NBA Hall of Famer, philanthropist, and investor David Robinson sat down with us to discuss his journey from investor and philanthropist to impact investor. As The Admiral points out, there has been a generational shift in how we seek to achieve positive social returns. Millennials tend to be focused on achieving both positive financial and social returns with the same investment rather than the traditional focus on not-for-profits and foundations. This is an insight we are witnessing throughout the industry and Admiral Capital Group is a particularly interesting representation of this larger trend. We are proud to be hosting David Robinson at Total Impact in Philadelphia, April 26 -27, and we hope you can join us.
Why is an NBA legend involved with impact investing?
As professional athletes, we have been given an incredible platform and I’ve always felt a deep responsibility to give back to the communities that have supported me. My main passion has been education, which in my opinion is the key to breaking cycles of poverty. I want to inspire kids in underserved communities to be passionate about learning and developing the life skills needed to be successful in college, their careers and in their lives. I started in San Antonio by building a school for low-income children. It was a massive community development effort. We raised $40m to build and operate the Carver Academy, a project that brought new life into the eastside of San Antonio, which has been an economically depressed area of the city. We then partnered with IDEA Public Schools, a best in class charter management organization, to create a more scalable model.
Given the constant fundraising needs to sustain and scale up our community efforts, my partner Dan Bassichis and I created a business plan that would utilize a for-profit enterprise to sustain the non-profit work. To date, our business has been focused on value-add real estate, and select sports and hospitality focused private equity, with 10% of profits going towards funding our work in communities. We see opportunities in the future to make direct impact investments, especially in real estate.
Your son David Jr. is now involved in the business. How did that come about?
Dan and I have worked hard to grow Admiral Capital over the last 10 years, with a primary focus on building a scalable and profitable business with a strong social mission. We have had great success on the business front which has allowed us to support community efforts, but now it is time to scale that up. David Jr. has joined the team to focus on defining and implementing the social goals. He’s brought new energy and a different approach to impact than I have had in the past. This new generation is looking for ways to actively invest into communities and catalyze change, whereas my generation focused on not-for-profits and foundations.
How did your partnership with your business partner come together?
I met Dan in 2002 through a mutual friend who I knew through the Naval Academy, and who went to Duke business school with Dan. Dan immediately jumped in and started helping me tackle challenges at the Carver Academy and was passionate about helping me scale up our work. We worked together for 5 years on community efforts before deciding to start a business together. We created a business plan to combine our interests in real estate, investing, and community impact to build a business that can generate attractive returns while making an impact.
Going forward, what’s on the horizon for Admiral Capital?
Real estate has been the focus for Admiral Capital and our success has allowed us to build a strong team and to start expanding into other strategies. Over the last few years we have made investments in strategic sports and hospitality businesses including Centerplate, Academy Sports, LeagueApps and Krossover. More recently, we launched a franchise platform starting with Blaze Pizza and Jimmy John’s. We plan to continue to expand our real estate efforts into other strategies including workforce housing and will also scale up our private equity investing.
One project that we’re particularly excited about is here in Philadelphia. Admiral Capital is partnering with David Gutstadt and Michael Forman, to develop a 70,000 square foot high-end private membership club which we believe will become the new destination for Philadelphia’s business leaders, entrepreneurs and socially active residents. We’ve brought together a group of athletes and high-profile investors and plan to utilize the club to create programs to support lower income Philadelphia communities through education, career development, and the arts.