One-time sports agent wunderkind Gary Woolf and corporate development guru Jeff Bone join Beautiful Game Group as partners. “I wanted to supplement our sports operations knowledge with in-house expertise in M&A deal structuring, strategic development and execution, as well as some dedicated investment banking experience,” Dr. Oliver Finlay, president of Beautiful Game Group, said in an email.
Woolf is an investment banker with Charleston, S.C.-based Charles Towne Holdings, which specializes in sports, media, real estate and debt financing. His name may be familiar to longtime sports followers because he also led Bob Woolf Associates, the sports representation firm founded by his father. Gary was 18 when he negotiated his first contract on behalf of an athlete, and by the age of 20 he had closed deals for NBA, MLB and NFL players. Until it was sold in 1996, Bob Woolf Associates was the agency of choice for Boston sports stars, including Larry Bird, Doug Flutie and Carl Yastrzemski. “He understands both worlds [of sports and finance] and helps us bridge the gap between institutional investors and sports executives,” said Finlay.
Bone is a well-respected expert in advising and developing companies, from forming execution and strategy for early stage ventures to reviving Fortune 500 firms. He is a partner in Boston consulting firm Concinnity LLC and also has recently served as strategic advisor to ZS Genetics, a DNA sequencing researcher, non-profit education tech firm 13th Avenue Funding and Ayre Lighting Group, a commercial lighting company. In particular, Bone will assist Beautiful Game Group in enhancing brand values, according to Finlay.
The two executives join the already diverse Beautiful Game Group partnership. In addition to Finlay, a longtime sports performance director for NHL and Premier League teams, partners include one-time Buffalo Bills GM and XFL executive Doug Whaley, former CFL player and investment banker Marco Iannuzzi, former assistant GM of the Grizzlies and NBA player representative Noah Croom and Daniel Harris-Gorelov, a compliance and ethics expert previously at professional services firm March & McLennan.
To its board of advisors, Beautiful Game Group has added Oliver Luck, who was XFL commissioner until the league was closed and sold because of the pandemic. Luck’s football experience also includes playing quarterback in the NFL and CFL and serving as a World League general manager in Germany. He also has been West Virginia University’s athletic director and head of the Houston Sports Authority, a municipal body in Texas.
Susan Brooke, a former executive at TD Bank and a consultant for Deloitte, Bain and KPMG, also joins the board of advisors. She has experience in business strategy and organizational structural development. “Susan has already been influential in outlining our due diligence process as well as our early stage diagnostic procedures post-acquisition,” Finlay said.
Rounding out the new additions to the advisory board is Ashley Evert, team manager and performance analyst for the South African Rugby Union. In addition to obvious expertise in match analysis for rugby, a sport in which Beautiful Game Group has expressed an investing interest, Evert also adds experience in soccer and esports.
Beautiful Game Group is one of a series of recently formed private equity groups looking to invest in sports team ownership. In addition to being willing to take passive, limited partner stakes in major franchises worldwide, the partners also seek to invest in developing sports and leagues. As part of its strategy, the company says it wants to provide more active management based on ESG principles, which can cut operating costs and add value over time.