Friday, July 16, 2010

Good Luck, Joe

Joe Lacob understands how to succeed against long odds. That's what venture capitalists do: they put money on the table (and sometimes double down), hoping for a big payoff. They're also known to fold 'em when they have a weak hand.

But the gambling analogy isn't perfect, because VC's don't just sit back and let their wagers ride. They get very involved in the companies they fund (Lacob sits on a number of corporate boards), actively working to arrange mergers or recruit executives.

Studying the VC way of doing business may help understand what kind of an owner Joe Lacob will be, now that he's pulled off a bit of coup by purchasing the Golden State Warriors for $450 million (it's not all Lacob's money; Hollywood mogul Peter Guber is in on the deal). Everyone was reporting that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was going to win the Warriors (and by his own admission, Ellison outbid Lacob), but a Sand Hill Road moneyman is now in charge.

One thing sacred to a venture capitalist is a business plan. Lacob has already said he has plans for the Warriors, and you can bet there's some PowerPoint in there somewhere. But let's hope he's ready for some surprises. Businesspeople (and those who invest in businesses) may think they know how to react and adapt, but what do you do when a significant asset like your first-round draft choice ruins his wrist and will miss most of his first season?

By all accounts, Lacob is a serious sports nut and a guy with deep Bay Area roots. He may not have Ellison's star power (though I believe those who thought Ellison would have been a Mark Cuban-like figure would have been sorely disappointed), but I'd be shocked if he treated his ownership role the way Chris Cohan did. Expect Lacob to be firmly in charge. Venture capitalists don't do hands-off very well.

Whether that will be enough to clear the bizarre curse that seems to have settled over the Warriors franchise is something we'll learn as time passes.

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