Co-Head, LionTree Growth

Ep #4: Alex Michael

In episode four, we stop in Washington, DC. Dhani speaks with Alex Michael, Co-Head of LionTree Growth. Alex joins Dhani to discuss how LionTree is working on deals to uncover tomorrow’s creators, sports, media, audio, and tech companies, today.

 LionTree Growth logo
Investment Banking
Alex Michael
So it, it really is how do you do the right deal and how do you define the metrics that will support that? And I think, you know, to have a successful deal, you have to have a strategy in place.
Alex Michael, Co-Head, LionTree Growth

Alex Michael's experience

Alex Michael

Modern Dealmaker & Investor

Alex Michael leads business development and growth company advisory for LionTree, a global investment and merchant bank focused on media, technology and telecommunications.

  • Chief Development Officer, Infinite Acquisition Corp
  • General Manager - National Sales, LivingSocial
  • Vice President - Head of Business Development - MSG Sports, Madison Square Gardens
  • Director - Business Development, Ticketmaster
  • Advisor, nvite
  • Advisor, TicketIQ
  • M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, B.A. from Brown University

Episode highlights

What makes a successful deal around Sports?




Dhani Jones (00:00):

Welcome back to another episode of the Pathfinders presented by. This is a show dedicated to dealmakers and trailblazers, and we're going to tap into stories of modern dealmakers carving paths forward. I'm Dhani Jones, former NFL player, investor, and entrepreneur. And today I'm speaking with Alex Michael, the co-head of LionTree growth.

Dhani Jones (01:39):

Alex is here to talk about how lion tree is working with tomorrow sports. Audio and tech companies today. Lots of talk a little about us work with mergers and acquisitions, capital raises, and much more. So get ready for another great episode of the Pathfinders brought to you by Ansarada.

Dhani Jones (02:07):

What's up, Alex.

Alex Michael (02:10):

Gosh, that is an amazing opening

Dhani Jones (02:13):

Well, does that satisfy you? Did I leave anything out? Should I say something about your prowess as a softball player?

Alex Michael (02:21):

No, my softball days are not as strong as they used to be, but. I think you captured it all. There's obviously so much more to bore people with today, but we will try to make this lively and you nailed it.

Alex Michael (02:35):

I'm just excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me here.

Dhani Jones (02:37):

So, you know, in that realm of, of things, you know, that might be particularly different. And I think that when I think about the world of investing, when I think about the world of mergers and acquisitions, it oftentimes comes down to the personality of the person.

Dhani Jones (02:54):

So, you know, you and I have met a bunch of times. We talk a couple of times, we're thinking about going on walks, you know, all the time. So what, what would be something in your personality that one may not realize at the onset that they would have to take more time to get to know you in order to understand.

Alex Michael (03:13):

That's a very good question. First of all, again, I just want to say thank you for having me. Speaking of personalities, you are truly one of the kindest, most gregarious, awesome thoughtful people I've come across. And I would like to spend more time with you, and I'm glad we're getting to spend this time.

Alex Michael (03:30):

So, whatever you're in. Benefits from you being in it. So, thank you again for having me. Um, what is, uh, is the characteristic, uh, in that, uh, advertising for you? I lost the thread, but basically what would people learn more by spending time with me?

Dhani Jones (03:48):

I think a lot of people don't realize I'm, I'm kind of an introvert.

Dhani Jones (03:52):

Most people really have an extrovert, but oftentimes when I go into rooms and I'm sitting there talking to makers, I love. Being in the corner watching and being able to kind of see how people are operating so I can understand the better way to approach and to be able to learn and talk to people. But being one, I'm an extrovert because I might talk loud sometimes.

Dhani Jones (04:15):

Right. If you knew me, if you'd say, oh, he's the kind of an intro extrovert. So, absorbing it. Exactly. So, what might be one of the traits that you have that it might take a little bit longer to understand, but in order to do that, you have to spend more.

Alex Michael (04:29):

Yeah. Yeah, no. Um, and by the way, my, uh, I had an executive coach for a while and he would call it, going to the balcony.

Alex Michael (04:37):

Well, you're talking about is doing it from the corner where you go to the balcony, you look down, right. And that's, you kind of absorb what's going on. You take a second to yourself and then you kind of deploy again. But, uh, what would people. It's a great question. I think when I spend more time with people, I hope what comes away with that is, is frankly an authenticity.

Alex Michael (05:00):

And I mean that in that we live in a transactional world in general, my job feels transactional in nature, but my hope is that it's not about the transaction, that it is about the relationship and the transaction is just like playing softball. It's a, it's a game. Partaking in that makes it interesting.

Alex Michael (05:22):

It's why we're on the field, but that's, I don't really care as much about the wins and losses or the score. I'm just enjoying playing it. And I think if we spend more time, I think that'll come through. I hope. And that it's about genuine, uh, ideas. There is actual care and concern for the people involved and when we get things right, and there is a successful outcome.

Alex Michael (05:45):

And even if there isn't, the journey has been. And that, and you asked me, and I know there's a sort of a question at the end there about celebrations, but the celebration is that we're generally happy to have done it together. It is so much better to do it as friends. And you can be friends in 30 days or in 30 years, but it all comes from a place of being genuine.

Alex Michael (06:05):

And I think if you spend more time, my hope is that you come away with that, that it's not about a superficial reality, that it's about that I really care for what's going on. And I'm really interested by what you're doing.

Alex Michael (06:15):

So how do you. Turn the base. Right? How do you, how do you go from the first base to second base, third base?

Dhani Jones (06:27):

I just think that it's an awesome analog to how people build relationships and how, how you. Are really trying to build companies and you, from a growth perspective, you're trying to hit a home run, right? You're stepping up too late and you're clocking that fast ball and it's right there in the sweet spot and you're swinging for the fences.

Dhani Jones (06:45):

That's what it's all about. But knowing that Hitcher is going to ultimately be what allows you to kind of make the best play possible. And. That takes studying. So it's the same, it's the same as an analogy. So how do you go from the first base to the second base?

Alex Michael (07:05):

Well, I think so I'm going to try to pull on some threads there between the baseball and softball and everything that you've got going there, which I love.

Alex Michael (07:11):

I love we're going to keep going. You played football, right? Not baseball, but, um, the let's think of it as pitching. All right. Which is you're the pitcher. You have three or four. Your best fish could be a fastball. That's fine. And you'll use it when you can. But if you do your research and study, there are some players that can hit the high basketball, and there's some players that can, and there's people who are susceptible to a curve ball at different counts, and you've done your research and, you know, and I think one big takeaway to where you're at, where you're going at is that you need to know what pitch to use or not.

Alex Michael (07:48):

And that comes from research. It comes from being in those situations. And not all the pitches are created equal and not all the betters are created equal. And so knowing what your strengths are sometimes staying within them, knowing when to try a pitch, because you're way ahead in the count and it's okay to have a throw away.

Alex Michael (08:06):

You know, those are all key to like, to your earliest point there of like, how do you run the bases? Like you've got to get to know people and you got to know what makes them tick. And, uh, funny enough, my wife will hate saying this. She works, uh, or used to work for the CIA and, uh, whilst she's, there's nothing active at all about her.

Alex Michael (08:29):

Um, actually we should edit this. She's not going to like this at all. So we'll go back to the store. Whoever's wiring and get back. Let's edit that. But, um, point is when you, you gotta know which pitch to you. And it comes gradually and you can't do that to your point of spending time with people. You don't know what makes people tick.

Alex Michael (08:49):

You can put them in a sort of blotter of what you've seen and that's fine. But then as you evolve and you get to know them, you get to see what their needs are, what they're after and what their goals are. And then you can use the right pitches. So, so it takes research. It takes time. It takes being in situations.

Alex Michael (09:03):

And frankly daunting, the more I do this job and I haven't been doing it that long, I came from the corporate side. I've been at LionTree six years. Which only four of which have been spent doing M&A, capital raising and investing. And I'm much better today than I was yesterday or four years ago. And that's also a true litmus of if you're growing with your job and hopefully having satisfaction out of it.

Dhani Jones (09:24):

Well, at least you're growing with it. And I think that a lot of times people get into their job and the times they just stall out. But I think by you learning about your clients, Able to learn about some of the people that you're working with. And by bringing these deals in being authentic, you're able to sort of mature the business, but you're also able to mature as a person.

Dhani Jones (09:45):

And that's sort of that critical juncture that makes all the difference in the world because people have so many, sometimes they have choices. And I think by working with you, they know that they have a friend and they also have a confident and they have someone that's going to build with them. So. You know, as we look at some of the other growth partners that are out there, what's something that really differentiates LionTree growth, um, from some of the other competitors or some of the other businesses that, yeah.

Dhani Jones (10:16):

People that may not be aware.

Alex Michael (10:18):

Sure. Uh, well, this job is perfectly competitive at the end of the day. Banking has been around since, I don't know, thousands of years, hundreds of years, you know, like there are people that can do the job. There's no question. And you have lots of choices if that's what you want to get into, but then how do you succeed in how you differentiate?

Alex Michael (10:37):

And I give so much credit to my boss, our founder or CEO, who founded LionTree 10 years ago before. His mandate and his imperative is that we would be different, that we would be trusted, that we would be there for much more than the transaction and that the things we would do, wouldn't just be trying to do deals that we would try to actually transform things that we would participate in the industries that may condom.

Alex Michael (11:05):

And I think that's a differentiator and it influences the fact, frankly, that I'm even there because you know, if people saw my LinkedIn, they'd be like, why are you at a bank? I was, you know, post-business school, I've worked at, like I mentioned, Ticketmaster MSG. It did a startup living social. And somehow RJ saw this guy who was doing daily deals in DC and said, you know, you could come work with me very early on in the firm.

Alex Michael (11:27):

And I've just grown with him and the. And what we do is we prioritize the relationships and the ideas, and it all starts there, the ideas and the relationships, and then those manifest themselves in the different products we have, whether it's M and a capital raises IPO's investments. Like we prioritize that connectivity.

Alex Michael (11:51):

There are lots of people can run processes, just like there are lots of people who can sell your house or your apartment, but what differentiates you. And at least in this case differentiates us, is that we really want to be involved in how you think about your home. And you think about your next home and the journey you're going through.

Alex Michael (12:10):

And this is such a personal thing. Even if it's a massive company, it's obviously people. And even if it's growth companies, which I focus on, it really is the people. And what you're doing is they're everything. And if you're genuinely curious if you've genuinely. Are trying to leverage everything you have at your disposal, which laundry I believe has a lot between the big cap relationships, small caps, different, uh, uh, investment partners, et cetera.

Alex Michael (12:40):

You come with a holistic solution that's differentiated and that's what we try to do every day.

Dhani Jones (12:46):

So when you, when you have. Ideas in abundance. Sometimes it's, it's hard to kind of nail things down, but I'd imagine that you all have taken some of these big ticket ideas and some of the relationships and some of the businesses and some of the houses that you'd like to flip and the houses that you'd like to sort of grow and narrow it into a priority.

Dhani Jones (13:08):

So how do you think about prioritization when it comes to LionTree Growth.

Alex Michael (13:14):

Well, we think we think very thematically. So we set out, and our RA very much sets the tone in terms of where are their core areas that we really want to have thought leadership, where we want to spend our time and where we want to advise where we want to invest.

Alex Michael (12:40):

Where's the energy going to go because you're right. It can be unloaded. And it's a virtuous circle in the sense that more relationships leads to more ideas. And if you're doing it right, that ideas leads to relationships and it could give going. So you have to have some, some builds or some mechanisms.

Alex Michael (13:49):

And so I come back to the themes and what are we excited about and where do you want to spend time? So, for example, today, we are very focused on the creator company. A lot of people are certainly a lot of venture dollars have come in there, but we are in the first inning, this idea that. People let alone brands, let alone companies can connect directly with their audiences, with their communities.

Alex Michael (14:15):

Like we're doing right here with your fans Dhani. Alex, say, I'm trying, hopefully I'll pick up like one or two from this, but. The fact that you can reach them. I mean, think about this 20 years ago, I guess let's start there. Maybe that's right or wrong. You'd have to have a radio show. You'd have to have terrestrial radio or maybe Sirius was just starting or whatever it was.

Alex Michael (14:38):

Now we have a headset, a microphone, a computer, and we can reach unlimited people across. That's crazy. And then, you know what Donna, you can say, I want to do a newsletter. I want to put this on YouTube. I want to create my own direct to consumer touchpoint website. I want to come up with a clothing line, your bow ties, right?

Alex Michael (14:59):

Like you have an unprecedented moment, especially for a guy like yourself or a Kevin Durant's or anything in between or something. YouTube direct sensation. To create a community around yourself and then ultimately have tools and services to monetize that that is a powerful, powerful moment. There's 50 million people Dhani, 50 million people consider themselves creators today, 2 million of which are doing it professionally.

Alex Michael (15:28):

They're making serious money doing it. And there is a whole economy built around them of tools and services and platforms that is growing with. Several billion dollars this year alone has gotten, gotten into this role from an investment standpoint. And so we're very much ahead of that, even though for people to read it like, oh yeah, it's always been here, but it's not.

Alex Michael (15:48):

And the moment is building and that's a place we want to spend time. We want to invest probably more today because there's more to invest, but then at least to advise him, we did that in podcasting. Podcasting. I give credit to, uh, my friend, Tim O'Shaughnessy, who was the founder co-founder and CEO of LivingSocial, where I worked.

Alex Michael (16:10):

He now runs Graham holdings here in DC. He said to me, in 2016, I was just kind of new into LionTree. Look out for podcasting. This is going to be a big space and you know what, Alex, you could be the podcast banker. And I said, Tim, you're insulting me terribly.

Dhani Jones (16:30):

I love the name of this podcast, the podcast banker, by the way I like that.

Alex Michael (16:34):

I like that.  I like that. It's like a show about a no show or whatever is the show about the show. But he said that to me and I was like, oh gosh, I hope I have stronger aspirations here by fast. Fast-forward because of him, literally, because of him, we invested in gimme. Which was a podcast studio in New York, which sold to Spotify about a year after we did it, it was a great return.

Alex Michael (17:01):

Awesome. And then it was around then that we start our own podcast, hashtag KindredCast gassed with a K, that we've done 110 episodes of, that has a really nice audience that lets you into the conversations LionTree is having. And then we said, okay, we've invested behind this theme a little bit. The market continues to grow and mature.

Alex Michael (17:27):

Is there an advisory opportunity? And lo and behold, there was because we understood the marketplace. We had ideas. Our first assignment was to sell serial productions formally, uh, which was created this podcast craze and incredible group. And we sold it to the New York times.

Alex Michael (17:49):

And that really after the Gimlet sale was a defining moment in this industry, in terms of there was real dollars here and real laminated or B at, then we sold Stitcher to Sirius XM. Then we sold Wondery to Amazon. Then we sold art 19 to Amazon. So, within 14 months or so I think actually less than that, a year, we had done four significant transactions in the podcast space.

Alex Michael (18:19):

So I mentioned this all as an example Dhani of like, there was an idea that someone gave us because of the relationship that this podcast thing could be big, then we say, okay, let's invest in beyond that. Let's learn. Let's try it ourselves. Let's do. Then let's advise against it and let's keep advising.

Alex Michael (18:36):

And now I don't know if anyone's done as many podcast deals as we've done, albeit still in a very nascent space. And that's a great example of running a thematic down and then continue to push.

Dhani Jones (18:50):

And the thing the entire time, you never called me to do a podcast on anybody. I'll just have to say that.

Dhani Jones (18:59): Let's see 1, 2, 3, 4. And here's the thing I know some of the people that you've worked with because they're also friends of mine and they never called me either. And I'm just like, so I had to get you on our podcast today.

Alex Michael (19:18):

You just had to just create your own show. That's fine.

Dhani Jones (19:21):

I am now in retrospect, looking back in, in forward as those that are kind of pushing the needle and pushing sort of the needle forward and doing some amazing things and I, and I love how you articulate.

Dhani Jones (19:38):

The depth of knowledge within that thematic space of podcasts and media. But one of the areas that I, I have to talk to you about is the world of sports, because I think maybe like 10 years ago, people didn't really care people 10 years ago, people weren't thinking about, and this is exactly what you're referring to, the creator, being the athlete, the creator,

Dhani Jones (20:01):

Haaving athletic prowess, but also having a platform and also having reach it's done amazing things in, and you all are working within the sports space. So I've seen some of the exciting announcements. I've seen some of the work that you all have done. Is there one deal in particular that you all, where have worked in the sports space that, uh, that you'd be, you know, just tell me about one really exciting sports deal that you’ve been involved with.

Alex Michael (20:29):

We've been very fortunate at LionTree to work on a number of transactions in the sports world were very focused on it. Uh, and in particular Dhani, we're focused on sports technology. There's certainly as a whole market for doing team transactions. Albeit they're very episodic. It's hard to do that constantly because they're just not that many team deals that have.

Alex Michael (20:52):

But what we've really focused on is what are the disruptive elements of sports? What are the things we want to have exposure to? And there's comes back to that thematic, right? There's sports, data, sports, AI. Those are very strong themes right now, especially against the sports betting proliferation that's going on.

Alex Michael (21:14):

Especially here, domestically with the PASPA, uh, with the law. Um, so we think of sports data. We think of different ways to customize and personalize the viewing experience, which data can do, but also augmentation, augmented reality, different ways that we can go from this. What we've had for 50 years Dhani is this one to many model of broadcasting content.

Alex Michael (21:54):

And it's clear that can no longer hold forever. I mean, if you watch the Manning cast, that's a great example, right? There is so much interest in just a differentiated form. You have your own comments, you know, I guess I do those guys. I'm sure.

Dhani Jones (22:04):

I do enjoy it. I do like watching them sometimes, but let's just keep going down the route of sport.

Alex Michael (22:49):

So you want the deal. Okay. Sorry. So, so anyhow, I think the best investors, the best advisors follow a theme and live by it and not, and there are things that are one-to-one and there are things that give you exposure to that theme.

Alex Michael (23:01):

So to your question, what are some deals that we're proud of, of recent? Well, one example is Excel sports, which we sold a stake of to Shamrock. Those are all of the people involved. They're incredibly smart, but what the Shamrock guys saw and what we suffer as well, the guys who run Excel are, Jeff, Mark, Casey.

Alex Michael (23:25):

They're just, they're just incredibly talented people, incredibly genuine people. And they have become true giants. Uh, they're form of advisory, which, you know, Jeff does basically every number one pick in the NBA. And at some point had like close to 20% of the NBA salary cap under his management may still Casey doesn't was all the big baseball guys, also Derek Jeter, uh, and mark does tiger woods and they built a firm around that and they just are really, really good at what they do and they do it in a genuine way.

Alex Michael (23:56):

And so when they entrusted us to help find a capital partner for. Uh, like I was saying all along, it was the journey we were interested in, in finding the right home. And we're fortunate, even though this was during the pandemic, really the height of the pandemic when everything was through zoom and dying.

Alex Michael (24:13):

That's a point we'll get to in terms of what's changed in the last year and a half is zoom in terms of doing full deals with never seeing anyone live is pretty crazy, but we can come back there. But that was one of those deals where it was impossible to CPS. And we were fortunate and I think they were fortunate and Shamrock was fortunate to bring that all together in a tight way and share more.

Alex Michael (24:35):

I said, do you know what the pandemics, the pandemic, but I believe in these guys in the longterm, and I believe in this theme, which is as sports rights, continue to climb because for a long time they were holding together the cable bundle they still do. But they're also the source of just exposure to so many things.

Alex Michael (24:54):

Uh, that that will continue to climb. And with that salaries will grow and opportunities for the brands and the fact that we consume sports as much for the players and the personalities and the highlights as much as we do the games now. And so if you believe that, then one of the preeminent sport agents, sports agents.

Alex Michael (25:13):

It's a good place to be. That's that's a place to tap into. And so they saw the deal, they did it. And, uh, that was an example of one that we're really proud of because the people are great people. It was a good deal. And it really was spot on for this thematic of continued global sports rights growth, but also consumption of sports in a more personalized and differentiated way.

Alex Michael (25:38):

And I think we've ever seen and that'll only continue.

Alex Michael (25:40):

So, you're basically saying that there's no, there's no difference between media M&A and sports M&A, and uh, any other types of M&A, it's basically all the same. It's based upon those relationships. It's spending time, on course, looking at the picture and trying to figure out like which ball he's going to.

Alex Michael (25:59):

Yeah. Yeah. Or if you're the pitcher, like which pitch works, you know, like just, I always come back to the real estate thing because sometimes it feels just more comfortable and like there's apartments, there's houses, there's town out, you know, like there are all different things within the days where, uh, people sleep and, you know, the, the same things apply.

Alex Michael (26:20):

Like there's a very basic thing. We are just trying to connect the right people, regardless of if it's sports or podcasting or, or a telecom company. And sports is no different, even though it's Ooh, it's for it's, it's a business fundamentally and there's themes and there's, there's things that, uh, you know, you, you shouldn't check, you know, the normal functioning of anything because it's sports.

Dhani Jones (26:42)

But what makes it makes it successful?

Alex Michael (26:54):

What makes what, what makes sports successful? Or sports M&A or what?

Dhani Jones (26:58):

What makes a successful deal, especially around sports. Like, how do you, how do you determine whether the deal that you did was a good deal? Was it that someone got paid on the other end? Was it that it worked out at the end?

Alex Michael (27:12):

Well, it depends on who you are. It depends on who you are. Like if you're just trying to sell for the highest dollar and you got what you think is the highest dollar. And you're just happy with that. That's great. That could be one best part for you as the entrepreneur. Uh, for the buyer, it's much more tenuous listen, M and a has a fairly spotty historical track record of being truly value creating.

Alex Michael (27:32):

So it, it really is how do you do the right deal and how do you define the metrics that will support that? And I think, you know, to have a successful deal, you have to have a strategy in place. You have to have the right, because the deal is a moment in time, right? It's a snapshot. I've worked for companies.

Alex Michael (27:53):

I've seen deals where I've been on the operating side. And like, for me, the banker it's it's great. I, I just did the deal. Okay. You know, we'll stay in touch, but I go on the company has to live with the future state here. And so there has to be, I think cultural alignment, there has to be a real plan around the ingestion of the business and the people there has to be motivational elements that aren't.

Alex Michael (28:22):

Hey, I'm waiting down my shot clock for the deferred payments on getting, for doing this deal. Like they have to continue to be inspired. These can't be seen as moments in time where they definitely won't work. So the best deals are ones where there's a cultural alignment. There's a real dedication and thought put into integration.

Alex Michael (28:43):

Because the body could reject this limb or this organ or whatever, weird analogy I'm making. And you've got to, you got to have that all in place, and then you need a little luck and you need to be onto the right theme. And of course, a private equity guy or girl has a much different restaurant. They're like, did I make money?

Alex Michael (29:03):

Did I then sell it later to make more money? That's what. But for a company it's a different litmus test for the seller. It's a different lender. And you got to look at each of those constituents.

Dhani Jones (29:12):

I love how we've gone through so many different analogies and metaphors, I mean.

Alex Michael (29:16):

We’ve completely confused, everyone, but that's fine.

Dhani Jones (29:19):

Look, we're sticking with baseball. Okay. We're sticking with softball. It's sticking ball games. Exactly.

Dhani Jones (29:21):

In in the very beginning we talked about. What makes you different mix the organization line, tree growth, different, um, and what people can learn about you by spending more time. And one of the things that you were doing before was, you know, investment banking, you know, you know, work on analysis and things like that, you know, how do you think things would have been.

Dhani Jones (29:57):

20 years ago versus how they are now. Right. Is it the same basic formula? Um, and has the technology contributed or taken away from, you know, how we do deals?

Alex Michael (30:09):

Yeah. So I was an analyst out of college 20 years ago. Um, almost literally, uh, yeah, literally, and I don't think the experience at those levels are all that different.

Alex Michael (30:23):

I think people have more of a. I'm just now observing it, but the work is still hard. It's still demanding. We're still using Excel. We're still using powerful white, you know, people stay up all night, things come in late, you know, it's, it's a very demanding culture, but it's also incredible because we're in to learn things when, like, what else are you going to do at that age?

Alex Michael (30:44):

Like you should work hard and it, and it sets a, uh, you know, I think a work in parative that's pretty. Pretty informative and, you know, going to work at corporations actually, after having that banking, Stan, I was like, oh, this is like, people don't work that hard. Like not in a bad way, but just in a different way.

Alex Michael (31:03):

And it's always nicer to go that way than it is the other way. Um, and then be overwhelmed by it. So I don't think in many ways it's changed because also to the point of relationships, I, and ideas. Where does tech fit into that? It's really hard. There's the agency business. It's the same in Hollywood. Like why are there still agents, like at the end of the day, though, these things take a personal touch.

Alex Michael (31:29):

They take a personal relationship. There are things that technology can help with competing power can be faster. Models can be better. We talked about zoom, zoom. Was massive to keep the whole thing working because you do need to see people, maybe not literally, but just see them and talk to them and have that touch point, which obviously zoom became a critical touch point during the pandemic.

Alex Michael (31:55):

So zoom changed it in that heck I think half of the meetings and the future state can be done by zoom versus having to be in person, but the idea of going somewhere and putting in that effort and. Having a dialogue that isn't constraint the virtual box. I don't know how you replace that. And I don't think you do, especially if the return on that investment is so high as it is in this industry or others like it.

Alex Michael (32:24):

And so, uh, you have the competitive dynamic. And you have just the off-script moments like Dhani, if we're walking around in the neighbourhood, which I hope to do, sir, uh, we can talk about things that will get at the genuine nature of a dynamic and authenticity that if we're set up for 15 minutes on a zoom, we're not going to have our riff on like something or some interests that really will bind us a lot closer and build a trust that, that you just can't get.

Alex Michael (32:54):

Uh, you know, unless you're kind of with them or, or. Uh, just, just, just having thoughts.

Dhani Jones (33:02):

Technology is great because it makes things more efficient, right? It allows us to be transactional. And I think that's the thing that you try to step away from it's about that authenticity. And, and as I always talk to some entrepreneurs about their own best practices in terms of being better entrepreneurs, Being better Pathfinders or dealmakers.

Dhani Jones (33:23):

It's about establishing that first point of contact, but then staying in touch, creating that cadence, spending that time. Sometimes you might have to catch up and leverage the technology, but going deep within a vertical of spending time with someone that's going to teach you just as much as you teach them.

Dhani Jones (33:39):

So, you know, are there some, those might be some of my best advice and practices to entrepreneurs. What do you have for advice? No entrepreneurs that are, you know, whether they're seeking raise capital or, or they're doing other types of deals potentially, maybe for the first time.

Alex Michael (33:55):

Yeah. Well, I think it's it's to your point, you got to get out there.

Alex Michael (34:01):

You have to, I think again, the executive coach moment, like, you know, things kept progressing the last several years were more and more stuff was happening and I kind of was like, ha. I don't know how to keep doing this. Like I, you know, I don't, I deal with growth companies, you know, generally a hundred million to a billion dollars in size of the type of transactions I'm doing and we sell one and that's it, we've done it.

Alex Michael (34:27):

You know, sometimes they can come fully around, but. That's it. There's no big corporation that then brings me in again to do it again, to do it again that you kind of can just beat off. So then I sit, I sit there and I'm like, how am I going to keep doing it until why? Like, how am I going to keep doing this and what the coach said?

Alex Michael (34:45):

And what I do believe I've been doing is that you're just constantly planting seeds. You are planting seeds every single day. And it does it sometimes you're, you're purposely putting them in the ground. We'll go with the analogy again, and sometimes you're taking a handful and throw them into. But you're doing something and those seeds grow at different times at different intervals and things that you had totally written off end up growing into something and things that you were sure that you put in the right soil and the right light and everything.

Alex Michael (35:15):

They never become anything or an animal eats them or something like, but you have to keep planting seeds. And that's the only way you're going to have a garden. And that's what I have learned through this and really my entire life. And what are the touch lists or touch light touch ways to keep growing those seeds.

Alex Michael (35:37):

What are all the tools at your disposal? Is it an update on LinkedIn? Is it, oh, just the one time you go to that city, you reach out, is it being on a fantasy football, you know, competition chain of like, Hey, we're doing this pool for the super bowl or something like, what are all the different ways or they're signing up for the LionTree newsletter so that they at least get.

Alex Michael (35:58):

A reminder every Friday with a piece of information that they like that we're here. And then when inspiration strikes. So if there's one takeaway is that you have to plant seeds, seeds, come in every variety and you just constantly doing it. And then you'll be amazed by what grows out of it.

Dhani Jones (36:16):

What do they say the day you plant the seeds is not the day you cultivate the garden.

Dhani Jones (36:24):

I love that. We're going to add that to. So our lists, um, of, uh, metaphors that we're talking about today, I just loved that. And while I was watching you explain the way that you work with entrepreneurs, I kind of saw you look off into the, into the distance. And I was wondering, was there someone that you were thinking about as you were explaining the reasons why, or the things that you teach to other entrepreneurs?

Dhani Jones (36:48):

Was there someone that taught you the way that you are today?

Alex Michael (36:57):

Ooh, uh, sort of mentors and teachers. Um, well, I, you know, I give REA, you know, like I said, our founder, my bus just, he does it. I don't know. He's the Peyton Manning. Like she, you know, and, uh, I get it's the end of the year. So maybe it seems like I'm sucking up.

Alex Michael (37:16): It's not because of that. I was, I would say that in February, I would say that anytime a year, like he is. A true visionary. And I've learned that I've been at companies where maybe that wasn't the case. And you just, if you that's another piece of advice, by the way, if you find someone or some people who you think are just dynamic, who are one of the greats in whatever they do, like hold onto it, uh, doesn't mean you have to be there forever, but you will learn a tremendous amount and you may end up with some great success because of.

Alex Michael (37:50): And I think he's one of those people. And what I learned from him is that he certainly, he brought, he wouldn't characterize his plan and CS, but just the way he approaches relationships, the way his intensity for doing things the right way with the right speed, the right texture, the right touch points, uh, it is inspirational.

Alex Michael (38:11): Uh, and frankly the only other place I've seen it. Perform like that is actually Harvard business school, which, uh, route attendee. And I'm not saying that to float that, I'm just saying like the way they do things is just so meticulous and so pristine and so protective of the brand that you just feel at the second you touch anything to do with it.

Alex Michael (38:33): And. We're trying to do at mind tree and that's what RIA has built. So he's certainly one person. Scott O'Neil is another, a very successful executive. He just stepped down from running the Sixers and the devils. I worked for him at MSG and, and Scott just had an incredible way of disarming and he still does disarming anyone in the room that he was one of them.

Alex Michael (38:57): It didn't matter whether he could have been the security, you know, Uh, or it could be the CEO of Coca-Cola and that idea that, uh, it's, it's humility, it's reading the room. It's, ETQ all he has. He has the intelligence of everyone in there, but he never wants them to feel like, you know, intimidated or, you know, not at their most comfortable.

Alex Michael (39:21): And that's very, very difficult. And he was a great mentor in that fact. So there are a couple of examples. There's lots more, but those particularly stick out because they're ways that they conduct themselves. That resonates with me personally in my style. And I'm like, I'll take a little of that. I'll take a little of that and try to throw it into my own soup and hope it tastes okay.

Dhani Jones (39:47):

Mixing. I can treat your own seed and then throw it into the ground. And it's going to this amazing garden.

Alex Michael (39:54):

And maybe a tree that then I can cut down for a baseball bat.

Dhani Jones (40:00):

Well, are there some things that you're seeing on the horizon, um, from your vantage point as an investor that other people should be aware of, you know, are some high potential, you know, companies that you're seeing out there in the sport and media side that we may not be familiar.

Alex Michael (40:17):

Yeah. Uh, there's so many, I mean, that's the hard part of this job is like, how do you separate everything and kind of really get interested in it and then make the right choices. This is what any investor, any adviser at the end of the day, even as an M and a advisor, I am investing my time, which is arguably.

Alex Michael (40:34):

More valuable than the check. And so you've got to do the same analysis, albeit it's a little bit of a different calculation, but you're still making bets and these bets you have to live with. So we apply some of the same principles. Uh, but with that said, you know, I mentioned create our economy. That can be sports.

Alex Michael (40:51):

It can not be, but this idea of, you know, people, uh, connecting directly with their audiences, monetizing their audiences, creating community, that's here to stay. And I think that's a huge theme we're investing in advising. You can't go anywhere without talking about crypto and NFT and that whole world.

Alex Michael (41:09):

And I say to Jim, Mrs. White, but it's a, it's a real thing. Everything is inflated now from a value perspective. So I don't know what steady state is for these. But there's clearly a lot going on. There's something there, trillions of dollars of value are being created. And how do you play that? And that's cascaded also into collectibles and sneakers.

Alex Michael (41:28):

And, you know, we just invested in goat, the sneaker market place. We invested in this great company in France called so rare, which is a soccer and Ft meets fantasy business. Kind of like dapper labs and top shot. If people are familiar with that, that has done that for basketball and will do that for football.

Alex Michael (41:46):

Like this idea that a card used to be cardboard or a flyer and an image. And now it's a highlight, it's a virtual thing that, you know, where it comes from in it. And it's limited and it's scarce. Those are all things that are going to continue. And then a super intense. Um, I mentioned sports, data sports. I AI, I believe in that I think youth sports is a huge area that the leagues need to keep investing in or start investing in and a heavy way because we're losing audience after audience here.

Alex Michael (42:15):

And I think the tools and technologies, uh, that, that help people, uh, help these leads, but also these companies reach that audience is going to continue. To be a critical area. And it's so fragmented. You know, we invested in Cal Ripkin's Ripkin baseball. That was part of a thematic that we want to be around the best brands that are going to be leaders as that world consolidates a little more, as technology gets infused in it, we sold game changer.

Alex Michael (42:44):

Uh, which is in a tremendous baseball score, keeping at that Dick's currently owns. That was another sort of Canary in the mine of like, wow, there's something going on and use sports that were, that is still not really. Um, and spend is going up, even as participation is going down, um, we need to do more than we're invested in mojo to interesting company, Ben Sherwood, Disney executive of how to help parents be better coaches because all of these touch points is a, it's a phenomenal app.

Alex Michael (43:15:

We're super excited about it, but like, think of it. We entrust me dying. You're probably a good coach because you played actual professional football and been coached at so many levels. But like me they're like, okay, teach volleyball or soccer, or like, And these kids that are going to have a bad experience.

Dhani Jones (44:30):

I mean, there's just so many things and I love that you all are so educated around so many different verticals, but when you get into that vertical, you go deep and you spend a lot of time. And you really help these companies truly reach their, their true potential. So, um, I really appreciate all the comments and some of the advice that you've given to myself, but also given to the entrepreneurs that are listening today.

Dhani Jones (44:56):

So I end with this last question, you know, we like, we like to talk about this as meals and deals, right? So what's your favorite celebration? Of a winning deal, right? Whether it be a place restaurant, a party, or hanging out with somebody, like how do you celebrate and where do you go to celebrate?

Alex Jones (45:13):

Oh, my gosh. You're going to be so disappointed. I mean, there's no, go-to

Dhani Jones (45:19):

Come on. There's gotta be one. There's gotta be one there or there's gotta be a drink or there's gotta be a, uh, a favorite dish. You know, this shrimp scampi that you always have all the time, or is it the cafe latte that you gotta have?

Dhani Jones (45:31):

Or is it the Gimlet that makes you you stand up and make a toast? What is it?

Alex Michael (45:37):

What is that celebration? Uh, I wish we could do a better job of celebrating. I think that's the first and foremost, you should actually save her these things because there's so much going on. And the degree of difficulty, you know, there's 99 things, ways for things to fall apart.

Alex Michael (45:53):

There's only one way for it to actually work. And I don't think we do a good enough time. And this at any age is just like actually absorbing that without thinking of the next thing. So one is, I wished I celebrated better. Because it deserves it. And that, that goes for any of life successes for anyone that we should do a better job of the gratitude, uh, of what goes on when things go well.

Alex Michael (46:17):

And I, and I don't think we do a good enough job about that. You know, RPM here in DC, I'll give a plug for some reason that seems like a celebratory place if I'm ever in DC. I, and we've been there a lot. We used to do some management meetings for business. We sold here. Um, I dunno, like it's just a, it's really about the people, not the institutions.

Alex Michael (46:36):

Like if we've done a good job and we're celebrating with people that we like, that's all that matters. It can be Vegas. It can be a restaurant in LA. It can be a glass of wine at home. Like if you've done a good job and it's with people you've grown to care about, that's the celebration. That's what I feel my best Dhani.

Alex Michael (46:54):

It's that you've made a difference for these people. And I know we're not saving lives, but we are changing laws and that is something to also be appreciative of and, and treat as a, is a real trust. And so when we see it through and it works, that's the celebration.

Dhani Jones (47:14):

Well, I think that's, uh, one of the best answers and I think it's also one of the best advice to people celebrate those moments.

Dhani Jones (47:22):

And I'm celebrating with you today because I've really enjoyed our conversation. And that's all the time we have. And I just want to say, thank you so much, Alex, for being our guest on the show this week to discuss LionTree growth and what it takes to be a Pathfinder, because he truly is be sure to listen out for our next episode.

Dhani Jones (47:40):

And don't forget to follow us on apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Alex, you know that, or anywhere you find your favorite podcast, I'm Dhani Jones. And thanks for listening to the Pathfinders from Ansarada. Thank you again, Alex.


Kickstart your deal

14 day free trial - No credit card required
Start for free today