By: Peter Studer, @Pete_Studer
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Joseph Molloy, Founder and President of JAM Sports Ventures, a management company that identifies and executes strategies to increase the profitability and asset value of certain teams and markets. Previously Joseph operated as Owner and Managing General Partner of the New York Yankees, winning a World Series in the 1996 season.
To start, could you tell me a little about your history in sports business, and about your current work with JAM Sports Ventures?
JAM Sports Ventures is a company that was started in the last year and half to go out and look for acquisitions of sports franchises, not only here in the United States, but around the world. Because of my management background with the New York Yankees. It affords the opportunity for potential investors to be reassured that the success of the Yankees during my time there can transcend to success with whatever acquisition we would go after.
What made you recognize the opportunity that JAM Sports Ventures was founded upon?
Basically I looked at the value of franchises over the past couple of years and saw the tremendous growth in valuations. Look at the LA Clippers sale, the Dodgers sale, and even some European franchises that have increased in value in a relatively short resale time. People are seeing sports as a form of globalization, especially with athletes. There are a lot of soccer players in the United States and there are a lot of US players playing over in Europe. Baseball is rapidly expanding in South America and Asia. Sports franchises will continue to increase in value, and have historically never lost value. If you go to Forbes, you can see the values through the years. Not one has gone down. This measured growth really piqued my interest that this opportunity would be right.
How does the continuous growth of these franchises through increased engagement and exploding media contracts translate to young professionals today?
When I started with the Yankees, there weren’t too many laptops or iPads floating around the office. The applications for enjoying the game and ultimately being a part of the game through employment have grown so much in recent years and show no sign of slowing do. To be successful you have to have the utmost technological capability because it permeates every aspect of the job. Day in and day out the world of sports is moving. When we’re asleep people, are working in Europe, Asia and around the world. The connection for sports is a 24/7 job and in order to stay connected to the world you have to the right technological tools to apply yourself.
From what I can gather, your first and foremost an educator. How does that persona translate into sports business?
I’m an educator. I’m a teacher. Most teachers are coaches. You take the attributes of any successful coach and apply them to the work force and if you do it correctly you will be successful. It takes a team to win. It’s not only what’s happening on the court or on the field, its what’s going on behind the scenes. Everyone on the team plays an integral role in translating to a World Series championship, Super Bowl or any piece of a successful franchise. A good coach can coach the players (and by players I mean the marketing, operations, front office, etc.) and motivate them to success. They foster a learning community where everyone is up to date on what it takes to be successful.
We’re constantly communicating with each other. We’re open to criticism, which is always hard to take. We often face the harsh reality that you may have to substitute when necessary, which means letting people go. And as a leader you have to be able to handle these difficult aspects of the industry. To use a bicycle chain as a metaphor; if one particular link in the chain doesn’t work, the bike doesn’t move. So it goes with any job situation. If everyone isn’t firing on the same cylinder or isn’t moving in the same direction, leaders will have to make changes in order to keep the ship going.
In a 2008 ESPN article, when asked about you, a former colleague said, “He knew what his strong suits were, and what they weren't. When he didn't know something, he asked a lot of questions. He listened to a lot of opinions, and made educated decisions.” How has this approached helped you throughout your career?
That was the way I grew up. I took what I knew and applied it. If I don’t know, I would ask whoever did. In school, I was the first one with his hand up to ask a question. At work, I was the first one at faculty meetings or business meetings. If there’s a question that needs to be asked I’m going to ask it. You can’t make progress unless you are actively partaking in the discussion and challenging your beliefs whenever you can. You may think you’re active if you’re taking notes, but you can’t learn through that alone. Unless there’s a dialogue and you’re exchanging opinions you won’t be able to growth.
I took that growing up mantra of always asking questions and always asked questions. When we were sitting around the table and trying to figure out if the Yankees should trade for Tino Martinez, I took a step back and said ‘Why? What can he do? What were the reasons we needed to have his left handed bat for the 1996 team? The responses were varied. Some people said we didn’t need him. And even though there was an overall consensus, the final decision rested with me. I founded that decision on the opinions of the people around me and it ultimately turned out pretty good.
It used to be that you didn’t talk to the scout who watched every single play of the kid you wanted to draft, but we were thirsty for that information. We brought in every single scout prior to the draft and went over every single player that could potentially be signed. And then we sent them back out into the field, so that they would be ready to sign the player, should we draft them. We didn’t necessarily have every individual sitting with us in the war room, but you used everyone’s opinion to make that final decision.
I took the same approach with everything involved with the New York Yankees and I take the same approach today. You have to feel comfortable with yourself that you can ask questions and have a comfort that the answers you receive back will inform your decision. It may not be the decision you really want to make, but if you’ve considered every option you’ve done all you can. You hope in the end, as an owner, a business leader, or a CEO, that you’ve listened and made the best possible decision for everyone involved.
You’ve worked at the highest echelon of sports business. How has that experience shaped your perspective on what it takes to be successful in the industry?
Well I think that when you’re at the highest levels of leadership you learn to appreciate the people that are day in and day out working hard for you. Just a simple handshake thanking them as you’re leaving the building thanking them for their service, can mean the world to the success of your organization. It could be an usher standing at Yankee stadium in fifty-degree weather in April and you walk over introduce yourself and thank them for what they’re doing. You can’t lose sight of the world. Be grateful for what people can do for you. It can make a world of difference to take the time to learn something about them and thank them for what they do to make you successful. It breeds a culture of success because they’ll continue to work hard for someone they know appreciates it.
What advice would you offer students and young professionals looking to have a fulfilling career in sports business?
Do not be afraid of failure. The kids today that I see get so upset when they’re not successful. Life doesn’t give you success the first time. The second time. The third time. DO NOT be afraid to fail and do not be afraid of success when the opportunity presents itself.