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SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40
Published March 8, 2010
Some guys are born salesmen. CAA’s Paul Danforth is one of them. Consider that he was hired in 1994 on straight commission by the New York Mets to sell sponsorships — during a work stoppage. Danforth’s first sale was a million-dollar deal with Dunkin’ Donuts, signed during the 232-day strike.
Plenty of salesmen are glib. Danforth combines that ability with an enviable understanding of human psychology.
“Paul has magnetism; people want to be around him,” said Mark Bingham, who hired Danforth at the Mets and is now senior vice president of premium partnerships at the New Meadowlands Stadium. “He has this absolute passion to get to the next goal.”
Danforth makes his craft sound effortless. “Listening,” he answers, when asked about a salesman’s most indispensable skill. “Too many guys just sell inventory. You have to ask about goals and objectives first.”
Danforth didn’t know anything about the business of sports until he was introduced to General Sports and Entertainment CEO Andy Appleby through a family connection. Danforth interned there and at the New Jersey Nets, followed by jobs with CBA teams, before Bingham brought him in.
With the Mets, Danforth helped land the Citi naming-rights deal, launch the team’s regional sports network and develop a new stadium. He came to CAA in 2007, and since has sold two milestone deals: Delta’s omnibus sponsorship with MSG, and what amounted to a presenting sponsorship to the new Yankee Stadium, before the bank backed out as the financial sector crumbled.
“Every day, there’s a new conversation,” he said, by a Miami pool, during Super Bowl week. “We represent some of the best properties in the world. I’m working with friends I grew up with in the business, and we’re building something special. That’s a lot of ‘wow’ for a guy who was living with five frat brothers in a two-bedroom apartment not so long ago.”
MSG Sports President Scott O’Neil has known Danforth since Paul was a Nets intern. “He’s always looking to make a deal,” said O’Neil, in the midst of a massive renovation project. “If I had an $800 million project to sell, he’s the guy I’d call — and I did.”