As the business of professional sports has transformed from a multimillion-dollar industry into a multibillion one, more and more athletes have begun to embrace a second career in investing. Shortly after his retirement this summer, for instance, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant announced the launch of a new $100 million VC fund in partnership with Jeff Stibel.
Now, another newly retired legend is following in his path: David Ortiz (left), the former Boston Red Sox great who hung up his spikes in October. Ortiz is the headliner among a group of ex-Major League Baseball standouts who have teamed up to launch Dugout Ventures, a private equity group that will focus on supporting and investing in companies and initiatives with some connection to baseball.
With a lineup of lead investors that also includes former pitcher Nolan Ryan, former shortstop Barry Larkin and former outfielders Torii Hunter (below, right) and Vernon Wells, the firm plans to leverage its unique baseball knowledge and experience. In addition to investing, Dugout’s principals will serve as consultants for and endorse the companies they choose to back.
The players have collectively invested more than $10 million into the group, according to The Wall Street Journal, and the firm announced plans to raise $50 million for a vehicle in which accredited investors can co-invest. Dugout has already completed investments in EvoShield, MLB's official protective gear provider, and Marucci Sports, a major manufacturer of baseball bats.
With its star-studded masthead, finding capital shouldn’t be an issue. Hunter, who retired in 2015, earned more than $170 million during his MLB career, according to baseball-reference.com. Ortiz logged nearly $160 million during his 20-year career, and Wells made more than $130 million. Ryan and Larkin played before the massive rise in salaries of the past two decades, but both have been involved in the business world post-retirement.
So have a surprising number of stars from the world of sports. Joe Montana and Carmelo Anthony are among the notable names that have gone into side careers in VC, while Steve Young and David Robinson highlight the list of athletes who’ve gone into PE.