SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40

Faust Capobianco IV

FAUST CAPOBIANCO IV, MAJESTIC ATHLETIC

BY TERRY LEFTON
STAFF WRITER

Faust Capobianco IV remembers one of his first big deals with a national retailer more for what he didn’t sell.

Faust Capobianco IV
• Age: 33
• Title: President
• Company: Majestic Athletic
• Education: B.A., government, University of Notre Dame, 1994
• Career: Started in the family business directly out of college as a licensing director; named president in 2002
• Family: Wife, Melissa; daughter, Luisa Grace, 2; expecting another child in March
• Last vacation: Rome over Christmas and New Year's
• Last book read: "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don't" by Jim Collins
• Last movie seen: "The Village"
• Greatest achievement: Leading a management team that emerged as MLB's exclusive on-field apparel partner in the face of stiff competition from some of the industry's largest and most sophisticated brands
• Fantasy job: Athletic director at my alma mater, Notre Dame. Undoubtedly one of the toughest jobs in sports, but I'd love to give it a shot.
• Business advice: The harder you work, the luckier you get.
“That was one of my first big lessons,” said Capobianco, president of licensed sports apparel company Majestic Athletic. “I was feeling good about a $250,000 order for batting-practice jerseys, but my dad said, ‘Great. Where’s their order for T-shirts?’ I learned to stay hungry.”

Attention to basics like that have allowed family-owned Majestic Athletic to flourish. Since it signed its first MLB leaguewide licensing deal in 1984, competitors like Starter and Pro Player have disappeared into the abyss of bankruptcy proceedings, tripped up by a fickle, fashion-driven market, overlicensing by leagues and far too many marketing commitments.

Befitting a company known for its domestic manufacturing capabilities and an ability to turn product quickly into a dynamic marketplace, Majestic also has stuck to its knitting. Starting this season, the Bangor, Pa., firm will supply uniforms to all Major League Baseball teams.

“If you asked me 10 years ago about doing every team, I would have believed it,” Capobianco said, “but I might not have laid money on it. But we’ve always been very pragmatic about what our strengths are.”

Those strengths are the basics of design, service and delivery to retail chains and mom-and-pop stores, along with a reputation for quickly turning product to fuel the hot markets that are sports licensing’s feeding frenzy.

When the long-rumored trade of Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees was being consummated, Majestic got wind of the trade from MLB on a Thursday and confirmed the deal and the uniform number two days later. On the Monday of the Yankee Stadium press conference, Johnson jerseys and T-shirts were available throughout Manhattan in quantity.

Attention to detail and quick turn-arounds have produced results that are anything but dull. Revenue for the privately held company has grown 50 percent over the past three years — and that’s before Majestic goes from supplying uniforms for 16 clubs to all 30 MLB teams this season.

“They just do everything right,” said MLB licensing czar Howard Smith. “Faust knows the business as well as anyone. You could say he got his position because of the family, but he’s earned it. He’s made the model his dad set up that much better.”

Capobianco joined the family business out of college in the 1990s, when the licensed sports apparel business was exploding. Majestic was still small but growing with the market, and it always had an entrepreneurial bent.

In the late ’90s, Capobianco told his dad about the value of on-site hot-market sales.

“Fine,” said Faust III, “go do it.”

So it was that the younger Faust found himself in the snow selling T-shirts in Cleveland at the 1997 World Series. Another lesson learned.

“Opportunity is out there, if you know when to take risks,” he said.

“Faust understands licensing from the bottom up,” said Mitchell Modell, president of the sporting goods retail chain that bears his name. “He knows what works like someone who’s been in the business for 30 years.”

Working his way from licensing to president three years ago, Capobianco still sweats the details and has the same love now of the business, where a logo turns a $2 shirt into a $20 shirt, as he had coming out of college 10 years ago.

“Consumers don’t need us the way you need food or water, but they love what we make,” he said. “You have to enjoy being in any business when you’re able to say that.”

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