How Jim Nash Keeps the Ball in the Air

As head of sports advisory and financing at Bank of America, Nash is responsible for some of the largest transactions in pro sports

Most baseball fans check box scores for a rundown of yesterday's action. Not Jim Nash. He goes straight to the last stat about each game: its attendance figure. As managing director of Bank of America's sports advisory and financing practice, Nash heads a team responsible for some of the largest transactions in sports. He helps individuals buy teams, helps teams build stadiums, and helps leagues stay afloat. Those attendance numbers are his stock quotes.

Nash's name isn't the most recognizable in the world of sports—hardly a surprise considering he's tucked away in Charlotte, N.C. But when it comes to the business of sports, the 52-year-old investment banker has earned a reputation as a powerhouse, ranking No. 64 in this year's BusinessWeek Power 100, a soon-to-be-published list of the most influential people in the industry.

Take, for instance, the $1 billion-plus stadium now being built for the Dallas Cowboys. Almost half the funds came from stadium revenue bonds issued by Bank of America. Nash & Co. are also behind the financing of the new Yankee Stadium in New York and helped finance Busch Stadium in St. Louis and the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Lucrative Market

And the list goes on. Since 2002, Nash's team has raised nearly $14 billion of debt and equity capital for the sports industry. Sensing a lucrative market, other banks have joined the sports financing arena, but BofA remains the leading player, says George Foster, professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, who specializes in sports business. "They are an absolutely essential part of the financial ecosystem in global sports," Foster says.

A Mississippi native, James E. Nash Jr. earned his bachelor's degree in business from the University of Virginia. In 1982, he and his wife, Linda, moved to Charlotte, where he took a job as a credit analyst at North Carolina National Bank, which later became folded into Bank of America. A few years later, Nash was handling corporate accounts for BofA and was asked to help out on a few community development projects nearby. "The expansion wave was beginning in the four major sports, and we began to see opportunities in Charlotte," he says. "It became an opportunity on how to elevate and how to attract these high-profile assets to our community."

Shortly after the first sports-related project, Nash pitched his bosses on setting up a sports financing unit. "It wasn't just a one-off thing," he says. "We could see that league expansion, the growth in media cash flows, and stadium building activities would play out for a number of years." Nash was right.

Nash estimates that he and partner Elliott McCabe have worked with 140 sports teams in the 18 years the sports advisory practice has been around, encompassing baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and soccer. In that time, leagues have grown to trust Nash for his take on more than just funding. "They're more than a banking partner; they're a full partner," says Robert Dupuy, president and chief operating officer of Major League Baseball. "Even when we were having difficulty and losing money and our relationship with the union was more contentious than it is today, Jim and his team stuck with us."

Adds Nash: "We're not the experts who would say you need this many seats priced this way, but we're happy to share our opinions as owners think about stadium design. We've been very fortunate."

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