Russ Pillar ’87, has more than 30 years of experience repositioning, reinventing, and revitalizing a host of
global consumer brands. He is Founder and currently serves as Executive Chairman of Reigning Champs
(www.reigningchamps.com), the world’s largest and most successful path-to-college company for
student-athletes. Powered by 850+ mission-driven teammates and $100 million of private equity,
Reigning Champs is a profit+purpose company that helped place more than 72,000 student-athletes in
college across 34 sports last year alone, all while underwriting more than $15 million of services to those
student-athletes most in need.
Before founding Reigning Champs, Russ led the purchase and subsequent turn-around of the Los
Angeles Marathon which, under his stewardship, was named “The Nation’s Best Big City Race” by
Runner’s World magazine. Prior to his turn-around of the Marathon, Russ served as both Viacom’s and
CBS’s chief digital media strategy, development, and execution executive, as President of the Viacom
Digital Media Group and President and Chief Executive Officer of the CBS Internet Group. Earlier in his
career, he ran a $300 million revenue/1,600 employee portfolio of Virgin-branded operating businesses
as President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director of Richard Branson’s Virgin Entertainment Group. He
also co-led the leveraged buyout, turn-around, and initial public offering of online service provider
Prodigy as well as the turn-around, rapid growth, and sale of publicly-traded Precision Systems, a Paul
Allen/Wired World company. Russ began his career as an investment banker in corporate finance within
the Japan Banking Group at Merrill Lynch Capital Markets.
Russ has been a member of the Boards of Directors of more than three dozen public and private
consumer-facing media, entertainment, sports, and technology companies including Playboy
Enterprises, the Virgin Entertainment Group, CBS SportsLine, CBS MarketWatch, and Prodigy
Communications Corporation, among many others. His non-profit activities have included participation
on the Board of Directors of Running USA (where he chaired their National Youth Running Initiative),
Heal the Bay, The Nature Conservancy (Idaho), and the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities
(Florida). He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Young Presidents’ Organization; he
is a Henry Crown Fellow at The Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Russ graduated Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude from Brown University with an A.B. in East Asian Studies,
having studied for a year at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan. While at Brown, he played on the
University’s men’s rugby team, coached its women’s rugby team, and was a National Finalist in the
Rhodes Scholarship Competition. Russ served on the Brown University President’s Leadership Council,
its Creative Arts Advisory Council, and on its Entrepreneurship Program Board of Directors and currently
is a member of the Executive Committee of the Brown University Sports Foundation. The Brown Alumni
Monthly named him one of the 100 alumni who had the greatest impact on the 20th century.
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