He calls himself "El Presidente”: he´s not president of a country, but of an attitude and a mentality. And he kind of built a whole empire based on that: Barstool Sports. Shameless, funny, ridiculous, true to himself, pizza lover, politically incorrect and willing to take chances: that´s how Portnoy could be described. After graduating from College he materialized his love for sports and gambling in a weekly black and white newspaper delivered in the Boston Metropolitan Area. How did he come to build a company valued in $450 million based on sports, gambling, comedy and smut? In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, without sports and gambling taking place, he managed to become a stock market daytrader and was able to make "the suit guys” in Wall Street take him seriously. The Barstool Sports newspaper motto was By the common man, to the common man, and that seems to be why people follow him so much: he´s not pretentious, he says just what´s on his mind and he seems to represent a silent but huge group of people. In times when the political correct is rule, when women are standing worldwide for their rights and claiming the end of patriarchy, this internet guy who can joke on rape or on the size of a 2 year old child´s penis has millions of followers, and he did a great job at capitalizing it. Here´s his story.
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David Scott Portnoy was born on March 22, 1977, in Swampscott, Massachusetts. His parents are Michael Portnoy and Linda Kaufman, both Jewish. His mother was a teacher and his dad a lawyer, and he has an older sister. He grew up in a quiet middle class neighborhood and attended Swampscott High School. He loved sports since he was a kid. He played mostly baseball, but then started playing football. He accomplished several trophies while he was part of the High School Baseball team, and according to his parents, coach and mates, he hit several home runs. In 1993 the team won the State Title.
His coach remembers him as someone who “always had something to say”, as a good hitter, bad thrower, and also as a pretty funny kid. His father also said something similar: being a kid, Portnoy always had questions to pose and something to say. In that way, he recalls having thought that it would be very difficult that his son could work for someone else, because he didn’t imagine him being able to have a boss.
His parents took him to several schools thinking that he was going to play baseball, and he did get an offer. But he decided to go to the University of Michigan, where his sister was studying. He got accepted to the Nursing School, to which he had not applied, and once in there he changed school and got a degree in Education. He really wanted to have a degree, although he knew he didn’t want to become a teacher.
He got into gambling very young. Like his father, Portnoy liked horse races. His first website while he was still in College was thegamblingman.com. In an interview he said that when he graduated he had three business ideas. One was a scouting agency for matching different sports athletes with coaches looking for specific positions. The second one was a furniture deal: the idea was to store every piece of furniture found on the streets, most of them discarded by people who ended college, and then re-sell them through the Internet. The third one was Barstool Sports.
After graduating in 1999, he moved to Boston. There he got a job at Yankee Group, an IT market research firm. But he stayed at that job only for a couple of years, because he wanted to start his own project. And probably because of his personality: he wanted to write his own rules and bet on what he felt was right.
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