Bloomberg Businessweek: Schools of Business Alum Uses His Tennis Talent on Wall Street

5.21.2012 Alumni News, Article, General

Ackman, Goldman Bankers Seek Glory at ‘Baby’ Tennis Match
reposted from Bloomberg Businessweek | by Philip Boroff

Days after Bill Ackman won control of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP), the nation’s second-largest railway, he was at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center trying to control his backhand against Wall Street’s biggest hitters.

"My groundstrokes were actually pretty good," the 46- year-old chief of Pershing Square Capital Management said toward the end of play at the R Baby Foundation doubles tournament. The event was a fundraiser to aid emergency pediatric care. "I had too many unforced errors."

Unusual for its level of tennis and number of moguls, the tournament took in more than $100,000 for the five-year-old nonprofit.

"These are the top metro-area players," said Whitney Kraft, director of tennis at the center, in Queens, New York, eyeing the 20 teams competing on seven courts at the home of the U.S. Open.

Barry Sternlicht, chief executive of Starwood Capital Group LLC, who competed as a freshman for Brown University three decades ago, played with Jason Pinsky, a 26-year-old analyst at Wexford Capital LP once ranked No. 1 among U.S. juniors 18 and under.

Teen Player
Pablo Salame, the 46-year-old co-head of global securities at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) (GS), who lived at what’s now the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy for three years as a teenager, was paired with Adrian Contreras, a 36-year-old former No. 1 singles at New Mexico State University and director of a John McEnroe Tennis Academy opening in September in Eastchester, New York.

Ken Brody, who co-founded Taconic Capital Advisors and founded the Junior Tennis Champions Center academy in College Park, Maryland, was on hand to watch his 24-year-old son, Charles, formerly of the Kenyon College team. Charles Brody played with Kyle Kliegerman, a No. 1 singles and doubles player at Princeton University a decade ago and now at Taconic.

R Baby featured plenty of awe-inspiring shot-making and varying consistency. Some players said they were adjusting to wind and sun after playing indoors through the winter. Others seldom play today.

"In investment banking, you have to give up your weekends," said Kaes Van’t Hof, 25, also of Wexford Capital, who in 2009 advanced to the second round of the U.S. Open in men’s doubles with Ryan Harrison. "My first year in New York, I played tennis four or five times, which is a shock after playing seven days a week."

Lone Female
On Saturday, his partner was Elena Piliptchak of Tiger Europe Management, who played for Kansas State University and was the lone female competing.

Ackman’s partner was 25-year-old Mariusz Adamski, a business major and No. 1 doubles player at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. After they were introduced three years ago by Jeffrey Appel, an investment banker, Ackman hired Adamski at Pershing, a hedge fund. (Pinsky, the event chairman, and Appel, of financial-services firm PrinceRidge, recruited teams for the event.)

"I told him I'll teach him the investment business and he's teaching me tennis," said Ackman, who played high-school tennis but did crew at Harvard College.

(Last week the chief executive of Canadian Pacific, Fred Green, resigned after Ackman, the largest shareholder, pushed for an alternative.)

Yoga Regimen
Sternlicht said his exercise regime includes yoga and tennis in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he lives. "The headline should be, 'Ackman and Sternlicht' chase perpetual youth," he joked during a break in play, as he compared the size of his biceps with Van’t Hof’s.

After four sets of eight games each, four teams advanced to the semi-finals. Goldman was well-represented, with three of the final eight players. In the end, after almost seven hours of practice and play, youth was triumphant.

The winners were Brian O’Connor, a 28-year-old Binghamton University star who works for the insurer and estate planner American Business, and Jonathan Boym, a 24-year-old former No. 2 singles at the University of Pennsylvania now at Tudor Investment Corp. They beat Salame and Contreras in the final, 6- 4.

"It was consistency and mental toughness," O’Connor said of their success in the event. "The older guys were a lot better than I expected."