Heading into his ninth year as President of the Milwaukee Bucks, and fifth year as President of the world-class Fiserv Forum, Peter Feigin brings more than two decades of dynamic corporate leadership to Milwaukee’s sports and entertainment scene. His talents, hard work and dedication are the driving force behind the transformational vision for not only the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum, but for the city of Milwaukee and state of Wisconsin.
John Shegerian: This edition of the Impact podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet and your privacy, and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics, asset disposition provider and cyber security focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world for more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit eridirect.com.
John: Welcome to another edition of the impact podcast. This is a super special edition. We’ve got Peter Feigin. He’s the president of the Milwaukee Bucks and he’s a native New Yorker. He’s with us today. Welcome to the impact podcast, Peter.
Peter Feigin: Hey, John thanks for having me.
John: Hey, Peter. Before we get talking about all the amazing things you’ve done in basketball, and just coming off amazing championship. Talk a little bit about where you even grew up, how you even got here.
Peter: Yeah. Crazy simple story grew up in New York City, Manhattan on the Upper East Side, went to high school in Brooklyn. I have an identical twin brother who happens to still be in New York and runs a private school called Trevor Day School. That school happens to be the place where all of Mark Lazari and Wes Edens’s kids went, who are the owners of the Bucks. And probably about 15 years ago, Mark Lazari was looking to explore buying teams and they were in a parent conference, and my brother just said to him, “Hey, my twin brother’s over at Madison Square Garden he runs the marketing there he understands the P&L you probably get a kick out of him coming with you and giving you an opinion on what that was.” Make a long story short, we probably spent the next 10 years having the most incredible adventures of going to do due diligence on teams that he was prospecting to buy. One Thursday night he gave me a call and said, “Do you think you can go to Milwaukee and talk to Senator Herb Call. He thinks he’s going to sell the team.” Low and behold 24 hours, called him back and I said, oh, he’s going to sell the team. I’m like, we actually, might have a chance to get this done and to make a long story short, and unfortunately my twin brother thinks like I owe him a commission, for…
John: Commission. Right.
Peter: Yeah. But that’s how…
John: Or dear love.
Peter: …it worked in such a great way for me and with a magic wand really evolved into one of the most incredible jobs ever.
John: You grew up on the Upper East Side, you are a native New Yorker, your brother’s still back there. Growing up, you used to hang out, go to the garden and you were a Knicks fan or Rangers fan and Yankees or Mets. Where were you on sports?
Peter: Well, my dad was at Brooklynite so we were Mets and Jets.
Peter: We took the lumps and then, yeah, I had my dream job when I was in my mid-20s as in Madison Square Garden like running marketing for the New York Knicks and I thought I could have died and gone to heaven and that’s, I lived breathed in the Knicks basketball and Ranger hockey, it was the greatest.
John: Was Sonny Werblin still around, or was that the same?
Peter: No, he was gone.
John: He was gone. Okay. All right. Got it. Now you’re on the journey. You buy the Bucks, you help with that whole negotiation and you were living in New York, so you were married already and you decided…
Peter: Married. I’ve got two kids I’m working as, I’d say a consultant, helping to put together a business plan. Post-acquisition we’re in an interesting time in life where my dad had been ill for a while and there was no way I was going to move to Milwaukee or take, even have the prospect of taking a job because I wanted to stay in New York and be with my father. My father happened to pass away probably within a couple months and very close with Mark and Wes, who basically at that time said, “Well, you now have to really consider this and do this.” And at the time, I always say, I was their last hope because of the timing of the acquisition. The way it works is they closed in April. It was July. It was one of these terrible times where, when you’re in pro sport, you book all your revenue, you do all your dirty business before tip-off and if they didn’t have somebody to run the business in July, it would’ve been a disaster and they were stuck with me and that’s my road to success.
John: Now, you married, what, wife is a native New Yorker?
Peter: My wife’s a native New Yorker. My wife’s born in El Salvador came here when she was 9 to Brooklyn.
Peter: We’ve been married like a hundred years.
John: Hundreds. That’s good. That’s a good run.
Peter: It’s a little less, minus 76.
John: Okay, that’s still a good run.
Peter: We knew each other. We were together in high school.
Peter: We have two kids. We’ve got a sophomore in college and a senior in college.
John: Where did you go to college again?
Peter: I went to Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
John: What did you study? You didn’t study sports.
Peter: American studies in business.
John: Got it. Now, you’re talking to your wife and your children and you’re moving from New York City to Wisconsin.
John: Who’s raising their hand saying “Dad, we’re all in with you.” How does this work? How does that boat go?
Peter: That’s great, that’s one of the only times that question’s been asked. I’ll tell you how it… I got the offer, the conversation and we play a pickup game of basketball every Saturday for 20 years with the same guys. Some guys I went to high school with some guys who played college, and I leaked it at the opportunity at that game on a Saturday morning and everybody went absolutely nuts because for better or worse, I’m kind of being your average guy, you do not think Peter Fiegin’s going to have the opportunity to become an NBA president to do it and these jobs are so rare and so incredible. Everybody at ball was just, you got to move, go leave now. I said, oh, it’s so good to get all your support. I better go home and talk to Natalia to do it. So when I talked to her, I said, hey, I’ve got to tell you, first of all, the executive committee at Saturday morning run says, this is a good thing. Then she just starts laughing. It’s all about your partner, it was one of these opportunities where she was just all in and to her benefit, like I owe her forever because it was, like it’s been an unbelievable, run and a huge opportunity. We pivoted and our kids were able to finish high school in New York and we made it work and now we’ve been Wisconsin residents from New York City, which is a whole other interesting transition.
John: That’s literally a reality show that, it could be on Netflix. Talk about it, you transition now from the Knicks and your consulting gig to the president of the Bucks. When you show up for the first day, are you pinching yourself? Number one, obviously, because like you said, it’s rare air, but you’re learning on the job. This is learning on the job, right?
Peter: Well, I think it’s leadership 101, you’ve got to grasp where you are number one, and this was a very distressed brand company position. This was the Milwaukee Bucks at the time had lost the most games in the NBA, had the least revenue, had the least season ticket holders, any metric you could measure. We were either 29th or 30th in a league of 30 teams, we were in a 25-year-old arena, that part of this was how do we get a new arena built? We were in this really awesome mode of, oh, this is a startup, like this is a startup. How do we rethink it? How do we build the plumbing? How do we build the baselines? How do we get the people to try and start the journey to professionalize and really build a gold standard operation. That’s for every aspect of it. We had to certainly do it on the resources, our facilities, we had to do it on the human capital, and then we had to change our whole perception which came from the owners on what we wanted to do on the court, which win an NBA championship and what we wanted to do off the court is be the innovators and be the leaders in the way we really operate.
John: Let’s step back. I know you’ve said your pops passed. What did your dad do for a living? Just so I get a little…
Peter: He’s was in consumer products. He ran companies like Alma and Posner and cosmetics. He was a truly taught consumer products, marketing, and operations guy, was okay. Our dinner table conversation. My mother was one of the preeminent ad executives from Grey Advertising for 40 years. You talk about advantages, just the osmosis at our dinner table was I knew in two seconds like I wanted to be in business. I wanted to be in marketing in sales. I understood what a call to action was.
Peter: I’m fairly, my mom was immersed in data analytics before data and analytics was business intelligence.
John: Your mom was part of the George Lois generation and Jerry Della Femina and then Donny Deutsch’s father David Deutsch. That was the real mad man era that your mom was in at Grey Advertising, right?
Peter: You got it running the 70s, 80s and 90s, yep. That was…
John: That was it.
Peter: That was it. In the middle of New York and your…
John: You knew you wanted to be a business person when you went to…
Peter: Yeah, no question.
John: No question. Now, you had private equity partners. When you are visioning this out, like you just said, human capital, a new physical capital, on the court, off the court, what were you using both singularly as you, as Peter Feigin goes, but also with your partners and the private equity guys, what were you using as your role model? Were you looking at other franchises that have done this before, or were you looking at other business models and merging some version thereof?
Peter: Yeah, it is a combination of both because you really, I had a real rare opportunity to get out of sports and work outside of the sports industry for wealth. Just my own exposure was mixed in what are best practices for centralized services. We hired an unbelievable CFO. We hired a great human capital person to build up the structure, but it was really best practice. I will say one of the big advantages of the national basketball association is it truly is a collaborative, like on the court we are competitive. We want to win. Off the court it is best practice. We don’t compete against each other in arena revenue and local media revenue. How can we help each other and learn from each other? The ability to go into an NBA franchise and really pick all the great practices which is going around in the league is a huge advantage.
John: Is mom still around?
John: This must be one of the greatest rides of her life seeing you do this whole journey, huh?
Peter: Well, it’s having like I’ve always said, people talk about their personal board of directors and what that is and I had the advantage and still have the advantage of my mother being the best consultant you could possibly have.
John: Oh, my Gosh. That’s just what a joy. Okay. Now you’re there, you’re rebuilding. Talk about the steps leading up to pulling off, living the dream, actually winning the championship. You start and now talk about the major, like you said, you got a great human capital person, you got a great CFO. How did you put the stadium deal together? How did that come together?
Peter: Start from, yeah, start from the beginning. It all starts with the answer, right? Our owners, when you talk about, our active operating board of governors, you’ve got guys like Mark Lazari who kind of in avenue capital and ran the distressed debt world. You’ve got Wes Edens who has probably started up dozens of companies in private equity and has an unbelievable kind of entrepreneurial spirit. You’ve got Jamie Dimon, who is this incredible long-term equity holder who is done it and then you’ve got Mike Fascitelli who’s really was the chairman and CEO of Vornado Real Estate in New York on the commercial real estate side. You talk about your operating board committee, you’ve got these Masters of the Universe, and really you start with the answer. You start with what’s the goal? Well the goal on the court is we want to win a championship. The goal off the court is we want a new arena. We need to resource this place, like you can’t imagine and we need to build an infrastructure that is beyond sound for growth, so not just day one.
Peter: How do we envision the next day? I think it starts with human capital, but it really starts with road mapping out each little thing. The arena was, if the arena didn’t happen, nothing happens, and that was a public-private. I think probably one of the last public-private partnerships that that’ll happen, when Troy brought together the city, the county and the state to put together a partnership for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee.
John: Right. I’ve had some of my employees have been there and they say, it’s just amazing, just a wonderful place to watch a sporting event and I’m just talking to one this morning and he just said, “Great place, just a great arena.”We’re not going to go through this interview without talking, of course, about Giannis. You’re the ultimate insider. It’s been talked about the whole Giannis effect. Talk about having arguably the greatest player in the world on your team. How does that, and then, with that also because this harkens back, I’m old enough, you’re old enough even, we remember the Michael Jordan era, he was the greatest player in the world back in his… Again, you not only have one of the greatest players ever to play on the planet, but you’ve also created this culture of retention. Talk a bit about how to do that without bruising anyone’s ego and keeping everybody happy.
Peter: Well, I think first of all, everything is like, you plan to be great. Everything’s compounded we happen to have picked Giannis in a draft, like in, as the 16th pick. He ends up being a generational player like you couldn’t, if you were writing a Disney movie, which they have now written and now produced, it would be the fodder for a Disney. And then I think on a parallel track, you’re really building an infrastructure. You’re physically building an arena, a district, a template for success. Then you talk about what your leadership is and what your purse is so it all starts and ends with Giannis. Here is your example of everything you read everything you hear, everything he does is true. This guy is a relentless workaholic who is selfless to his teammates and like wants to win. There’s some other attributes, but just take those three is like your best, which, whether you’re on basketball or the business side, you die for. That is like what you live for. He perpetuates a culture that attracts like-minded people to him. You end up with a Jew holiday, who is this incredible, understated, all star. Then Chris Middleton next to him, which is almost the same, who are these high quality character folks who happen to be all stars in skill level. You build this infrastructure and skill set that is geared toward a championship. Then you mirror that off the court. How do you get people who care? We always tell people, listen, if you want to work here, you’re going to have to collaborate with people. You’re going to actually have to be a decent person and not be toxic. You’re going to have to work your butt off because it’s work. Some people don’t like to hear that anymore. Hey, it’s a job. We’re going to appreciate the hell out of you. You’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re going to pay you, but hey, you’re going to work. We’re going to constantly improve. It’s not the right environment for everybody.
Peter: But one of the incredible things, alignment we have with myself, John Horst, who’s our GM and coach Bud is like, we’ve got this undercurrent of constant improvement and kind of like never, pleased but never satisfied. How do we keep driving? And we want to attract people who want to be in that mode.
John: That’s awesome. Now you win, you have the championship. I actually read a whole story, there’s a whole article, Peter, about your ring. Talk about the special, the specialness of how you were involved with designing the championship ring, because there’s a lot of thought that you guys put into that ring.
Peter: Well, I made one of the biggest mistakes ever to begin with. It’s like, hey, I worry about the execution. Everything’s got to be perfect to do it and don’t realize because like, hey, I’ve never won a championship before, never run a ring so I just started the process and I didn’t realize which I now do and why our owners wanted to be intimately involved with the design of the ring. Incredibly these three guys were literally engaged. We had weekly calls. We were literally refining, cared about all the cookies and stories in it and stuff. It really is. We had a, if you remember, we had a COVID extended season.
Peter: We didn’t finish the championship till mid-July, which meant like we didn’t have long to get the rings included. What people never tell you about the rings, it’s not just the 20 rings for the players and the coach and the owners. It’s hundreds of rings.
Peter: You are doing your employees, your service, your limited partners so it is a huge process. But it was so much fun. We had Chris Middleton and Giannis involved in it kind of conceptually, and really fun conversations with Giannis’ brother Costas had just won for the Lakers the year before. Giannis was like, “I’ll make this simple, it’s got to be bigger than that Lakers ring it might be, and it’s got to be cool.” We wanted like a really cool clean design. I think one of the things Jason of Beverly Hills, who was the designer and the manufacturer did, we just had this awesome element that the top of the ring came off and became a pendant on your, that you could actually wear as a necklace.
John: Oh, wow.
Peter: Which people gave. A lot of storytelling and symbolic, and it’s been 50 years between championships. We’re one of those cities that it was just so powerful. It was just such a big deal.
John: That is a big deal. That’s and like you said, you get to share that with all the hundreds of other rings. It’s not just the players, but the way you get to honor so many of the others who put their blood, sweat and tears into helping make it a possibility. What a wonderful experience. Where is your ring? Where does it sit? Because I know a lot of coaches, lot of presidents, lot of GMs, I run into them and I ask them, can I look at your ring? And they’ve got it on. Where does your ring sit?
Peter: So my ring sits in my underwear drawer in our house which is like, great and it’s got readily accessible…I mean it’s huge. But I will tell you that most cathartic incredible, awesome thing, which everybody told me and again, the collaborative is awesome. Because I talked with the Lakers guys, I talked with the Boston guys on what they had, did. The most meaningful thing that you can never take for granted is we gave about 850 part-time workers rings to get done. Even though all of us who were so engaged into, nothing compared to what that value was, what that emotion was too. We had a ceremony and we had, and out of all the things in the experience, like I want to be in a parade every day. I’d like to do that ring ceremony for hourly staff every day and the world would be a good place.
John: It’s so amazing you say that. As you said, we all have to pay, keep the lights on buy groceries, but you can’t put a value on that kind of memento that you’ve given to those 850 people, as opposed to a monetary bonus, you can’t, there’s no, it’s invaluable that kind of experience. They’re going to look at that ring forever and remember that. What a great thing. Hey, so talk a little bit about impact. This is the Impact Podcast. You are in a community that’s not only sports crazy, but very community minded, the Packers, the Badgers, the Bucks are all very community involved. Talk about your organization, community involvement, and the impacts that you get to make both positive and otherwise. Just go beyond the scoreboard and championships that you guys get to make in your community, that you are proud of, Peter.
Peter: Yeah, I think number one is to explain kind of a small market. Because I hadn’t worked in, I’d worked in New York city. I’d worked for the New York Knicks. I’d been in a big market. Even though you think you’re such a great brand, there are a hundred things that happen in New York a day that you’re one of the elements. Here in a million person city and your ability to affect change, your platform, your ability to really make a difference is so incredible. It’s really important and you’ve got to take a real responsibility. I would say again, from our owners, from day one, they understood that from how are we stewards of the brand of the Bucks and how are we examples in the community? I think we’ve gravitated again with a lot of people we’ve brought in to engage and get it done. There’s some great things. Listen, for the rest of my life, having a boycott for the game in the bubble where we put a pause in the world.
Peter: That was the Milwaukee Bucks. That was one of these monumental, incredible, awesome times to get it done. But then there’s, in this group we’ve got 300 full-time people and 250 of them are involved in volunteering. That’s what we call our volunteering. We call it “volundeering”.
John: Right, I see. I like it.
Peter: Obviously, we have like, all of them are employee resource groups. By the way, part of the culture here and part of the DNA is, before you come in and before you, you’ve got to want to be involved. By the way I never would’ve said this seven years ago, I think you have to be involved. I think to be successful here and take it from a very fast talking, sometimes lazy speaking New Yorker, who swears too much and does everything. You really need to build equity and build trust especially in the Midwest you’ve…
Peter: …got to do what you’re going to say and say what you’re going to do and really be substantial. I think engagement and investment in the community and social responsibility is like a big deal.
John: That’s so great. Talk a little bit on a fun topic, when I was reading up about you and the team and everything else, I read about this new venture you guys got going over in Wisconsin called the Cluckery and I got hungry looking at the website and looking at the menu. Please talk about the Cluckery because this is so much fun and I wanted you to share your whole, the vision and how this all came about.
Peter: Well, I always default to the Cluckery. God, I love it as a case study. Number one, we’re in the middle of COVID. We happen to have like the largest kitchen in the state of Wisconsin. We were sitting brainstorming like, how do we keep people employed? What the heck do we do, like everybody else? We had this, I think it was an intern, said to us like, “Well, we should, have you read about ghost kitchens?” Of course we’re sitting there going like, eh, kind of like, we don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Within 45 minutes, we had this unbelievable excitement of, we’re nuts, why don’t we do like take home it’s big ordering out. This is COVID, how do we do it? We are brand marketing sales people. How could we not be good at quick serve restaurants? Why don’t we build the tenders business and leverage the Bucks brand and leverage like we’re…Low and behold, we’re up to two, almost going to get three locations on the Cream City Cluckery and it’s like a chicken tender business of which we’ve done relatively well. But I think it’s more the fun, the story. It’s certainly an example of how do you keep the entrepreneurial spirit in an organization and what better way to do it with chicken, and it’s great chicken.
John: It looks amazing. I wanted to eat some. When I was looking at the website, I was like, man, I can’t wait to taste that chicken. It looks amazing. People can find it at, I saw the website, it was Cluckery, cluckery.com, right?
John: By the way, we’ve got with us today, Peter Feigin, he’s the president of the Milwaukee Bucks. To learn more about the world championship, Milwaukee Bucks, you can find Peter and all of his colleagues and the players and all their stats @bucks.com, bucks.com. Peter, talk a little bit about the future. It’s incredible and not many people get to do it, let’s be honest, when you get to actually live your dream and go to the top. Now you’ve been to the top of the mountain. With your owners and partners and this great group of people you put together, what’s the future look like for the Bucks and what can some of the fans expect in the upcoming season?
Peter: We like to be, delusionally optimistic. How do we sit here and I think like, how could the Millwaukee Bucks not be, not America’s team, but Global’s team. We have the DNA and the strength and this caliber of championship caliber team to really be attractive to the world. Number one, growth is so exponentially outside the us, which is like really interesting for NBA basketball, for participation, for media, for social consumption. How do we continue to not only understand it, but monetize it in a very big way? Which is a huge opportunity. Then I think as we keep exploring and kind of what’s happening with online gambling and what’s happening with NFTs and what’s happening in the ticketing business, that it all evolves with technology, will be really interesting. But the overarching is how do we maintain kind of championship caliber excellence, like across the business and across the team. On the team, it takes extreme like investment to keep it. In business it takes a real challenging of like where your growth is going to come from I in a big way. We spend a lot of our time really trying to figure out what are the levers to move the revenue.
John: Go back over that, what it was called typically what’s called web3 now, or something the young people around me tell me it’s called web 3.0 NFTs, crypto sports gambling. Are they all going to be important or do you see one heavier leaning heavier than other, in terms of future revenue opportunities that are credible and consistent?
Peter: Yeah, I think the credible and constancy is like NFTs and, are in the next phase. It’s gotten through its first iteration to see where it is. It’s not really in a place where I could tell you, like, hey, here’s our growth potential…
Peter: …here’s the market. But online gambling, in state by state is massive and how you can center that do you want to become part of a casino? Do you want to open a sports book? Do you want to like, figure out what the handles are and become a…There are lots of opportunities in that realm, which I think are immediate. It all matters what state you’re in and what’s going on with the legislation. Then I think the big huge growth for NBA is how do we really figure out what our media is domestically and what it is internationally like in the next two years, which is changing dramatically. That’s the biggest change is the regional sports networks have changed dramatically. Like it’s going to streaming, it’s going to over the top, that is a huge change from all these local teams depending and getting guaranteed large dollar values for regional sports deals.
John: How about the issue of when people put on those special glasses now, and they can watch a game in 3D or what…I’m so out of it a little bit, Peter, technologically speaking, but the young people are talking about the future of watching sports is we’re going to be able to, is going to be eventually cameras court side, and we’re going to be able to watch it and feel like we’re sitting court side and you’re at a bucks game. Is this coming?
Peter: Yeah, so I think it’s here and I think it’s all about the customization, right. What’s going on with technology what’s going on, even with your experience in the arena…
Peter: …is you’ve got to have so many opportunities and different variations to really, to really acquire different types of fans. We have large sections that you never think about 10 years ago that people hang out at a bar, never have a seat, never, standing room only.
Peter: Which like, by the way, might evolve to 20%, 30% of an arena at some point. You can’t imagine.
Peter: Then I think you’re, listen, viewer consumption, what you’re talking about is whether you put on an Oculus or whether you’ve got five screens going up, people are now watching short form video in five to 20 second increments to absorb a game. How do you balance with that and how do you create that menu that people can pick and choose from?
John: In terms of watching the young generation now come up, has NIL and the advent of NIL do you believe that’s going to have a positive or negative effect as you continue to recruit players in the future? Because are they getting too sophisticated too early in terms of their value enterprise?
Peter: Wow. That’s an interesting question. We deal, and we’ve had some meetings with our friends at the Badgers of the University of Wisconsin as they create a collective, we’ve certainly been tracking kind of what’s going on. I think it changes the landscape. Right now, it’s very hard to figure out and understand where it’s going, because this is the wild West.
Peter: NIL has no guardrails, no anything who’s getting paid what? How does it really work? Donations to the school can be turned into compensation. I think it’s hard to grasp where this is going, but it professionalizes players at this…
Peter: …point teenagers at a much earlier level than they’ve ever been…
Peter: …professionalized on a revenue basis, so yeah. I think if nothing else, it changes the awareness, the sophistication, and the business operations of the way players will position themselves and the way they’ll market themselves. Just what you said is like we’re always coming in this balance of how do we, we want Giannis to represent the Bucks brand. His own social presence is so valuable, is so great. In a perfect world, how do we mesh them together to have one and one equal three?
John: Right. As you said, because of your mom and dad’s background, and because you had some of the rock stars of industry, as you say, Masters of the Universe, as your partners, you got to meld your experiences, your parents coaching, and then the rock stars came and they were also, you got a perfect soup of business experience to create this amazing success story. Are you now being used as a paradigm by other team presidents, GMs owners that are looking to you and coming to you for advice or for just pearls of wisdom of how can we do it because here’s where we sit in baseball or in football or in basketball because they want to follow this amazing path and journey that you guys have created there?
Peter: Yeah, I think I have this, my own personal craziness is I love to collect people. By form, I think your strength of your network is as strong and as smart as you can possibly be. I answer that by saying like we were successful because at the time the Brooklyn Nets, the Orlando Magic, and a bunch of other teams were selfless with their help with us on how to have best practices on how to build an arena and how to build an infrastructure on how to form. I really think it’s kind of a cycle of selflessness and kind of best practices. Yes, we are shiny toy people want to see how you build a project in time and under budget and how you’d manage a project. I’m probably like someone who gives everything away. I think that’s like fair. I always think it comes back. I’m not a big fan of, hey, we need to make money or consult off that. I encourage it, and selfishly, it’s a fun way to network and deal with people. By the way, it’s so much fun. Whether you’re building an arena, whether you’re building infrastructure or a team, whether you’re dealing with the same problems, it is really powerful to end up with, when you come up with conflict and problems or you need solutions, or you need smart brains to be able to pick up the phone with 5, 10 like-minded people who are dealing with the same stuff.
John: It’s fascinating you say that. You talked about the head of human capital, and obviously I’m proud to say, and I’m only saying this with love, you’re a native New Yorker like I am and we’re people, people. This is the most, this is fun of life. Not everyone is. How do you balance a world and a sports world, especially, that’s become so excited about, what Billy Beane created in terms of data analytics and the importance of numbers with the human capital element. Let me just throw this out there. Above me there are my two children, my son, Tyler, my daughter, Courtney. My son was a freshman at San Joaquin Memorial High School when Brook Lopez was there and he played with Brook under coach Pat Giles. We sponsored Brook, the Lopez twins and you have Brook on your team, another great kid. You’ve collected all this human capital, both starting and back up. How do you end up managing the importance of numbers and capital. financial capital with human capital to end up with the right result, how is that math done in Peter Feigin’s head?
Peter: Yeah. That’s the relentless, that’s the difference I think of what success is. How do you care about it, and Jon Horst is so great on the basketball side. How do we attack every day with how can we resource everybody who works here to be able to do their job very well. How can we do fun special things, what matters to people? I think, listen, you could certainly have success with superpower and great skill and everything, but to have people…You mentioned at the beginning of the show, how in a small market, do you keep consistency? Can you keep a competitive championship-caliber team across an era? Well, you got to be beyond on top of your game. Not only do you have to have the best facilities, the best resources, no reason for anybody to say, “What want to be,” you got to be good people. You got to be someone that actually that enjoys being here and part of the family culture and part of an organization. When they talk about Milwaukee, they’re like, “Are you kidding me?” This is the best place I’ve ever been.” We go from that answer where we know how important it is because the winters here suck. They’re the worst. You can imagine, yes, I’d rather be in Miami for 180 days, no question. But, you want to be in a place where people care about you? Do you want to be in a place where people are having fun and we’re trying to get rid of all the toxic. It has huge value and it’s paid huge returns for us.
John: Just for a fun look, for our listeners’ sake. Before we started this interview, you took a little break and said, “John excuse me for a second because someone very special stopped by.” Talk a little bit about the ice cream truck, the ice cream man.
Peter: The ice cream truck. Well, you know about the ice cream truck.
John: You talk about it.
Peter: You are a genius because you use food as you’re incentive and nothing better than ice cream. I just think we’re just laughing that it’s so great to have, we have an ice cream Wednesday where it’s supposed to be Tuesdays, but we incentivize to ride his ice cream truck around the floor and around the facility to do a break. But I think, those are the things that like, yes, you can always pay people. You can always have a kitchen with food in it. You can always have free coffee. But I think, if you sprinkle in the effort and the care, it affects change. It’s a difference maker, especially now in our labor market.
John: You talked about your Masters of the Universe being your partners and owners and really some of the brightest people on this planet which of course, that’s true. Their track record proves it. Who negotiated in 2018 for the only NFL player to invest and buy 1% of the Bucks, Aaron Rodgers, being Aaron Rodgers, whose genius was that? And how did that all come about? Are you allowed to talk about that, Peter?
Peter: Yeah, I will just tell you that was one of the most fun dreamlike things for us ever. I think Wes Edens and Aaron Rodgers had been friends for awhile. By the way, Aaron is a fanatical basketball fan, and by the way, a regular classic Wisconsin superstar wants to come to a game, pays for his ticket wants to be left to watch the game.
Peter: I think when the opportunity came and we thought it was such a good idea, we were aiming an incredible. We’ve had Giannis invest in the brewers, which is like…
John: That’s awesome.
Peter: …it’s not the biggest, but it just talks about how special when you talk about in a small market, and we try to coalesce with the Brewers and the Packers as much as we can to be like the strength of these three pro teams and their players and their coaches and our coaches and GM spend a lot of time with the coaches and GMs at the Packers, which is just great. It’s like you think about what the culture of community is.
John: Yeah. Peter, before I let you go, I have to ask you. A, if you weren’t doing this and I know this is a dream job. Like you said at the top of the show, very few human beings even get to be in this position in any professional sports level. But you’ve not only lived the dream but also climb to the mountain and very few win a championship. You’ve done it all. What would you be doing if you just couldn’t be doing this? When you think about it, what else would you be doing? What would you be doing?
Peter: Oh, my goodness. I think if you took me at this point in my life and where I am and…
Peter: …which I can’t even believe it, I’d probably have some fun teaching.
Peter: Probably, now with the way interesting curriculum has expanded and fun case studies and like where schools are. I also listen, I thought, and my parents thought both my brother and I were as you can imagine before ADD was actually diagnosed…
Peter: …for kids our age and stuff, because it’s still be on impulsive, relentless, like, [inaudible]. It would be fun to own a hundred McDonald’s franchises and you guys would be great at that. They were trying to think of something that would be like…
Peter: …did active, to get in. But that kind of thing. But was like loved and I think I’m addicted. I’m addicted now to the operating side of the challenge of constant improvement, and how would you look at an organization and dive in there and really look to re-engineer tweak, and build for revenue growth? Whether it was in sports or somewhere else I’d probably look to lead an opportunity for a turnaround or a startup.
John: Talking about teaching, we have 15 years of this podcast, so we have thousands of young people around the world that actually tune in and listen and when we have someone like you on, I’d like to ask you this. There’s a lot of people that look up to you and want to be either the next Peter Feigin, or be an entrepreneur and do a startup. In many ways, you were doing a startup when you came to Milwaukee with your partners. What advice can you share backwards to the young people out there that want to live your journey or something close to it?
Peter: Yeah, what really worked for me is I think I was just insatiably curious. I asked every good question, every dumb question you could possibly imagine to really learn. Then, I would literally leech myself. I don’t know if that’s a word, but I would attach myself.
Peter: …to anybody I thought was of great skill and value for selfish reasons to feel good. Again, under the umbrella of collecting people and really having experience in a big way. I think one of the big skills is, I definitely do not know the answer to everything and if you’re able to… Basically I do think I can solve anything. I can come up with a solution, we can figure it out somehow, some way if you’ve got the right people around you to do it. But the honesty of saying you don’t know all the answers and figuring out what the solutions are is probably like pretty powerful in the way things work. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve had so much fun and been in sports entertainment and aviation and in different things and it’s all been about every job I’ve had incredibly, I’ve said like, oh my God, could you imagine, like I’ve died and gone to heaven. Now, I’ve been extremely lucky.
John: I don’t want to skip over that. You were very part of that whole Marquis Jet, NetJet thing too, right?
John: Talk about and want you to share a couple of thoughts about Warren Buffett and that whole deal.
Peter: Yeah, it was incredible. In a 10 year phase, I started with a startup with Marquis Jet, with Kenny Dichter and Jesse Itzler who started the business and came from sports…
John: Another native New Yorker from Roslyn, New York.
Peter: Yeah. Absolutely. Jesse the Jet, no question. We scaled the company up to, a little bit under a billion dollars. I became the president of the company for a number of years, and then we got absorbed by NetJets and took on that role at NetJets for a couple of years, and really learned incredibly, had this opportunity to learn P&L and operational…
Peter: …administration, in aviation, in a $3 billion international aviation company, which was just amazing.
John: Unbelievable. How’s Warren Buffett in person as, how exactly?
Peter: The same he is, everywhere else. There’s no complexity. He’s very straightforward. He wants to know what the answers are. He trusts you to run a business and he also ethically says “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of a newspaper the next day,” and he means it. Those are simple, it’s his genius. He really taught me the lesson late in life is the real geniuses or the ones who can take these complex things and talk to me about them and I understand them. He simplified the housing market for me. He simplified the commodities business like, oh, I understand it now. That’s…
John: Like you said, the smartest people could take the most complex issues and just make them simple.
Peter: Yeah, right.
John: That’s so true. Well, Peter, this has been more than a delight. I really hope I get to meet you in the future. I’m sure somehow our paths will cross. For our listeners and viewers out there, to find Peter Feigin and the Milwaukee Bucks, you always could go to bucks.com. You could also see their new uniform styles at Bucks Pro Shop. At Bucks Pro Shop, you can find them. We are going to put in the notes Peter’s email address because he was kind enough to give us that. Please remember if you’re going through Wisconsin, go and have some chicken tenders at the Cluckery. Go to the Cluckery. Enjoy the chicken tenders. Peter Feigin, you’re making an amazing impact. You’re unbelievably inspirational. I’m so proud and honored to have this conversation with you today, and thank you for your generosity of your time.
Peter: John, the best. Thank you. A lot of fun.
John: This edition of the impact podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform. Revolutionizing the talent booking industry with thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent, for speeches, custom experiences, live streams, and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talent today, visit letsengage.com.