2016

Stories related to "Sports".

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On the Ball

David Han, ’02, CEO and cofounder of Yao Capital, long dreamed of starting his own private equity shop. It’s unlikely, however, that he initially envisioned that that venture would pair him with NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Yao Ming, one of the tallest men ever to play in the National Basketball Association. Yet in January 2016—along with close Booth friend and Yao Ming’s longtime business partner, Erik Zhang—Han cofounded Yao Capital with the renowned Chinese sports icon. Their firm focuses on investments in the sports industry in China and around the globe. Considering that Yao is seven feet six and Han more the height of a point guard, the two men would be quite a mismatch in a game of one-on-one hoops. When it comes to investing, they just might be the ideal teammates.<br/><br/>Promising early Yao Capital deals involving the world’s leading kickboxing league, a booming North American sports nutrition company, and a fast-growing auto-racing championship featuring 140-miles-per-hour electric cars have put a smile on Han’s face. “We’ve made very good investments in the early stages, in and out of China,” he said, sitting in a sunny conference room of Yao Capital’s 10th-floor offices in central Shanghai. “We’re in the right time and the right place. And so far, it’s on the right track.

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Class, Behave!

In 2017, Chicago Booth professor Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Thaler’s students describe him as “a luminary,” “a guru”—someone who changed their lives and set their careers on a trajectory to success. So it might be surprising to hear that those superlatives contrast amusingly with the way Thaler’s close friends and admirers—and even Thaler himself—have described the newly minted Nobel laureate: “We didn’t expect much of him,” said Sherwin Rosen, AM ’62, PhD ’66 (Economics), his thesis advisor at the University of Rochester. Daniel Kahneman, the 2002 Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences and one of Thaler’s closest friends, described Thaler as “lazy.” Early on in Thaler’s career, his fellow Booth professor and future golf buddy Eugene Fama once quipped, “His work is interesting, but there’s nothing there.” Thaler’s own self-assessment is hardly more glowing. He considers himself “at best, an average economist.” How did an “average economist” change the field of economics, gain a worldwide reputation, and influence public and corporate policies for millions of people—and win the Nobel Prize? It turns out that Thaler’s ability to spot anomalies, tell stories, and share credit for his successes have made him not only a great researcher, but also a great teacher.<br/>

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Field Position

One morning last fall, before the San Francisco 49ers began their second season in a glitzy new $1.3 billion stadium, Moon Javaid, ’12, manager of business operations for the team, took a hard look at concessions. Sure, this is football. Concession sales were going to be strong. But, he asked, could they be stronger? Javaid, with his background in advanced analytics, turned to hard data for the answer. He scoured sales figures from past seasons. This led him to institute one minor but crucial change to the design of the concession stands: he redirected the queues so that they snake around stanchions, like an airport security line, at 75 points around the stadium. By the midpoint of the season, the move had increased sales by one extra transaction per line per minute since—amounting to an extra $20,000 per game, or $200,000 over the course of each season’s home games, including the preseason. It might sound like loose change—beer money—for a franchise that collected $427 million in revenue in 2014, the first season in Levi’s Stadium, in the heart of the fans and fortunes of Silicon Valley. Javaid, however, understands that the small improvements add up, and his is a top-five revenue-producing team. “In the NFL, it’s not tremendously difficult to make money,” he said. “You can do B+ work by not really doing much, and you can still be profitable. But in order to get to the next level, you need to find those little wins.”<br/><br/>

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Fan Favorite

Is it gambling? Is it skill? Or perhaps the bigger question about daily fantasy sports, FBI investigation notwithstanding: Could the NFL actually learn something from the avid at-home data analysts winning big at DFS? Vince Gennaro, ’77, president of the Society for American Baseball Research, thinks so. He credits some of the current DFS boom to the popularity of the fantasy baseball played on a less-than-daily basis in the 1990s. Fans intent on winning their fantasy leagues ushered in a mainstream interest in advanced metrics. This appetite spawned a generation of websites devoted to analytics. And MLB teams actually wound up using data from those sites to support real-world decisions. “If the data is out there and in the public domain,” Gennaro said, “teams will absolutely learn from the fantasy players. But that also depends on the sport.”

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In It for the Long Run

Hong Kong is famous for its glinting skyscrapers, many designed by the world’s most famous architects, and its collection of luxury retailers and five-star hotels. Yet there is another side to the city—a huge network of trails forged through the lush tropical landscape, where palm-sized orb weavers spin webs across the paths, deadly pit vipers and cobras slither, and monkeys, feral dogs, and wild buffalo roam. Perhaps it is a testament to the intensity of navigating Hong Kong’s busy and hyper competitive financial sector that ducking under spider webs and hopping over snakes can seem relaxing in comparison.