Success at the baseball diamond, on the race track and in businessSince Tom Garfinkel received his B.A. in communication from the University of Colorado at Boulder, there is little that he hasn’t accomplished. Garfinkel held positions at Texaco Inc. and Miller Brewing Company, before spending five years with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. He left Ganassi Racing in 2006 as the executive vice president having increased the company’s annual income by 280 percent.
The success didn’t stop there. As the executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has overseen a 25-percent increase in revenue, increased season, group, and suite sales of 143 percent, and a 34-percent combined increase in sponsorship and broadcasting revenue.
More recently, Garfinkel acquired a controlling interest in the Hall of Fame Racing team. Along with partners Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, Garfinkel will be driving this team into first place in the near future. I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Tom about the University of Colorado, baseball, racing and business. Here’s what he had to say:
What role did CU-Boulder play in shaping your future?
I learned a lot academically at CU-Boulder, but the campus environment provided an even more impactful perspective on life and relationships. I developed friendships with people from all over the country and from every extreme of socio-economic upbringing. That diversity was mind-opening and provided me with a much more developed ability to relate to others regardless of their background; a skill that proved very valuable both personally and professionally. I developed many meaningful life-long friendships in Boulder that I value tremendously.
It seems that the field isn’t the only place where records are being broken in Arizona. Can you speak to how you’ve had an impact on shaping the image and profitability of the Diamondbacks?
There is a great team of people here who all deserve credit for the success that we’ve had so far. In terms of my own impact, I think that I’ve brought a degree of strategic thinking and business discipline that wasn’t present when I arrived, and I often tell people that the most important thing I have done is hire great people. They deserve the credit for the results. We had the highest revenues in the history of the franchise in 2008 and I expect us to continue that trend in 2009 in spite of the economic tsunami we are living in.
Could you describe some of the steps being taken to bring Hall of Fame Racing from great potential to yearly contender?We’ve really shifted our whole model this year, partnering with Yates Racing and signing Bobby Labonte. I think you’ll see us much more competitive on the track. I also think you’ll see that the Ask.com sponsorship will become a case study for how to maximize a NASCAR team sponsorship. The Sunday of the Daytona 500 was the biggest day in the history of their website. They have an innovative CEO in Jim Safka and a great team that is incredibly nimble. They trusted our counsel on how to build an integrated program that can drive consumer behavior, and then they just took it to a whole new level.
With the baseball and racing season upon us, what are you most excited about this year?
There has been a tremendous amount of work at the Diamondbacks over last few years, and 2009 should be a harvesting of sorts. We’re well-positioned on and off the field for success, and it will be exciting and rewarding to watch this team compete and to see our fan base respond. On the racing front, I just got back from Las Vegas, and we almost won the race and finished fifth—so it’s very rewarding to have a degree of success for all of the people who believed in us and the team members who have worked so hard.
What is your favorite memory from your time in Boulder?
It’s very difficult to single one out. My favorite time of year was always September—coming back to campus after the summer with perfect fall days, football games, and Ruggerfest in Aspen.