In world of Pro sports, general managers do things such as sign players to multiyear contracts and make trades—and generally earn little respect and few fans in the process. That's not true of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S general manager, Ann Jackson, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the publishing side of the magazine. She does her job with a diplomacy and an intelligence that has won her many admirers.
Jackson is responsible for balancing the interests of SI's various business operations—advertising, circulation, production and development—while remaining mindful of the bottom line. "As general manager," she says, "I'm part policeman and part conciliator. I'm always looking for ways to find a common ground where there isn't a naturally occurring one."
Says Linda Warren, SI's consumer marketing director, "Ann listens to everyone before making a decision. She has an innate foresight that enables her to understand how every decision impacts each department."
Obviously, Jackson's position requires patience and wisdom, two qualities she has honed as a full-time working mother. Besides Ann, the Jackson family of Bronxville, N.Y., includes her husband, Charlie, a real estate investment banker, and their three children, Sam, 9, Nicholas, 8, and Lucy, 2. Through necessity Ann has become exceptionally adept at juggling the demands of home and office. But there is one chore she doesn't include in the equation: cooking. In 1974, after graduating magna cum laude from Middlebury College with a degree in English, Jackson hired on with The Harvey Gamage, a 95-foot wooden schooner that carried passengers on weekly trips out of Maine in the summer and the Grenadines in the winter. "I was hoping to see the world," she says. "Instead I spent six months in the galley endlessly preparing meals. I haven't cooked since."
In 1980, armed with an M.B.A. from Columbia, Jackson joined Time Inc. as a financial analyst. When Charlie was transferred to London in 1982, Ann became a direct-mail manager for Time-Life Books Europe. Three years later, the Jacksons returned to the U.S. and Ann became business manager of Money magazine. In '87, to the delight of her sons, she joined SI as business manager. She was named general manager in '88.
"It's like being part of a big family," Jackson says of the demands of her job. "This ones happy, that one's sad, another one's in trouble. My role is to try to maximize the happiness of the family and the financial health of the franchise."
And Jackson can take her work home with her without feeling guilty. "Sports are what we do in our free time," she says of the action-minded Jacksons. "Working at SI reinforces in my kids a very positive feeling about what I do, even when I'm not with them."
The Jackson 5 at home in Bronxville: Ann and Charlie with Lucy, Nicholas (blue shirt) and Sam.