Plumeri, owner of the Trenton Thunder and CEO of Willis Group Holdings, was Commissioner of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority from 1997 to 2004.The NJSEA facilities are home to the New York Giants and Jets, which also serves as major venues for concerts and family shows. Since 1976, NJSEA buildings have hosted many major events, including seven games of the 1994 World Cup, the 1996 Men's Final Four, NFL playoff games and Super Bowl championship celebrations, the 2002 and 2003 NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals of 1995, 2000, 2001 and 2003, the 1999 Women’s World Cup, many other international soccer matches - including Pele's farewell game, a 1995 Papal Mass by Pope John Paul II and countless major concerts.

The Meadowlands Racetrack, a leading standardbred racing and simulcasting facility, is home to harness racing’s prestigious Hambletonian Stakes and hosts a fall thoroughbred meet.

Historic Monmouth Park is the site of a summer thoroughbred meet highlighted by the Haskell Invitational won in dramatic fashion in 2009 by the filly, Rachel Alexandra.

The NJSEA also operates the Off Track Wagering (OTW) facility, Favorites at Woodbridge, and has received approval to open a second OTW in Bayonne.

The NJSEA also provides in-house security and emergency medical services staff to the entire Meadowlands Sports Complex, including MetLife Stadium, the replacement for Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands Sports Complex built privately by the Jets and Giants, as they have done in the past at Giants Stadium.

The NJSEA owns the land beneath the American Dream Meadowlands shopping complex. It issued $1.15 billion in municipal bonds to support the project. In February 2018, it was announced that Vincent Prieto, former Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly would step down from his post and succeed Wayne Hasenbalg as President and Chief Executive Officer, a position that will pay him a $280,000 per year annual salary.

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A member of The Jockey Club, Iselin and Amory L. Haskell headed a group of investors who founded the Monmouth Park Jockey Club in 1944 to build a new Thoroughbred horse racing facility in Oceanport, New Jersey. The track opened in 1946 and Iselin served as treasurer of the Monmouth Park Jockey Club until 1968 when he was appointed President.While at work in the New York Jets Manhattan offices, Iselin died after suffering his second heart attack in three months.

Son James "Jimmy" Iselin became a racehorse trainer.

Process Shot

Process Shot (foaled 1966 in Florida) was an American Champion racehorse. Owned and bred by Elberon Farm, she descended from her sire Restless Wind out of a Determine mare named Possessed. Process Shot is probably best remembered for her win in the 1968 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on May 16, 1969.

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Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey

The Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey was established in 1988 to honor athletes, teams, events and contributors associated with the state of New Jersey. There is currently no physical site or structure for the hall, but its members are honored with plaques that are displayed at Meadowlands Arena — in the Meadowlands Sports Complex — in East Rutherford.The first group of members was inducted in May 1993. Inductees are honored in a public ceremony that takes place during New York Giants football games.

Walter Camp Distinguished American Award

The Walter Camp Distinguished American Award is presented by the Walter Camp Football Foundation to an individual who has used his or her talents to attain great success in business, private life or public service and who may have accomplished that which no other has done.

The recipient does not have to have participated in football but must understand its lesson of self-denial, cooperation and teamwork and who is a person of honesty, integrity and dedication. He or she must be a leader, an innovator, even a pioneer, who has reached a degree of excellence which distinguished him or her from contemporaries and who lives within the principles of Walter Camp.

William Shea

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