With a remit to drive new investment opportunities and build partnerships for global investment company Aser, Massimo Marinelli has significant expertise in the sports industry having led and executed successful M&A and capital markets transactions for MP & Silva, Formula 1, Dora, Infront, and Perform amongst others.
In addition to being executive board member of the Andrea Radrizzani-founded company, he is also a board member of Leeds United and a veteran of the City and Wall Street, latterly as managing director, head of EMEA Media & Internet at UBS Investment Bank.
Marinelli talks to Campden FB about investing in sports and media, the future impact of emerging technologies and sneaking off to watch football.
Where are you right now?
I am in our office in Cavendish Square in London. It’s the HQ for our founder Andrea Radrizzani (pictured, right) when he is in London and for the Aser management team. It is also the London base for a number of our portfolio companies, including ELEVEN, NEO Studios and LIVENow. So always lots of energy in the building and lots of people coming in and out!
Where would you rather be right now?
I would rather be watching some football, sat in Elland Road for a Leeds United game. There is nothing like an English football stadium - and Leeds is something special. But I’m fortunate to be able to do that on a regular basis so I can’t complain!
What do you do for a living?
I lead the investment strategy for Aser Ventures. It’s my job to identify new investment opportunities and to evaluate the value they can bring to our group and our partners. My job involves working closely with our founder Andrea on investment decisions and being in regular contact with our portfolio companies to make sure they are getting the support they need from us.
What services do you offer family businesses?
We work with partners like Corrum Capital and the San Francisco 49ers’ investment arm, 49ers Enterprises, to make investments in sports, media, and technology.
And what we can offer our partners is a really deep knowledge of the industries in which we invest.
Our leadership team includes people with deep operational experience. Our director Marc Watson founded BT Sport as BT TV chief executive officer, for example. While our chief corporate and financial officer Graham Wallace was previously chief operating officer at Manchester City and chief executive officer at Glasgow Rangers. Plus, of course, our founder and chairman Andrea has a long track record of building successful businesses in sport and media.
What we try to do is bring the shared experience and insights of a lot of very accomplished people to each investment decision we make, and then to use that same expertise to offer support to our portfolio companies to help them continue to grow.
Leeds United in action
What would you advise to Family offices looking to get into sports and media but don’t know where to start?
Well firstly I would encourage them to take a good look at the sector. There is so much exciting innovation and technological progress in and around sport, which is creating lots of opportunities.
We have been building the sports media group ELEVEN for the past six years and with the pace of change in how people are consuming sport, the sports media space would be an interesting area for family offices to start.
There is also the chance to look at the NFT and the Metaverse sector. The intersection between these new digital trends and sport is an interesting one as it offers new ways of bringing fans together with the athletes and teams they love. It is a very complimentary area for sport and one that I think has huge potential for further growth.
"Sports teams are completely unique to other businesses."
For those with the resources, the passion, and a long-term outlook - sports team ownership can also be a consideration. Owning or part-owning a football club, for example, can be a very fulfilling and exciting route to take because of the impact that you can have on a whole community and because there are opportunities for long-term return on your investment if you do it right.
But you first need to appreciate that sports teams are completely unique to other businesses. A sports team will likely have a long history, a deep-rooted culture and thousands of fans who are incredibly invested in the outcome of your investment and work.
So, before getting involved, you need to consult widely and understand the landscape in a deep way. You also need to think about the value that you can bring to the team beyond capital. What expertise and connections can you offer that will help you add new value to the club to grow your investment and also deliver value for fans?
You will never be more accountable for your work than when running a sports team so you have to proceed with a lot of care and be prepared to take less risks than you would in another business.
Massimo Marinelli at the San Francisco 49ers stadium
What are your core life and business values?
At Aser we are driven by a few key values.
The first is passion. We invest in sectors we know a lot about and where we are energised and highly motivated to deliver growth and to bring new value to end users.
We believe in great people - both bringing top people into our team and also identifying top class people to work alongside.
We are relentless. That can be stressful at times, but really what we mean by this is we are constantly working to improve and do better for our companies. We want to always push ourselves and our portfolio companies to evolve and develop.
We also need to be responsible. That means we always work to do things in the right way, in a way that delivers for our partners but also that creates new value for fans and audiences.
What motivates you?
I want to work on projects that are meaningful and really help to take our companies forward. We are fortunate to be investing in projects that are exciting and in industries that a lot of people are very passionate about, so it is pretty easy to stay motivated.
"Watching football is a passion. Luckily with Leeds United, I can count that as 'Work'"
What does a good working day look like for you?
A meeting or two with our portfolio company founders, talking through their ideas for the future and identifying ways that we at Aser can support them along the way. Then in the evening, a trip to Elland Road to watch Leeds United pick up three points!
What do you do in your downtime for fun?
My downtime is focused on time with my family, acting as taxi driver and general servant to our young children. Aside from that, I like to go to the theatre and smoke the odd cigar. Watching football is a passion too. Luckily with our involvement with Leeds United, I can count that as ‘Work’, so I am able to sneak off and watch a lot more football than most people.
What influences your investment decisions?
In terms of how we make our decisions, we think about three things in particular once we have decided that the project and the business case for the company is interesting.
We look at the value that we can bring to the company beyond capital. If we think our team can make a big contribution, then that’s important.
We want to create a really complementary set of businesses, which work well together and can help each other grow. We look at what capabilities the new company would add to the rest of our portfolio, and the synergies that we may be able to create.
And we look at the company’s leaders and assess their ability to deliver on their ambitions for the business. We want to work with great people who inspire us and bring new energy and ideas to the group.
The ELEVEN crew at work in Portugal
Where do you see the future of sports and media in ten years?
Both sectors are moving so fast. One thing I think the next ten years will see is the emerging technologies everyone is talking about now - NFTs and metaverse - really bed in and become part of the day-to-day operations of both these sectors. Right now, there is a lot of confusion and hype around these topics but over time that will be replaced by a more practical approach that sees us find ways to employ these new technologies in a really impactful and useful way.
What role do you think you’ll play?
Aser will continue to try to power innovation and growth in our sectors and to deliver new value for our company’s audiences. We want to be a hub of new ideas and investment opportunities and utlimately to establish ourselves as the leading sports, media, and technology investment group in the industry.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say, to not rush. I would tell my younger self to take it a bit easier, to take things a little slower. Your career is long, and you need to take time to enjoy life too.