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As a former financial planner, the long-term was Brian Ouellette’s expertise. Ouellette figured he could use that experience to protect athletes from doom – if only he could get in contact with them.Fortunately, his “ears perked” when he learned of Athlete Connect, an existing database of athletes and sports agents. Before long he leveraged that database into a full-fledged company called Pro Athlete Direct.
As much as we love covering athletes’ failed business ventures, and their inability to hold on to money after retirement, it’s still pretty amazing that an estimated 70 per cent of athletes go broke after retirement.
“If that number was 10 or 15 per cent that would be absolutely astounding,” said Brian Ouellette, a former money manager with CIBC Oppenheimer and UBS. “But 80 per cent is unfathomable.”
The truth is athletes face difficulties the very moment they think they’re set for life: when, in their early 20s, they sign a multi-million dollar contract. To a barely-legal athlete accustomed to an impoverished lifestyle, $3 million feels like an endless bounty.
But spread out over the next 30 years of his or her life, it’s just $100,000 a year. No small sum, to be sure, but not the kind of money that affords Beverly Hills mansions, Rolexes, Bentleys, and other status symbols of the celebrity life. Unfortunately, a lifetime of training and focusing on the next heated battle often renders athletes unable to comprehend the long term.
The company aims to connect brands, companies, financial planners, and non-profits with athletes. For $2,500, clients get access to the database of 6,000 professional athletes and 1,200 agents for one year.
He envisions his clients collaborating (a term he uses with unhinged frequency) with athletes to pursue joint financial gains. For the time being his system depends on brands contacting athletes, but down the road he envisions a more balanced relationship. Ouellette hopes to draw athletes to the site by featuring educational content specifically tailored towards those aspiring to protect their wealth.
But by making athletes’ contact information more accessible, isn’t he simply opening the door to more scammers who, like Sean Mueller and Allen Stanford, pocketed athletes’ earnings by promising huge investment returns?
Ouellette looks at it the other way. By maintaining the database, Pro Athlete Direct increases competition for the athletes’ image or investment power. When weighing different opportunities, athletes naturally become more educated and less likely to fall prey to scammers. Of course, that necessitates his company growing to the point where athletes consistently receive several offers.
Though the company wouldn’t disclose any financial details, Ouellette said he is happy with its progress. His site lists a few testimonials, though none from the recently retired athletes most likely to go broke.
Ultimately, Ouellette knows the company will be judged on whether it reduces the number of athletes that go broke. And the players most in danger of that fate aren’t the superstars that get endorsement opportunities thrown their way. Rather it’s the mid-level player who thinks he has enough money to support an extravagant lifestyle for a long time but is forgotten upon retirement.
If he can defy the odds and find “collaborators” to help secure his future via Pro Athlete Direct, the company will surely take off.