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The investment guru for star athletes explains why he says no a lot

Updated Mar 2, 2023, 3:34am EST

As a former executive at Houlihan Lokey, Mark Patricof knows how to evaluate a deal. What everyone is fighting for is access to the best ones, and Patricof believes he has an entry point to them: athletes.

His client list includes names like NBA star Blake Griffin and tennis legend Venus Williams, who get access to investing opportunities because they’re rich, famous, and a good brand with which to associate.

It’s Mark’s job now to make sure those opportunities are worthwhile. He spoke with me about our mutual dislike of Duke University, the unique relevance of professional athletes, and why he says“no” everyday.


Mark Patricof said:

Hey

Bradley Saacks said:

Hey Mark! Thanks for doing this — mind sending us a shot of where are you right now?

Mark Patricof said:

Cali

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2 months away from NYC

Mark Patricof said:

Are you in NC?

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Sorry about the Heels :(

Bradley Saacks said:

That’s not the worst set-up! I’m from North Carolina (and a proud UNC grad) but based in New York these days.

Mark Patricof said:

I am a Duke hater

Bradley Saacks said:

We are going to get along great

Mark Patricof said:

Good!

Bradley Saacks said:

So walk me through the thesis, why focus on athletes?

Mark Patricof said:

A few reasons; I co-hosted a television show with Gronk when I was running an investment bank and we had 4-5 athletes on every episode

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And two things were immediately obvious based on my time hanging with them

Mark Patricof said:

They needed some advice on their private deals — deals they seemed to love doing that fell outside what their wealth advisors could counsel them on

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And that their access was pretty unique and could be leveraged

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Meaning they could get into deals most people simply can’t

Mark Patricof said:

But were focusing on high risk early stage investments and then losing their money. Like playing roulette

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So the idea was to provide them with a robust set of customized banking services

Bradley Saacks said:

So is the value proposition partially your ability to understand quirky deals? Y’all have done everything from farmland to consumer start-ups like the RealReal to SpaceX. How often are you telling these guys and gals no?

Mark Patricof said:

Everyday (the “no” part)

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Not quirky as much as safe and smart and predictable

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No more roulette with their money

Mark Patricof said:

Give up some upside for protected downside by going later stage

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We do late-stage growth, buyouts and some very safe real estate

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No venture

Mark Patricof said:

Also partner with the top performing PE funds

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Who love to have the athletes on the cap table in their consumer deals

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We also have an intense process to involve them in their investments in much more strategic ways than simply lending their name

Bradley Saacks said:

And these private equity firms are happy to have a big name like Joe Burrow while you get all the due diligence and connections that comes with a top-flight investment manager.

Mark Patricof said:

Yes

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No real comp for what we are doing

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Which isn’t necessarily good or easy

Mark Patricof said:

Think about how Bryon Trott built a principal business off his banking billionaires like Buffett at BDT

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That’s the closest comp

Bradley Saacks said:

That’s an interesting comp. And a valuable one since Trott combined forces with Gregg Lemkau last fall. What does involving these athletes look like? Should I expect some NBA guys to be in Bombas’ next ad campaign?

Mark Patricof said:

Yes some of that. Blake Griffin just filmed ads for Daily Harvest, but also board seats, going on sales calls to open new markets, helping diligence new products

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We put Venus Williams on the board of a Carlyle-backed company for example

Bradley Saacks said:

So paving the way for the second careers for these household names basically

Mark Patricof said:

Absolutely

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Networking is really important

Mark Patricof said:

While their relevance is highest

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We do a ton of that for them

Bradley Saacks said:

Well Mark the buzzer has sounded, but thanks for chatting with me!

Mark Patricof said:

Thanks for having me!