Thursday, August 16, 2012
Businessman Grousbeck a fan at heart
By Greg Payne
At age 36, Kevin Garnett might be growing old by NBA standards, but his reputation for being one of the liveliest, most energetic players in the league should only grow after Celtics co-owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck said in an appearance on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that KG is driven by a "nuclear reactor."
Grousbeck made the playful comment in a television interview on Wednesday focused on the business side of the NBA and professional sports, but he managed to sneak in the anecdote when asked about Garnett's seemingly endless enthusiasm.
"The funny thing about KG is that there's really no story, because it's a 24/7, like a continuous loop," Grousbeck said. "You couldn't even break it up into stories. You'll be on the team plane at 3 or 4 in the morning and you'll hear this noise, non-stop, and it's someone talking at the top of his voice, and it's KG. From the moment you take off to the moment you land, at whatever hour of the day, he's talking to rookies, he's telling stories, he's just non-stop. There's some sort of nuclear reactor inside him that never quits."
Boston Celtics co-owners Wyc Grousbeck (left) and Stephen Pagliuca chat last June during an NBA basketball draft party at the Boston Garden.
Grousbeck also touched on C's point guard Rajon Rondo, last season's NBA assists leader, noting that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had Rondo pegged as a Celtic during his high school days.
"We're lucky to have Danny Ainge here, and Ryan McDonough was an early scout who saw Rondo, and Danny and Ryan saw him at Oak Hill Academy in high school, and basically Danny said at that point he was going to be the starting point guard of the Celtics three or four years later and that's what happened," Grousbeck explained. "Danny had his eye on him very, very early, and that's a competitive advantage we have, having Danny Ainge as president of basketball."
As for the business side of the sport, Grousbeck fielded questions related to the value of professional sports teams, the interest that private equity firms hold in them, and whether owning a team is more of an investment or a hobby.
"I bought the team with my partners for reasons other than business," said Grousbeck. "I'd have to say it's because we love Boston, we love the Celtics, and we love the chance to take on a great challenge of trying to win a championship. But, underneath that, there is a real business, and it's more than doubled since we came in. Everything's gone well. Not every single year, but things have gone so well. It's the only hobby I've ever had or the only toy I've ever had that turned out to be a great investment.
"But we're here for other reasons, and that's probably why we enjoy it so much. The wins are great. Even the losses remind you that you're human and that the wins are special. It's so much fun and such a challenge that it probably is a good business because it's so interesting to people. You don't know what's going to happen."
Similarly, Grousbeck talked about finding a balance between genuinely caring about a team while still adhering to the business side of the equation.
"I think the best ownership -- my partners are examples -- are local people who love their teams and care enough to go over and above to try and put the best team on the court," Grousbeck said. "So if you lose that connection with really caring about the team, you're going to lose something in your investment. If you can do them both at the same time -- if you can love the team and run it well -- then things can really work out."
Ownership was at the heart of last summer's labor issues that resulted in a lockout-shortened season, and despite rumors of him being one of the owners willing to lose the full season at one point, Grousbeck said Wednesday that he was part of the group that campaigned for a new deal to get done.
"[Losing the whole season] did almost happen, I think that's fair to say. I was part of those negotiations, part of the group in December that really got together and said, 'Let's settle this thing,' and so I'm really proud of that, to be honest," said Grousbeck. "I'm glad we settled it. I'm glad the players are happy. I'm glad the owners are happy. If we stick together here we've got a great thing going. We managed to settle it in December, but definitely during negotiations there were times when it wasn't clear when my summer vacation was going to start. It might have been starting in January."
With a new collective bargaining agreement in place and a full season set to be played in just a few months, Grousbeck said the NBA can get back to thriving, possibly entering a state of popularity reminiscent of the success of the league in the 1980s and 1990s.
"We're maybe entering a new golden age of the NBA right now with these stars and the media interest in these teams," Grousbeck said. "The fact that the fan support and attendance and media revenues and a new labor deal, and everything -- I mean, things are going great in the NBA right now. It's not the '80s, we aren't the Dream Team of the '90s, but it's going pretty well. We're really happy to be a part of it."