Jeff Moorad, From Sports Agent to Team Owner | RUHM Podcast
Join the RUHM Podcast as we explore the remarkable career of Jeff Moorad, a business magnate, attorney, and investor who established himself as one of professional sports’ most influential agents.
Jeff later joined forces with Leigh Steinberg, establishing the Steinberg & Moorad firm, which became America’s top NFL client practice and the second largest in Major League Baseball during their partnership. The two sold their firm in 1999 to Assante Corporation, paving way for Jeff’s new path as a team owner for the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, and later, McLaren Racing and the X Games.
Through insightful conversation, we uncover the invaluable life lessons and strategies he used to propel himself forward. From living outside of our comfort zones, having a tolerance for risk, and a fear of failure that drives relentless pursuit - Jeff reveals how one can tactfully negotiate their way into success while gaining that all-important edge over others.
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Tim Smith 0:06
I Tim's with the Smith group presenting today, our podcast room where we're here to highlight and expose the amazing properties, places, people and stories of Southern California to the world. Today's episode, we have Jeff Moore at one of the prolific sports agencies that transition into ownership. His vision is amazing. Thanks so much for being here.
Jeff Moorad 0:30
Thank you, Tim.
Tim Smith 0:31
So I just want to start with some housekeeping Newport Beach stuff because people that are watching are very clear why Newport Beach? Why Orange County?
Jeff Moorad 0:41
You know, I guess it goes back to college, I dated a gal who lived on bellboy Island. And I used to come down to Newport to see her. And I'm like, Oh, my God, you live on this idyllic island in the Pacific. Are you kidding? And, and I said, you know, if I ever have a chance, that's where I want to be. And so
Tim Smith 1:04
and that was your that was your first time to Orange County was Tabasco Island. Pretty much and you've stayed because all the places you've lived in some different places. I think you lived in big Canyon when you raise your family, right, which is a great golf course gated community. Then you lived on the little island and now you live on like one of the most epic location, little island. Have you ever thought about other areas? Are that just kind of a spot?
Jeff Moorad 1:28
Really? I just think, you know, every time I drive over the bridge, I boil and you know, it's kind of like going on vacation. Yeah, it's like I just feel everything just kind of settles. Yeah. And so it's it's just it's a relaxing place. And I love the feel.
Tim Smith 1:46
It's funny though, when you live in like big Canyon Dover shores above, you don't feel the same. Like you're on vacation vibe. Once you kind of go over pch over the water. It does something to you, right. Something
Jeff Moorad 1:57
about the water? You know, yeah, I say that. People around the world I'll always have, you know, kind of congregated around water. You know, different parts of the world. It's like the biggest cities tend to be on the water. And it's no surprise that people are attracted to Newport Beach because of it.
Tim Smith 2:17
So a couple other things. If you're going to coffee places that you really like lunch spot Coffee Spot Newport Beach, where would it be?
Jeff Moorad 2:25
Well, since I don't drink coffee, oh, there you go. Yeah, look, I'm uh, I'm, uh, this is probably not the right thing to say on a public broadcast, but I'll say it anyway. You know, I'm a I'm a men's grill at Big Canyon guy. Yeah. I basically eat all my meals there when I'm on my own. When my significant other isn't in town. That's where I go and I they know what I like and, and, and I know what I enjoy order in there. So so that's my hang Simon el Cholo guy.
Tim Smith 3:00
Okay. What about date night?
Jeff Moorad 3:04
Date Night, we'll do Elcho or we'll do royal hand on the island. A big fan of of of Cynthia at at the Royal hand. Enjoy that a lot. But, you know, we we venture out a little and sometimes go to Bandera or Gulfstream. Yeah,
Tim Smith 3:24
for sure. Those are always the staples. So in your career in your life, you've traveled a ton. Give me a little context of other places and how you feel about Orange County just living wise.
Jeff Moorad 3:37
Wow, well, yeah, look, I travel a lot these days, as I'm sure we'll discuss, because I tend to track the Formula One calendar around the world. I just got back from Abu Dhabi last week. And you know, this year, I went to nine races. Two of them were in the US, but the rest, you know, globally, and you know, every time I come back, I just like, Oh, my God, like, Why did I leave? Right? It's just, you know, I don't mean to sound like a postcard here. Yeah. But the fact is, it's, you know, it's an idyllic place to live. And I wouldn't trade it for anywhere. Well, the first
Tim Smith 4:19
20 years of my career, I felt like I lost buyers, international national buyers to Miami to New York to LA to Malibu. It seemed to be a little too sleepy here. But with the transition and kind of the paradigm shift of COVID people's hyper focus on safety, lifestyle, climate, I mean, we're seeing buyers from everywhere. Yeah. Which is, which is unique. Like I'm seeing buyers, international buyers are we've always kind of had a West West Coast hub, you know, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, people would have their house on Bebo Island. Now you're seeing people from Wisconsin from New York from Miami. So I think the secret's out. I mean, it's the bittersweet We really are becoming a second home community. It's
Jeff Moorad 5:02
not bittersweet of your soul on home.
Tim Smith 5:03
That's right. It's not bittersweet for me. But maybe for some of the people that don't like, look, I guess we're not really Montana. Right? So, well, let's dive into this, like your story to me. And to the people around me is very inspirational. And I wanted to start a little background before we get there as a child. And we'll get into the ownership and the path. Were there any thoughts? Or did you have any seeds of someday? I want to own a professional sports team?
Jeff Moorad 5:31
I don't think so. I don't think I was smart enough to get there. But, but I was a fan. Grew up in Northern California. Willie Mays was my favorite baseball player. I rooted for the old Oakland Raiders. And, you know, San Francisco 40, Niners back in the day, but but I was really a Giants fan, you know, rooted for the great giants teams. As a kid in the mid 60s. Boy, it sounds like a long time ago. And 70s And, and those were my teams. Yeah. You know, so I was a fan, but I didn't really, you know, extended to to the idea of getting into the business.
Tim Smith 6:16
I think I was probably looking for validation. Because when I was 13 years old, I was supposed to be a Utah Jazz ball boy. And my dad decided that it was time to move to California. And so I begged and pleaded with him, to let me stay. And even to the extent where Thoreau Bailey, one of the Utah Jazz plays, like you can stay with me. And he looked at me for like two seconds, like, Do you think I'm gonna let you live with an NBA basketball player, it's never gonna happen. And we're driving across the 15th, from Utah to California. And I don't think I spoke to him for the first two hours because I was literally like having a temper tantrum. And I think we were in Beaver, Utah. And I said, You know what, like, I can't believe you're ruining my dreams. And something came up where he said, well change your dreams. So I'm like, Alright, I'm gonna do it. And this was February 12 1989. Because I remember I was missing the NBA All Star game. And he said, Okay, what do you mean, I'm like, I'm gonna know that I'm gonna own the Utah Jazz. And he's like, really wanting to do that. And I said, march 20 2027. And I've said that ever since. And the funny thing about that whole thing, you know, Larry H. Miller had an interest, it was never gonna sell, then COVID happened. And then Ryan Smith bought it. So maybe I missed my opportunity. But I was hoping for validation. Because maybe there was a see the plan.
Jeff Moorad 7:31
Well, at least you for the last name right.
Tim Smith 7:33
Yes, and I know him a little bit. So going back to want to start with, you know, went to UCLA, went to Villanova. Which I know that you're a huge fan and you've donated to it since then - how did you get into the sports agency profession?
Jeff Moorad 7:51
Yeah, it was probably, probably a little at UCLA. I remember one day, I made an appointment with the old athletic director, kind of legendary guy named J.D. Morgan. He's the guy that hired John Wooden back in the day. And, you know, I'm an undergrad student at UCLA, and I'm like, I wonder how many undergrads could actually request a meeting with the athletic director? Probably not that many. So I did. And you know, he did the meeting, and he ended up introducing me to a couple of close friends of his.
Tim Smith 8:26
We should take a pause right there. Because it's one of those things where it's like, when you're trying to get wherever you want to go, it probably would seem -- you shouldn't ask the athletic trainer for a meeting, he's probably gonna say no -- did you ever think about that?
Jeff Moorad 8:40
No, I just logiced out that, you know, there can't be that many people that ask him, at least, that are on-campus students.
Tim Smith 8:49
Did you get any pushback?
Jeff Moorad 8:50
Tim Smith 8:51
He just took the meeting?
Jeff Moorad 8:52
Took the meeting.
Tim Smith 8:52
Ha ha that's awesome.
Jeff Moorad 8:53
And so I explained to him that, you know, I was where I was from, and you know, that I was going to graduate in a year or whatever. And, and I said, "Look, I said I'm, I'm interested in sports, and I'm, you know, potentially interested in representing athletes." And he said, "You need to meet my friend, Sam Gilbert." And so I ended up going to see Sam Gilbert, who was this kind of grandfatherly guy at the time, who was known as, in fact, the grand-daddy of UCLA basketball. And he was the guy that took care of all the players back before the NCAA cared, umm, he used to supplythem with cars and, you know, would take care of them. And more importantly, from my perspective, he negotiated their contracts when they went to the NBA. So, you know, he sat there and told stories about how he had negotiated Lewis's first contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Well, I knew he was talking about Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and he talked about negotiating Jamaal Wilkes, although he called them Keith. Keith Wilkes contract with the Golden State Warriors when he was drafted out of UCLA, and I'll never forget this line he had. He said, "You know," he said, "I was meeting with Franklin Mieuli who owned the Warriors at the time and we're at a little Italian restaurant in San Francisco. And he said, "I made sure that a check never came to the table." And I was sitting there at age 21, like wide eyed, right? Wow! Like, how cool would that be? Like, make sure you know that the owner of the team never sees a check. I was like, wow, that is cool. So you know, look, I sat there and listened to stories like that.
Tim Smith 10:48
So going back to that, so, you meet with the athletic director, he introduces you to Sam Gilbert. Sam Gilbert just took a meeting with a 20-year-old.
Jeff Moorad 10:56
Tim Smith 10:56
Just because? I mean, you must have been impressive to the athletic director, or..
Jeff Moorad 11:02
I mean, maybe, but I don't think so.
Tim Smith 11:05
But it's something to be said because kind of like the 'Aladdin factor, if you don't ask for it, you're not gonna get it. Right?
Jeff Moorad 11:10
Well, that's true. That's absolutely true. Yeah, that's a that's a theme of my life, for sure. Which is, you know, look, I mean, you have to be entrepreneurial, in order to create opportunity. I mean, it doesn't just all show up on your doorstep. So, you know, in that sense, I mean, look, I've always looked for, you know, openings, interesting opportunities, and this just happened to be something that, you know, I thought that I might have a passion for. And so I, you know, I said that I was interested in representing players and Sam Gilbert was, you know, good enough to, you know, to kind of at least tell me his stories about UCLA basketball players. And furthermore, made the point that look, the most of the people in the business were bad people. Well, that's interesting, you know, and in my mind, I thought, well, that might mean that there's an opening for people to actually do it the right way.
What what did he mean by bad people?
People that, you know, took advantage of players.
Tim Smith 12:12
Just not looking at their best interest?
Jeff Moorad 12:14
Exactly. Or potentially getting involved in their financial affairs, and, you know, investing money, you know, in bad ways. Or whatever. And so, you know, again, I was just kind of a sponge for information and for philosophies about business at the time, and so I took it all in and, you know, kind of began to craft my own path.
Tim Smith 12:38
At the time, you probably had a lot more options. So it's not like this path was like, "Oh, I met with Sam Gilbert. Now, I want to do this."
Jeff Moorad 12:45
Not really mean, I, you know, I've always been a pretty, you know, singularly focused person. And, you know, when I decided I wanted to do sports, I really didn't look elsewhere. I said, You know what, I'm gonna, I'm gonna figure it out. I don't know exactly how, yeah, you know, I think I'm gonna be able to figure it out.
Tim Smith 13:05
And so did you decide at that time, in that process of meeting with the athletic director, or Sam Gilbert, like, I'm going to do sports?
Jeff Moorad 13:12
Tim Smith 13:13
Yeah, and is that what drove you to go to Villanova Law School or?
Jeff Moorad 13:18
No, so I applied to Villanova kind of on a fluke. A friend of my dad said he had gone to school there and he said, "Look," he said, "You know, they've got a great program. You know, it might be something you consider." And so I threw in a token application, but I really wanted to go to UCLA Law, and UCLA rejected me, I like to say it's because they only take a limited number of their undergrads. I'm not quite sure why, but nonetheless, I got into Villanova. It was the first school that accepted me and I ended up getting accepted by I don't know, four or five others, but, you know, decided that it's probably worth going back and seeing what it looks like. So I flew back to Philadelphia, rode the train - never been on a train in my life. Rode the train from Philadelphia out to the main line, and there's a stop right at Villanova's campus. I'm like, how cool is that, they've got a train that goes there.
Tim Smith 14:20
Yeah, that's awesome.
Jeff Moorad 14:21
So I got off the train. And I walked around the school and I thought, you know what, like, who does this? Right? Like, nobody I knew, yeah, you know, reached out, like, you know, kind of into that uncomfortable a spot, you know, kind of relocate, you know, in a strange place, in a place that I had never been and I thought, you know, the more I thought about it, it just, it appealed to me, because it was something that not everybody considered and, and I always, I guess, have been a proponent of, you know, kind of pushing the comfort zone. And, in that sense, I did, I pushed the comfort zone.
Tim Smith 15:01
So pushing the comfort zone is a theme.
Jeff Moorad 15:04
Tim Smith 15:05
And is that just kind of across the board, family, business, education, whatever, it's just, like, get comfortable being uncomfortable?
Jeff Moorad 15:14
It's like we all, we all have balance, and, you know, we all exhibit it in different ways. For me, you know, I probably, look, I'm a conservative guy. I mean, I'm, you know, I like to go to the same place for lunch every day. You know, when I'm in Newport, or whatever, it's like, you know, I mean, I'll generally make reasonably conservative decisions. However, in some areas of my life, I'm, you know, I have incredible risk tolerance. And, you know, I guess that was exhibited by the choice of law school. Like, why would you go all the way across the country? Look, I spent three years at Villanova answering the question, "Like, why did you come here? You're from California." And you know, I used to have my path lines that I'd say, you know, "Hey, I wanted a change", you know, "Wanted to experience the other side of the country," whatever it was, but, you know, it was it was not uncomfortable to me. I mean, it was like, okay, this is kind of cool. Like, nobody else does this.
Tim Smith 16:20
Where do you think that tolerance for risk came from? Or what drives that?
Jeff Moorad 16:25
You know, I suppose, you know, supportive parents, supportive family, you know, that, they didn't necessarily encourage that way of thinking, if anything, my parents are, you know, my father's passed away, but just saw my mother for Thanksgiving. She's 95. And you know, she's going strong and, you know, I would describe both of them as conservative but, but they were stable, and they were consistent. And I guess they gave me, you know, the confidence to go explore and to pursue, you know, the non-traditional, and so that's what I've done for most of my life.
Tim Smith 17:04
Yeah, it's interesting, because, you know, there's so many entrepreneurial stories, and I love them. And there's just a relationship between reward and risk, what people are willing to take, and I've had so many friends along the way where I've challenged, like, "Get out of your comfort zone. I know it's safe, but you have this ability to do here." And it's just that's not a trait or an attribute that people just have. I don't know. I don't know if it's a learned thing, if it's, if what it is, but it's a really interesting part of part of the theme. So you're at Villanova. You're thinking about the sports career? Any mentors or Villanova? What any segways that kind of drew you into the sports career after that?
Jeff Moorad 17:47
There were a few. I mean, again, probably too detailed, but since you're asking, yeah, I mean, like the, the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers was somebody I met kind of, through a series of relationships and, and so I went and met with them and asked them about, you know, roles in sports. And the guy at the time, who headed up the umpire's union, a guy named Richie Phillips, happen to be a Villanova law grad, and he came back and did a talk fireside chat with a bunch of students. And you know, I was sitting in the front row. And, you know, I was fascinated by, you know, his story. Now, he did it more as a traditional lawyer. I was not as inclined to do that. But rather, you know, liked the theme of, again, doing something different.
Tim Smith 18:49
There's another theme that you got another meeting with - did you say the GM of the Philadelphia 76ers? Was that hard to get?
Jeff Moorad 18:57
I mean, not really, again, in the spirit of there aren't that many people that ask.
Tim Smith 19:03
For sure! It goes back to the Aladdin factor, because I watch people just kind of, by default, take what life gives them. And then it seems like, I mean, at least the way you're telling the story, these three meetings, you know, that we've talked about the athletic director, and then you went to Steve, and then the GM kind of seemed like, easy to get into, but I'm taking it they're not. It was very intentional and even if there was pushback, you probably would have figured out a way to get a meeting with them.
Jeff Moorad 19:29
But there's connectivity with each and it's like, you know, I guess that's, you know, my I've been a you know, my partner in business today is a very successful entrepreneurial investor named Jahm Najafi who lives over in Phoenix, L.A. parttime but Phoenix the rest of the time, and Jahm and I have known each other for 20 years and you know, he always talks about my network. And the fact is, is that network has been something that I always believed was the most valuable part of business. And to this day, I mean, it's, you know, it's like, you know, there's only one degree of separation, you know, between us and anyone in the world. And, you know, it's, you know, at a certain level, it's not that hard to get to anybody. And I guess I..
Well, if you have the self confidence to, to go out and make it happen. The answer is, yeah, that's probably right. I don't think it's unique to me, I think that anybody who has that comfort, you know, or confidence in themselves can go make that happen?
Tim Smith 20:44
Would it be a safe assumption that you believe you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with?
Jeff Moorad 20:55
Average in what way?
Tim Smith 20:57
Well, I mean, it just it's, it's it goes to that kind of law of exposure. And I think there's a lot of people and people listening, it's like, the people you hang out with, or the people you end up becoming. Right? And so if you want to change your situation, a lot of times it's change your network.
Jeff Moorad 21:12
Yeah, I think that's right. No, no, I think as I think about the question, yeah, I think I am, I think I truly am. I mean, I'm, I have a couple of strong peer groups that are members of YPO Young Presidents Organization, and, you know, a group here in Newport, and then a group in San Diego, which I've been part of for 11 years. And between the two, you know, they really are my peers, those two groups. Yeah. And yeah, I'm, I'm the average of probably both groups.
Tim Smith 21:49
Yeah, it's interesting, because YPO, which we'll talk a little bit more, which then becomes WPO Young Presidents Organization. The forum, I think, is such a unique thing. I'm in Alder, which has a forum, and I don't know that I - just the structure of a forum - to be able to be in a place with your peers, a network of people that are same values that can actually be a sounding board and a board of advisors for your life is invaluable. And I and without these organizations, I think it's for anybody. I think anybody needs to - just like you took, you know, the athletic director, and Steve - needs to find mentors and not just make them mentors, make them a board of their life. And it's not a one-way road, it's like, not only are you getting value, you're adding value. And I think one of the things that I've seen as a tremendous blessing in my life is successful people, if you're really interested, they really want to help people along the path. I mean, it's almost as much as anything, right? They want to see you be successful, but they're not going to spend time with you unless they see that you're the right type of person. So we have to be the right type of person.
Jeff Moorad 23:03
Tim Smith 23:04
So going back to Villanova, how did that transition into the starting of your sports agency career? Did you go practice law for a while?
Jeff Moorad 23:12
So I came back to Newport rented a place on Balboa Island, ended up keeping that place for 12 years, even even after I bought my first real estate, a condo up in San Francisco and was living primarily up there. I still kept this rental on Balboa Island, over a garage on Diamond Avenue, and loved it. And I still walk by it and think about it all the time to think about those days. But when I came out to Newport, you know, my father, the conservative side of my father said, you know, I know you want to do the sports stuff, but maybe ought to do regular law first and see if you still want to do it. You know, kind of hoping I'd forget about, you know, moving into sports.. And so I said, "All right," you know, followed dad's advice, went to work for..
Tim Smith 24:07
Well stop there real quick - I guess, I don't know, the path from law to sports agency. I mean, could you have just gone right from law school into like, a sports agency?
Jeff Moorad 24:19
Tim Smith 24:19
Jeff Moorad 24:20
But you know, agencies weren't all that prevalent, at the time. In fact, I always tell people there were probably less than a dozen people in the U.S. at the time - this is early 80's - 83/84 - who were making their living by doing sports full time.
Tim Smith 24:42
Was that just because at the time, the salaries just weren't big enough?
Jeff Moorad 24:46
That was one reason. When I get when I first got involved in the representation business, the average salary in baseball was $300,000.
Tim Smith 24:59
And what was the average fee?
Jeff Moorad 24:59
And the average salary in football was $160,000.
Tim Smith 25:04
And what was the fee that was..
Jeff Moorad 25:06
Average fee was probably three to four percentage.
Tim Smith 25:09
So you're talking I mean, it's, it's no..
Jeff Moorad 25:12
Tim Smith 25:13
On $150,000, you're talking about 5% - $7500?
Jeff Moorad 25:17
A lot less than a successful realtor in Newport Beach. So, so I came back and, and practiced law followed dad's advice and went to work for a local litigation firm. They had a L.A. - actually they're, I guess they were based in LA, but they had a Newport Beach branch office and, you know, got to know, you know, a bunch of young lawyers well, and yeah. I enjoyed that part of it, but really, you know, didn't warm to the practice of law. And so after six months, I'm like, "You know what, I'm not going to bill hours ever again." I'm going to move on and I'm going to do what's in my heart. And so I began representing players. And I did did that through same approach.
Tim Smith 26:07
Okat so there's, there's another crossroads, you're giving up the salary, because I'm assuming if you're going to represent players, you're only getting paid when they do deals. So you gave up the salary of being an attorney, which is another, you know, tolerance for risk.
Jeff Moorad 26:25
I ended up, you know, making $4,500 my first year in the business. Second year, I had a big year, I think I got to $7,500.
Tim Smith 26:36
Get out of here.
Jeff Moorad 26:37
And but I didn't care.
Tim Smith 26:39
So how were you paying the bills?
Jeff Moorad 26:41
Well, that's another story. So I borrowed money from everybody in my life. My dad loaned me $10,000. My cousin, I think I told you this once, who loaned me $6,000, to this day says I should have taken equity. But in fact, you know, within the next year or two, I paid them both back and that allowed me to kind of bridge my my income gap at the time.
Tim Smith 27:15
But it was lean. You were living lean.
Jeff Moorad 27:17
It was lean, oh yeah.
Tim Smith 27:18
How old were you at the time?
Jeff Moorad 27:21
Tim Smith 27:23
single at the time?
Jeff Moorad 27:24
Tim Smith 27:24
Okay, so just you that's a great time.
Jeff Moorad 27:26
I didn't get married until I was 36. So, you know, I was all-in on the career, and that's what I was focused on.
Tim Smith 27:34
So let's talk, so, when you jump from practicing law, like what did that look like? Did you just start - did you team up with somebody?
Jeff Moorad 27:42
Worked out of the Balboa Island apartment, and uh, no, I put together I think probably 20 baseball players. And, you know, some of them ended up..
Tim Smith 27:56
When you say "putting together", you just called them?
Jeff Moorad 27:59
No, it was all kind of networking.
Tim Smith 28:01
Networking. Back to the network.
Jeff Moorad 28:01
Yeah, it was, you know, a friend of a friend if I'd met you at the time, and you had a third cousin once removed to, you know, knew somebody you played for the you know, SC baseball team, I'm like, "Hey, wait a minute. Can you introduce me to your cousin or whatever?" And, the fact is, I just, I networked my way to a bunch of relationships.
Tim Smith 28:03
So there's something - I'm want to stop here - people like, I have this ability to be incredibly persistent. Like, I'll call somebody seven times in a week. But in my mind, my mindset is, I just know, these people are really busy. And I know I'm the best at what I do. And I'm here to serve. And I give them the best chance. So when people are talking about having too much tenacity, or you're being pushy, it just, it was lost on me. And it sounds like it's kind of lost on you, because some might say, like, you had no shame. You're asking for this third cousins introduction, right? It would seem like - but in your mind - what was your mindset in that time?
Jeff Moorad 29:07
I think it was, you know, look, I've always, you know, frankly, had a big heart. And, you know, I help people. In fact, I'm leaving this discussion, and getting on a video call with a law student from the University of Santa Clara. Why? Because I spoke to her class on a zoom. And she happened to be the one that followed up and said, "You know, I really want to do a sports career. Is there any chance you'd get on a call with me?" I said, "Of course." So we scheduled a call.
Tim Smith 29:39
So you're giving back. Not only expecting, you're giving back.
Jeff Moorad 29:43
And I guess I always sensed that, sure, there was some obligation that was created because so many people were good to me at the time. But I also sensed that there was an openness to, you know, people - hey look, some people slam the door in your face..
Tim Smith 29:59
But that didn't bother you?
Jeff Moorad 30:01
No, I mean, if that's what it took to have another dozen, you know, help you, or reach out, like, that's okay.
Tim Smith 30:10
That's very unique though. I think that it still probably doesn't seem unique in your world. But that's very unique in a lot of worlds to be able to do that and have the intention to do it and to take the rejection and continue. But I think the thing I love about what you said is like, the more you give back, it seems like the more you get, right?
Jeff Moorad 30:30
I think that's right.
Tim Smith 30:31
You've been very, like I had you come speak at my forum. And I even told the guys don't reach out to him. He's super busy. And I know that probably all of them did. And I think you've met with a couple of them. So I truly appreciate that.
Jeff Moorad 30:42
I only met with one, I've got two to go. I'll get there. Yeah. Look, it's, again, it was, it was a process of doing. Because I loved what I was doing, it didn't matter how hard it was, didn't matter what the obstacles or hurdles were. You know, I decided I was gonna do sports, and I didn't want to fail. And so, you know, you know, you go to bed every night, you know, thinking about the fear of failure. It's a great motivator.
Tim Smith 31:15
For sure. And 4500 the first year and 10,000 the second year is not..
Jeff Moorad 31:20
Tim Smith 31:21
It's not a real successful start.
Jeff Moorad 31:25
No, but you know, having 20 baseball players that, you know, five of them were first round draft picks, and probably three of them went on to become significant players in the major leagues; players like Will Clark and the Giants and Matt Williams, also the Giants, and other clubs - Chris Gwynn, Tony's younger brother, Cory Schneider, from BYU - a bunch of interesting players who came on board back in those days. John Hoover, who was the star pitcher of the '84 Olympic team in Los Angeles, from Fresno State. You know, those are guys that I created relationships with, you know, early on, and, you know, ended up having career long in their cases and lifelong friendships.
Tim Smith 32:22
Yeah, were there any of the first players or kind of the first deals you negotiated? Where you, like, I mean, there was like a taste and you're like, "This is it" like, "I loved it". Was there a specific story or specific person that in the beginning that just like, "This was it" like, "I know I'm on the path, doesn't matter how hard it gets" because it sounds like you pushed through it.
Jeff Moorad 32:40
So I did a trip to Starkville, Mississippi, it was one of the, truly, they say you're on your last dollar. I think I was actually at that point. In fact, I bought this Eastern Airlines ticket, this plane ticket that allowed as many stops as you wanted to make. But you had to book the whole trip. So I booked like 18 stops around the country. You know...
Tim Smith 33:08
Just going solo, by yourself?
Jeff Moorad 33:10
Yeah, by myself. And you know, I mean, I barely had enough money for a hotel room. So one of the meetings that I had set up during the Olympics in 1984 up at Dodger Stadium, was because - I represented, I think five of the 20 players on that team - and, and I met this young first baseman, who, actually because Mark McGwire was playing first base on the Olympic team got pushed to left field, and his name was Will Clark, and he went to Mississippi State. And so I, you know, got to know Will a little, but I got to know his parents a little better. And sure enough, his dad called out at one point, the following year - he had a year left of school, so he went back and he was actually the college Player of the Year that year - but his dad called me and said, "Listen, our coach up at Mississippi State" or at state, as they called it, "Is doing an interview process for an agent for Will and we'd like to know if you'd like to be part of that group." I said, "Absolutely." You know, I didn't tell him I could barely afford the ticket to get there. And so, I flew, one of the stops that I did on this Eastern Airlines trip was New Orleans, because that's where the parents were. And I thought, "You know what, I'm going to do this different. Everybody else is going to go into Starkville to meet with the coach and the player. I'm going to go see the parents first."
Tim Smith 34:46
Why did you think that?
Jeff Moorad 34:48
Because I just sensed that this was a family guy. This was a guy that's gonna rely on their judgment as well. And and I thought that it was good business.
Tim Smith 34:59
Yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Jeff Moorad 35:00
So I stopped there, had dinner with them. They said, "By the way, do you want to stay at the house?" I'm like, "Sure! That would be awesome!"
You're like, I don't have enough for a hotel room - that'd be great!
So I ended up - I literally slept in Will's bed that night in his bedroom at his parent's home. And then the next day, I flew up to Starkville, the Golden Triangle airport in Mississippi. And I went met with with the coach and it was in October of 2000 - or sorry, not 200 - 1984. And it was, it was actually, it was Halloween. And I, I still recall the coach, a guy named Ron Polk, who was a legendary college coach, you know, greeted me when I got there. And he said, listen, he said, "You're welcome to watch this little series that we're playing, inter-squad game." He said, "By the way, there's another player on the team that would like to meet with you." And he said, "Would you mind meeting with him too?" I said, "No, that'd be great." I said, "What's his name?" He said, "Well, Rafael Palmeiro." I said, you know, "I'd love to coach" I said, "But is there any chance I could do separate meetings because it's kind of hard to talk about, you know, how I want to focus and how I want to support you. And I want to be, you know, more than just an agent. I want to be your friend." If there's two of them in the same room, it's a little tougher. So Coach said, "Nah, you know what, it's, it's not gonna work. This is the only day we're doing this. But why don't you - yeah, it'll be fine - we're gonna meet in my office." So the coach was sitting at his desk, and I had these two players.
Tim Smith 35:14
You had Will and Rafael.
Jeff Moorad 36:38
So I had Will and Rafael sitting in front of me, and at the time, they were projected as the first and second draft picks in the country. And so I'm like, okay, you know, game on.
Tim Smith 37:06
Did you have, like, a presentation? Did you know you're gonna say or were you kind of..
Jeff Moorad 37:10
No, I had a, I mean, I had it down. I kind of knew. Yeah, so Will walked in and he's wearing as his his fatigues, his hunting fatigues, because he's dressed in his Halloween costume. Rafael's a little more conservative, and he didn't play the same, you know, game, if you will. And so the two of them sat there and, so I did my pitch. And I'm like, there's no way this is going to work because, you know, I'm just not as effective talking to both of them at once. Sure enough, the coach had set up this system where, at the end of the interviews, they were interviewing five agents. You know, I'm like Cal Ripken's guy came in, and I'm like, "Oh, my God, I''m never gonna. There's no way." So, you know, I'm like, "Whatever," I'll put my best face on it and see what happens. But at the end of the interview process, the players wrote the name of the agent that they wanted to hire, and because of NCAA rules, which didn't allow them to commit to an agent prior to the expiration of their eligibility, the coach took that piece of paper, didn't even look at it and put it in a sealed envelope, and locked these envelopes in a safe deposit box.
Tim Smith 38:30
Jeff Moorad 38:31
And so and, and the thing, or the thought was that, that, you know, when and if they're drafted, which certainly these guys were going to be drafted, and they were interested in turning professional, he would open up the envelope and you know, then let the agent know, whoever's name it was.
Tim Smith 38:50
But this is months later,.
Jeff Moorad 38:51
Months later. So I literally, this is October '83, or sorry '84, nd they weren't drafted until June the following year. So I knew I had to go build the rest of my draft class. I figured, you know, I'm not getting these guys. Well, turns out about a week before the draft - I got a call from Mr. Clark in New Orleans - and he said..
Tim Smith 39:16
Jeff Moorad 39:17
Wills dead. He said, "Listen", he said, "You know, you probably know your names on that envelope." I'm like, "Mr. Clark, I had no idea." I said, "Is it really?" He said, "Yeah," he said, "Will knew before you even went there." He said, "He watched you around the other players at the Olympics and, you know, last year" and he said, you know, he said, "He'd already made his mind up." But he said, you know, he said, "We, we;re excited to work with you." Will ended up being a career-long client. I had negotiated his contracts for 16 years and yeah, we were, you know, in each other's weddings when we got married.
Tim Smith 39:58
Yeah, that's awesome.
Jeff Moorad 39:59
So anyway, so..
Tim Smith 40:01
But you said something else there that I think goes to, you know, especially to me. As soon as you left that meeting, you were back filling your pipeline. It was just always fill in the pipeline. Right.?Just relentless pursuit, never stop.
Jeff Moorad 40:15
Yeah, no, that's right. I mean, I guess in that sense, I was driven. Driven to, you know, to, again, by the fear of failure. I mean, I, I wanted to make it work. So anyway, I went to..
Tim Smith 40:29
That's an interesting thing real quick I want to say though, because I often like I, there's one of my good friends is like, "I don't know, what drives you. How can you do this day after day? I see you grinding it out." And personally, I think for me, sometimes it goes back to the fear of not having anything, right? And I don't know if it's tied to the fear of failure. But it's like part of this is like, I continue to do it, not just to provide for me to provide for my family, to provide for all the people that are working for me. But there's this thing I have in me, and it sounds like you do, but you have such a calm demeanor, usually that like relentless pursuit comes across, like more aggressive, but it seems like you're just constantly always being driven to do and to fill the pipeline. Is that a safe assumption?
Jeff Moorad 41:15
That's a safe assumption. I mean, it's, yeah look, everybody has their own styles, and you know, it's true, mine's a little lower key. I like to not show my hand. I like to keep my mouth shut and kind of pick my spots, if you will. And so it turns out, I went to the College World Series that year, and in Omaha, and Mississippi State was playing and the draft was occurring during that same week of the World Series. And so I ran into Rafael Palmeiro.
Tim Smith 41:53
And he didn't, at that time, he had not identified you.
Jeff Moorad 41:56
No, I had no idea. So I ran into him. I said - and he ended up slipping in the draft - Will actually went number two in the country, to the Giants, and Rafael slipped to number 25, and he went to the Chicago Cubs. And so the day after the draft, I bumped into him in the hotel lobby. And he said, he said, "Hey!" he said, "I didn't know you were gonna be here." He said, "I assume you're here with Will." I said, "Well, I am." But I said, "You know, obviously, I was looking forward to seeing you." And he said, "Well, you know, your name is on that envelope." I'm like, "It is?" I said, "No, Rafi, I really didn't know that." And he said, "Oh, yeah, you're my guy." He said, "I just didn't want to bother you because obviously, you know, I didn't go that high in the draft." Rafael! This is a guy who went on to hit 500 home runs in the big leagues, like, "Rafi, like, you know, I mean, I'm here if there's anything I can do," he said, "Well, maybe you can help with the contract." He said, "I kind of agreed to terms already." I'm like, "You did?" And I siad, "Okay." I said, "Look", I said, "Yeah, let's at least talk it through." So we ended up, you know, working together for a couple of years. And I'll never forget, he called me, and he and Will were intensely competitive with each other in college - probably an understatement even - but he called me one day and he said, "Jeff", he said, he said, "You know, you're out there in California with Will," he said, "I'm here in Chicago," he said, "I think I'm going to use these local guys in Chicago." And I, I remember, I was, you know, really bummed at the time, but, you know, like, like, what are you gonna do? It's like, in that particular setting, one of the few times that I'd lost a client, that I did lose a client in my career, but you know, that one I almost understood. I was like, I get it dude.
Tim Smith 43:56
Yeah, but it still didn't feel good.
Jeff Moorad 43:58
No, I didn't feel good.
Tim Smith 43:59
It's interesting, because I've had a bunch of conversation with Miek Gray about this, and we continue to have this dialogue. Are we more motivated for the love of winning? Or the fear of losing?
Jeff Moorad 44:14
Tim Smith 44:15
Because it's like when you say that, because I think in my career, I, as much as I remember the wins, the ones I've lost, I mean, I can still feel them like they were yesterday and some of them were a decade ago. And it was like, and I go back and I think and, like, try to dissect what could I have done better? What could I - you know what I mean - and you see those things, but it's an interesting dynamic and psychology, ike, what motivates more? Okay, so those were the first tw..
Jeff Moorad 44:42
I think it's both by the way
Tim Smith 44:43
It is, but I think like Tom Brady, is it, do they hate losing more or they love winning? Which is more motivating? Right?
Jeff Moorad 44:52
That's a great question. So anyway, so look, I ended up, I'm getting a lucky break and I guess, early '85 I got to know a lawyer named Leigh Steinberg.
Tim Smith 45:07
And before we get to Leigh, so when you were doing all this, was it, you were just you at the Balboa Island rental, traveling around, you didn't have like an agency, a group around you. You were just kind of like forging your own path. And is that kind of how it was done back then? Or was there?
Jeff Moorad 45:25
I think so. Yeah, I didn't ask.
Tim Smith 45:27
Yeah. For sure.
Jeff Moorad 45:30
And, yeah, look, I knew that at the end of the day, the relationships were the power in that business. And, you know, it was, you know, look I described..
Tim Smith 45:42
What do you mean, "The relationships were the power?"
Jeff Moorad 45:44
I was having the, having a player, you know, confident enough in who I was right, to be able to say, I'm going to trust you to guide my career.You know, whether it's contracts, whether it's being a mentor, friend, whatever it is, it's like those relationships created the power to be able to succeed.
Tim Smith 46:05
And that goes back to when you said there was a lot of bad people in the business. Maybe they looked at this like a transactional thing. And you're like, "This is a relationship."
Jeff Moorad 46:13
I think that's right.
Tim Smith 46:14
And it's like, if you think this is the seeds to like a great future that you've had. Okay, so you meet Leigh Steinberg.
Jeff Moorad 46:21
So I met Leigh.
Tim Smith 46:23
And was Leigh at the time, was he, I mean, he was a big agent at the time, or was this in the beginning?
Jeff Moorad 46:28
He'd been in the business, for probably since '76, maybe '75 when he represented Steve Bartkowski. It was the first pick in the draft to the Atlanta Falcons that year out at Cal - Leigh had met him at Cal Berkeley and, and had pieced together a really amazing practice that included Warren Moon, who signed the biggest NFL contract of all time, included Steve Young, who would sign the biggest contract of any athlete ever. With the L.A. Express back then, an unheard of $42 million for four years. And again, this is 1984 - a long time ago. So in '85, I bumped into Leigh, actually, through a variety of relationships. I had worked with his longtime girlfriend, who would go on to become his wife, Lucy Semeniuk, who lived right here in Newport was brought up here in Newport. And Lucy introduced me to Leigh and I remember at the time, you know, thinking, "Oh, my God, you know, here's one more guy that he thinks, you know, wants his job". And the fact is, I didn't, I was interested in learning from him, and so we spent a little time together. And at one point, he asked if I'd consider going to work for him. I said, "Leigh, I'm kind of too independent, doing my own thing." Right? I'm broke.. I'm like, I gotta at least play hard to get here.
Tim Smith 48:09
Environment of scarcity, right?
Jeff Moorad 48:13
So I ended up negotiating with him. He offered me a job. I still remember the number. He offered me a job for $36,000, which was more money than I'd made as a lawyer. Yeah. And I'm like, that's interesting. Even my dad says, "You know, maybe ought to consider that Steinberg fella." So, I played a little hard to get. And he told me later, he said, he said, "I'm negotiating with you. And I'm like, How could this guy be negotiating?" He said, "There's no way he could be making any money." Sure enough, he was right. I wasn't.
Tim Smith 48:50
But see, this is a theme I want to get into because the limited transactions I've worked on with you, there's this like, your ability to negotiate is truly outstanding, which I want to talk about. And it like all these little themes that seems so subtle, when you're saying them - you're negotiating against one of the biggest agents, when you probably both know that you're not making any money, and you're saying no to 36,000 to try to get a better deal, right?
Jeff Moorad 49:16
He paid me 42 in the end.
Tim Smith 49:19
But still! That was more than you made in the first year - the difference.
Jeff Moorad 49:23
No, that's right. That's right. And so I went to work with Leigh and we were together for 18 years. We we ended up changing the name of the firm at one point to Steinberg and Moorad, and, we we had the largest NFL practice in the country for all 18 years. Second largest baseball practice - that little practice that I started became the second largest in the country for probably 15 years - and I loved what I did. You know, for me, it was never work. It was always, it was you know, moving chess pieces around the board. It was, you know, just, you know, enjoying the power of those relationships and being able to truly monetize them, not just for the clients, which was most important, you know, they kept 95%. But for us because we were part of a salary escalation wave that occurred in sports where, you know, those average salaries of $160,000 in the NFL, and $300,000, in Major League Baseball, were obviously numbers that were eclipsed dramatically over time.
Tim Smith 50:36
So that's just part of being in the right place at the right time.
Jeff Moorad 50:39
In fact, I'll never forget Leigh said to me early on, he said, he said, "You know, I know you want to do these baseball players," he said, "But you know, they're not making any money and now the football players are," he said, "So you know, you need to help on football." I said, "Look, I love the negotiation work. So I'll do it all day long." And I did. And I was literally, you know, kind of a football lawyer by day and then at night, I would run over to Candlestick, we worked in Berkeley at the time, I'd run over to Candlestick Park, where the Giants were finishing a game, and kind of show up in the parking lot like I'd been there the whole nine innings, and you know, "Hey, Will, Matt" whoever it was, you know, I, I'd see my clients after games. But Leigh used to say to me, he said, he said, "You know what, one day one of those baseball players are gonna make a million dollars. And when that happens," he said, "and they pay us a $50,000 fee" he goes , "I'll sit up and take notes." Sure enough, Will Clark made $1,150,000 one year and it was the first seven figure salary and baseball that was negotiated. And two years later, we ended up making him the highest paid player in baseball.
Tim Smith 51:57
When you said Steve Young, I just thought I read his book, right. And I thought his book was amazing about how he had anxiety, like as an agent, and you're a young guy, probably not a lot older, did you find yourself becoming like another father figure working through their issues? Like was it the relationships were probably a lot more in depth than we're talking about?
Jeff Moorad 52:17
You know, I have always thought of it as more of, kind of a big brother relationship - in those days. Today, of course, I'm older but but back then it's like, you know, Steve was like a younger brother and I, I cared about him in that in that way, too. I mean, I remember, you know, riding in his Jeep Cherokee, which, which I got for him through a car deal I did with a guy named John Irish up in Marin, Marin County. And he got a new Jeep Cherokee every, like three months or something. And I remember riding in one of those Cherokees with him, you know, after games, you know, he, you know, two hours after the game ended, we'd go meet up with a Mormon mafia that was supporting him, and, you know, great friends of his and great people, and we'd go have dinner with them. And I remember riding, you know, in one of those Cherokees one day, I'm like, "Steve, like, what's all this like mail on the dashboard?"He's like, "Oh, yeah," he goes, "it's stuff that comes to the facility." And he said, "I don't have time to read it so I just throw it up there." And so I said, "You want me to look through it?" He ssays, "Yeah, sure." So yeah, I started looking through. I'm like, "Dude, like, here's a paycheck." He's like, "Really?" He goes, "That's - oh I though those got deposited." I go, "You want me to open it?" He's like, "Yeah, go ahead" right? It's like, you know, a check for $80,000 or something. I'm like, I'm like, dude, like, this is a lot of like, wait a minute, here's two more paychecks. He's like, "Seriously?" He goes, "I didn't know I missed all those." I go, "You want me to make sure they get deposited in your bank?" He's like, "Yeah, that'd be great." But, you know, like, that's what it's..
Tim Smith 54:12
Part of its like, full service. Like, you're like, wherever you can help out and add value and grow influence.
Jeff Moorad 54:19
Yeah, that's right. I mean, anyway, it was like, it was a, it was an amazing lifestyle. And it's one that, you know, look, we worked really hard. I mean, you know, as my significant other Penny Lee says, you know, 25/8, and that's what it was. But, you know, what, it didn't seem like we were working, because we loved what we did. And we love that role. And, you know, it had the unique aspect of being public and being, you know, you know, profiled and, you know, we had annual Super Bowl parties that were legendary. And, you know, we, I mean, USA Today used to call our party, you know, 'the best party at the Super Bowl'. It's kind of like what? Seriously? And yeah, so we did, we did fun things. And we really enjoyed that time. And I did, I had a terrific life.
Tim Smith 55:21
So Leigh Steinberg had one of the most, and still does, illustrious sports agent careers in history. But it was really Steinberg and Moorad - was it ever tough in that world because he really was the son. I mean, they made a movie, Jerry Maguire, about him, obviously, so was that tough for that relationship with how much notoriety he got? But again, you guys were partners, you guys had the firm together?
Jeff Moorad 55:46
It's like I've always said people around me have more more trouble with it than I did. I didn't care. I mean, I was more bottom-line driven.
Hey, this is why I get paid. I couldn't care less.
At the end of each year, we were 50/50 partners. You know, we, on December 31st, you know, I generally told Leigh how much money we made and we split it to the penny. And, you know, for me, that was probably more important than the than the public profile side of it. But I ended up getting plenty as a result of just kind of being around. Gosh, the first day I was, that I went to work for Leigh in '85 was April '85 - and I walked into the house that we worked in up in the Berkeley hills - and on Panoramic Way, up above the football stadium, at Cal, and I walked in and Morley Safer from 60 Minutes, was sitting in the living room, doing an interview with Leigh. And so I got in one of the background shots, right, like, here I am at my first day on the job, I'm on 60 Minutes. And believe it or not, he did an incredible profile that was all positive. You know, as opposed to the typical 60 Minutes. They were they were completely positive about Leigh and so that's how I was introduced to the firm. And I never really looked back. I mean, you know, there was a, you know, sure, it's like, you know, like from the outside in, people were like, "Oh, my God, like Lee does all these interviews" and like, that's what he's motivated. I'm like, "It's okay. He also recruit ssome of the best players in the world." And I get to do the negotiation. So I don't care.
So when it came - so when you looked at your part of the job, his part of the job, he brings somebody in, it's just like, "Jeff, you got the negotiations."
Yeah, often. Yeah. I mean, look, he wasn't uninvolved, but I love taking the lead. That's what I enjoyed. And that's why, you know, that's how I built a big part of my reputation.
Tim Smith 57:56
Yeah. And so we're going to this theme of negotiation, is there are a time when you were younger, where you just realized you had an innate ability to negotiate better than other people?
Jeff Moorad 58:08
Not really, but I guess in looking back at it, Tim, I was brought up by a father who was always a negotiator himself, so that he was the head of purchasing for Gallo Winery. Bought everything at the winery, one of the - actually the largest employer in Modesto, my hometown - but worked for the family business, privately held business, largest winery in the world. You know, dominant stats, I mean, they literally own, you know, forget the old jug wine reputation in the early days. You know, the Gallo owns 25% of the domestic wine market, and 10% of the world. So when you think about those numbers, you know, the production that that winery does 365 days a year, they do their own glass, they, you know, their own bottles, and everything that went into that winemaking business with the exception of the fresh grapes, which were bought by Julio himself. Everything else was bought, purchased by my father's department. And so he headed up that department. He taught one of the Gallo sons of Bob Gallo, actually grandson of Julio, taught him how to run that department. And his father, who was the chairman of the winery for years, always said that in his view, the most important part of the business was reducing expenses and that went right to the cost of whatever you were buying. So I learned from my father early on..
Tim Smith 59:51
So did he actually teach you that? Or, like, in parenting more is caught than taught? Or is it just something you picked up?
Jeff Moorad 59:57
I think it's more picked up but it was more, it was, it was that everything's negotiable. So my dad, I used to ,you know, I used to watch him - like all the relatives would ask my dad to sell their cars when they were done with them, or to buy their new ones. Because my dad always knew kind of where the margins were and how to buy things wholesale. And so, you know, I learned that everything was negotiable. Yeah. So that even if there's a sticker..
Tim Smith 1:00:26
It's really not. Everything isn't negotiatble.
Jeff Moorad 1:00:29
You could still offer anything.
Tim Smith 1:00:32
I mean, it's funny though, this comes to like a belief system that's inherent to how you were raised, because not a lot of people share that, that everything's negotiable. They just don't. And you see that in life where people just never are willing to ask or negotiate what they're worth, right? It's like, you get what you negotiate, not what you deserve in life. Right?
Jeff Moorad 1:00:52
I guess it goes back to my same, to that same theme of, you know, 'don't be afraid to ask'.
Tim Smith 1:00:57
Right, the Aladdin factor.
Jeff Moorad 1:00:59
And it's the same concept when it comes to pricing.
Tim Smith 1:01:04
But that's such a unique trait, because it's something that, I mean, I just watch and like, nobody thinks to go and ask the, the athletic director for a meeting. Like why not? Why isn't everybody asking? And you're right, there's probably not very many people asking, but you were the one that asked and then went to Steve, you know what I mean?
Jeff Moorad 1:01:24
It's the same, it's the same skill set, if that's what you want to call it, that whether whether, you know, inherent or learned that, you know, that, in the agent business allows a Will Clark to become the highest paid player in baseball, as a young, you know, probably two years before he should have been if at all. And, it's the same idea of, you know, not asking what the rules are, but rather, you know, focusing on a goal and getting it done, And not being able not being afraid to position or ask - and not necessarily just the most aggressive way - but in a way that's realistic, you know, granted outside the norm, but something that you can, you know, feel good enough and you and that you can develop enough of a case to argue for.
Tim Smith 1:02:24
Yeah, but there's a couple of things, what you just said, there, it's focusing on what you want, and not really worrying about the how, and a lot of people get bogged down in like, there's rules they have to live by. And one of the things that you said, because I've noticed this in my dealings with you is, sometimes I'll think we're done. You're like, "Well, wait a second here. What if we were to do this?" I'm like, I mean, "I guess we could do that. I hadn't really thought about it." It's cliche to say, "think outside the box", but like, I don't think you have a box.
Jeff Moorad 1:02:56
No, I mean, I don't think anyone who is a creative deal maker is constrained by rules. Right. It's more about it is about thinking outside the box, but it's about it's about thinking, you know, how do I say it? You know, within the within the boundaries of fairness, but still outside the lines.
Tim Smith 1:03:20
Yeah. And then the other thing is that you can, you can continue - like that's the thing in negotiations, and I think this is something that is going to theme - you can continue to talk in a respectful way and ask for other things and stress test to see if you can create better terms or a price. And so continuing the dialogue, which even goes back to the theme of the 'Aladdin factor', you're asking for these meetings - where people aren't, people aren't thinking about it - where you're going to continue the dialogue, even though we haven't really finalized or put pen to paper, right? Okay, so you have this unbelievable career with Leigh Steinberg, you guys are signing the biggest quarterbacks, now baseball has come, and at some point, there was a transition, there was, what's - What what happened there?
Jeff Moorad 1:04:12
So we sold three businesses back in 1999 and one of them was our core business.
Tim Smith 1:04:18
Okay. You sold your agency business? Had that been done before?
Jeff Moorad 1:04:25
Yeah. David Falk, who represented Michael Jordan had sold his business for 100 million dollars, earlier, I guess it was earlier that year, maybe the year before. And, and I remember thinking, you know, what, there's no reason why we can't do the same thing. And the fact is, although David dominated basketball, we dominated two other sports. And, you know, the argument was, you know, why not consider, you know, us? So we hired CAA, Creative Artists Agency, to represent us and they opened doors, and we had Chairman level access to multiple public companies who all made bids on our business. And one of them was..
Tim Smith 1:05:14
And this was '99. This is kind of right before we had a blip with the tech stuff, like, this was right before things started to shift economically, right? Yeah, so lucky timing.
Jeff Moorad 1:05:27
We were in luck. We actually sold an internet business that year too, to an early athlete, website business called Athlete Direct. And we sold that business to, to VC Firm's, Sequoia Capital and Red Point, at the time, they were IVP. And we, we sold that business, we sold a marketing business that we had built to a guy named Bob Silliman, who was rolling up radio stations at the time, and he had bought Fox Business.
Tim Smith 1:05:28
Was this kind of your intuition on instigating the sales?
Jeff Moorad 1:05:46
Tim Smith 1:05:50
And what was the reason? Like, why did you have that intuition?
Jeff Moorad 1:06:02
Well, I wasn't smart enough to know anything about the economy. It wasn't that, I got lucky on timing. But the fact is, it was more about having an instinct for value creation. For me, you know, I argued to lead that, you know, there was a reason to take capital gains dollars off the table. And that and that we could sell it, you know, significant multiples. I didn't even know what a traditional business multiple was back. And my pitch was really simple. It's like, it's either nine figures or go home. And everybody looked at me or a lot of people looked at me like...
Tim Smith 1:06:48
But traditional multiples are not really on a service business.
Jeff Moorad 1:06:52
Yeah. Right. Maybe, I don't even know if I knew that. The chairman of Assante, which ended up being the company that bought our core business, you know, at one point, he looked at me, and he said, "You realize that what you're asking for is a 22 1/2 multiple?" I said, "No, actually, I didn't." And he's like, "Well, what do you mean?"
Tim Smith 1:07:13
Did you say, "Do you think that's too low?
Jeff Moorad 1:07:15
I said, I said, "You know what? I mean, honestly, I don't really care how you get there. You can justify it any way you want. Yeah, but we're not gonna do a deal for less.". And so at the end of the day, you know, he made the deal and we, we took a lot of money off the table, and went on to employment contracts, which, you know, for me, people, friends of mine would say, "Oh, my God, like, how are you doing that? You're only getting paid like, you know, a couple $100,000 after all those years of you know, Morrissey." I said, "I sold my business". I said, "I never did this for the money." I did it because I love the work.
Tim Smith 1:07:54
It's totally different than the instinct to build a business to sell it, right? Like, that's like the new model, you build a business to sell. That generally doesn't work.
Jeff Moorad 1:08:04
Well, it can work really well, but it wasn't why we were in the business. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and we found a buyer and, and so we sold the business. So I worked on that employment contract for four and a half year, and, yeah, and look, I did it because I indeed, I loved the work. So it wasn't, it was probably somewhere in the middle part of that four and a half years that I began to think about a second career. And for me, the second career was the idea of getting involved in ownership on the team side. And by the way, I didn't know what sport it would be in, so you know, a local guy, Vinnie Smith, and I looked it looked at buying the the Anaheim Mighty Ducks at the time. And we actually made an offer that Disney countered and years later I ran into Michael Eisner. And, and I said, I said, Yeah, I don't know if you remember, but I met you years ago, when we were bidding on the Ducks. And he said, "Were you the guys that offered us $15 million?" I said, "That was us." And yeah, before you laugh, the fact is, they countered at 40, so it wasn't like we were far, right? But, you know, to his credit, my friend Henry Samueli, outsmarted us - he owned the Arrowhead Pond at the time, and so he made the deal to take the team and and it's worked out great for him. Yeah, but at the time...
Tim Smith 1:09:42
So you were thinking at that time on the employment contract - I want to go into ownership. I want to be...
Jeff Moorad 1:09:49
And sport was irrelevant
Tim Smith 1:09:50
Yeah, but did that seem, like, preposterous in that field? Like had anybody ever gone from the agency side and actually bought? You look at like sports teams, it's always some billionaire that's in another business and is like, "I want to buy this." You're going as an agent into ownership.
Jeff Moorad 1:10:07
Yeah. Well, but there weren't a lot of agents that had sold their business for you know, big moeny. And so, you know, I again, it was all in kind of the, the art of the possible. Yeah. For me, it was like, "Look, why not?" Right? So no, no one ever had. There been a number of agents that had gone into management roles, being general managers or taking other similar roles. For me. I'm like, "No, I'd rather run a club." I didn't care about the sport. Yeah. Again, we almost bought an NHL club. And if I had my life would have been much different. At least that part of my life?
Tim Smith 1:10:54
Was the agency side at some point.. were you evolving past it? Like you were growing at something else? Were you getting tired of that - of the chase, if you will.
Jeff Moorad 1:11:05
It's a fair observation. You know, I got tired of the service business Love the word. Love the guys. But, you know, recruiting new players every year got tiring. Yeah.
Tim Smith 1:11:19
Every year you start at zero.
Jeff Moorad 1:11:21
You know, I used to always, you know, say look, when I could play the Big Brother role. It was a lot of fun. When I was playing the uncle role, I got a little less fun. And pretty soon I was older than the moms and dads. And that point, I'm like, " Eh, do I really want to do this the rest of my life?" And the answer was no, what I wanted to do was play a more significant role as a principal in the sports business.. And so I ended up getting lucky.
Tim Smith 1:11:56
Here we are again - lucky?
Jeff Moorad 1:11:57
Well, I was lucky.
Tim Smith 1:11:58
It's a theme, though. Is it fair to say luck is like a losers excuse for a winners commitment?
Jeff Moorad 1:12:05
You've never said that before, have you?
Tim Smith 1:12:08
But it just fits! It's funny because it's like, in all of these great stories, this is like not a perfect path. It's not like this was a gold path of ownership for you. Right? Like you're bumping along here, and it's like, it really is like, the harder you work, it seems like the luckier you get, right? And maybe luck is kind of the crossroads of like opportunity with somebody that's willing to do what it takes, right?
Jeff Moorad 1:12:33
That's fair. Yeah, that's fair. That's a good description. So a partner of mine, a guy named Joe Lacob, who now owns the Golden State Warriors, he and I, he had become a friend and we actually made a bid together to buy the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns at the same time. They were both controlled by a friend of mine named Jerry Colangelo, and so I had gone to Jerry and asked if he'd consider selling both of them to us, he said, "Yeah, I would." So we ended up actually signing a term sheet to buy the Suns. I still remember the numbers - 385 million.
Tim Smith 1:13:15
What year was this?
Jeff Moorad 1:13:16
This was 2003 and but we also made an offer for the Diamondbacks that was much less bullish. And it's because the Diamondbacks economics at the time, were in much more desperate shape. So we're trying to get a bargain on the Diamondbacks and willing to pay more of a premium on the Suns, which were, you know, an established NBA franchise at the time. Diamondbacks. had won a World Series a couple of years earlier, but since then, had really been challenged economically. So at one point, Jerry came to us and said, "Look, I can, I can sign up a deal on the Suns but my partners at the Diamondbacks have asked if you'll come present to them, you know, kind of your ideas about how you would run the club and how you would proceed." Well, remember I'm still an agent at the time. So I'm sitting in front of this executive board at the..
Tim Smith 1:14:19
Well well wait, so they want you to prepare, like, this is my plan if we were to get it. And does it take you back to like college when you're having to prep for like, "You're like, I don't really know. I mean, sure you know.."
Jeff Moorad 1:14:30
Absolutely. So Joe Lacob up and I flew down - we were we were both in Park City, on vacation. And I remember telling my wife at the time, my wife, who was my wife at the time, I said, "You know what, I'm really sorry, but I've got to fly to Phoenix for the day." And she knew what I was working on so she was supportive. And so I so Joe and I flew down to Phoenix and we went and met with the Diamondback's, you know, board and kind of laid out our, our ideas. And we ended up landing back in Salt Lake and Jerry called, and I remember telling Joe, I said, "You know, Colangelo is calling." He said, "Well, let's see how we did." So I said, "Jerry, well, how'd we do?" And he said, "Well," he said, "You guys did great." He said, "But they decided that they didn't want to sell." I said, "Really?" He said, "Yeah," he said, "Look, I'm still willing to go forward with the Suns transaction, if you'd like to, but, you know, it's your call." And so I said, "Hang on, just second." Put them on hold. I said, "Joe, they're willing to sell Suns, but we're not going to be able to do Diamondbacks." And I said, "What do you think?" And he said, "Look, our whole premise was we could run those clubs together. It'll make more sense. Let's pass." I said, "Okay." I said, "Jerry, I'm sorry, we're not going to be able to do it."
Did you feel the same way? Did you want to pass?
I mean, I suppose I wasn't sophisticated enough on ownership at the time, to know, or even to be disciplined enough to say "No." And by the way, we had both written large checks. And we gave them 12 and a half, 17 and a half million as a deposit. I think I had the smaller end of that, but, but it was still 5 million of my own money that we had given them as a deposit, and given Jerry. And Jerry said, "Okay," he said, "Look, I'll arrange to get the get your checks back to you." I said, "Alright." And, you know, so we walked away. And so, you know, I was, you know, and look at the time, you know, Joe was a was a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins, which was, which still is one of the greatest VC firms in history, up in, in Menlo Park or Palo Alto. And, you know, and I had a day job. So, you know, I went back to my day job, and about six months later, I got a call from the guy who had ended up taking over Jerry's role as the managing partner of the Diamondbacks, and he said, "Listen, I know that you were disappointed when we told you no, but it doesn't mean that we didn't think you had a great plan. And if you're still willing to discuss that, we'd be willing to sit and talk to you about running our cloth" I'm like, "Really?" So the first thing I did is I called Joe Lacob and said, "Dude, like, this is out of the blue. Like, I don't know what to say, I'm not gonna do anything, if this offends you." He's like, Jeff, I'm a partner at Kleiner Perkins." He says, "You know, I'm good. This is your life." He said, "You need to go pursue your dream." And so I said, Okay. So with his blessing, I ended up sitting with Ken Kendrick at the Diamondbacks and we worked out an agreement that allowed me to become a general partner in the club, to acquire ownership as well, which I did over time, and to end to be the CEO of the team.
Tim Smith 1:18:22
Jeff Moorad 1:18:23
That's how I made the transition.
Tim Smith 1:18:24
It's amazing how you go this way, and it comes a totally different way.
Right? So you own the Diamondbacks for a good period of time, and then you guys went on to San Diego. You did the Padres, and we'll, we're gonna fast forward a little bit because I want to get just a little more current. At one point in there. You had a NASCAR team, right?
Jeff Moorad 1:18:46
Well, we were - Yep. While we're in Arizona, a guy who worked for me, who was my Chief Operating Officer at the time named Tom Garfinkel, who now is the CEO and vice chairman of the Miami Dolphins. Tom and I bought a NASCAR team and ran that team for about four and a half years. He came with me over to San Diego and became the club president there. And so, we finally sold it because we had day jobs, and we decided that it was just too much work to fly back and forth to North Carolina every weekend, so we sold the team, but it was a good exposure to motorsports for me.
Tim Smith 1:19:30
You've gone from the agency, owning, two baseball teams, and it's so interesting, because as you talk about all these friends, it's funny how the relationships just keep on coming back, right? Fom a CEO to an investor to this or that. But talk to us about Formula One, right? Because Formula One has become the hottest sport in the world and I'm sure always has been for America, this drive to survive or whatever Formula One is. This was pre drive to survive. How did you guys get connected to McLaren and Formula One?
Jeff Moorad 1:20:03
So I talked a little about John Najafi earlier, John and I formed a, an investment platform called MSP Sports Capital. Moorad Sports Partners was actually the precursor to that, and then when I partnered with John, we changed the name to MSP. And MSP is a business, it's based in New York, and he and I are the principal owners of it. And we really use our sports background, and in John's case, he's a longtime owner, second largest owner of the Phoenix Suns. Vice Chairman of the team, has sat on the NBA Board of Governors for 15 years. And combining our interest in sports investing along with John's long history of successful disciplined investing, we created a platform that focuses on what I call disciplined investing in the sports industry, which when we began, there really weren't many firms. In fact, we were often named on lists of, you know, the eight or 10 firms in the country that focused on sports investing. Today, I think several years later, there's or five years later, there's probably hundreds of firms that are now focused on finding interesting investments in sports, and sports has really become a bit of an asset class in and of itself.
Tim Smith 1:21:35
Again, theme: first-to-market, it seems like you've kind of been a pioneer throughout your whole career. You're pioneering,...
Jeff Moorad 1:21:44
Those are big words. I mean, it's..
Tim Smith 1:21:47
Different type of pioneering.
Jeff Moorad 1:21:49
Again, it's right place, right time. And in the spirit of that, we, we began looking for investments in sports that, you know, that were proprietary that not everybody saw, so that, you know, we didn't participate in processes or auctions, or, you know, we didn't talk to investment, although we talked to investment bankers to get smarter and to learn. We didn't do it to participate in their auction process.
Tim Smith 1:22:19
But you're not actually out prospecting, looking for opportunities. At this point, is the brand bringing in more opportunities?
Jeff Moorad 1:22:27
It's the network.
Tim Smith 1:22:28
Jeff Moorad 1:22:29
The network, both jobs that re bringing opportunities to us. Last year, we looked at 203 deals in sports. All shapes and sizes, globally, you know, some domestic, most out of the country. And, and we beat up all of them. Yeah, we looked at them and you know, of that list, probably 20, were actually interesting. And we drill down on, you know, 10 of those. And we ended up making a couple investments. And several years ago, during the pandemic - front end of the pandemic - we had gotten to know the folks in Bahrain, the sovereign wealth fund from Bahrain, that owns the McLaren Formula One team. And we had told them, you know, probably five years ago, "Look, if there's ever anything that's interesting, or that you would consider in your Formula One investment, we would love to talk to you." Had no idea that anything would come from it.
Tim Smith 1:23:38
Really rare, though, to have opportunities to get into Formula One with the history and the money behind it. Right?
Jeff Moorad 1:23:43
Well, there are only 10 to start with, so and most of them have traditionally been owned by auto manufacturers like Mercedes and Ferrari. You know, Renault and Aston Martin, etc. So, we had no idea whether anything would come of it and at the front end of the pandemic, we got a call from the chairman of McLaren and the CEO, a guy named Zak Brown, who's from L.A. and runs the race team, who we had gotten to know, turns out he's a big baseball fan. So you know, I'd spent a good amount of time with him talking about baseball, big Cardinal fan, he actually named one of his sons Maguirr, which is an interesting fact, and although spells it different, yeah, he makes it clear where the name came from. And, so they called and said, "Look, we've been authorized by our board to find to hire JP Morgan, to go find a strategic partner for the race team. And before we retain JP Morgan, we wanted to know if this was something you'd be interested in. Mostly, we're coming to you because we like you, but we think that sports-centric, U.S. focused ownership could be interesting." And we said, "Look, we're very interested. Tell us the facts." So they gave us the facts. They described why the business needed a bit of a bridge. Couple of 100 million pound bridge.
Tim Smith 1:25:21
And was this as a substitute to JP Morgan? They're like, we want to talk to you before we do the JP Morgan. So you are instead of the JP Morgan.
Jeff Moorad 1:25:29
They were pre-empting their process. We came back 24 hours later, laid out a structure that we said work for us. They said we're willing to do that structure.
Tim Smith 1:25:41
And this is this is the starting of COVID. This is in early 2020. So this is when the world feels like it's falling apart. There's not a lot of people acquiring anything, let alone..
Jeff Moorad 1:25:51
Formula One races were still going on.
Tim Smith 1:25:54
They were but in the Drive to Survive, it seemed like there was a couple that were pushed off.
Jeff Moorad 1:25:58
Oh, there were. Their season was 17 races instead of 23, but nonetheless, they were still racing. So John, and I, you know, did did a good amount of diligence on the business and concluded that it was not unlike a lot of sports teams that we had seen where they were losing money, they were struggling financially, in this case, the business was losing 65 million pounds at that stage, and, and we said, "We think there's a path to profitability here." And so sure enough, we got involved and we closed the deal in December of that year. Of 2020. And now, two years later, the business is profitable.
Tim Smith 1:26:49
It's probably really profitable, right?
Jeff Moorad 1:26:52
It's doing okay. And it's, it's been a it's been a really great path for us. It's been, you know, kind of a combination of everything we knew and sports and business, and, and even in motorsports in my case. And, and we've been able to help support. Zak and his management team.
Tim Smith 1:27:13
I feel like I know him because of the show, like, when you see all the.. The show - when did the show actually get launched?
Jeff Moorad 1:27:19
I think they're - they finished four seasons. Yeah. So they've done...
Tim Smith 1:27:25
But I think the first season was maybe 2019, which aired in 2020. So it's like that couldn't have been? I mean, that's been really big for the sport hasn't it?
Jeff Moorad 1:27:35
Yeah. You know, I tell people all the time Formula One is, yeah, it's so funny, too, because Drive to Survive impacted women and kids, as much as anything. And just yesterday, I was with somebody and he said, he said, "Yeah, you have no idea how much my wife loves Formula One." Right. I said, "I bet it's because the of "Drive to Survive." He's like, "How did you know?" It's because everybody tells me that. And it's because there's something about the show, that look, my gal Penny says it's because these young, handsome drivers are pulling their shirts off. You know, you get to know them as people, you know, aside from the fact that they're young, handsome guy. But, you get to know them, and you go deep into their lives off off the track. And, you know, so you get to know how competitive and how sophisticated that business really is. I mean, like, we have 850 employees in London that worked for McLaren Racing. And, you know, 500 of those are engineers. But the fact is, is that it's an incredibly sophisticated business, where they're, they're chasing milliseconds, right? Yeah. You know, for a half second, a team would give anything for it. Today, thankfully, they have cost caps which restrict the amount of money you can spend on the car build so the big teams can't just outspend you. But the fact is, is that we found a business that we believe in, we love the brand. It's a brand that's going to celebrate 60 years as a race team next year. So it's a longtime business, founded by a guy from New Zealand, Bruce McLaren, who ended up dying prematurely in a car crash. He was a Formula One racer. But his legacy continues and we're now part of it.
Tim Smith 1:29:34
So a few more questions. What's the next career? What's the next 10 years?
Jeff Moorad 1:29:40
You know, I think I'm pretty happy these days doing what I do. I teach, teach at UCLA Anderson. I have 60 MBA students every year that I always swear it's my last year and then I do another, so, I've done that for 11 years now and it's great fun and, you know, I like giving back and I like being involved with, you know, a variety of businesses in sports. We just acquired the X Games from the Walt Disney Company and ESPN, and that's a new challenge for us.
Tim Smith 1:30:14
With the X Games, is it just like, I mean, you just take this as any other new venture, you take your skill set, look where it goes, and you're trying to, obviously looking at the bottom line, but trying to grow the business.
Jeff Moorad 1:30:28
Yeah, at this stage, it's about hiring the right people and letting them do their job. You know, I think it was Tom Garfinkel, from back in my Arizona days, who used to say, "Look, you know, we need to hire best the class talent, give them enough autonomy to do their jobs, hold them accountable to a bottom line, but let them fail and succeed." And so that's really the approach that John and I have too, is we run these businesses, or oversee these businesses, and support the management teams that do great work. Zak has a great management team, our new CEO, for X Games came from Twitch, he's phenomenal. We were watching him and helping him build out his management leadership team. And it's, it's a lot of fun to support.
Tim Smith 1:31:21
Some final questions, any is there a motto or quote that seems to be top of mind or that you've lived by?
Jeff Moorad 1:31:30
It's probably more of a mantra as opposed to a quote. You know, I always believe I'm asked often what's the most important skill in negotiating? And I always, you know, kind of, you know, I tease people, you know, to get them to say the right answer. But the fact is, is that it's listening. And, you know, most people would think that it's advocating or it's somehow being able to enunciate a position or to argue a point of view. And the fact is, is that I believe in business and in life, you know, as well as negotiating, the ability to listen well, is probably the most important skill of all, because if you can really hear, and, you know, forget your own agenda for a moment, and put yourself in the mind, of the person you're dealing with, or doing business with, or trying to, you know, be competitive with in business, if you can listen to what they're really saying, it's amazing what they'll tell you that they don't really intend to tell you. And so for me, it's been, it's really about being a good listener, and so that's, that's what I tell people, I tell young people that all the time. And I encourage them to think about, you know, listening first and speaking second.
Tim Smith 1:32:50
Is there part of that - because I'm a huge proponent of - is there a part of that is understanding and asking the right questions?
Jeff Moorad 1:33:04
Of course, yeah.
Tim Smith 1:33:05
Because it's like the questions elicit right, the right listening. Is there also a part of that - and I have one final question - with the questions, like listening, but elliciting questions, when you're so when you're teaching your MBA class, have you ever done like a mastermind in negotiation? Like, have you ever put like, if there are three or five bullet points of negotiation by Jeff Moorad, what would they be?
Jeff Moorad 1:33:37
You mean terms of what a what a prototype case would look like? I mean, look, it's, it's, it's about assessing the dynamic, it's about, you know, doing the right kind of background research. It's about understanding the dynamic that you're dealing with. It's understanding the climate. Yeah. You know, it's where the person came from, how they think what their history is. And it's understanding what your leverage is, or lack thereof. And by the way, if you have no leverage, that doesn't mean you can't still win a successful negotiation. You just have to be more careful how you present it. And I've always believed that you know, look, you can't lie, you can't, you know, B.S. your way to the result you want. You have to, you have to be straight. You have to be calm, in my case, rarely raised my voice. But I'm stubborn as can be. And at the end of the day, I think if you put all those things together, and do them properly, you can end up with an A+ result.
Tim Smith 1:34:44
I think at some point in the future, I want, I want to unpack that a little more because the negotiation I've experienced with you - and I really do pride myself on being a great negotiator - and in all that, you know, we sell 250 homes a year and now I'm working with some very successful people, anytime I can learn anything, I'm all about it. But the experience I had in the little negotiation we had, just opened my eyes up to a lot of things and it made me realize how much more there is to learn. So I appreciate you being here, this has been a fantastic hour spent with you and I know the listeners will love it. And I look forward to our next time. Thanks so much.
Jeff Moorad 1:35:21
Tim, Great. Thank you very much. It's a pleasure.
Tim Smith 1:35:26
Thanks for listening to RUHM presented by The Smith group. This episode was hosted by Tim Smith and produced by Michelle Akers. Chris Stacey is our studio director, editing by Jake Austin. Special thanks to Pacific Staging and CineNewport.