LONDON: Mike Lee, one of the most high-profile communications specialists in world sport, has died at 61.
His family and VERO Communications, of which he was founder and chairman, announced that he died on Saturday after a heart attack. Lee founded the company in 2006 after helping London win host rights to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
A joint statement said: “Mike passionately believed in the power of narrative and a campaign style approach to communications and this was evident in the many successful campaigns he helped to steer.
“These included bids for Paris 2024 and Rio 2016 Summer Games, Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games, and the inclusion of rugby and surfing in the Olympic programme, as well as numerous presidential and brand-building campaigns.
“Over the last 12 months, Mike took the conscious decision to step back from the day to day running of VERO to pursue other interests in his life including studying for a Master’s Degree and spending more time pursuing his love of cycling.
“Thanks to the legacy of Mike, and the strength of the senior team that has been at the core of the business over the past decade, VERO is well positioned for the future, with clients across the world of sport.”
VERO director John Zerafa said: “My fellow directors Clair Ashley, Sujit Jasani and I have been incredibly fortunate to have known and worked with Mike over many years.
“He was a force in communications – always inspiring, challenging and innovative and leaves an indelible legacy in the world of sport. He will be deeply missed by all those who have worked with him, and been advised by him. On behalf of the entire VERO team, our thoughts are with Mike’s wife Heather, his son Alex and stepson Euan.”
Lee was director of communications at UEFA from 2000 and 2004 under the presidency of Sweden’s Lennart Johansson. He was voted PR Professional of the Year in 2005, was awarded an OBE in that year’s New Year’s Honours list and published his book The Race for the 2012 Olympics a year later.
He will be missed not only by sport executives at home and abroad but by a vast swathe of sports and news journalists who, down the years, have appreciated and relied on his insight, guidance and boundless enthusiasm for his causes.