Transcript: Al Guido, San Francisco Forty-Niners



The transcript from this week’s MIB: Al Guido, San Francisco Forty-Niners is below.

You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunesBloombergOvercast, and Stitcher. Our earlier podcasts can all be found at iTunesStitcherOvercast, and Bloomberg.


This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

BARRY RITHOLTZ, HOST MASTERS IN BUSINESS: This week on the podcast, I have an extra special guest. His name is Al Guido and he is the President of the San Francisco 49ers, and Chief Executive Officer at Elevate Sports Ventures. I only wish we had more time to continue this conversation, this was absolutely fascinating. He has an amazing background both as an athlete and as an executive. He really did some amazing work not only at the Dallas Cowboys but with the San Francisco 49ers helping them to create what is really a unique sports stadium in all of professional sports, the technology that they developed right there in the backyard of Silicon Valley for enjoying sports and enjoying the facility is really there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the country.

Elevate Sports Ventures puts a lot of time and effort into finding new technologies, finding these things, commercializing them and being able to share them with other sports facilities and other teams. It’s really a fascinating conversation. If you are remotely interested in sports, technology, venture capital, you are going to find this to be really intriguing. So with no further ado, my conversation with Al Guido.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you are listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio. Today, I have a special guest, his name is Al Guido, he is the president of the San Francisco 49ers and he has a fascinating career in both sports and business. He was a wide receiver for the powerhouse College of New Jersey, before joining Comcast Spectacor, owned Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, he moved to the Cowboys front office during the building of the AT&T Park, he joined Legends, a well-regarded sports consultancy formed by the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees to help open the new San Francisco 49ers Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers Stadium was named the 2016 sports facility of the year. He was appointed president of the 49ers at the ripe old age of 36, named to the “Sports Business Journal 40 Under 40”, he is also a guest lecturer at Stanford and UC Berkeley, Al Guido, welcome to Bloomberg.


RITHOLTZ: So you had a really fascinating career and your — you know, do you shave? You look…

GARDNER: I do shave.

RITHOLTZ: How old are you now?

GARDNER: I’m 38 right now.

RITHOLTZ: 38, so President of the 49ers, we are going to talk about a few of the project you’re working on that are really quite fascinating, but I have to begin with a really interesting story about you being accidentally blindcopied on an email and you said that was the email that changed your life. Tell us about that.

GARDNER: No problem, I went down to interview with the Dallas Cowboys for a job that was titled at the time, sales manager, I was the vice president sales for the Phoenix Coyotes, I wasn’t sure what the job entitled, I got caught up in the title and the pay and not actually the project which was a mistake. I’m sure we’ve all been there, I didn’t handle the interview real well, I was — I answered the questions right, but, you know, you that sinking gut feeling when you walk out.

RITHOLTZ: No connection.

GARDNER: Right, where your — you know what? I missed that one.

So I get home to Phoenix, I wake up the next morning, I got an email in my inbox, it says “Al was great, polished, certainly knows the job, not sure he has the passion, there’s a family situation back in Phoenix. And so if we don’t hire him, we are going to have to reopen the search” well, obviously I knew I wasn’t supposed to copied on this email.

RITHOLTZ: So this by the way, that reminds me of the curb your enthusiasm accidental text, right? The text by accident, so they blind — they copied you by accident.

GARDNER: Yes, with Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Charlotte Jones, the entire Jones family and you sit and stew for a little while, you’re — first, you are kind of pissed, right? Then you decide, you’re going to write the email, then you delete it and you write again and I just — essentially, I responded and said, “Hey, if you guys don’t hire me, I think it’ll be the worst mistake the Dallas Cowboys ever make in their franchise history.”

RITHOLTZ: And you also were upfront, hey I know it wasn’t supposed be copied on this email…

GARDNER: Yes, yes…

RITHOLTZ: But I’m glad I was.

GARDNER: I think it changed my life, I mean if I wasn’t, who knows? I would’ve done my follow-up call, would’ve sent my thank you cards, all the stuff you do when you are trying to land a job, but for me everyone says “Hey, it took a lot of guts” and I just feel like I had no other choice. And so when 10 minutes later, Jerry calls and says you know, he says “That took a lot of guts” he didn’t use those words but “That took a lot of guts but I respect it and like it, you’re hired.”

RITHOLTZ: Just like that. Wow.

GARDNER: That’s it, that was it.

RITHOLTZ: The accidental email on purpose, I think this is a new NFL strategy, it sounds like something Belichick created, here’s what we’re going to do.

So tell us about what the job was like at the Cowboys? What did you do for them?

GARDNER: Look, well, it was a game changer for me, I mean we went down there to open up a facility called Jerry World at the time, now at AT&T Stadium, no one had ever thought about doing it the way that he was about to go embark, right? Embark on doing.

RITHOLTZ: In terms of the …

GARDNER: Size, scale, the building was being sunk down 50 feet…

RITHOLTZ: Which by the way is an amazing architectural feature someone who has been to a lot of stadiums, you walk in, you’re in the middle of the stadium, it’s not like oh my god, I got to walk up or down 1,000 yards, you are like, it just feels for a giant stadium, it feels so accessible and then those immense screens.

GARDNER: It’s amazing, the screens were the largest in all sports of the time, the trusses were the largest and heaviest in the world…


GARDNER: I mean you could fit the Statue of Liberty inside of Cowboys Stadium.

RITHOLTZ: Standing up.

GARDNER: Standing up. That’s how crazy it was.


GARDNER: And then top of that, what we were doing on the sales and revenue side just to give you context, personal seat license in the NFL had been around for a long time, there’s probably 20 teams now that have them, the largest PSL campaign in NFL history was the Carolina Panthers, they raised about $150 million, with the Dallas Cowboys, we did over $600 million.


GARDNER: And so it just changed sports forever and we did and had a ton of success. From there, we launch Legends. Once we launched…

RITHOLTZ: Legends is the Yankees and the Cowboys…

GARDNER: That’s right.

RITHOLTZ: Basically the two most successful franchises in each of their respective sports.

GARDNER: You got it, Randy Levine and Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones came together, and the Steinbrenner family, they wanted to do Legends as a food and beverage company, so they formed this entity and Goldman Sachs was the third-party…


GARDNER: They formed this entity around food and beverage, that was only vertical that they were interested in. Then they decided, you know what? We can get into the sales industry. We said, hey. We can do the sales consulting stuff…


GARDNER: Because everybody keeps wanting to know how we did this down in Cowboys Stadium so let’s…

RITHOLTZ: Ask and we will tell you.

GARDNER: Right, so instead of giving away free advice so we created Legends, the 49ers were our first client so I moved out to the Bay Area in late 2009, I was on the ground 2010 as a Legends employee, stayed there until 2014 as a legends employee and then the York Family brought me onboard full time to run the team in roughly 2014 right before we opened.

RITHOLTZ: And that is the new.

GARDNER: New Levi Stadium.

RITHOLTZ: In San Francisco?

GARDNER: Yes, New Levi Stadium because…

RITHOLTZ: You come on as Chief Operating Officer, COO…

GARDNER: I come on as Chief Operating Officer, run obviously all the business verticals for both the team and the stadium itself, what happened is when Jerry decided to do the PSL campaign the way he did, it changed sports financing in the NFL forever. Right, if you just go 30,000 foot for a second, most sports stadiums built in the late 90s or early 2000’s were some form of private and public partnerships, right? Tax revenues were going into these.

RITHOLTZ: Which has always been a contentious debate.

GARDNER: Correct, very contentious, and there’s really, honestly there is not a lot of appetite anymore in the world today for taxpayers to pay for a billion-dollar stadium.

RITHOLTZ: Right, you’re a billionaire, you own a team that is worth $3 billion or $4 billion, build your own stadium.

GARDNER: Right, because the economics, and honestly, the economics have changed, right? If you go back to the late 90s and the stadium boom where the Ravens came on board, the Steelers came on board, the Eagles built a new one, they were all roughly $300 million $400 million…


GARDNER: Right. Very different from a financial perspective.

RITHOLTZ: Now, it’s a lot more.

GARDNER: Now you are talking $1.2 billion when we were in Dallas, $ 1.4 in San Francisco, $4.5 billion to $5 billion in LA, I mean the risk portfolio on these projects is dramatically increased and so what wound up happening is how you finance those projects changed.

And that’s why — look, we have the 49ers business, I’m also the CEO of Elevate Sports Ventures which is a sports consulting firm that’s literally built to handle this space because the game has changed relative to how sports franchises view their brand and how they monetize it.

RITHOLTZ: So you played ball in college, you operate as a business person in the industry, you grew up a fan, how do you reconcile those three different roles? Did they ever get confusing in your head?

GARDNER: Well every time I walk into a venue now, it’s a little different than when I was a kid, right? When I was a kid I was looking for where the popcorn was and the soda that my dad would buy me, later in life, good beer and a hotdog. Now I’d probably walk into a venue, I look at the signage, I look at the concession areas, I look at the arena operations, all the content, so it’s changed.

But I still got that fandom in me, there’s no doubt, that’s why I love sports, right? Because it’s the one place where you can sort of get away from your day-to-day life, the emotion and the passion that people have around their sports teams, I still have that day-to-day. I just probably look at venues a little differently.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about venues. You worked with the 49ers to build Levi’s Stadium, these big projects are notorious for being late and over budget, this comes in on time in and practically under budget, how did how did you manage to accomplish this?

GARDNER: An unbelievable visionary in Jed York, got out in front of the stadium design, we had a building that was 99% designed probably two years before we can even put a shovel on the ground which was great for us.

RITHOLTZ: Is that not typical? There’s always last minute changes?


GARDNER: I mean, there is always last-minute changes, I mean we used to joke that we wanted to kick Jerry out of the building — Jerry Jones out of his building for the six months leading up to stadium opening because he was constantly making changes. And by the way, that’s what makes him great, that’s what makes Jed York great, but we had a great construction team.

We were lucky in the tech side because we built Levi’s stadium on three pillars, fan experience, sustainability, and technology. Being inside the Bay Area, we had the world’s greatest technology partners.


GARDNER: Facebook just went IPO, we literally hired the person who built the Facebook infrastructure to build our stadium infrastructure. So we came along in a really good time, you know, the financing world was really good, our team was starting to come along and starting to perform, so a lot of things went well but I got to say a lot of it is I give credit to Jed York and the York Family.

RITHOLTZ: So you come on board as Chief Operating Officer, and then last year, was it last you get promoted to president?

GARDNER: Two years ago, two years ago.

RITHOLTZ: Two years ago. How did your role change? What are your job responsibilities today versus then?

GARDNER: Well, they changed, they didn’t change very much to be honest with you, what I would say is we’ve grown in nature so and you know, when we set out to build Levi’s, what I say is we’re a sports and entertainment company that also plays football, right? Because the building itself, you don’t build a $1.4 billion stadium and only host 10 or 12 games, it makes no sense, right?

RITHOLTZ: 12 if you’re lucky.

GARDNER: That’s right. So we’ve now incubated a technology company. We have — we’ve done 40 investments in the last two years, we have a restaurant concept, we have physical therapy centers that are now 49ers,, we have 49ers fitness gyms that are branded underneath our watch with a gentleman who used to run 24-Hour fitness named Mark Mastrov, so cobranded for the fitness gym. So we’ve taken our vertical, instead of looking at the three pillars of revenue like every team, right? Suite, sponsorship tickets, we of course, we have those, for us, it’s why can’t we take our brand and expand outside of our footprint inside of technology, inside of land development? And so for me my role hasn’t changed much outside of the fact that the company has grown tremendously over the course of the last two years.

RITHOLTZ: So here’s the pushback for that. You have a fan base that lives and dies with how well the team is doing and they are a fairly loyal group because once Montana and Rice retired, you know, I would’ve — that would in the last resort for me for a while but they stuck with the 49ers for a while, do you run the risk of diluting the brand of changing the fan experience because if you go to a game and it’s a close game and they lose, you dejected, but you know it’s still part of the fan experience, if you go to a restaurant and you’re not happy and it’s 49ers logo, or you go to a gym and there’s an issue, you don’t quite have the same control of the fan experience and it — that has to be a legitimate risk is, isn’t it?

GARDNER: It’s a legitimate risk that every stadium arena owner needs to ask themselves if they are designing the building, right? It’s — and I think that’s the pillar and the vision that we look through, right? Or the lens I should say is let’s not do things that take away from the hero feature and the hero feature in my mind is the play on the field, right? If everything else is just additive, meaning if I can get you to in and out of the stadium faster because I use technology, you’d say that’s great, right?


GARDNER: If I can make the building safer because of the mobile ticketing platform and knowing the data, you’d say great. If I could deliver food and beverage to every single seat in the building which has never been done before, we did it Levi’s Stadium, we are the world’s fastest pizza delivery company, we will deliver something to your seat in less than eight minutes.

RITHOLTZ: That is amazing.

GARDNER: So to me it’s, what are the convenient things that you want as a patron inside of a venue that’s going to make you keep coming back and you know what? I can give you those. In not going to take away from what I grew up as a fan loving, right? Don’t change the game on the field or give me too many bells and whistles that distract me when I’m watching the game, I’m watching the game. But in football, as you know, we got a six hour timeframe from the time you leave your house to the time you leave that parking lot, four of those hours are the game window, inside of those four hours, only 28 minutes are live sports.


GARDNER: So are you telling me you are going to be disconnected from the world from the rest of that time? No. Now look NFL is different than baseball, different than the NBA so what I would say is what we built is perfect for Levi’s and the Bay Area, I’m not suggesting that you should just dump it into some other market, I think you got to build for each market.

RITHOLTZ: So how do you measure the success of the organization? It has to be more than just win loss record. It should be.

GARDNER: I mean look, the goals of a football team are the wins you roll every year, that’s not the why or the purpose, right? To me, I measure success obviously by our wins and losses on the field, but in football, it’s a tough business to be in right, 50% of the teams who make the playoffs don’t make it the next year, you know?


GARDNER: Generally speaking, three core things make you a consistent winning football organization, right? Continuity within your front office, your ownership, your GM, your coach, a coach schematically that gives you an X and O’s advantage and we like to think Kyle Shanahan is one of the best in the business on the offensive side of the ledger. And then pretty simple, a franchise quarterback.

And so you know,, if you think about the AFC, there’s been three quarterbacks that have participated in the in sort of its Super Bowl in the AFC side, you got Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger, sprinkle in a couple of Joe Flaccos over the last 17 years.


GARDNER: Right? So this would just tell you what you need.

On the business side, for us, it’s all about fan experience, where we rank in the NFL, obviously revenues are a big component of it because we want to stay competitive with our other partners in the league and we’ve gone from a bottom tier revenue team in the NFL when we were at Candlestick Park which is hard to believe, the five time Superbowl champions being right bottom of the NFL revenue to now being a top revenue team with a massive global footprint that’s arguably second or third in the line of the NFL based of where you are.

RITHOLTZ: There has been so much news about sports over the past few weeks, we have to discuss some of that and we will get to it but I have to talk about the new venture that the 49ers launched with some partners called Elevate Sports Ventures, tell us a little bit about what’s happening with that?

GARDNER: So I’m super excited to announce as part of Elevate Sports Ventures which is a sales and marketing consulting firm working with landmark sports properties, arena, stadiums, we have now brought on Oak View Group and a gentleman by the name of Tim Leiweke who is a titan in this industry. He built AEG, he was the president of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment. Oak View Group for the last two years has been spending time building arenas in the facility management space and they were looking for a partner on the sales and marketing front to run all of their operations.

So today, I’m excited to announce that partnership and to tell people that we will be operating the new NHL Seattle Arena that hopefully is going to come online once we get good news on June 20th.

RITHOLTZ: Waiting to hear a new hockey team coming to Seattle and when that happens, the new stadium gets built with the help of Elevate.

GARDNER: Well, you know what? I’m super excited about it, we didn’t have to build a new stadium, what we’re doing is we are spending about $700 million to renovate Key Arena.

RITHOLTZ: You’re almost building a new stadium.

GARDNER: Yeah and what I would tell people, we are kind of in your backyard, right? So for those listeners who might be a New York sports fan, think about what happened to Madison Square Garden a couple of years ago, right? Where they kept the historic nature of the Garden but they’ve redesigned and reimagined everything for us…

RITHOLTZ: I will begrudgingly admit it’s a significant improvement and I’m one of the people, I’m a long-suffering Knicks fan who want to see them level that dump and put up a new one but I have to admit it’s gotten significantly better.

GARDNER: Well, I would agree and I think if you look at Key Arena in Seattle, right? For all the history around that, for the concerts, I mean you talk about a music venue.


GARDNER: So we hired a populace, Oak View Group is funding the entire project, we are running the sales and marketing on behalf of Todd Leiweke who is now the president of that team, he used to be the Chief Operating Officer of the NFL. So we’re beyond excited to announce that. We’re also bringing on another partner, Live Nation and Ticketmaster, the world’s largest content company and ticketing business. We feel as if we can bring Oak View’s facility management properties and their consulting along with our sales expertise, combined with the content and the technology that Ticketmaster will bring to bear, that we feel like we can work with any sports property across the globe.

RITHOLTZ: So that raises an interesting question, you have Legends out there, this is essentially the same space, how many new stadiums are going to get either built or refurbished? Is there enough business for this sort of company or is it consistently the bottom, let’s call it 70% of teams need help in monetizing what they do.

GARDNER: So it’s — I would say there’s parts of it that are similar to answer your question of whether or not this is a big enough business. $30 billion is being spent or has been spent in building stadium, renovation, designs, development, so I’d tell you, this is a big space.


GARDNER: Sports business is only growing, there’s no question about that. Our key differentiators from what they do, they are a food and beverage company and a sales and marketing consulting firm. OVG is putting capital at risk, they are funding these properties when they go into it.


GARDNER: They are putting the money down, Oak View Group is funded by Tim Leiweke obviously, Irving Azoff used to be the ex-CEO of Live Nation and Dolan, right? The MSG properties.


GARDNER: And then Tim also took on some money from Silverlake, so we’re actually putting capital at risk and then going in and manage it on behalf, we’re not just a fee-based consulting firm which is similar to what would — that’s what Legends does, I have nothing but respect for them I worked for them, they are tremendous people, I think there’s enough to go around in this business, we think we have a vertical and an offering that will reimagine the sports marketing consulting space and I think given just that we’ve been in market 90 days, we now have a client in every single sport.

RITHOLTZ: That’s pretty impressive.

So you’ve answered the question I was going to ask about what do these consultancies do but you hinted at something else I have to talk about. You mentioned the technology in Levi’s Stadium, what you think is going to happen in terms of digital interaction and augmented reality and just the entire fan experience combining technology and enjoying the game?

GARDNER: I think this is the best time to be inside of technology in sports and they’re all sort of coming together at the perfect — it is like a perfect storm, right?

RITHOLTZ: And you guys are really in the sweet spot of that.

GARDNER: Right, and it starts with- let’s just, at the core of it, it starts with safety, if you think unfortunately about the events that are going on in our world today…


GARDNER: The incident in Manchester in that arena a couple of years ago, it’s becoming clear that fans now understand the importance of the digital footprint, the tracking mechanism, right? If you went to an airport, you would’ve never thought before that AI could just give you my airplane ticket and you could go jump on that plane.

RITHOLTZ: That’s how that used to work…

GARDNER: Right, and that’s how — that’s right.

RITHOLTZ: And nobody checked you on your way in.

GARDNER: That’s right, and that’s how it’s worked in stadiums forever.

But that time has to end. So once you take the utility functions of the technology, right, and what I mean is your tickets and your parking, great, but then what you do? Do you even enter with a ticket or you enter with biometrics? When you get inside the stadium, if you are getting VR, right, if you are putting a goggle on, what is your AR? How are you using your AI within your chatbots and your services to e make sure that you can communicate with 70,000 fans?

So to me, this is part of why we created the venture arm and invested in all these technology companies because the game is changing, we thought and I’m sure we’ll talk about gamely, how does that work in venue? How does the mobile footprint, right? How do you — where do each venue, you know, how do you interact with fans given where technology and content is today?

It starts with building the infrastructure which is why to your last question is is there enough business?

All of these people are either building new or renovating to get themselves updated with the current needs of the world.

RITHOLTZ: The news flow has just been nonstop. Have to talk about the Supreme Court decision legalizing state betting on sports. If I’m the NFL, I have to be salivating thinking this is an enormous revenue opportunity.

GARDNER: I think they are two-fold. Everybody understands the revenue opportunity, the concern is the integrity of your game, right? And so what I think the NFL and I know the NFL has stated in Roger Goodell is look, we are going to follow this, the most important thing is the integrity of our game we would like this to come down at a federal — for the federal government to take a perspective on this and not necessarily go state-by-state.

RITHOLTZ: Well I think that ship has sailed given the Supreme Court decision.

GARDNER: It may…

RITHOLTZ: Unless there is congressional legislation.

GARDNER: Correct and it sound like there’s going to be either way, your point is well taken at look, I think it’s here, it’s coming, it’s already coming, and the question becomes you know, Adam Silver is already out there saying he wants 1% of all wages placed on the NBA.

RITHOLTZ: That’s a nice cash flow.

GARDNER: Yes, exactly I don’t know if that’s exactly what’s going to happen but there’s no question our IP is valuable in the NFL, I am a firm believer that gambling and fantasy sports grows our fan base long-term, I don’t think anybody would argue that what fantasy football has done for the NFL, it makes people tune in on the broadcast, makes people you know, follow each individual player, so to me I view this is an unbelievable positive. Down — the next question is how do you roll it out? Right?

Do you go to the English Premier League route where you literally have cash boxes in every single stadium and arena?

RITHOLTZ: And they’re making bets intra game that will they make the penalty kick? Who scores first, it really is an amazing…

GARDNER: Yes, and if you think about football, right? Football outside of horse racing is probably the easiest because can you imagine the amount of profits, the downtimes, the every quarters the kickoffs, the coin flip, right?


GARDNER: Other sports generally probably that happen at a little bit more faster pace, don’t have as many of those, so look trust me as a person that operates, I got a couple of hats, but you know, the San Francisco 49ers business, of course I’m interested and I am tuned in to what is about to happen.

On the integrity side of the sport there’s no question that you have to think about it, right? Match fixing his happened in the world…


GARDNER: And so you know, you have you have to at least understand how this is going to be regulated within your sport and outside of your sport, but I — look, I view it as it’s happening, it’s coming, we need to get ready for it, I think long-term, it’s going to be a positive so that’s my take.

RITHOLTZ: Let me put on my market guy hat and address integrity. So the way you make money fixing sports is having a long shot unexpectedly win and being on the right side of that. Now in Europe where they’ve had sports gambling for a while, when an unseeded player in tennis beats the number six player and it’s a pretty big purse, that immediately generates an investigation.

So and it is — the same thing happens in the market, if there is an unexpected takeover of a company and there were some, gee why was all the stock-option activity three days before this takeover, it’s a red flag, you can actually use gambling as a way to there is a temptation from nefarious people to abuse it but the market can allow you to actually operate to maintain integrity of the game.

GARDNER: Yes, I think you can and the examples you brought up, a scary thing about this, right? A football game might be harder given that one-on-one match, is it’s a fairly easier thing to do but look at the Tim Donaghy situation, right in the NBA? It doesn’t have to be a player, it could be a referee, it could be a replay…


GARDNER: So you know, my thing is you never want that in your sport because I do think that that would ruin people’s perceptions of whether or not it’s a fair game.

RITHOLTZ: Sure. So you mentioned replay, let’s talk a little bit about a basic football question. What the hell is a catch? I remember when I was a kid you caught the ball you maintain control, you hit the ground and you still have control was a catch.

That seems to have gone away?

GARDNER: Look, I’m with you, we finally changed this rule this year, we were all frustrated by this rule inside the league, I mean I you’d sit in the — I would sit in games whether in our venue or other venues and you just like what you said, I mean, when I grew up, I know exactly what I thought a catch was.

RITHOLTZ: You control the ball, that’s it, if it squirted out and hit the ground it’s not a catch.

GARDNER: It had a whole football move, not — what is a football move?

And I think we have gotten to the point right now you catch 2 feet on the ground, that’s it, right?


GARDNER: And you know, this year, the Jesse James thing, it’s Jesse James, right? It extended over the goal line of Pittsburgh…


GARDNER: Obviously, when the ball then hits the ground, it moves, that’s now a touchdown when it wasn’t a catch before.


GARDNER: It’s not making Jerry Jones feel any better that Dez Bryant’s catch in Green Bay is now a catch and wasn’t a catch then. Look, it’s easy for everybody in the audience today, this is where I think technology is both good and bad, right? When you and I were growing up, HD wasn’t there, you couldn’t slow-mo these things down.


GARDNER: It’s a difficult sport, every sports a difficult sport to ref.

RITHOLTZ: But even — you know, even when you slow it down millisecond by millisecond, you actually create this fake thing you have to look at it, all right, so here it is in real time and here it is slow down a little bit, but you get a distorted view point with the super duper slow mos in ultra HD, that’s not the real world, you might as will be looking at, you know, nanoparticles at that point.

GARDNER: Yes, you are sort of paralyzed by all the replays and analysis and everything else and I think you’re right. You can push it too far, right? Where you have all this technology which then allows you to do all these things and slow it down but then it’s paralysis by analysis, so you get to a point where holy smokes it’s still just a game, can’t we just can referee it and look at it…


RITHOLTZ: Did he make the catch or not? It should really not be — there shouldn’t be lawyers involved.

GARDNER: Yes. So I think finally, we’re simplifying it this year, this coming year, the new rule will be intact, I hope that it reduces the amount of discussion because you just don’t want that, right? You want the discussion to be X and Os, should a coach went for it on fourth down, punted, gone for two, that’s what you want when you walk on as a fan, right?


GARDNER: When I walked out of games with my father or my mother, the whole debate was should we have done this? Should we have done that? It wasn’t — shoot, was this a catch or not? Right?


GARDNER: It wasn’t taking the — I never really been thought about the referees at that time unless they threw a flyer on holding or pass interference, right? The subjective calls.


GARDNER: But for the most part you want people leaving talking about the game, not the referees.

RITHOLTZ: So let’s talk about and we caveated this before but I will repeat it, Al is not speaking on behalf of the NFL this is his opinion, so he is not making broad declarations on behalf of the league but as long as I have you here, let me ask you about celebrations in the end zone, okay?

I have always thought that that penalty was sort of weird. You have this unsportsmanlike conduct. If someone’s being a jerk and taunting somebody, you could throw flag at them but somebody has an amazing play in a big game and they score, why not let them celebrate? Dance a little bit? What’s the problem with that?

GARDNER: To me, there should be no problem with it and thankfully the NFL last year allowed back in the touchdown celebrations because look, whether it’s funny, I mean people called us the no fun league, and I think you can become that a little bit and to me, I think it removes that connection from a fan to a player to a team.


GARDNER: And if you look this year, and obviously the Superbowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, not only were the known as a really good team they were probably known as the team that was most together because their celebrations, their touchdown celebrations or interceptions they were doing dances out on the field.

And I go back to our history at the 49ers whether it’s the Deion Sanders dance, the Merton Hanks chicken, and at some level, you remember those moments because of them, right? The Ickey Wood Shuffle?

RITHOLTZ: And the fans love that.

GARDNER: Fans love it, fans what I tell people is and you’re seeing it now how it plays out on content, right? Everybody watches the games but the content that gets the most engagement is when you get behind the mask, right? Or underneath the hood and you learn about these people…


GARDNER: …as human beings, I mean look at Tom Brady’s time, right on the Facebook and how many do people get an in-depth look at how Tom Brady lives his life. We need to do more of that as a franchise, as a league, all leagues do because you want people now want a connection with their teams on a much deeper level than just wins and losses.

RITHOLTZ: That’s right, Brady is what? 53? 54? And he is still in there playing amazingly.

GARDNER: Look, it’s an amazing story, I mean however old he is, I mean he is one of the greatest ever to…

RITHOLTZ: Ever, one of the greatest ever. So the celebration is one thing, that’s an easy question, let’s talk about again more news, the — we just heard about kneeling and the new rules the owners have issued.

I was under the impression that those sort of penalties, if you kneel, you’ll be fined are covered by the contract between the league and the players association, do I not understand that correctly?

GARDNER: No, seemingly what came down there was that the NFL will fine the team, the team will decide to discipline their player on their own.

RITHOLTZ: Now they give the player the option of staying in the locker room during the national anthem instead of kneeling, what happens if a dozen players don’t come out? I mean you are creating a possible, all right now there’s a new scenario here.

GARDNER: You know, it remains to be seen. I would say we at the 49ers, we’ve obviously dealt with this for a long time, right?

RITHOLTZ: Really, why do you say that? Why would it affect you more than anyone else, he said jokingly.

GARDNER: Our former quarterback, I should say, Colin Kaepernick started the movement and look, what I what I would on this, our owner abstained from voting, he is one of the only owners to do so.


GARDNER: I think about it in this way, right? We need to somewhat in this country and in this sport move from protest to progress. Our owner has donated over $10 million the last two years to impact social causes inside the Bay Area, we’ve seen our police and our communities grow deeper level of engagement based off those things, you know do I? Would I kneel for the national anthem? No. Right. But I do believe that there is underlying issues in the world and we as a community at the San Francisco 49ers believe that we should be in those discussions and it’s sort of our job to be a good community partner and steward.

And so we are going to keep working with our players, I can’t speak for what every other team is going to do but for us, we know that our players are not just there for the 16 or 18 or 19 games they play, they are an employee of ours, they are a fabric of our community, their kids go to schools in our area, so for us, it’s find out what they are passionate about, help support them in that cause, help educate and make people aware of the things that are going on in the world and put money back into the community to affect change in a positive way.

RITHOLTZ: We have been speaking to Al Guido. He is the president of the San Francisco 49ers. If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure and stick around for the podcast extras where we keep the tape rolling and continue discussing all things sports, business, and football.

We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions, write to us at You can check out my daily column on, follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz, I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.

Welcome to the podcast. Al, thank you for doing this, I wish we had more time, I know you have a busy schedule this week, let’s just do a quick speed round want to talk to you more about you and not just about sports gambling and Colin Kaepernick, so in the five or so minutes we have left, let’s plough through 10 questions really quickly, are you ready?

GUIDO: Ready.

RITHOLTZ: This will be a speed round. Most important thing people don’t know about your background or about you?

GUIDO: I grew up in a blue-collar family, father was a truck driver, mother’s administrator, unfortunately, I moved 13 times before I was 17 years old, bankrupt two homes.

RITHOLTZ: Interesting.

GUIDO: My parents that did everything they possibly could to give me a good life, and I’m unbelievably fortunate for it.

RITHOLTZ: Tell us about your early mentors.

GARDNER: My father from a work ethic perspective, you know, my mother from a loving perspective, in the business world, and I say I have three, Jim Vanstone taught me this business at the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, Chad Estis with the Dallas Cowboys taught me how to be a leader and build great culture, and Jed York taught me how to be a visionary and an entrepreneur and think outside the box.

RITHOLTZ: What players, business people, sports figures, influenced your approach to thinking about the business?

GARDNER: Wow, player, sports figures?

RITHOLTZ: Or business people.

GARDNER: Business people, I would say a partner of ours who I have come to really love, the CEO of SAP Bill McDermott has become a great friend, I love his sort of corner store deli to the corner office, the way that he runs his organization from a culture management leadership perspective, it’s good to know at that big of a company, the little things still matter most and…

RITHOLTZ: SAP the giant software company.

GARDNER: The giant, yeah because I just think that at his core, it’s all about leadership, vision-wide purpose, to me by far and away, he has been one of my favorites.

RITHOLTZ: That’s interesting.

Tell us about some of your favorite books, what do you read? What do you find interesting? Sports, nonsports, fiction and nonfiction, whatever.

GARDNER: I’m a big, obviously, business book reader, but I’ll tell you my passion is in the Simon Sinek is a tremendous friend, executive coach, his “Start with Why” book for me sort of changed it all and then “Leaders Eat Last” was a tremendous opportunity to learn from the military I think to take military practices and put them in business world, so he’s been an unbelievable mentor.

RITHOLTZ: Both really interesting names.

What do you find most exciting about what’s going on in the world of sports business today?

GUIDO: I think that sports business teams, brands, leagues are branching out into other areas is the most is it to me, you got the NBA doing E-sports, you got the NFL looking into development properties overseas, these brands are becoming global brands, they’re publishers, they’re content creators, they’re storytellers, right? They’re sales and marketers, they’ve — you know, they’re incubators and innovation and technology, it’s not just a sport anymore.

RITHOLTZ: What do you do outside of the office for fun?

GUIDO: I got three little girls at home so my wife would tell me if I do anything outside of take care of my 9, 7, and 5-year-old, that would be too much. I love to play pickup basketball, I’d enjoy a good golf round although I haven’t played in quite a while.

RITHOLTZ: Tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from the experience?

GUIDO: Wow, I went into a job opportunity with the Lakewood Blueclaws, a single A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies and I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I needed to be, I thought it was a layout job for me, I didn’t show up with my A game is what you would call it and I — and from there on out, I made sure that there was never a time where I didn’t show up with my A game.

RITHOLTZ: A recent college graduate comes up to you and says I’m interested in a career — in the business of sports, what sort of advice would you give them?

GUIDO: Grit and perseverance it’s not an easy world to get into, but once you get into it, man, work your tail off because it is the best, in my opinion, it’s the best job vertical you could be in. And the other thing I would say is be a sponge. Learn inside and out how these businesses operate. It is not as simple as a movie theater, don’t just focus on the ticket someone buys, focus on how the — don’t focus on the end result, focus on the how — how the product, how they got there.

RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what is it that you know about the world of sports business today that you wish you knew a couple of years ago when you are beginning? Normally I say 20, 30 years ago but with you I have to say a decade ago when you were first getting involved in this business.

GUIDO: My largest learning curve is to deal with the political specter and I think as a business person, rational thought generally always prevails…


GUIDO: In the politics world, that’s not the same, and so to understand people’s motivations is important, I don’t say that a negative way, I just think that you need to understand in every conversation what’s important to that — to those people and politics and private don’t always align.

RITHOLTZ: Understood. We have been speaking with Al Guido. He is the president of the San Francisco 49ers.

If you enjoyed this conversation, be sure to look up an inch or down an inch on, Apple, iTunes, Overcast, wherever finer podcasts are sold. And you could see any of the other 200 or so such conversations.

We’ve had — we love your comments, feedback, and suggestions, write to us at I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack team that helps put together these podcasts each week, Taylor Riggs is our producer/booker, Medina Parwana is our audio engineer and producer, Michael Batnick is our head of research.

I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.



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