Howard Handler grew up in suburban Detroit, earning a BA and MBA from the University of Michigan after graduating from Southfield-Lathrup High School. After working as a senior marketing executive for sports and entertainment brands ranging from MTV to The Madison Square Garden Co. and “Saturday Night Live”, he became Marketing Director for Major League Soccer.
“I never lost my connection to Detroit,” Handler said recently. “But I never dreamed of coming back either.”
But he did so in 2019 as chairman of 313 Presents, the joint venture between Pistons Sports & Entertainment and Olympia Entertainment that includes seven major entertainment venues.
Handler joins a panel of arts and entertainment leaders Tuesday at 4 p.m. in a free 1-hour Detroit Homecoming webcast, focusing on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the performing arts on the subway of Detroit. A second panel will focus on the major planning initiative aimed at connecting the cultural institutions of Midtown Detroit to create, as one planner describes it, as “the Smithsonian of the West.”
Handler is one of a handful of “boomerangs” participating in the Detroit Homecoming VIII lineup this year. Homecoming begins with weekly webcasts and live onstage programming September 23-26.
Handler said he was recruited for 313 Presents by Len Perna, a former senior marketing executive for the Ilitch organization who led marketing partnerships, licensing and new business development for the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Reds. Wings, the Fox Theater, the Meadow Brook Amphitheater and other sports and entertainment properties.
After a stint with the Dallas Stars hockey team, he founded a company specializing in recruiting sports, entertainment and media talent, TurnkeyZRG.
While at MTV, Handler played a central role in the launch of “Beavis & Butthead,” “The Jon Stewart Show,” “The Real World,” and the Peabody-winning “Choose or Lose” voter education campaign. Awards. He was also recognized as one of America’s Top 100 Marketers by Ad Age, a publication of Crain Communications Inc ..
On Tuesday’s webcast, he will join Omari Rush, Executive Director of CultureSource; Yuval Sharon, new artistic director of Michigan Opera Theater; and Robin Terry, President and CEO of the Motown Museum. Author Rochelle Riley, now director of arts and culture for the city of Detroit, moderates the conversation.
Following this panel, Darin McKeever, President and CEO of the William Davidson Foundation, leads a discussion on cultural district plans. Speakers include Anya Sirota, associate professor of architecture at the University of Michigan and a member of the team that won the design competition for the Midtown plan; Sue Mosey, President of Midtown Inc .; and Neil Barclay, CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
Detroit Homecoming was established in 2014 and is produced by Crain’s Detroit Business. It is supported by foundations and businesses in the region and its trustee, the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
To register for the free 4 p.m. Tuesday webcast, use this link: https://cometinteractive.brand.live/c/detroit-homecoming-2021-home. Registration also grants viewer access to the August 31 webcast featuring a conversation about the Ford Foundation’s re-engagement in Detroit and with the eponymous Ford family. Foundation President Darren Walker and Henry Ford III, who joined the Foundation Board in 2019, will speak. The Foundation’s interest in workforce issues will continue in a second panel focusing on job attraction and vocational training in Detroit.