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From coupons to sleeper holds

By MARK ALBRIGHT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 31, 2003

Phil Livingston has grappled with executive jobs at several unconventional companies. But who knows what they'll throw at him in his new gig as chief financial officer of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

From chief financial officer of Catalina Marketing Corp., the St. Petersburg company best known for machines that print coupons at supermarket checkouts, Livingston moved on to be chief executive of Financial Executives International, a trade group of chief financial officers, treasurers and corporate comptrollers.

It was hardly a quiet period for the arcane profession. Livingston was a frequent guest on financial shows during the accounting scandals of Enron, WorldCom and Global Crossing. Twice he testified before Congress and was an invited guest to a White House bill-signing for a law regulating securities and accounting fraud.

Now he's faced with the WWE's shrunken TV ratings, closed Times Square restaurant and renegade stars. Wrestling, it turns out, is not entirely new to the 46-year-old Livingston.

"Back in college my teammates would go to wrestling events and we'd stage our own version in the stands between matches" the one-time offensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders said. "The crowd loved it."

Still, Livingston does not expect to follow other WWE executives such as chairman Vince McMahon, his CEO wife, Linda, and their two children into wrestling's soap-opera-like story lines.

"My son and I have become big fans of the Rock from his movie appearances," he said. "But I'm going to just focus on the business aspects."

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