What’s a professional athlete to do when he or she retires before the age of 40 with the competitive juices still flowing, endless free time and, often, a very healthy balance sheet? For some, the answer is to pursue a second career in private equity or venture capital.
This week, we’ll take a two-part look at some of the biggest names from the world of sports who have crossed into finance.
We’ll get to VC tomorrow. Let’s kick things off today with notable athletes who’ve moved to PE, either by starting their own funds or joining more established firms. Among those who have taken the leap: a two-time NFL MVP, a member of the 1992 Dream Team and one of the greatest goalies in NHL history.
Steve Young—Co-Founder, Managing Director at HGGC
As an NFL quarterback, Young was a two-time MVP who won a trio of Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. Since retiring in 2000, he’s earned a law degree, assumed a role in politics and helped launch a successful PE firm. HGGC has more than $2.4 billion in AUM with a portfolio that includes tech companies such as Selligent (acquired last year) and Serena (purchased for about $450 million in 2014).
Gary Fencik—Partner, Head of Business Development at Adams Street Partners
As a punishing safety for the Chicago Bears throughout the '70s and '80s, Fencik was a member of one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history. Now he’s in charge of business development for a firm with more than $27 billion in AUM; he also helps guide strategy as part of the Adams Street executive committee.
David Robinson—Co-Founder at Admiral Capital Group
A former officer in the U.S. Navy and a 7-foot-1 NBA champion, Robinson already had one of the more unusual résumés in recent sports history before delving into private equity. Founded in 2007, Admiral Capital Group is mostly focused on real estate funds but boasts portfolio companies such as online ticket marketplace ScoreBig and sporting goods retailer Academy Sports + Outdoors.
Kerry Kittles—Former Associate at Ledgemont Capital Group
The former NBA wing took a bit of a different path to Wall Street. Rather than founding his own office, Kittles went back to get his MBA at Villanova (the same school where he played college basketball) before catching on as an associate at Ledgemont. Kittles is now an advisor to Fantex Brokerage Services, a platform that lets users trade stock in the brands of professional athletes.
Detlef Schrempf—Partner at Coldstream Capital Management
A native of Germany, Schrempf spent much of his basketball career in the Pacific Northwest and now works for Bellevue, WA-based Coldstream Capital. Since joining the firm in 2007, the former sweet-shooting forward and three-time NBA All-Star has worked primarily in business development; his previous PE involvement includes both investing and advisory roles.
Muhsin Muhammad—Managing Director at Axum Capital Partners
Instead of hauling in passes as an NFL wide receiver, Muhammad is now responsible for sourcing deals, making investments and managing portfolio companies at Axum, a firm based in Charlotte, NC. During his playing career, Muhammad excelled in the same city with the Carolina Panthers: his 85-yard catch in Super Bowl XXXVIII is still the longest touchdown from scrimmage in Super Bowl history.
Zoltan Mesko—Former Intern at Graham Partners
Of all these athletes, the former New England Patriots punter has by far the most interesting story. During the 2011 NFL lockout, the Romania native and Michigan grad spent time conducting research and learning the ins and outs of private equity at Graham Partners, a middle-market firm in the Philadelphia area. With his playing career now complete, Mesko has moved on to work at IBM in its Business Intelligence & Predictive Analytics division.
Mike Richter—Founder, Managing Partner at Healthy Planet Partners
A member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Richter might be the best goalie in U.S. history; each year, the finest goaltender in NCAA men’s hockey is given the Mike Richter Award. He’s been active in retirement, earning a degree from Yale, mulling plans to run for Congress and starting his own environmentally minded PE firm, Environmental Capital Partners, which raised a $100 million vehicle in 2007. Richter has since moved on to another environment-focused investment firm in HPP.