The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast is an “audio biography” series with the leading Entrepreneurs and Movers & Shakers in the business of Sports & Esports of the past 40 years. Marcus drills deep into the career of his guests, what worked and what didn’t, the learning from the good, bad and ugly. Through his wide network, Marcus is able to host top guests from across the industry and from around the world. As a western Sports Entrepreneur operating in Asia for the past 25 years, it has a certain East-West flavour.
Mark Pannes, "From Basketball To Football"
Mark Pannes is a highly accomplished US sports executive with an incredible career across the US and Europe, from his early days at the New York Knicks, to leading a large European Football Club (AS Roma) on behalf of a US Owner and learning the inside workings of one of the largest Banks in the world (HSBC Private Bank). Mark has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and his views are well heard (through his own Podcast/Clubhouse talks) and respected in the industry. With the European Super League “fiasco” just over when we spoke, we off course took a good stab at the topic as well. As always, lots of learning and great insights throughout the discussion. Enjoy.
How it all started, a High School dream to have a career in professional sports, leads to studying sports at UT in Austin and a summer internship with the New York Knicks
First job on the operational side at Madison Square Garden (MSG), 19 different trade groups (Unions) working in the building, etc
10 years with the Knicks - Patrick Ewing and Pat Reilly days – MSG a vertically integrated company, the venue owns the teams and broadcast network – sales force is media let - Knicks the bait to sell other content at the venue (bundling)
Starting to sell Knicks as a stand alone property, non-media related – drove US$ 4 mil of new revenue (total team revenue over US$ 120 mil at the time)
Brand driven vs sales driven approach, digital and CRM starting to kick off
Ground breaking deal with American Express, co-branded card for the first time
First Entrepreneurial experience – Skilo Brand agency – range of clients and projects
First overseas sting, overseeing acquisition and then managing a Parisian Basketball Club (Tony Parker, French NBA player was part of the investor group)
After cleaning up the club in phase 1, spending most of the time on ways to finance the “underfunded” Club and connected with HSBC
Next stop HSBC Private Bank, London, banking athletes and IP owners, borrowing against assets
IP owners and athletes, asset & wealth management, borrow against revenue. COI (contractually obligated income) as security
Insider look during the global Financial Crisis (2008-09) – HSBC’s approach
Next Raptor Accelerator, Jim Pallotta, US billionaire Family office – invested in AS Roma – new role as CEO of the club
The numbers in the AS Roma deal – total US$ 160 million investment (according to reports)
Learnings from his AS Roma days, running a Listed company, every club is a “selling club” – ability to sell players is important
New Stadium plans, great project, big plans, the process to get it started (unfortunately till today it hasn’t come to fruition) (Roman politics or what happened?)
European Super League (ESL) discussion – 48 hours of madness – his view as an American Sports Executive with European Football experience
Mismatch and disconnect between team owners, there was no “executive team” in place to represent the group (it appeared), no apparent media partners, rushed announcements, etc
BCG , JP Morgan and many of the big Clubs got their fingers burned it appears in hindsight – surprisingly many rookie mistakes across the groups
The underlying challenges between the big clubs and the “others” haven’t gone away – the issue will come again at some point in the future – even the big clubs have little leverage with UEFA, so they need to come up with these threats to push their agenda
Union Sports – private consulting companies, advising on media and other long-term revenue streams
Vancouver Whitecaps FC , turn around, clean up – just when the pandemic hit six months into it
Inner Market Media – consulting and content creation for sports IP owners – focus on transatlantic view – “OTT Sports Speakeasy” (weekly on Clubhouse, Thu, 5pm UK time) and OTT Sports Podcast toget
Paul Berger, "Middle East Sports Stories"
Paul Berger is a true Middle East insider, having been based in Dubai, UAE for nearly three decades and done it all from advertising, motorsports, helping to build the Dubai Autodrome to now running EMEA for the Arena Group, one of the leading temporary event structures groups in the world for sports, music, exhibitions to cultural events.
Paul’s early days in Advertising in the UK and his route to Dubai. BBDO took him to Dubai.
From Advertising to Karting – setting up his first business (Leisure Karting) in Dubai – great stories (races in Oman, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi)
Dubai Autodrome & Business Park - how it all started and where it is now (www.dubaiautodrome.ae)
Clive Bowen of Apex Circuit Design, designed the track (www.apexcircuitdesign.com)
What worked and didn’t work and what is happening on the track now
Next Entrepreneurial venture – Sports Marketing Global – focused on motorsports & brands from the Middle East (partnered with Chris Akers – who was managing F1 Driver, Robert Kubica at the time)
Working with McLaren (Ekrem Sami), first deal with Emirates in motorsports (and how amazing visuals did the trick)
Abu Dhabi NDA & F1 story - how the deal came about and contract was signed
Harlequin Marquees – brother in law business – new challenge – bringing it together with Arena Group, UK (a company with 260 year history – started in 1761)
Arena’s first acquisition outside the UK, big growth since then through acquisition and Public Listing in the UK
Paul’s role as CEO across EMEA – expansion across the region – 350 staff across Asia/Middle East, offices in Malaysia, Korea, Hong Kong, etc
Arena America, Europe/UK, Middle East/Asia key regions– his region became the biggest and most profitable division (pre-Covid 2019) – hugely successful year (Anthony Joshua fight in Saudi)
The Arena Business – temporary Event Architecture – from tents to modular buildings, interiors, hospitality, etc
And then Covid happened and how that effected the Business and how Arena reacted to it – pivot business away from events, where could the equipment be used (temporary hospitals, etc)
Saudi family was keen to invest, raised money to make it through Covid – prior to that he was in the process of taking the company private again with US PE group (management buy-out)
Looking into the future, when is the event business coming back – his views on 2021 (transitional year) and 2022-23 – two year process to come back to 2019 numbers
Sports in the Middle East – big growth over the last few decades and where is the growth in the future – Dubai was the initial driver, Abu Dhabi the last decade, last few years Saudi Arabia
Mostly driven by large scale events, from Boxing, F1, UFC, WWE, Tennis, Golf, etc – some top Venues now like Coca-Cola Arena (20k seater) in Dubai
How to operate in the region – need to have a presence on the ground in the key markets, have local experts and strategic partners
About Paul Berger
Paul Berger has been working in the Middle East and Asia since 1993. He started his career in Dubai with the OMNICOM Group, as a lead Account Director on Emirates Airline, Pepsi Cola and General Motors. In 1997, Paul moved into the sports event management sector, by launching the first leisure motor sport tracks in the region. Indoor Karting, Outdoor Karting, the Dubai Autodrome FIA Circuit and local motor racing championships.
In 2009, he became CEO of Harlequin and subsequently sold the company to the Arena Group. In 2010, he became CEO of the Middle East and Asia Division for the Arena Group, launching the company in Singapore and Malaysia. Paul has subsequently expanded the division to Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Korea and now Japan. Paul is also the President of the International Live Events Association in the Middle East.
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Hrish Lotlikar, "The Superworld of NFTs"
Hrish Lotlikar is a living example of a successful digital nomad Entrepreneur. A former Investment Banker turned VC, turned Tech, Blockchain and Crypto Entrepreneur. Besides covering Hrish's amazing career we take a very close look at his latest venture "Superworld", the relevance to sports and the connection to NFTs, the currently hottest trend in the Crypto and sports, music, arts IP (Intellectual Property) world.
From High school to Navy Reserved Officer and Surgical Technician removing eyes
Pursuing Triple Degree (MBA, MPH, MD) in graduate school then taking him into Management Consulting and Investment Banking and his first Entrepreneurial exploit creating "The Wall Street Program", teaching how to get a Wall Street job.
Next stop Venture Capital (VC), bio-tech and other tech companies with "world changing ideas"
From New York City (after the crash in 2008/09), traveling across Eastern Europe for 1.5 yrs. Great story on how to start a seed stage VC Fund in Ukraine with Victor Pinchuk (Ukrainian Billionaire) and tech accelerator in Belarus.
Early employee, Senior Business Developer/Global Evangelist of Toptal, Andreessen Horowitz backed venture
Rogue Initiative Studios, LA based entertainment studio leveraging the latest in tech, VR, AR with Hollywood IP and partnered with Hollywood director Michael Bay
Superworldapp.com - virtual world in augmented reality mapped onto the real world, with 64 billion virtual real estate blocks (NFTs) on Blockchain which can be purchased
Superworld is Pokémon Go meets Foursquare meet Monopoly
Connecting Superworlds to the Sports & Entertainment space, from Venues to activities in the virtual world
Still a few steps required to buy a block right now, thru your Ether wallet. Getting easier soon.
NFT market place coming soon, platform to create NFT for any IP, sports, music, art, etc linked to augmented reality to showcase the NFT
Exploring Online to offline (O2O) opportunities. Real Estate developers are exploring this space.
Bringing Sports IP into the virtual world.
NFT (Non Fungible Token) - basics explained
NBA Top Shots (not Hot Shots 😂) discussion and how it connects to Superworld's NFT market place. Creating digital assets out of content, experiences, unique moments
NFT Salon vertically integrated into Superworld, music, art, architecture - Mars House example
Long tail of NFT content to put these NFTs into the "virtual world" of Superworld
Working across other platforms like Open Sea
Contact Innerworld@superworldapp.com for on boarding and other questions
ERC721 is the standard for NFTs, on the Ethereum Blockchain
Digital Assets (NFTs) can be programed to create earnings for artists in perpetuity (on future sales transactional and value creation). A whole new way of monetization for IP.
Launch of Superworlds NFT Salon in early April:Contact Innercircle@superworldapp.comfor IP owners. Collectorscorner@superworldapp.com for NFT Collectors
About Hrish Lotlikar
Hrish Lotlikar is a Co-founder and CEO at SuperWorld. Previously, he co-founded Rogue Initiative Studios, a Hollywood film, TV, gaming, and immersive entertainment studio. He was also the founding Managing Partner of Eastlabs, an early-stage VC fund based in Kyiv, Ukraine. Previously, Hrish was a Senior Business Developer and Global Evangelist at Toptal (backed by Andreessen Horowitz, the Rockefellers & the co-founders of Facebook and Zynga), a venture capital investor at Spencer Trask Ventures, and an investment banker at both UBS Investment Bank and HSBCSecurities, where he specialized in public finance, corporate finance and M&A. He also was an Associate in the Global Business Development Group at management consulting firm Hewitt Associates.
Hrish was born in India and grew up in the United States. He also has spent many years living around the world in Europe, Asia
Sophie Goldschmidt, "From Tennis, Basketball, Rugby to Surfing"
Sophie Goldschmidt, has been recognized as one of the most influential/powerful Women in sports by multiple publications/organizations from Forbes, Adweek, Leaders in Sport, Sports Business, etc, working across the globe in leadership and senior positions from the WTA, NBA, England Rugby to the World Surf League. All very different sports, with different opportunities and challenges along the way. Great stories and learning from her exciting career over the past 20 years.
Journey from Baylor University playing NCAA tennis and landing at Adidas USA in Portland
Working in the Adidas Tennis division, Indian Wells, Roland Garros, dealing with top players from Hingis to Kournikova, Henman, Safin, etc
Moving to WTA during the time the William sisters, Sharapova all becoming big stars, working with Larry Scott in the commercial and marketing space
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour – US$ 88 million (5-6 year deal) – breakthrough deal
Porsche, Lotto, Wilson and Eurosport deal
Moved WTA Year end final from LA to Madrid – new commercial deals
Next stop, the NBA in NYC – David Stern and Adam Silver, tennis fans too - made connection through tennis and then moving into this new sport
Moved back to London as Managing Director EMEA, establishing NBA operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa – more decentralized operations, opening offices in Moscow, Milan, Istanbul, Jo-burg, etc
Over 70 players from Europe in the League already at that time, NBA League Pass (OTT), finding new local marketing partners (sponsors),
“Basketball without Borders” across South Africa and other countries, grassroots development, something the NBA is very good at – Leading up to potential NBA League in Africa
Long terms view, “one kid at a time” convert from kicking to bouncing a ball (David Stern)
Opportunity to join England Rugby (RFU) as Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer – passion for the sport from her dad – opportunity for the sport following the very successful London Olympics and leading up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the UK
First female board member at the RFU (also became the first female board member of the PGA European Tour during that time), evolved the brand and more progressive approach to sponsors, driving commercial and engagement with fans
CVC new investment into Rugby and her thoughts on it – new resources and more independent strategic thinking for the sport
Joined the agency world at CSM – getting a look into the agency world
Moving back to the US with the World Surf League as CEO – sport accepted into the Olympics, new wave technology with Kelly Slater Wave Company, etc
Turning the challenge of the unpredictability of the weather (waves) into an opportunity, streaming vs linear TV, early digital adoption, less focus on live, lifestyle brand
Elevator pitch – as many surfers than golfers (over 400 million) in the world, beautiful location and people doing amazing things, highly engaged audience (sponsors from Corona to Airbnb)
Big educational process, understanding and interest depending on the markets, Brazil is huge
Sophie continues on the WSL Advisory Board, in addition to new roles now as an Advisor in sports, media, tech, health & fitness including; as a business partner to the new connected Home Health & Fitness Platform (Tersa), LOVB volleyball, MIXhalo, Egoli, Racquet Publishing, Pamos and as Board Governor for the International Tennis Hall of Fame
About Sophie Goldschmidt
Sophie is a dynamic, senior, global leader with broad and deep proven experience in sports, entertainment, media and technology. Throughout her career she has been at the forefront of globalizing and innovating sports and entertainment properties.
Most recently she was CEO of the World Surf League (WSL) and previously in leadership, commercial and marketing roles at the Nation
Frederico Pena, "Brazilian Football"
Frederico Pena, better known as Fred is a "Jerry Maguire" inspired Brazilian Sports agent, working across Brazilian Football for 20 years, including many years with the leading Agency, Traffic. Great inside look into Brazilian and South American Football, the rise and demise of Traffic and how we worked together in Asia.
How the movie "Jerry Maguire" and Brazil winning the 1994 World Cup in the US inspired his career path
The Mueller Sports Group and Jeff Slack saved him from a boring Banking job
Working on due diligence for Mueller Sports Group and Hicks & Muse buying Traffic
Traffic deal. Mr Hawilla, the owner, amazing deal maker, sold 49% for USD 125 mil and then bought it back for a fraction when Hicks/Muse ran out of cash during Dotcom crash. TNT - Traffic & Torneos partnership holding key rights.
First role in Traffic, exploring Internet concepts as we all did during that time in 2000.
Moving into TV sales - working with TSA in Asia as agent
The challenges of selling South American Football in early 2000 and what we (Traffic & TSA) had to do to build the confidence with broadcasters. Selling it as a stand alone product
Next step in his career to get closer to becoming an agent. Representing players just for sponsorship deals. 2002, deal w Brazil's Ronaldo, the best player in the world at that time
Copa America 2004 in Peru - LG Electronics sponsorship deal. Tag team with TSA to broker deal
Finally becoming an agent, starting his own agency at 29. Support from Hawilla. Being an Entrepreneur, not an easy start, 15 months before the first deal
Trading Brazilian players to Europe. His Jerry Maguire moments
How tough it is to become a Pro Footballer, lots of competition in Brazil
Coming back into Traffic - TPO model (Third party player ownership) - player fund, youth academy. Not allowed anymore
Selling controlling stake to Traffic of his agency - turned into Traffic Telantos - buying/selling players. Big deals, with top European and Chinese clubs
Traffic's demise and the link to the Fifa scandal (started in 2013). Hawilla was brokering the deals with Federations himself
Hawilla was a witness cooperating with the Department of Justice in the US. Hawilla being the Villan or Victim?
Traffic Sports business, rights, clubs, etc sold to pay for fines
Management buy out of the Agency part for Round 2 as an Entrepreneur
Now focus on young players. Dynamics between the small and big agents in Brazil
Biggest transfer in Brazil football - Vini Jr, now at Real Madrid - transferred at age of 17
Brazilian Football industry and Covid - bullish on players, less on Clubs and Football structure -lots of sports politics - little long term focus
Red Bull entering Brazilian Football with a Club recently.
The flawed logic of bringing all top Brazilian players back and final thoughts on the Brazilian players ecosystem
About Frederico Pena
Education background in finance and economics having graduated from the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business (The Wharton School/CAS), the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA. Over 20 years of experience in the football industry, both in South America (Brazil in special) and Europe.
Fluent in 4 languages (Portuguese, English, Spanish and French), having lived in 5 different countries (Brazil, United States, France, Canada and England). Professional experience in football includes: player representation, player fund creation and management (third party ownership), consultancy in club acquisition, club management (in both Portugal and Brazil), marketing of sponsorship and TV rights (buying and selling).
Extensive international experience having travelled to over 30 countries in the world to do business with key industry stakeholders such as federations (Fifa, Conmebol, etc), clubs (Real Madrid, Barcelona, etc), sportswear brands (Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc)
Andreas Heyden, "Football Gone Digital"
Andreas Heyden, is a German web/digital native, learning from the tough times of the dotcom boom/bust days and the 2008/09 global financial crisis and now leading Digital Innovations at the Bundesliga (DFL - German Football League). Great insides into the Digital innovations and projects of one of the leading Football Leagues in the world, which also aims to be the most innovative Football League in the world. Plenty to learn for anyone in this space. Listen closely.
Early days in Andreas’ career and how that leads to his roles in the digital space and the learning of cycles across the past 20 years
Crisis leaves clues and creates new opportunities Web 2.0 came after the dotcom crash, Social Media boom after the 2008 financial crisis, what will come after Covid?
RTL Interactive (part of RTL Bertelsmann, one of the biggest Broadcasting Groups in Europe) – video on demand, taking a traditional broadcaster into Web 2.0 world after the dotcom crash
“I am a customer guy first, focus on the fan and customer”
Sevenload – German version of YouTube – joining just before the 2008 crisis – tough road ahead in a start-up environment
ProSiebenSat 1 Games – (another Giant of German Broadcasting) & Maxdome– entering the Gaming world
His start as CEO of DFL Digital Sports (Bundesliga) – German Football League – his roles
How to create new revenue opportunities with content and data – three initiatives he is leading (using AI and machine learning)
Local relevance – providing customized content
Bundesliga Match Facts (Data driven stats) & Club data portal
Smart media archive – 150,000 hours of media footage digitized
Treat “AI” like a colleague – create customized content for different clients and customers
AWS (Amazon Web Services) partnership and evolution of it – best in class in cloud services to integrated business partner now
Deltatre partnership – JV in Football data, VR, etc
Sports Innovation Trade Fair – every two years, setting up a real live environment(actual matches) to showcase new technology – next Spring 2022
DFL Digital innovations during Covid - on-screen innovation, augmented reality, additional match facts, new camera positions
Glass to Glass strategy – from the camera Lens to the screen – DFL owns the parts of the entire value chain
Betting space – DFL digital role – provide data to betting operators
NBA Shots – NFT discussion – real collectables vs digital versions – exploring, difference in market dynamics
OTT ready anytime if its needed – difficult question when will the switch to D2C happen vs the existing model
Bundesliga looking at PE partnerships and the process internally
About Andreas Heyden
Since June 2015, Andreas Heyden is serving as CEO of the DFL digital sports GmbH being responsible for digital platforms & production and distribution of national and international media content. Before Andreas was the Managing Director of Maxdome GmbH since July 1st, 2013. Previously, Andreas was COO as part the management of ProSiebenSat.1 Game GmbH from December 2011 on.
Before this Andreas was a managing director of the startup Sevenload, where his responsibilities included cooperation with content and distribution partners as well as internationalization of the portal. Before joining Sevenload, Heyden was head of the innovation and production unit at RTL Interactive, where he established new internet business models in the games industry and other segments.
Heyden began his career at Metronet AG in 1996, where he worked in the Subscriber Marketing Department. In 1997, Heyden became a key account manager for I-D Media AG. Following his professional work in Singapore in 1999, he began working with Microsoft GmbH as part of the Product Marketing team for MSN.de.
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Been in the sports industry for a long time and this is a superb podcast that I have been waiting for. Very insightful and fascinating to hear the stories and advice from industry legends. Great work, Marcus.
Very inspiring! Thank you