Keith Bank is the Founder and has been the CEO of KB Partners since its inception in 1996. His most successful and notable exits have included Club Champion Golf, Golf.com, Buddy Media, Fusion Risk Management, and MST Analytics. He currently serves on multiple boards and oversees the firm’s investments in other portfolio companies.
Prior to organizing KB Partners’ venture funds, Mr. Bank was an active investor in various early stage and start-up technology companies in a wide variety of industries, including the consumer, semiconductor, medical, real estate, and information technology arenas. Mr. Bank previously co-founded and served on the Board and as President of MST Analytics, Inc., which was very successfully sold to publicly traded ATMI, Inc. Before forming KB Partners, Mr. Bank served for seven years as a Principal at Hiffman Shaffer Associates, Inc., a Chicago-based national real estate development, investment, management and brokerage firm.
Other career highlights include co-founding multiple companies, and procuring the equity and debt financing for, and producing feature films Tommy’s Honour (BAFTA Scotland Best Film of the Year) and Heaven Is a Playground. He got his start in venture investing in 1994 by founding a Chicago based angel investment group.
Bank founded the Chicago Select Golf Invitational in 1995, which has raised over $15 million for the American Cancer Society, making it one of the largest and most successful events of its kind in the country. He was honored in 1999 as a “40 under 40” by Crain’s Chicago Business, and as a Who’s Who of Chicago Executives by Crain’s several times. He was also one of the Founders and served as the Chairman of the Illinois Venture Capital Association, where he was honored in 2006 with its prestigious Fellows Medal. Bank additionally serves on the board of NU Wave, an investment entity affiliated with the Northwestern University endowment and athletic department.
Mr. Bank graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. degree in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and received his MBA degree with honors from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. He is one of the few people to have played Golf Digest’s Top 100 U.S. golf courses and Golf Magazine’s World Top 100 courses.
Stephan Ahern joined KB Partners in 2018 as part of the investment team. He currently serves as a board member for KB Partners’ portfolio companies GridRival, FanPower, GOES, SIQ and StreamLayer, and as a board observer for Compliable and Tixologi. Previously, he served as a board member for Repeat.gg (acquired by Sony Interactive Entertainment) and a board observer for Hammerhead (acquired by SRAM).
Prior to joining KB Partners, Steve was an investment banker with Citigroup in Chicago where he worked on debt and equity ﬁnancings, together with mergers and acquisitions across multiple verticals including automotive, heavy equipment, paper & packaging, and metals & mining. Before Citigroup, Steve held content acquisition and finance roles at DISH Network. Early in his career, he was a design engineer at Teledyne Storm Products and interned at Monroe Capital.
Steve received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering and an MBA from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, where he graduated with High Distinction. Steve is an avid sports fan, cyclist, snow and water skier, and golfer, having played over 200 courses in the US, Europe and Asia.
Lance Dietz joined KB Partners in 2018 as part of the investment team. He currently serves as a board member for KB Partners’ portfolio companies ALO, Asensei, BookSeats, Compliable, Goss, KAYA, Stadium Live and StatusPRO, and as a board observer for Alembic, FanPower, Flex Data, and PandaScore. Previously, he served as a board observer for Repeat.gg (acquired by Sony Interactive Entertainment).
Prior to joining KB Partners, Lance was an investment banker with J.P. Morgan where he managed M&A and capital raising transactions for companies in the building products, packaging and distribution sectors. Previously, he served for five years as an Engineer Officer in the U.S. Army with assignments in Germany, Afghanistan and the U.S.
Lance is an honor graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point where he was recruited to play men's Division I basketball, and holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is an improving golfer, intermediate snowboarder, avid traveler and dabbling magician.
John joined KB in 2018 as an investor and Venture Partner in Fund I after a long and storied career in the consulting world. He has been involved with all aspects of KB’s Fund I since retiring as a Senior Partner at Boston Consulting Group in 2018, where he still serves as a BCG Senior Advisor.
Prior to joining KB, John led BCG’s Financial Services Practice in the Americas through the financial crisis. He has over 30 years of consulting experience on topics ranging from traditional strategy and organization work to breakout growth and digital innovation across banking, wealth / asset management, retail banking and insurance. John also developed a growth strategy for a leading professional golf tour that included an in-depth assessment and segmentation of its fan base to drive higher growth and engagement. He was also part of a major effort to accelerate Chicago’s tech and innovation economy by creating a stronger eco-system across universities, corporate leaders, talent, tech incubators and venture capital.
John also sits on a number of private, public and civic boards, including EVO Payments, Treliant, the Chicago Public Education Fund, Chicago Civic Consulting Alliance, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and BCG’s Center of Illinois’ Future. He received his MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a BS in accounting, magna cum laude, from Frostburg State University. He is a lifelong sports enthusiast, avid golfer and mostly retired hoopster.
Matt Howard joined KB Partners in the Summer of 2022 as an Associate on the investment team. Matt currently supports each of the partners in performing initial deal due diligence, sourcing new deals, fundraising and investment analysis.
Prior to KB Partners, Matt worked at Capital One as an underwriter in their Regional Commercial Bank where he underwrote new deals and managed a portfolio spanning across multiple industries. Before Capital One, Matt was a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch where he managed the assets of private investors and refined his selling skills. Early in his career, he interned at Mt. Vernon Investments and Red Mile.
Matt received a BS in Economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. During his time as a student-athlete, he was a 3-year starter, Team Captain and All-Ivy League player. In 2017, he was presented with a South Carolina State Senate Resolution “To honor and recognize Matthew Aaron Howard for his accomplishments on the University of Pennsylvania Men’s Basketball Team.” Matt enjoys reading, making music, working out and playing basketball. Matt is also taking golf lessons and in the process of refining his swing.
Taylor Thornton joined KB Partners in the Fall of 2021 and serves as the firm’s Chief Administrative Officer. Internally, she is responsible for creating leverage throughout the organization, by working closely with all members of the team to proactively manage the firm’s investing and platform operations. Externally, she acts as the liaison for the KB Partners' community by creating opportunities for the firm's portfolio through new and existing platform initiatives.
Before joining KB Partners, Taylor worked at Chicago-based Ariel Investments as the Chief of Staff to the Co-CEO and President. During her time at Ariel, she managed incoming correspondence on behalf of the Co-CEO and President while building and maintaining client relationships and communications. Prior to Ariel, Taylor was on the Alternative Investments Sales desk at Morgan Stanley. In this role she helped implement alternative investment strategies across the Wealth Management channel and build external fund manager relationships. Earlier in her career, Taylor was a Real Estate Associate for the Erik Miles Group at Compass.
Taylor is a double graduate of Northwestern University with a BA in Communications and MA in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism. During her time as a student-athlete at Northwestern, she won two Division I Women’s Lacrosse National Championships and was a 4-time All-American. In 2018, she was a first ballot inductee into the Northwestern University Athletic Hall of Fame.
Abbamondi is a widely respected sports and entertainment industry veteran with deep experience across multiple sports leagues, teams and entertainment properties. He is the former CEO of BSE Global, the parent company of the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association and Barclays Center, one of the top-ranked multi-purpose arenas globally. Under his leadership, the Brooklyn Nets set franchise records for attendance and revenue and were the fastest-growing business in the NBA.
Prior to joining BSE Global, Abbamondi was Executive Vice President at The Madison Square Garden Company, where he oversaw sales for one of the largest publicly-traded, live entertainment companies in the world. He had previously served as Senior Vice President of Team Marketing and Business Operations at the NBA, where he was responsible for leading strategic consulting on all aspects of team business operations. Prior to joining the NBA, he spent eight years in Major League Baseball, including three seasons as the assistant general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, as well as executive positions at the San Diego Padres and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.
Abbamondi is the co-founder of RockFence Capital, a financial services firm serving elite professional athletes, where he remains a shareholder and senior advisor. He is also a member of the board of advisors at alwaysAI, a computer vision software company.
Before beginning his career in sports and entertainment, Abbamondi served nine years as a U.S. Navy flight officer and is a two-time recipient of the Navy Air Medal with 40 combat missions over Iraq. He earned a Bachelor of Science in political science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Business Administration from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Abbamondi and his wife Sarah currently reside in Brooklyn.
Elton Brand is the General Manager of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. Elton’s success as a general manager comes following a 17-year NBA playing career, where he was the first overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft (Chicago Bulls), co-Rookie of the Year and a 2X All-Star. This followed his stellar playing career at Duke, where he led the Blue Devils to the 1999 National Championship Game and was the consensus National Player of the Year. Prior to becoming the team’s GM, Elton served in the roles of player development consultant and General Manager of the Delaware 87ers (now Delaware Blue Coats).
In addition to his role within the 76ers basketball operations, Elton is an active community ambassador, serving on the boards of both the Sixers Youth Foundation and the Philadelphia Film Society. Additionally, he sponsors young people through the Urban Affairs Coalitions Summer Youth Employment Program, which provides paid summer job opportunities and support to youth ages 14-18. The six-week program includes career exposure, on-the-job mentoring, and professional development. Elton is very passionate about educational development, and he has acquired various certifications from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he works closely with Wharton’s leadership experts and others from around the world in a dynamic, interactive environment. He lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with his wife and two children.
Oliver “Chip” Brewer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Callaway Golf Company, is a proven leader in the golf industry where he has held executive positions since 1998. He has extensive knowledge of all facets of the golf business, particularly in sales and marketing. Brewer assumed his leadership of Callaway Golf on March 5, 2012, arriving with a firm belief in technology-driven products and a track record of increasing market share and shareholder value.
Prior to joining Callaway Golf, Brewer served as CEO of Adams Golf from 2002-2012, where he engineered a turnaround that drove the company to profitability. He was widely credited with transforming Adams from a single-product focus to a diversified brand portfolio. With a clear focus on innovation, Brewer made strategic investments that bolstered the size and success of his product development team.
He first came to Adams Golf as senior vice president of sales and marketing in 1998 and served as President and Chief Operating Officer from August 2000 to January 2012. He was previously vice president of sales and marketing for Mead Corp.’s containerboard division.
Brewer embodies a lifelong passion for the game and its continued growth around the world. His father, O. Gordon Brewer, is the longtime president of Pine Valley Golf Club and is a former member of the USGA Executive Committee.
Brewer has an undergraduate degree in economics from the College of William and Mary, where he played on the golf team, and later earned his MBA from Harvard University.
Steve Byrd is a senior executive with several decades of high-level experience in the sports industry. He previously served as Head of Global Strategic Partnerships for Sportradar, a 1,600 employee, leading multi-national provider of sports data to national and international sports federations, media companies and bookmakers. They are an oﬃcial data provider of the NFL, NBA, NHL, ITF and NASCAR, amongst many others. Prior to joining Sportradar, Byrd was Co-Chief Operating Oﬃcer at STATS, Inc., where he led their growth and relationships with leagues, federations, broadcasters, brands and technology ﬁrms for almost 20 years.
Byrd has consulted for and served on the advisory board of numerous sports related companies, including ScoreStream, Togga and SidePrize. He also advises the private equity ﬁrm of Yao Ming, Yao Capital. He is a Founding Board Member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and serves as an executive in residence for his alma mater, The University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business. His undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Purdue University.
Sami El-Saden most recently served as President & CEO of Ignite USA, the North American market leader in environmentally safe reusable beverage containers. He transformed it from an industrial design firm into one of the fastest growing consumer product companies in the U.S. with over $300 million in sales. He sold the business to Newell Brands, one of the leading consumer goods companies in the world with over $16 billion in sales.
Prior to Ignite, Sami held senior marketing and business development positions at Nestle USA, Favorite Brands International and EthnicGrocer.com, an internet start-up funded by Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark Capital, KB and others. Sami spent his early career as an investment banker in corporate finance at Smith Barney, Harris Upham and Banker’s Trust Company.
He currently serves as Chairman of Full Swing Golf, the leader in golf and sports simulation products, and Verrix LLC, a bio-medical spin-off from the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is an investor in, and/or member of the Board of Directors of multiple other privately-owned middle market consumer products companies. Sami and his wife Laura support a number of philanthropic and cultural causes including the Northwestern University Settlement House, Girl’s Hope Boy’s Hope, RUSH Hospital, The Night Ministry, The Humanities Festival, Lurie Children’s Hospital at Northwestern Hospital, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Hospital and C24/7. Sami received his MBA from the John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA and graduated with distinction in 1984 from Stanford University with a B.A. in Economics.
Cliff Grevler is a Senior Partner and Managing Director of the Boston Consulting Group. He is also the Managing Partner of the Boston Consulting Group in Canada, where he co-leads BCG's Global Sports Practice. He began his career at BCG in 1997 and led the Consumer Goods and Retail Practice for several years, where he helped transform some of Canada’s most prominent companies.
Cliff brings his passion for sports to the Boardroom and has spent the past 20 years as an advisor to senior executives across the sports ecosystem. He has worked across all 5 major sports leagues in North America in addition to having advised the International Cricket Council, The English Premier League, and the PGA Tour. Cliff has participated in several Olympic Games/Bids and was a lead advisor in bringing the World Cup back to North America in 2026.
Cliff has worked intimately with the Commissioners and Executive Teams of these leading leagues and organizations to transform their strategies, with a focus on monetizing media rights, enhancing fan development, developing growth strategies, digital innovation and global expansion. In addition, he has worked across the gaming ecosystem in the emerging sports betting industry in North America.
Cliff was a Governor for Golf Canada for many years and sits on the Board of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Foundation. He is a guest lecturer at and a member of the advisory committee for the MBA in Sports Business Program at the Ted Rogers School of Management.
Skilled at defining winning business strategies and change-management programs, Cliff brings intellectual and process leadership skills to tackle complex, ambiguous business problems. He is a prominent speaker, has appeared on Canadian national television and radio, and been a frequent contributor to the Report on Business of The Globe and Mail.
Mark Kaufman is the founder and Executive Chairman of Athletico Physical Therapy, which offers outpatient orthopedic rehabilitation in twelve states and over 500 locations. In 1991, Kaufman opened his first rehabilitation center on Clark Street in the Gold Coast Area of downtown Chicago. Athletico’s reputation as a top-quality provider of outpatient physical therapy enabled them to expand their services and drive their expansion. The growth of Athletico’s outreach programs has mirrored the advancement of their patient care. Athletico is proud to be the official physical therapy and athletic training partner to organizations at all levels – from professional sports teams, to colleges and high schools, to elite endurance events, performing arts groups, and gymnastics programs. Notable partnerships include:
Professional: Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Cardinals
Collegiate: Big Ten Conference, Indiana University, University of Iowa, Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Performing Arts: Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance, St. Louis Ballet
Endurance: Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, Drake Road Races, Indy Half Marathon, XXX Racing
Gymnastics: Chow’s Gymnastics & Dance (US National Team Training Team Center), USA Gymnastics
Over the past 28 years, Kaufman has carefully monitored the growth of his company and recently stepped into the role of Executive Chairman. Athletico provides the following specialty services to the communities the company serves with Physical Therapy: hand therapy, women’s health, spine school, vestibular/concussion, pediatrics, video throwing and running analysis, running and endurance programs, and personal fitness and golf programs.
Mark and his wife Mary Ann, have three daughters. Mark has been a board member at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago since 2004 and served as Board Chair for two terms. He is also on the Advisory Board for Advocate Health System at Good Samaritan Hospital, a member of the Arthritis & Orthopedics Leadership Committee at Rush University Medical Center, on the Rush University Board of Governors, an Executive Council member of the Chicago Sports Commission, member of the Economic Club of Chicago, member of the Development Council for United States Soccer, and a founding member of the board of directors for Operation Walk Chicago. Mark graduated with a B.S. in Athletic Training and Physical Education from the University of Iowa and a B.S in Physical Therapy from Northwestern University. In addition, he obtained an M.S. in Exercise and Sports Sciences from the University of Arizona.
Reggie Love is a Senior Advisor at Apollo Global Management. Reggie’s responsibilities include supporting and developing strategy for human capital, public engagement and DE&I initiatives.
Reggie previously served as Partner at RON Transatlantic EG from 2012-2019, an international financial holding company with interests in the financial services, logistics, energy, industrial and beer sectors in the United States, Latin America and Europe. The group, via its portfolio companies, encompasses assets under management and revenues of over $14 billion. Mr. Love’s work at the firm focused on financial services and energy investments.
Prior to joining Transatlantic, Reggie served at the White House as a personal aide to President Barack Obama from 2009-2011, where he was responsible for assisting with the coordination and completion of the President’s daily schedule as well as coordinating with other White House offices to set up long and medium range planning. Love moved to the District of Columbia in 2006 to work for then Senator Obama after short stints in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
Love is a graduate of Duke University, holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and is the author of the New York Times Best Seller, Power Forward, My Presidential Education, which is a collection of stories and principles learned during his time working for President Obama and being a captain for the all-time winningest NCAA basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
Love serves on the boards of Cox Media Group, National Summer Learning Association, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Organizing for Action, Military Bowl Committee, Team Works, and The New Renaissance.
Following his collegiate running back days at Pitt, Curtis Martin began his NFL career with the New England Patriots, earning NFL Rookie of the Year honors in 1995. He subsequently joined the New York Jets in 1998, where he played for eight years and was a five-time Pro Bowl honoree. He was a three-time All-Pro and finished his career as the 4th leading rusher of all-time with 14,101 yards. In 2012 Curtis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
While his football accomplishments were great, his humanitarian efforts and compassion may be more impressive. While still playing, and driven to give his best while helping others, he founded the Curtis Martin Job Foundation, a non-profit organization that continuously provides financial support to single mothers, children’s charities, individuals with disabilities and low-income housing providers. It also supports Surgicorps International, an organization that sends surgeons to Third World countries to perform operations on underprivileged and uninsured patients. Curtis is the foundation’s sole financial supporter and remains committed to funding the foundation’s endeavors.
In May 2019, Curtis received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, accredited for his work and support of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
Utilizing football as his vehicle to impact others, Curtis has used the same principles that gave him success on the field to establish leadership roles in various business endeavors that would impact the business world while creating corporate partnerships. In addition to building a reputation that would create an avenue for various investment platforms, he is renowned as a businessman, role model, and philanthropist, and is living proof that, “Life is what you make it!”
Vaughn Moore is President and CEO of AIT Worldwide Logistics, a leading global freight forwarder providing supply chain solutions for a diverse range of Fortune 500 customers in nearly every industry. He is also a company owner with more than 25 years of experience in the industry.
Moore is active in multiple sports related entities and sits on the Board of Advisors for Paradigm Sports Management (representation for UFC’s Conor McGregor). He is also on the advisory board for The Anthos Group, which has grown twentyfold during his term, including the launch of the TIDL Sport brand of fitness forward products. Since 2016, he has been serving on the Executive Committee for the Chicago Select Golf Invitational, and in 2020 he was named Chairman of the annual fundraising event that is one of the largest and most successful American Cancer Society golf events in the country. Moore is also a WGA Director for the Western Golf Association's Evans Scholars Foundation and he serves as an at-large member on the Executive Board of Directors for the Rams Club at the University of North Carolina.
Moore received his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC.
Mary Owen is an accomplished business leader and strategic planning professional, a Life Trustee with the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, and Founder and President of MMO Capital, LLC. She was also recently appointed by the White House to become a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, alongside Bill Belichick, Mariano Rivera, Herschel Walker, Misty May-Treanor and other sports notables. Mary is an investor and strategic Advisor to LA-based startup, Rival Inc., an investor and Board Member of Ascend FS, and also an investor and advisor to fashion brand, The Accessory Junkie. Mary currently serves on the Board of the publicly traded Hall of Fame Village, which is developing a large mixed-use entertainment and athletic facility in conjunction with the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.
Mary was a key executive for Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. and his management company, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Enterprises and held strategic and operational roles with all of his business and philanthropic interests, including the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. At the Bills, Mary worked her way from intern to Executive Vice President for Strategic Planning. In addition to her team-level responsibilities, she was charged with representing Mr. Wilson at the League ownership level where she was appointed and served on the Super Bowl Advisory Committee, the International Committee and on the board of the NFL Foundation. During her time with Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Enterprises, Owen helped oversee the Ralph Wilson Equity Fund, a “fund of funds” venture capital firm with a focus on early stage companies in the Great Lakes region.
Mary is a graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia, where she is an active Trustee for the Jefferson Trust and longstanding Regional Selection Chair for the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. In addition, she holds an MBA from Walsh College.
Josh Pyatt is a partner at leading entertainment agency WME and co-head of WME Sports, which represents many of the sports industry’s all-time greats, including athletes, coaches, broadcasters and front office execs.
Pyatt’s ability to transition iconic athletes from the field to broadcast and production work is unparalleled, creating multimillion-dollar content businesses for clients including Michael Strahan, LeBron James, Peyton Manning, the late Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams, David Beckham, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and David Ortiz. His broadcast roster also includes FOX's Erin Andrews, Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Jennings, Brandon Marshall, Curt Menefee, and Brady Quinn; ESPN's Scottie Pippen, David Pollack, Stephen A. Smith and Tim Tebow; as well as Draymond Green and Sabrina Ionescu.
With expertise spanning network reality, cable, syndication, and international TV, Pyatt works with some of the most prolific production companies in television, including Alfred Street, Matador, Rogue Atlas, The SpringHill Company, and Gotham Chopra’s Religion of Sports banner. In addition to these powerhouses, Pyatt has also helped build a non-scripted business for legendary TV producer and “Law and Order” creator Dick Wolf.
Pyatt graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2000 with a degree in finance. He lives with his wife and two children in Los Angeles, CA.
John W. Rogers, Jr. is Founder, Chairman, Co-Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer of Ariel Investments. Headquartered in Chicago, the firm offers five no-load mutual funds for individual investors and defined contribution plans as well as separately managed accounts for institutions and high net worth individuals.
After working for two and a half years at William Blair & Company, LLC, John founded Ariel Investments in 1983 to focus on undervalued small and medium-sized companies. Patience served as the cornerstone of a disciplined approach that still drives the firm today.
John’s passion for investing started when he was 12 years old when his father bought him stocks, instead of toys, for every birthday and Christmas. His interest grew while majoring in Economics at Princeton University. In addition to following stocks as a college student, John also played basketball under Hall of Fame coach Pete Carril. He was captain of Princeton’s Varsity Basketball Team his senior year. There, Carril’s courtside lessons on teamwork profoundly shaped his views of entrepreneurship and investing.
Early in his career, John’s investment expertise brought him to the forefront of media attention, including being selected as Co-Mutual Fund Manager of the Year by Sylvia Porter’s Personal Finance magazine as well as an All- Star Mutual Fund Manager by USA TODAY.
Ariel Fund, which John started over 30 years ago and still manages today—is the number-one ranked fund among its peer group since the market bottom which followed the Great Financial Crisis. It’s a testament to John’s “slow and steady” patient investment approach, staying focused, remaining true to his convictions, having a contrarian view and investing in great companies that have fallen out of favor. A disciple of Warren Buffett, John believes in being, “Fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” It’s also why John has been highlighted alongside legendary investors Warren Buffett, Sir John Templeton and Ben Graham in the distinguished book: The World’s 99 Greatest Investors by Magnus Angenfelt.
A sought after market commentator and speaker, John is regularly featured and quoted in a wide variety of financial broadcast and print publications.
Beyond Ariel, John is a board member of McDonald’s, NIKE, The New York Times Company and serves as vice chair of the board of trustees of the University of Chicago. Nationally, John is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a director of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
In 2008, John was awarded Princeton University’s highest honor, the Woodrow Wilson Award, presented each year to the alumnus or alumna whose career embodies a commitment to national service. Following the election of President Barack Obama, he served as co-chair for the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009, and more recently, he joined the Barack Obama Foundation’s Board of Directors.
Sara Slane is a seasoned executive with expertise in the gambling industry. In 2019, Sara launched Slane Advisory, with a focus on providing strategic guidance and business development in the emerging U.S. sports betting market to media companies, sports leagues and teams. Slane’s clients include the National Hockey League, the PGA Tour, The Premier Lacrosse League, Comcast and Sinclair Broadcasting Group. Slane has over 13 years of experience working in the casino gaming industry.
Prior to forming Slane Advisory, she was the senior vice president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association (AGA). During her tenure at AGA, she oversaw and drove the most important advocacy victory in the association’s history, resulting in the overturning of the federal ban on sports betting. Because of her leadership role, Slane is touted as “the face of legalized sports betting” and deemed one of “the most important and influential voices in gaming.” Earlier in her career, Slane served as Vice President of Regional Government Affairs with MGM Resorts International for seven years, where she spearheaded the largest gaming ballot initiative in the country. Her efforts led to a victory at the polls, the successful awarding of licensure to MGM National Harbor, and the building of the $1.4 billion gaming resort on the Potomac River.
Slane is the recipient of numerous awards, including Sports Business Journal's Forty under 40 and the 2019 Sports Betting Power Players list, Global Gaming Business Top 25 People to Watch, Gold Stevie Award for Best Communications campaign of 2018, Association TRENDS' Advocacy Campaign of the Year, and The Hill's Top Lobbyist in 2018. She was also most recently inducted into the SBC’s Sports Betting Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
Shawn Spieth is the Co-Founder and Chairman of MVPIndex, a leading-edge social media analytics firm focused on the sports, entertainment and social media influencer and eSports industries. The company serves brands, teams, leagues, agencies, entertainers and athletes, and is a pioneer in the areas of social media measurement and evaluation. Marquee customers include AB/InBev, WME/IMG, Under Armour, AT&T, NASCAR, MillerCoors, Bose, Oakley and many others. Prior to founding MVP Shawn had over 30 years of experience delivering results for Fortune 500 and start-up organizations, serving in strategic sales and management roles at Anixter International, Williams Communications, Network ICE, Internet Security Systems – ISS (sold to IBM), and MacroSolve (sold to Decision Point), GuardedNet (sold to IBM). Shawn delivered top sales, growth, and profitability performance for each of these market leaders.
Shawn has a host of connections in and around the sports, golf, entertainment and media worlds, and is well respected by teams, leagues, brands and agencies across the globe. He played college baseball and basketball at Lehigh University and is a father to three successful athletes: PGA TOUR superstar, Jordan; former Brown University basketball player, Steven; and daughter, Ellen.
Joe Vrankin currently serves as CEO of the rapidly growing international indoor entertainment company PuttShack. Joe previously served as CEO of Topgolf, where he led the then early-stage company through a period of rapid growth into a unique business that re-defined a concept of a sports leisure experience. During his tenure, Topgolf grew in enterprise value from $30 million to $250 million and revenue grew ten-fold. Joe has also held numerous other sports related executive positions, including Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the Arena Football League; President of Act Global, a leading provider of synthetic grass turf products; and Chief Operating Officer of Suntex Ventures, a niche mixed use Marina company.
Throughout his 22-year C-Suite career, Joe has led multiple companies from their foundational stage into high-growth ventures. Early career positions included various management roles at Berkshire Hathaway owned World Book Publishing, including Director of Corporate Finance and Managing Director, Trade Publishing. He began his career in public accounting at Grant Thornton, is a Certified Public Accountant, earned his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and holds a BS in accounting from Northern Illinois University. Joe has been a Board Member of multiple privately owned companies and was a professor and advisory board member at the Northwestern University Graduate School of Sports Administration.
Di Wilkins recently assumed the Chair role at Omnicom’s leading digital marketing and design agency Critical Mass, after 15 years as Chief Executive Officer. In her 23 years with Critical Mass, Di has held multiple key roles—Managing Director, coach, entrepreneur and leader for teams and clients. During her tenure, Critical Mass and its affiliate organizations grew from 25 people in Canada to 1000 employees working in numerous locations around the globe. Her leadership vision and values have propelled Critical Mass to its widely recognized breadth and depth of services, its vibrant agency culture, its purpose-driven mindset, and its unwavering commitment to client service.
Di began her Critical Mass career in Stockholm, leading the Saab account on a global basis. After two years, she relocated to Calgary and was promoted to CEO in January 2006. Prior to that, she received an MBA while pursuing a career as a golf pro. Her passion for the game is one of the things that attracted her to Critical Mass in its early days, a time when the agency designed instructional CD-ROM’s for golf but had ambitions to do much more. Di immediately recognized the potential of both the fledgling agency and digital and never looked back. While her golf handicap suffered, the Critical Mass team and their clients benefited for over two decades from her strong leadership and strategic vision.
Under Di’s leadership Critical Mass has been recognized across its industry as an A-List Agency, Best Engagement Agency, Top UX Design Agency, Best Agency to Work For, Best Place to Work, Employer of the Year and Agency of the Year. Di herself was recently included among Campaign’s 40 Over 40 list and named Top Boss in the Digiday Worklife Awards and Agency Leader of the Year by Campaign. Industry comments and POVs from Di have been published in The New York Times, Forbes, Ad Age, Adweek, The Drum, and Campaign, and she's been interviewed on a number of podcasts, including Real Famous, A Call to Action, and Fearless Creative Leaders. Di is also a founding member of Omniwomen, an organization inside Omnicom (Critical Mass’s parent company) designed to facilitate getting more women in senior leadership roles across Omnicom.
Di is also currently Chair of the Board at Fast & Female, a charity whose mission is to empower girls through sport. She is also a past board member at the House of Anansi Press and currently works with a number of startups as both a strategic advisor and angel investor. Di is a Selection Committee Member and Advisor for Axis Connect, and the Calgary Influential Women in Business Awards. In addition, Di is the co-founder and Managing Partner of a private activist investor fund that has set out to prove that public companies with a female CEO are inherently more diverse and resultingly achieve stronger financial performance.
Prior to beginning her career with Critical Mass, Di was an avid competitive golfer. Following a successful junior golf career, Di attended the University of South Alabama on a golf scholarship. She was a 3-time Team Captain, 3-time Academic All-American, and ranked as high as 75th in the NCAA Division 1 rankings. Di was also tapped by the Mortar Board Honors Society, and went on to complete her MBA on an academic scholarship. Following University, Di was also a CPGA Golf Professional and college instructor in Canada.