The CEO of Barstool Sports beat 74 men for the job -- here's how she won

Barstool SportsErika Nardini, pictured above with founder Dave Portnoy, wanted to ‘preserve the heart of the relationship between Barstool and its fans.’
  • Erika Nardini is the CEO of Barstool Sports, a digital media company valued at $US100 million.
  • She beat 74 men for the position of CEO.
  • During her interviews for the job, she showed that she understood the company’s connection to its audience and didn’t want to change that.

Erika Nardini was an entrepreneur in a meeting with investors in January 2016 when she heard they’d bought a majority stake in Barstool Sports.

Nardini had not only heard of Barstool Sports, but she’d been a die-hard fan for years. She had the app on her phone and proceeded to tell the investors why the company was “incredible.” Nardini also called it the “jenkiest piece of sh– technology I’ve ever seen. Like there’s so many things that they should fix and do.”

Today, Nardini is the CEO of Barstool Sports, a site known for its coverage of news, sports, and girls. The company was recently valued at $US100 million.

On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It,” Nardini told US editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell how she went from that meeting to land the position at Barstool.

At the time of the meeting with investors, Nardini was running Bkstg (pronounced “Backstage”), a direct-to-consumer platform for music artists.

“I left the meeting super jealous because I felt like they were going to find a white guy with an MBA and the right pedigree to go partner with Dave to run that company,” Nardini said.

That spring, she met Barstool Sports’ founder, Dave Portnoy, for coffee. “He and I clicked, and I loved what he had to say,” Nardini told Shontell.

After a few more coffee meetings with Portnoy, Nardini knew she wanted to work there. Ultimately, she would beat out 74 men for the CEO position.

How did she do it?

Nardini understood that Barstool Sports fundamentally cared about its connection with its audience

After several rounds of interviewing with different people, Nardini met Barstool’s Editor-in-Chief, Keith Markovich, for a drink.

“I told him everything I would want to do and I was excited, I asked him a ton of questions,” she said.

Then, at the end of the interview, Nardini remembers Markovich telling her: “You’re the only one that didn’t ask me about the girls. You’re the only one that didn’t ask or give an opinion that Barstool needed to shut down ‘Smokeshow of the Day’ or this that or the other thing, or the history of Barstool or say ‘The skeletons and controversies in Barstool’s past are innumerable.’

Nardini says the reason she didn’t ask those questions is because she knew Barstool’s reputation, and she didn’t want to change it. It was doing so well with fans as it was – even if some of its features were controversial.

“The reason I didn’t ask is because I think, at its core, there will never be another company like Barstool Sports and the reason there will never be another company is that [founder] Dave Portnoy created a brand for consumers, and all he ever cared about – and all anyone whoever came to Barstool cared about – was how they connected with their crew.”

Nardini assured the Barstool crew that she would not change “the nucleus” of the company. Instead, her goal would be “to make it evolve into something much bigger and to frankly preserve the heart of the relationship between Barstool and its fans.”

In July 2016, Nardini became the company’s CEO.

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