28 Mar Interview with Bruce Hernandez, first Founders Circle Donor and Newest VDF Director
At five feet eight with a trim athletic build and passion to excel, Bruce Hernandez passionately pursues his skiing and cycling interests when time allows. His “day job” in the private equity business world is identifying, building and ultimately selling middle market businesses in the media, communications, education and tech-enabled business services industry.
In 2000, after an operating career as a CFO building, merging and selling companies in the cable TV and wireless carrier businesses, Bruce became a founding partner of Spire Capital Partners, a private equity company. Spire has managed more than $1.2 Billion of capital through investments and partnerships in more than 30 portfolio companies primarily in the media, communications, information services and tech-enabled business services industries. His experience in sports-related companies includes the Professional Bull Riders (“PBR”) and Just Marketing International (“JMI”) the global leader in motorsports marketing acting as an independent, full-service agency representing corporations, leagues, teams and athletes in all forms of motorsports worldwide.
Bruce takes an active role in both sourcing and overseeing Spire’s portfolio company investments and has served as a board chairman or director in a number of Spire portfolio companies. We met up with him to discuss his interest in cycling and the work of the Velodrome Development Foundation.
Q: What’s your interest in cycling and why have you joined the board of Velodrome Development Foundation?
I have been an avid cyclist as well as a big fan of the sport for over 40 years. When Dave Chauner presented me the opportunity to join the board of the Velodrome Foundation, I enthusiastically accepted immediately. This is one of those rare opportunities where one of my personal passions has come together with my ability to contribute meaningfully to a project that can provide tremendous benefit to the community. It was a “no brainer.”
Q: Tell us about your experiences helping to grow PBR and the motorsports company, JMI into multi-million dollar sports properties.
In my role as a partner in a private equity firm, I had the rare opportunity to be involved in 2 unique sports properties: the Professional Bull Riders and JMI, the world’s largest motorsports marketing agency. With the PBR, we had a unique perch from which to shape and observe a “peripheral” sport go mainstream and secure major television rights, an enhanced digital platform, expansion across the globe and most importantly, an acceptance in the US market as a major sports and entertainment property consistently filling venues such as Madison Square Garden on an annual basis. Similarly, the growth of JMI was exciting as what was historically a NASCAR and domestic focused business, quickly became a global powerhouse focused on international properties such as Formula 1.
Q: Despite cycling’s popularity, as an American sports business it is way below the radar of auto racing and bull riding. Do you think track cycling has the ingredients to become a viable sports property?
I certainly do believe that track cycling has all the ingredients to break through and command a broad audience much larger than the niche position that it currently occupies. The blending today of sports and entertainment that audiences desire, as well as the mandatory digital audience interaction, plays exceptionally well with a professionally run track cycling product. It’s truly a huge opportunity to partner with local communities to provide family focused events and serve the growing cycling community.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing velodrome development and what will it take to overcome them?
A project such as Velodrome development is undoubtedly a complex one. In particular, it will take the cooperation of many commercial, governmental and not-for-profit organizations in order to ensure success. While complex, I am confident that the progress made to date with the NSEC (National Sports and Events Center) is indicative of a common sense of purpose that has been created by World Cycling Limited, Sports Facilities Advisory and the Velodrome Development Foundation. What excites me is that their core vision for the National Velodrome as focal point of a mixed use facility has attracted the interest of Activated Capital, a significant real estate developer, as well as community leaders at the city, county, state and even national levels. These are critical components that will provide the momentum the project needs to succeed.