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Volume 25 No. 177
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Athletes Discuss Pros, Cons Of Becoming Entrepreneurs

Former NBAer Baron Davis, Mastry Inc. Founder & Managing Partner Rudy Cline-Thomas and pro lacrosse player Paul Rabil, who is starting the Premier Lacrosse League next year, discussed the growing trend of athletes becoming entrepreneurs at the ‘18 SBJ Dealmakers in Sports conference in N.Y. Davis said that because most of the athletes who become investors do so without a degree in business or finance, they rely on what made them successful on the court or field. “In our sports, we’re taught to be innovative, we’re taught to outwork the opponent, to practice,” Davis said. “All these things are disciplines in business.” Rabil said another factor in the growing number of athletes who get involved in business before retirement is the prevalence of new technology and new forms of media. Both also cited the influence of players from previous generations who have been willing to share their knowledge.

IMPORTANCE OF STRATEGY: When it comes to picking the right company or brand to invest in, Rabil highlighted having a defined strategy and looking closely at the character of a company’s leaders. “Our thesis is pretty high-level, and you hear this often, but the first and most important is the founder, the people that you’re investing in,” Rabil said. “Successful companies are built off people, not Excel spreadsheets.” Cline-Thomas said one aspect working in athletes’ favor is their willingness to help each other. He pointed to the relationship between Davis and Rabil. “It’s definitely non-competitive,” Cline-Thomas said. “These guys are very much collaborative. I think they all realize the power and the access that we all have together.”

NOT FOR EVERYONE: While neither Cline-Thomas, Rabil nor Davis expect to see the phenomenon of athletes doubling as business people disappearing anytime soon, Cline-Thomas said he expects the number emulating the likes of Rabil and Davis to remain relatively small. “It sounds sexy, but not all athletes care,” Cline-Thomas said. “For a lot of them, they make so much money playing the game that they play and earn the money that they do, it’s enough for them.”