Inside USD

BMC: Ueberroth Talks Business, Sports

Saturday, June 2, 2012

When you’ve organized one of the most financially successful Olympics in the history of that international spectacle, have been commissioner of Major League Baseball and have been viable throughout your ventures since the early 1960s, it’s certainly wise to ask for this person’s input on the recipe for business success.

Peter Ueberroth (pictured, far right) explained four things he and his investors look for when purchasing a company.

“You need a management team that wants to compete and is diverse in languages and men and women in it; you’ve got to have two (people) at the top; and employees should be able to keep score so they can be in the game, know their tasks and determine if they’ve had good days or not.”

Ueberroth, the former president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee that privately financed the 1984 Summer Olympics and the man who was baseball commissioner from 1984-89, spoke at the May 31 USD Burnham-Moores Center (BMC) for Real Estate’s “Breakfast at the BMC” event.

An USD honorary degree recipient in 1996, Ueberroth now serves as managing director of Contrarian Group, an investment and management company. He’s also owner and co-chairman of the Pebble Beach Company. He was accompanied Thursday by moderator Michael Robb, executive vice president and real estate division leader for Pacific Life and a member of the BMC’s policy advisory board executive committee, to discuss several topics.

Given his international experience through his travel business background and his work with the Olympics, Ueberroth spoke up about the importance of the buzzword, “change” and a need for the United States to step up its efforts in this department.

“Americans have a disease, a virulent disease that we look to the rest of the world, “Wow, China’s changing and look at Europe and how about Africa?” he said. “We’re kind of not changing very much and it’s because we’re blind to our change. Change is right in front of us, we just don’t see it.”

He lamented a growing business mindset in which many ideas have a limited vision for stability and have no place in his business model of thought.

“People plan their exit strategy before they buy the business. That’s nonsense,” he said. “If you don’t care about the business and you don’t want to keep it, why would you buy it? If you want to make money and flip it, it’s insanity in our country. It’s not smart.”

He noted, too, that San Diego, reportedly a top destination for visitors over Memorial Day weekend, is “too pedestrian, a little too sleepy.” Ueberroth feels San Diego needs to do more to promote its international appeal, including a stronger relationship with Mexico.

He spoke on sports-related topics including his praise of the upcoming London Summer Olympics, brief thoughts on San Diego’s U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, “a great spot,” and the importance of Major League Baseball to expand internationally and to maintain affordable ticket prices for families – in his view still the sport’s financial lifeblood of support – so they’re not priced out. He expressed deep fondness for football — known as soccer in the U.S. – and that his ultimate sports dream now would be to see it become the top sport in America.

“If I could wave a magic wand, what I would do is only one thing – I would somehow take the sport that the rest of the world calls football and I would make it number one in our country. If I could do that, I would give up everything, I would throw everything on the pile. … The sport is so terrific. The NFL dominates and college football dominates, takes 70 percent or something of all the economics, but I would put soccer on top because everybody’s kid can play soccer. It’s not a size thing. The best player now is 5-foot-9, an incredible athlete, but the whole body learns to do stuff and you can play it all the time. It’s the dominant sport in the rest of the world.”

To learn more about USD’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate and its academic programs, which are within the School for Business Administration, click here.

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