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A private equity-owned company with giant wealth management and insurance holdings tapped the ex-CEO of the U.S. Soccer Federation to ramp up its services for athletes and entertainers.

Days before the opening matches of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, San Francisco-based Galway Holdings announced it had appointed Will Wilson to be the firm’s first chief corporate development officer for global sports and sustainability. Galway, which received a majority investment from funds controlled by Harvest Partners in 2020 alongside existing private equity stakeholders Oak Hill Capital and The Carlyle Group, owns three major wealth and insurance companies. They are $14 billion registered investment advisor MAI Capital Management, 2,600-employee EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants and 20,000-agent wholesaler Jencap.

Will Wilson, Galway Holdings
Will Wilson is the chief corporate development officer for global sports and sustainability at San Francisco-based Galway Holdings.

Galway Holdings

Working with athletes and entertainers as clients often proves easier said than done, since their overnight wealth and typically complicated circumstances demand a level of expertise or even personal familiarity. Some practices at Galway’s MAI, an RIA aggregator based in Cleveland with 17 other offices, are already working with “a number of high-profile athletes,” and Galway’s insurance firms draw business from entertainment events such as concerts, Wilson said in an interview. As the uncle and onetime agent of former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Wilson brings the knowledge he gained with U.S. Soccer and prior roles with sports marketing and talent firm Wasserman, the National Football League and Major League Soccer.  

Wilson said that an introduction to Galway executive chairman John Hahn, who explained “his vision for what they’re trying to do with Galway” and “his desire to grow the entity,” drew him to the position. “They’re very aggressive,” he added. “They want to have a leading position in the sports and entertainment world.”

Wilson’s new role calls for him “to be a resource, and to help tackle the bigger projects that not everyone can get to in the daily course of their work,” he said.

Athletes keep financial advisors busy with an array of planning needs that go beyond “just portfolio management,” said Matthew Bacchiochi, the president of Toronto and Tampa, Florida-based Gavin Hockey Wealth Specialists. Over more than 20 years catering to hockey players since former National Hockey League player Stewart Gavin launched the firm, the practice has built a base of about 105 clients with $500 million in assets including current pros Jack Studnicka of the Vancouver Canucks, Mark Giordano of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mason McTavish of the Anaheim Ducks. In 2021, the firm merged into Connectus Wealth Advisers, which is one of the largest RIAs owned by aggregator Focus Financial Partners.

For NHL athletes, the complexity begins with the financial implications of working both in Canada and the U.S. and extends to areas such as budget and savings targets, private banking, foreign exchange needs, disability insurance, endorsement deals and residential questions for the relocating players, Bacchiochi said. Many times, advisors or wealth management firms “are trying to enter the athlete market just to gather assets,” he said.

“There’s so much that is involved with these guys that’s unrelated to investments, and there are so many areas that we can create value outside investments,” Bacchiochi said. “Some advisors don’t even realize that they don’t get paid from May until September.”

Wilson grew well acquainted with complexities during his eventful tenure atop U.S. Soccer from March 2020 until stepping down this past June. Besides negotiating the national team’s latest sponsorship by Nike and a media-rights deal with Warner Media, Wilson navigated the pandemic and secured collective bargaining agreements with the men’s and women’s teams ensuring equal pay in the future after the $24-million settlement of the female players’ lawsuit. 

He declined to make any predictions about the men’s team’s fate in their upcoming match on Monday with Wales or in the World Cup.

He began his sports career as a Division III football player and then moved to the communications and public relations division of NFL Europe. Later, as the managing director of NFL Mexico, Wilson helped bring the first-ever international NFL game to Mexico City in 2005. At Wasserman, he started the agency’s NFL practice in 2012. 

“I have come to know Will as a man of integrity and uncompromising values. He is passionate about supporting athletes and committed to making a difference in the lives of others,” Hahn said in a statement. “His joining Galway signifies a milestone for us as we continue to expand and diversify our offering to serve the evolving sports and entertainment ecosystem.”

Wilson started at Galway earlier this week. The influx of money paid to college athletes for their name, image and likeness, or NIL, has created a “completely different landscape” that displays how “we’re entering, and we’ve been in and we’re accelerating the age of the athlete,” Wilson said. “All those experiences have made me really appreciate the journey of every elite athlete and what it takes to get to the top of their game.”



Read More: Ex-CEO of U.S. Soccer Will Wilson joins Galway Holdings

2022-11-18 19:28:57

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