Meet the former investment banker who’s showing young athletes like Joe Burrow and Trae Young how to grow their wealth

  • Former investment banker Mark Patricof advises more than 230 high-profile athletes.
  • Athletes have backed about half of the firm’s roughly $140 million in investments since 2018.
  • He works with some of the youngest and highest-paid stars in sports, including Joe Burrow and Trae Young.

Mark Patricof isn’t looking for hall-of-famers with deep pockets when he partners with athletes to invest in companies like SpaceX and TopGolf. He’s looking for 22-year-old first-round draft picks.

“That’s sort of the sweet spot for us,” Patricof explained to Insider.

The former investment banker understands that today’s superstars have the potential to earn hundreds of millions of dollars more than their forefathers. Everything in sports is more expensive — salary agreements, media rights deals, and brand partnerships — and some of that money is going directly into the pockets of young athletes.

“It’s just a different scale of business,” Patricof explained. “I’d rather work with, advise, and invest in someone who is 20 years old and has $300 or $400 million in earnings ahead of them than someone who is 38 years old and has made $100 million and has very little money left to earn in their career.”

Patricof Co. was founded in 2018 by him. So far, the firm has invested approximately $140 million. Athlete clients have contributed roughly half of each $10 million to $20 million deal. The remainder is contributed by top-tier funds, company partners, a group of family offices and high-net-worth individuals, and Patricof himself.

Patricof has over 230 athlete clients, including NBA legends Dwyane Wade, Aaron Rodgers, and Venus Williams. However, he claims that roughly two-thirds of his clients are under the age of 30. He’s brought in stars such as 24-year-old point guard Trae Young and 26-year-old quarterback Joe Burrow.

“Burrow’s incredible,” said Patricof. “He can compartmentalize enough to know that there are things he should be doing with the right advisor, but it’s not 24/7 football.” He has a great wealth advisor and a really good family unit, which allows him to think things through.”

Cade Cunningham, 21; Corbin Carroll, Walker Kessler, and Kyle Hamilton, 22; and Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, and Jaelan Phillips, 24; are among his other young clients. A first-round draft pick, an MLB all-star, NFL Pro Bowl players, the league’s offensive player of the year, and an NBA rookie of the year finalist are among those who have given Patricof a portion of their lucrative earnings.

According to the company, three of its 23 investments have been exited, including one in Cholula that yielded a 3x return. Patricof Co. has made investments in food and beverage, travel, and even farmland, with a focus on late-stage growth companies and buyouts.

Working with younger athletes, according to Patricof, makes sense for brands looking for long-term deals with relevant and successful players. Because of his younger clientele, he believes his firm has more room to invest in those companies.

Patricof’s advice for rising stars, with more money than young athletes have ever had before

Patricof works with a few college athletes through a no-investment program, encouraging them to become more involved with the companies than simply promoting them. He hopes that in the next five years, this segment of the business will grow to account for half of the client base, by signing athletes who will stay with the firm long after he retires. As they approach the pinnacle of their fortune and fame, young athletes should begin investing and planning ahead, according to him.

“It’s difficult to learn at 22 that your relevance will probably be at a lifetime high in the next three or four years of your life,” he said. “And you’ve got to figure out how to capitalize on that in a variety of ways, including educating yourself about what you might want to do after you’ve finished playing.”

Patricof occasionally addresses entire NFL teams, encouraging them to consider life after football. When the firm asks athletes who they admire the most, Warren Buffett is one of the most common responses. He reminds athletes that Buffett did not become wealthy or famous until he was in his 50s, and they already have an advantage.

“You can build on the fact that you’ve been incredibly focused and disciplined and worked very, very hard and made sacrifices in your 20s,” Patricof advises athletes. “If you can do it in your twenties, you can definitely do it in your thirties, forties, and fifties.”

Professional athletes today have more options than their predecessors to maintain success and wealth after they retire, according to Patricof. He already said he’s advising a current NFL quarterback on his business school applications.

“It’s going to be great to look back and see what this generation of athletes has accomplished,” Patricof said. “These guys have a huge advantage, and if they recognize that and are serious about it, imagine what they could accomplish.”

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