IB / PE to Sports?

Hi all –

I'm wondering if anyone has experience (or knows anyone who has experience) moving from IB / PE to a Sports role? I'm thinking Strategy / Operations at a league level or team level, as I've seen those roles open before.

I've always wanted to work in sports but turned down an opportunity in college to go work at a BB (and now am in PE), but realizing I don't really have a passion for finance like I do sports. With that said, I'm wondering if anyone has made the jump or has any advice outside of checking job boards every week?

Comments (15)

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jan 21, 2022 - 9:19pm

It depends what type of role in sports you mean by "strategy". For example, in baseball, corporate strategy could be referencing jobs where the work is more at the organizational level. On the other hand, baseball operations has more to do with the team level and roster construction, contract management, etc. (what the normal person is most interested in). There are obviously situations where people have made the move but these days IB/PE skill set adds much less value compared to someone with either a data science/analytics background or a law background (in terms of contract negotiations and arbitration). Most front offices in sports these days are constructed of individuals with data driven backgrounds. I used baseball as an example because this is the sport where they is probably most prevalent but you are seeing similar trends in basketball/football. Obviously being a former player helps as well.

Jan 22, 2022 - 9:41am
T30Alumnus, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Former lawyer here. a law background doesn't help get the job or to perform well in the role. The jobs are limited so I don't think the path there is that clear or formal. Until you are in upper levels, jobs in professional sports are low paying. If every Yale/Harvard/Stanford law student or junior associate with a deep interest in the sports industry submitted their resumes to make the jump, I would be surprised if 1/10 landed a first round interview. I think it was Proskauer that had the big entertainment practice with athletes. Extremely competitive, they will sniff out anyone expressing an interest in labor law who wakes up one day and realizes their passion is baseball!

Most Helpful
Jan 22, 2022 - 4:49am
account8675309, what's your opinion? Comment below:

One area where IB / PE backgrounds are in demand is the corporate partnership side - this is largely advertising / promotional / sponsorship deals with major clients (think those "official sponsor of the Team" commercials, or the "win a car" type promotions). At the junior levels, these tend to be more laborious and cookie cutter (managing CRMs, mailing lists, event planning, sometimes branching into gameday operations), and very very low paid. At senior levels, however, these are managing blue chip corporate relationships and negotiating 7-8 figure contracts - exactly the type of skillset that former bankers bring to the table. One of the better paid roles in the corporate organization, but big discount to working in traditional finance

You see a lot of "strategy" roles in major league sports that look for IB / PE professionals as well, but as mentioned above it may not exactly match what you're thinking of. It's rarely related to on-the-field work and more typically along the lines of go-to-market analysis, media partnerships, revenue strategy, etc. - the same role that corporate strategy or business development professionals play in traditional companies. Can be a solid job, but it's much more "working in spreadsheets" than working in sports - just another coverage sector. TMT backgrounds, especially with a consumer / entertainment angle, are preferred

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Jan 23, 2022 - 2:20am

Just a thought here, but you could explore an interest in sports / stadium anchored real estate development projects. A team that I worked with here and there was solely focused and looks like they were doing some pretty cool projects.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jan 23, 2022 - 4:47pm

That's helpful, thanks. Pretty okay with the idea of a pay cut, considering I'd be (hypothetically) doing something I'm a bit more passionate. Starting to realize a high paying job isn't the most fulfilling thing in my life anymore which is why I'm thinking I may no longer want to work in finance.

How did you come across the team strategy role? Would be great to know what the recruiting process looks like.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Jan 23, 2022 - 5:31pm

A lot of the work could be pretty interesting but when we say pay cut, it's not just 30-40% or something (which would be bad enough). I looked at the career path in baseball ops somewhat seriously a couple years back and despite having several years of experience, the route for me was going to be a year in effectively an "internship" without pay, then at least 3-5 years in the range of $60-80k comp. Coming from $200k+ at the time, it was going to be a hard pill to swallow.

Jan 23, 2022 - 11:14pm
CHItizen, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I don't have any specific advice (sorry) but do have some thoughts on working in sports. My brother works for a major sports team in a business role (unrelated to anything finance) and it sounds to me like it's one of those things where you're trading prestige/glamor for some form of $/WLB. Basically it's a "cool" job, so you end up willing to go further than you otherwise might simply because there are lots of other people drawn to it for the same reason. That can definitely result in sports being a somewhat toxic place to work (see: WFT, Suns, Mavs, Blackhawks, etc.). I also tend to think that pro sports ownership tends to skew incompetent/sociopathic (probably on par vs non-sports owners in the same wealth range), but there are fewer checks/balances in place to protect you since these are all private companies. 

  • 3
Jan 24, 2022 - 9:32am
Quaneaser, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sports is tough to break into from what I've seen and very relationship/network dependent (and it really helps to have played the sport competitively at some point). There are jobs like the ones referenced above that have that MBA-feel to them in strategy (like working for the NBA or MLB, etc.) but I'd guess those are more corporate and less player/team performance like most people dream of.

Best finance example I've seen is Andrew Friedman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Friedman) who is President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers. Went Bear Stearns IB -> MM PE -> Director of Baseball Development (Tampa Bay Rays) -> GM (Tampa Bay Rays) -> President of Baseball Ops (Dodgers).

He had a baseball background (as is super common in the industry) and happened to meet and have a conversation with the owner (probably through his finance connections). There are a handful of banks that do sports related deals so that could be one channel (I know Raine, Moelis, Guggenheim have done sports sales recently off the top of my head). Otherwise recommend using your network to try to make connections - I have my doubts you'll find something on the front office player development side on Linkedin

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jan 24, 2022 - 12:48pm

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