Leadership / 09.14.22
To Jeff Hecker, Family, Friends and Ticketing Mean Everything
Jeff Hecker loves to joke that his father “sold drugs for a living,” but he is, nevertheless, still proud of him.
“He’s retired now, but he was a pharmaceutical salesman with an MBA from NYU. He worked his entire life, six days a week and sometimes seven, just to make sure that our family was provided for, and we were taken care of,” Jeff says of the person he most admires. “He's my best friend outside of my wife.”
Jeff and his dad.
Jeff has spent his own adult life in a far different career. His first senior position in ticketing was with Ticketmaster, and he says it came about purely by accident.
“When Woodstock ‘99 was burning to the ground, it was time to look for another job. ESPN was hiring a ticketing person to deal with all of their tickets for the first time. I applied for the job and was going to get it. They asked me for some references, so I called up Marla Ostroff [who runs Ticketmaster North America]. She is a very good friend and I worked for her for a very, very long time. I told her I was going to use her as a reference. She said, ‘I am happy to give you a reference, I think it is going to be a great gig and it could mean something, but if you are really looking for a job, why don't you come work for me?’ And that's how I went to work for Ticketmaster.”
He says, “I worked at Ticketmaster for about nine and a half years. I worked for Marla for four years in Buffalo, New York, running the western New York office. Then I came to work in New York to oversee all of Tri-State and all of New York State. Ticketmaster got to be a bit much … I needed to slow down slightly [to spend more time with my wife and kids]. So, I gave up the corner office and took the job with the New York Jets. Because I am a workaholic, I still work a billion hours, but at least it is not a billion and a half hours.”
Jeff and his wife.
Jeff spent just over 14 years as Senior Director of Ticket Operations with the Jets. In 2022, he was promoted to his current position as Vice President of Ticket Operations. Over the years, he has learned to value a leader who “will stand up for the people they work with.”
In his colleagues and in people generally, the quality Jeff values most is honesty. “I would rather people tell me the truth, tell me what’s going on. What I tell people, especially people who come to work for me … [is] everybody makes mistakes; nobody makes more mistakes than me. Just learn from them and be honest about the fact that you have made the mistake … Own up to it because mistakes happen. Anybody who tells you they do not make any mistakes, that is somebody who is not being honest.”
When it comes to relationships outside of work, Jeff values friends he can count on. “Just being there for me or me being there for them; that is something that’s very, very important.” Jeff has been married twice and shared that he had “a very, very bad breakup” with his first wife. While he and his ex-wife are now very good friends, it was his closest buddy who stepped in with help and support at the time. “I actually went and lived with my best friend [on his couch] for two weeks … so just being there, I think, is most important.”
Today, Jeff’s greatest love is his second wife and two children — 24-year-old twins, Erin and Samantha. “Erin is high-functioning autistic, and Samantha is also a bit on the spectrum,” he says. “There is a lot of tender loving care that goes with that … Erin is with me half the time … Just seeing her laugh and smile is absolutely [my biggest joy in life]. It is not even close.”
Indeed, when asked about his greatest achievement to date, he quickly answered: “Well, personally, I think it would be my kids.”
On the professional side, Jeff chose an event that took place when his children were still in diapers. “It is an interesting [and] timely question because I think I would probably still have to say, despite what you might be seeing on TV … Woodstock ‘99. For me, it was a great achievement to get through it and to make happen. It has certainly [been] tarnished over the years and certainly [is] being tremendously tarnished right now with the Netflix special, but I still would say professionally Woodstock ‘99.”
Speaking of live events, Jeff’s favorite to date was a performance by his favorite musician, Paul McCartney, to open the Highline Club in Manhattan. “A good friend of mine was running the club and invited me to go. Paul McCartney is my favorite performer, and seeing him in front of 300 people in a club was a pretty amazing thing. The Beatles are my favorite band, [although] the Grateful Dead is near and dear to my heart because I kind of got my start with the Grateful Dead.” Jeff worked with the iconic jam band before joining concert promoter Metropolitan Entertainment Group, the position he held just prior to Woodstock ‘99.
Jeff’s favorite song is “Haven't Met You Yet” by Michael Bublé. “My wife and I came to realize [that the song] was, in our minds, about the two of us.”
On the subject of crooning, many people interviewed for this series have said the talent they would most like to have is the ability to sing. Not Jeff, although he says his friends and family would probably wish this for him. “I have the worst singing voice you will ever hear in your entire life. I am Jewish [and] … if you have ever been to a bar or bat mitzvah, [you will know] you are supposed to sing most of what happens. My mom got me singing lessons before my bar mitzvah. After one lesson, the voice coach gave my mother the money back and said, ‘There is nothing I can do to help him.’ That is a true story.”
With that out of the way, Jeff revealed that he is quite a bon vivant, a connoisseur of food and wine. “I think I would like to be able to cook a fine dining meal. As much as ticketing is what I know best, food and wine is my passion. I will go to a diner, but for me, there is nothing better than putting a sports jacket on and sitting in a fine dining restaurant for four or five hours eating multiple courses. Per Se is my favorite restaurant to go to in New York City.”
With his love for wine, it came as no surprise when Jeff told us where he would most like to live. “The wine country out in Napa [California] for sure. I am really into big California Cabernet reds.” Jeff is also part of a group of friends and INTIX members who produce wine out of Napa. “We have our own label called Ticket Cellars [with] Curtis Howells who runs Consolidated Printing, Dan DeMato from FutureTix, and Russ Stanley from the San Francisco Giants … We have a lot of fun with it.”
Jeff is a member of INTIX because he loves our industry. “I love ticketing, and I love talking about it and spending time with people who are in the industry. Simple as that.”
Like so many others, he relies on INTIX to build relationships. “I can network with people outside of my specific industry. I have to tell you, I am a little bit luckier than many because I have worked in sports arenas, theaters and concert promoting. There are not a lot of people who can say that … I think what INTIX really gives is people who are in the theater industry being able to network with people in the sports industry and vice versa. I think that is really what INTIX gives more than anything else.”
He continues, “There is nothing better than going to a conference. The stuff during the day is great, do not get me wrong, I do not want to discount it at all, but to me, sitting down at 5 o’clock in the bar area with five or six people from all over the country, sometimes all over the world, just talking about ticketing with a drink in hand for two or three hours. You can't beat that.”
Jeff has many memorable career moments and from his time as a member of INTIX. Perhaps his most memorable was when he was still a young assistant box office manager in the early ‘90s.
“INTIX was doing a BOMI event in New York,” he says. “I drove down to be part of the committee and was taken in by various people, including Dan DeMato, who was the ticket manager for the Mets at the time. He took me under his wing and [INTIX founder] Pat Spira took me under her wing; I was this 24-year-old kid who was mesmerized by it all. That really was the beginning of it for me with INTIX, then BOMI. I still have the little plaque that BOMI gave out at the time back then.”
Jeff’s family at a Mets game.
From a career point of view, Jeff says his most memorable moment was opening MetLife Stadium. “We moved basically 70,000 people from one stadium to another stadium.” And how does he feel when he walks into the stadium? “Proud. I think proud is the right word.”
Jeff has spent his entire working life in ticketing, and he never ceases to be inspired by the people in the industry. “I see these kids [who are up and coming in the field]. I hired this intern, and he had the day off yesterday. He called and checked in four separate times. This is an intern who I'm paying $18 an hour. It was inspiring that he kept calling and checking in. [I am inspired by] anyone who is in our industry, really. It is a thankless job, right? The only time people ever check in on us is when things go wrong. No one ever checks in with ticketing people when things are going right.”
We also asked Jeff what he loves most about our industry. “It is such a small industry that you are always encountering people you have encountered previously. People stick around in this industry, people do stay.”
One of those people was Derek Tucker, who served as Vice President of Ticketing at AEG Presents.
“He was one of my best friends,” Jeff says, remembering the ticketing titan just days before his memorial would take place in New York City. Derek died of cancer Jan. 24 at the young age of 54 and the live events community mourned his loss far and wide. “I am actually the person who hired him into the industry. He worked for me for several years … He was the very, very first person to ever watch my kids other than family members. That is how close I was to him.”
Like Derek, Jeff has stayed in the industry too. Today he looks back on his career with only one obvious regret — that he did not keep enough souvenirs or document the things he has done and places he has been.
“I am much better now about taking pictures with my phone and keeping track of things. I did some pretty amazing things in the ‘90s that people would think are amazing. We did six days of the Beastie Boys at the Hammerstein Ballroom. I did not realize what an amazing thing that was at the time. We did Phish at an open venue in Vermont that we flew up for, then spent three days there. I did not really realize at the time how amazing that was [either]. We flew up and back on a private plane … When you are in your late 20s or early 30s, you do not pay a lot of attention to that stuff.”
What is Jeff’s most treasured possession? “I am actually holding it in my hand right now,” he says. “I have a handheld calculator that was handed to me by John Buschhorn, who was the ticket person for the Jets before me. On his last day, my first day, he handed this to me. Bushy has unfortunately since passed now. He went on to work at the Garden for several years after he left the Jets, and it is a very treasured possession of mine. I still use it every professional day of my life.”
And if he had three wishes today, what would they be? “One would be health and happiness for my kids more than anything else. That would be number-number-number one. What would number two be? I do not want to be frivolous. Number three would be my frivolous one, and that would be a World Series for the Mets, but I would love to come up with a really good one with number two. You know what? I will take it from an industry standpoint. Number two would be a Super Bowl for the Jets because professionally, that would be phenomenal.”
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