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From Jocks to Stocks: Four Football Types Who Scored Big in Business


Football and finance have always intersected. These personalities found success in both fields.

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As these headlines attest, there is no escaping the intersection of football and finance, even for those of us who wish it weren't so. (Growing up in Scotland, where it is all about the other sort of fútbol, I never quite "got" the gridiron variety. George Will, who claimed it "combines the two worst features of American life: violence interrupted by committee meetings," had it right in my estimation.)

It's a sport that inspired BlackBerry's (NASDAQ:BBRY) longtime moniker, Research In Motion. Founder Mike Lazaridis got the idea in 1984 when happening upon a TV show about football players practicing ballet as the words "Poetry In Motion" popped up to describe the action.

The eagerly awaited upcoming issue of Institutional Investor magazine will play to its pigskin past when unveiling an "All-America Research Team, inclusion in which can add several extra zeroes to the salary of an honored analyst.

And a car rental firm enjoyed enormous success with ads featuring a famous running back. (Actually, as the company in question was Hertz (NYSE:HTZ), which just slid 16.10% in a single session, and said spokesman answered to the name of O.J. Simpson, scratch that one.)

Let us, then, aim for fourth and goal as we examine a quartet of individuals who have scored big in the fields of both business and football.

Anthony Noto

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), the venerable investment house that just joined the Dow Jones Index (INDEXDJX:.DJI), is more readily associated with Ivy League brains than with rough-and-tumble jocks. Yet the company's Anthony Noto is equally adept in either arena, and will be the world's hottest banker in upcoming months as the main man in Twitter's initial public offering. Noto, a perennially top-ranked researcher in those aforementioned Institutional Investor surveys, joined Goldman as an Internet analyst in 1999. (Talk about impeccable timing -- that year not only witnessed the Web boom, but also saw his employer undergo a money-spinning IPO of its own after over a century as a closed shop.) Noto quickly climbed the ranks at the bank, becoming partner in 2004.

He had been no average football player himself, as an All-East and Academic All-American linebacker at West Point, hence it seemed somehow fitting when Noto joined the National Football League as its Chief Financial Officer in early 2008. (Again, he demonstrated an eerily accurate feel for the clock, given the tumultuous time-out Wall Street would take in a matter of months.) Here, he was the go-to guy for collective bargaining agreements, labor finance, and overall strategy.

Ultimately, however, the grass wasn't greener on AstroTurf, and Goldman's prodigal son returned in the autumn of 2010 as global co-head of its Technology, Media, and Telecom Group. With Twitter having selected the "great vampire squid" -- if Matt Taibbi's memorable description hasn't yet jumped the shark -- as its lead underwriter, Noto's own stock is now at an all-time high.

And wouldn't you know it, the microblogging service known for its short messages has just gone long by announcing a lucrative advertising agreement with the NFL. A die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan whose own Twitter account shows just how much he loves sports looks like the perfect person to take it public.

Joe Moglia

Joe Moglia's life could come straight out of Any Given Sunday, Oliver Stone's paean to pigskin. (Save, perhaps, Wall Street's worst ever Sabbath, from which his TD Ameritrade (NYSE:AMTD) emerged remarkably unscathed in what was an annus horribilis for the financial industry.)

The man who once wrote a book called Coach Yourself to Success was the youngest head coach in Delaware high school history before becoming defensive coordinator at Dartmouth. Such was his standing in the sport that the Miami Hurricanes, then national champions, offered him a job in 1983. Instead, Moglia tried out for a training program at Merrill Lynch (NYSE:BAC) where, as he later told USA Today, "There were 26 of us. Twenty-five MBAs from Stanford [and] Harvard and one football coach."

He clearly caught the eye of his new employer, for in 1988, not an easy time to make money with stocks still reeling from the previous year's calamity, Moglia was the firm's top producer on the planet.

At Merrill Lynch, he credited many of the qualities honed on the football field -- among them, organization and rapid-fire decision making -- for his success. I worked at the "Thundering Herd" for a few years of Moglia's tenure there and can attest he was a well-regarded fixed income expert and extremely popular within the brokerage.

Exiting after 17 years of service, latterly as an executive in the bank's private client division, Moglia's next move took him to what was then Ameritrade in early 2001. As CEO, he safely shepherded a struggling upstart outfit through the Internet bust and resultant recession of the early aughts. Under his watch, Ameritrade bought competitor TD Waterhouse for $2.9 billion and -- even amid the Lehman debacle -- the combined firm remained consistently profitable.

Yet the allure of a gridiron return ultimately proved too great to resist. Indeed during his spell in the C-Suite, the coaching hot seat kept calling, with the University at Buffalo sounding Moglia out in 1994. He was even touted as a potential replacement for NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Thus it was that the man who made $21 million in 2008 that opted to become an unpaid assistant at the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2009.

He can currently be found plying his trade in charge of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers of the Big South Conference. Cynics had a field day with Moglia's appointment, calling the hire of a 63-year-old who had been out of the game for decades a cheap publicity stunt. There were plenty of potholes along the way -- a 55-14 shellacking at the hands of Appalachian State last October comes to mind -- yet the doubters were duly won over. His team has had a stellar start to this season. Meanwhile, Moglia evidently also left his alma mater in excellent shape; TD Ameritrade shares are up about 70% this year, easily outperforming the S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX).

Mitch Marrow

Mitch Marrow, much like Noto, marries brains and brawn. He lettered in high school before playing both baseball and football at the University of Pennsylvania, winning All-Ivy League honors while there. A late growth spurt -- Marrow shot up some five inches in the middle of his sophomore year -- soon saw pigskin prevail; in 1998, he became an unusually high NFL draft pick from an institution far better known for its academics. By all accounts, Marrow made a fine first impression as defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, but his dreams died in training camp after rupturing a spinal disk.

After trying his hand at acting, where Peter Fonda's instructor saw enough potential to take him on, this history student wound up on Wall Street. (Liberal arts graduates hoping to make a few extra bucks, have heart. A remarkable number of notable names in this data-intensive industry, not least of which is Meredith Whitney, majored in the subject.)

Marrow's first finance job was at the international desk of UBS Warburg, and after that, he join New York hedge fund Brahman Capital. In a recent interview, he explained to me that his football experience instilled an "authentic belief in my ability to get to the 'end zone,'" so to speak, in subsequent career moves. The opportunity to "look at, study, and learn from the best people in his position" -- be it college or the pros -- proved to be invaluable.

In 2011, Marrow left Wall Street to embark upon another adventure, this time embracing entrepreneurship. As regular Minyanville readers well know, Fido and Fluffy are big business in America. An avid dog owner, Marrow felt that there was enormous untapped potential in the burgeoning "humanization of pets" theme. "I saw opportunity and a massive unmet need in [an industry] dominated by sole proprietors, mom and pop operations, and legions of unlicensed dog walkers," he told me.

Marrow yearned to bring a level of professionalism to this largely unregimented space, and he conceived of a holistic "soup-to-nuts" approach, complete with Web cams to keep an eye on canines, and dog behavior experts dispensing advice. Thus was born The Spot Experience, a doggie daycare business he founded and presides over, and one that has been featured by both CNBC and the Wall Street Journal. The company provides pet amenities in luxury New York buildings -- and it is now turning its eyes to the skies. It recently partnered with United Air Lines (NYSE:UAL) to provide pet travel out of Newark and O'Hare airports. Dr. Walter Woolf, the delightfully named noted animal travel authority, has recently come aboard to provide veterinary counsel.

For someone who started out in pigskin, Marrow is now profitably going to the dogs.

Steve Young

We'll end with a man who needs no introduction. Steve Young had the apparently impossible task of trying to replace legendary quarterback Joe Montana for the San Francisco 49ers. Yet his own storied career would encompass numerous Super Bowl rings in an odyssey that ended in the Hall of Fame.

Young, aged prematurely by concussions, hung up his cleats in 1999. As with Anthony Noto, the timing was fortuitous. Being a Bay Area icon, with untold riches and ample time on his hands as the Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) rode the dot-com boom to the best year in its history, wasn't a bad thing. His Palm Pilot soon swelled with contacts such as Frank Quattrone, Silicon Valley's banker to the stars.

Early business forays included investments in Bain and a stint on the board of Ethernet pioneer Foundry Networks, before helping to establish both Northgate Capital and Sorenson Capital. Young's current day job is managing director of private equity outfit HGGC, previously known as Huntsman Gay Global Capital, which he co-founded in 2007. As befits its Palo Alto-area origins, the firm is a tech expert, and counts MyWebGrocer as a recent purchase. Giant Golden State pension fund CalPERS is HBBG's biggest bank-roller. Clearly, this ex-quarterback's arms can reach some pretty deep pockets.

Disclosure: Minyanville Studios, a division of Minyanville Media, has a business relationship with BlackBerry. Minyanville also has a business relationship with TD Ameritrade.
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