Minor in sports business comes to Washington University in a major way

NBA owner Lacob provides gift for sports management program at Olin Business School

Joseph S. Lacob (left), co-executive chairman and CEO of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, visits with students at an event in Knight Hall celebrating the new minor in the business of sports at Olin Business School. Lacob is helping launch the program with a $1 million gift. (Credit: Sid Hastings/WUSTL Photos)

The business of sports, said Joseph S. Lacob, co-executive chairman and CEO of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, isn’t just fun and games.

“Owning a team is very different from a generation ago,” Lacob said. “It will take a new kind of executive to be successful in the future, and those who receive a good foundational business background, like the one we are starting at Washington University in St. Louis, will have such an advantage over the average graduate.”

Lacob made the remarks Oct. 13 as part of the inaugural address for the Joseph S. Lacob Business of Sports Speaker Series and to introduce the new bachelor’s degree in business administration minor in the business of sports at Olin Business School, a program he is helping launch with a $1 million gift.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be associated with a unique program at Washington University that I hope will have a lasting impact and, most importantly, contribute to our next generation of great sports executives,” said Lacob, the father of Kent Lacob, a senior in Arts & Sciences and a captain of the Bears basketball team.

“The business of sports is an incredibly exciting field and one that offers a wide and ever-growing variety of career options,” Lacob said. “I’m elated that I might be able to play a small role in the education and development of current and future students here as they potentially pursue a life in this fascinating industry.”

“We are very grateful for the generosity of Joe Lacob and his family for supporting an important new academic program that will prepare our students for the next generation of leaders in the many fields of sports management,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said.

“Sports is a growing industry and in need of managers with a wide range of business skills, including brand management, finance, communications and sales,” said Mahendra Gupta, PhD, dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management. “With the generous support of the Lacob family, Olin will be able to offer students a unique opportunity to prepare for careers in this dynamic multibillion dollar industry.”

Under the direction of Todd Milbourn, PhD, senior associate dean of faculty and research at Olin and the Hubert C. & Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance, the program is open to all students and formalizes a popular mini-course in sports management that Milbourn began six years ago.

“Since Olin began offering the sports management mini-course in 2008, it has remained incredibly popular, attracting around 40-45 undergraduates each spring, along with another 40-45 graduate students,” Milbourn said.

Expanding the mini-course into a full-fledged minor meant adding two new courses: “The Business of Sports” and “Business Leaders in Sports & Contemporary Issues.”

The rationale behind introducing the new program as a minor arose from the guiding principle that it should be an overlay to students’ foundational coursework.

“As a minor, it provides an opportunity to learn about the business of sports and develops avenues for career opportunities in the industry,” Milbourn said. “To this end, Olin will encourage students who are interested in the subject to choose a traditional major and make that the focus of study, as our goal is to teach functional business acumen with applications for the business of sports.”

According to Milbourn, establishing this new academic concentration positions Washington University as the only Top 5 undergraduate business school in the country offering this specialized focus.

Lacob is not only excited about establishing a minor in the business of sports, but he believes there is great potential for growth.

“I have looked at many schools across the country, and I believe that there is no better place to start the program than at Washington University, with one of the top business schools in the country,” he said. “I think we have a chance to build something unique that can hopefully grow and become the best place in the country to train sports executives.”

In his speech, Lacob emphasized the need to educate tomorrow’s sports industry leaders as innovators.

Using examples of his managerial approach with the Warriors, Lacob noted that when he took ownership four years ago, one of his goals was to return the team to the playoffs after a 20-year absence. He has met this goal for the past two consecutive seasons by making strategic additions of prominent personnel to management positions, by communicating more effectively and directly with fans and sponsors, and by providing more transparency.

This past April, the Warriors announced that the team had completed a deal to purchase land in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, where it intends to build a new state-of-the-art sports and entertainment center.

Off the court, the Warriors were officially recognized for the organization’s innovative and successful business practices by being named “Sports Team of the Year” by Sports Business Journal/Daily.

About the sports business program

The program comprises three components:

  • A minor in the business of sports, which will require students to complete 15 units, including 12 foundation credits plus three elective credits.
  • The speakers series, which will bring to campus leading sports management figures three to six times a year to provide insight into a variety of sports-related professions. The series will kick off each year with a keynote speech from a member of the Lacob family or an invited guest of the family.
  • The Joseph S. Lacob Business of Sports Internship program, which will underwrite several internships for upper-class students enrolled in the program. It also will support a part-time career coach to identify job and internship opportunities.

In addition to the coursework, internships and speaker series, the fund also will cover experiential learning opportunities, such as consulting projects and case competitions.

About Joseph S. Lacob

Lacob’s NBA and professional sports experience dates back over two decades, including a five-year tenure as minority owner of the Boston Celtics, where he served on the basketball committee. A resident of Atherton, Calif., he purchased the Golden State Warriors in 2010.

The Washington University Bear poses with (from left) WUSTL senior Kent Lacob, Kirk Lacob and their father, Joseph Lacob. (Credit: Sid Hastings/WUSTL Photos)

He has been a partner of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers since 1987. In his role as a venture capitalist, he has led investments in more than 50 startup companies across multiple fields in life sciences, medical and energy technologies.

Forging a business career developing scientific and medical technologies was a natural extension of Lacob’s academic career. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of California, Irvine, a master’s degree in public health (epidemiology) from University of California, Los Angeles, and a master’s in business administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He credits an understanding of biostatistics with fueling his interest in sports. It also played a role in his decision to invest in Sportsline — one of the first sports Internet sites and one of Lacob’s earliest sports success stories.

Lacob serves on the board of directors of the public company Align Technology, as well as several privately held firms, including Autonomic Technologies, NeuroPace, Ophthonix, TherOx, SunDrop Fuels and TransMedics.

For information on the new minor, visit here.