Russ Pillar ’87 has more than 30 years of experience successfully repositioning, reinvigorating, and rebuilding a host of well-known consumer brands. He manages his personal investments through The 5850 Group and founded and currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Reigning Champs, the world’s largest and most successful path-to-college company for student-athletes. Reigning Champs helps more student-athletes identify, prepare for, apply to, communicate with, evaluate, and choose the right college than any other organization in the world. A profit+purpose company backed by $100 million of equity provided by two of the world’s leading investment firms, Reigning Champs is proud to be need-blind and never turns away a qualified student-athlete for lack of ability to pay.
Prior to founding Reigning Champs, Russ led the purchase and subsequent turn-around of the Los Angeles Marathon which, under his stewardship, became the third largest marathon in the United States and was named “The Nation’s Best Big City Race” by Runner’s World magazine. Prior to his turnaround 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.
Over the course of his career, he has served on the Boards of Directors of nearly three dozen publicly-traded and private consumer-branded media, entertainment, sports, and technology companies. He created and chaired the National Youth Running Initiative as a Board member of Running USA, the running industry’s flagship non-profit organization; served for nearly a decade on the Board of Directors of the national non-profit environmental advocacy organization Heal the Bay; was a member of the Board of Directors of the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities (Florida); and was a Trustee of The Nature Conservancy (Idaho). He also served as a Senior Advisor to Red Bull on their High-Performance Initiative and a Mentor at Nike for emerging sports and sports technology businesses through their Nike+ and Nike Fuel Accelerator programs. Russ graduated Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude from Brown University where 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. He served on the Brown University President’s Leadership Council and its Creative Arts Advisory Council and currently is a member of the Executive Committee of the Brown University Sports Foundation Board of Directors. The Brown Alumni Monthly named him one of the 100 alumni who had the greatest impact on the 20th century.
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