Fortress Principal Takes 'Part Time Job' Pushing Olympic Wrestling

Apr 9 2013 | 9:25am ET

Wrestling, part of the Olympic games since their earliest days, will disappear from the modern games in 2020—but not before Fortress Investment Group's Michael Novogratz has his say.

The International Olympic Committee in February voted to remove wrestling from its list of "core sports" and from the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, Madrid, Spain, or Tokyo. With the IOC under pressure to cut costs by cutting back on the number of competing athletes, the historic event must now compete with seven other sports—including baseball, squash, karate, sport-climbing, wakeboarding and roller sports—for a spot on the 2020 schedule.

With a final vote set for September, Novogratz, a principal at Fortress and now spokesman for U.S.A. Wrestling, is working hard to raise money to keep wrestling in the Olympics.

"This is now, like, my part-time job," the former Princeton University wrestler told The New York Times. And from his makeshift war room at Fortress' Manhattan headquarters, Novogratz has tapped into a surprising core of wrestling fans on Wall Street to raise $1.2 million of the $3 million they hope to gather to lobby for wrestling.

Among the donors are York Capital Management's James Dinan, whose son is a high-school wrestler and was a waterboy for the U.S. wrestling team at last year's London games; RBC Capital Markets head of global arbitrage Richard Tavoso, a former teammate of Novogratz's at Princeton; Guggenheim Partners president Todd Boehly, a champion high-school wrestler; and American Funds bond manager Andrew Barth, who wrestled at Columbia University.

Tudor Investment Corp.'s Paul Tudor Jones has also given to the cause, although he has no known wrestling ties.

U.S.A. Wrestling has already hired a branding agency, KOM Sports Marketing, and hopes to persuade the International Association of Associated Styles, wrestling's global governing body, to hire consulting firm Teneo Holdings to push for the sport. Novogratz said he hopes the sport's widespread popularity in the Middle East, Central Asia and Japan will serve as major selling points.

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