Full Contact CEO Season 4
Marco Masotti is not afraid to be outspoken on Twitter. He brokers huge sports acquisition deals like the recent takeover of Chelsea FC and the complete re-imagination of the Milwaukee Bucks. But through it all, rugby has been a constant in his life. Now as an owner of the one and only Sharks, as well as as a stakeholder in Saracens, Marco is helping change the game and his influence is rubbing off in the MLR.
Who is Marco Masotti
Alex Magleby is joined by one of the most outspoken and successful leaders in the world of sports and rugby. Originally hailing from Amanzimoti, South Africa, we find Marco sitting in his home office in New York.
Rugby fans will know him as the owner of the Sharks in Durban. He also is a stakeholder in the very successful Saracens who have dominated the English Premiership for the past decade. What most people don’t know is that Marco is a Partner at Paul Weiss, a very large and successful US law firm.
Marco, whose first and last name is Italian, gets his origins from his father who moved from Italy to South Africa and worked in the automobile industry.
What we deciphered very quickly is that Marco is an incredibly humble person, who has worked very hard in life and he absolutely loves rugby. At the time of recording, he had just taken Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira to a New York Giants game.
From Coastal South Africa to the Big Apple
Marco humbly will say that his trajectory in life came about because of good fortune but there’s a lot more to unpack there.
He studied at the University of Natal in Durban around the same time Nelson Mandela was being released from prison. At that time South Africa was going through some incredible changes and leaving apartheid behind.
Marco received a Fulbright Scholarship from the University of Virginia. “I was surrounded by a great group of friends and fellow law students who carried me. It was an exciting time. I had great teachers. And, you know, the timing worked out well with, you know, the opportunity to come to the United States.”
Marco became best friends with Max Kennedy son of the late Bobby Kennedy. He was able to spend Thanksgiving at the Kennedy compound with essentially American Royalty.
Marco also was lucky enough to meet Ted Sorenson who was JFK’s speechwriter and soon enough Ted became a mentor to Marco at Paul Weiss.
To this day Marco is incredibly thankful for the mentorship from Ted that he has introduced a program at The Sharks where players have a local and foreign mentors.
Marco’s first rugby game was the Springboks vs The All Blacks in 1976 at Kings Park. “Morne du Plessis was Captain and I think I sat in the last row of King’s Park, which is the Shark Stadium, you know in the bleachers and just totally, of course, the Boks won. And I totally and utterly fell in love with the sport.”
Marco always says “I was born with a rugby brain but not a rugby body.”
Marco got to where he is in ownership by making great rugby friends including Francois Pienaar and Vincent Mai. It was a friendship first before business and the opportunity to invest in The Sharks came about because of great timing.
Marco loved that Vincent actually paid for Sia Kolisi’s schooling and scholarship which ultimately led him to play rugby, captaining the Springboks and of course winning a World Cup.
Marco initially closed his investment with the Sharks during the pandemic while the team was still a part of Super Rugby. These South African rugby teams needed investment at this time, especially after years of decline in the pro rugby scene. Not to mention there were echoes of the South African clubs playing in the URC with the opportunity to play in the Champions Cup.
Rugby is the USA
“Rugby is part of the DNA in the United States.”
Marco learned that very early on from his first few years in the country. It was the Cherry Blossom Tournament in Washington DC that really opened his eyes to the potential rugby can have in America.
“I was on the Virginia Club team, and I couldn’t believe it. You know, you sit on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and they’re like rugby fields to your right. And there were teams from all over. It’s like, you know, 2,500 clubs all over the United States.”
The issue has always been about messaging and spreading the game, especially in such a crowded space.
Marco believes in a way the NFL can be a vehicle. It can be the “Football of the Spring.” But he wants there to be personalities and controversy to help bring the spotlight on the sports.
“Rugby has its traditional values but we can also still celebrate the players and they can have names on the back of shirts. It’s a team sport but there is an inherent individuality.”
This is something we’re starting to see more especially here in the MLR and The Free Jacks. We’re creating and highlighting hometown heroes and characters. We’re also diving deep into the team and going behind the scenes. Not to mention we’re turning our game days into a full festival for everyone!
For more on Marco Masotti, his incredible story, and the time he met Muhammed Ali, listen to his full episode of Full Contact CEO.