Former Hedgie, Convicted Insider Trader, Launches Fantasy Sports Combine

Feb 19 2015 | 11:28am ET

(Bloomberg) -- A former hedge fund manager who served a four-month prison term for insider trading is the driving force behind the first Fantasy Sports Combine in Las Vegas, a three-day event where players can be tutored by industry’s top analysts, former athletes and championship-winning coaches.

Fantasy sports has grown into a $3.6 billion industry, with increasingly popular daily-play games joining the traditional season-long formats. Drew “Bo” Brownstein, whose Denver-based hedge fund Big Five Asset Management was shut down in 2011, came up with the idea last year. Guest speakers include Super Bowl-winning former coaches Mike Ditka and Mike Shanahan.

“Fantasy sports touches everyone from the head trader at Goldman Sachs to a guy making $60 a week,” Brownstein, 38, said in a telephone interview. “And it touches both men and women. It’s popularity is booming and only getting bigger.”

The event borrows its name from the National Football League’s annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where this week the nation’s top college players are showcased before coaches and executives for the league’s 32 teams. Some of those NFL prospects may soon become important in fantasy sports, where participants select real players to their rosters and accumulate points based on the game-day statistics they generate.

The event is scheduled for July 17-19 at the Wynn Las Vegas, and Brownstein said he wants the convention to someday become as popular as Comic-Con, which for more than 40 years has brought fans together with comic book creators, science fiction and fantasy authors, television and movie directors, producers and writers.

“I have no illusions of that, but it’s something to aspire to and learn from,” said Brownstein, who played college football at the University of California at Los Angeles. “It’s a community experience and it offers something people are passionate about in an attractive package.”

$995 Tickets

Tickets to the conference start at $995 -- not including the cost of a room at the Wynn -- with a discounted price of $895 for those who register before April 3 at the Fantasy Sports Combine’s website. Brownstein said he expects between 1,500 and 2,000 attendees for the event, which begins three days after Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.

Super Bowl Coaches

There will be panels that feature fantasy sports analysts such as John Hansen of DirecTV and Sirius XM and Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports. Shanahan, who coached the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl titles, will break down game film with participants while Ditka, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who was coach of the Chicago Bears’ 1985 championship team, will share behind-the-scenes NFL stories.

An NFL draft room will be re-created with general managers and front-office personnel, while other featured topics include winning strategies in daily leagues for football and baseball. Among the experts participating will be Drew Dinkmeyer, who spent seven years as a senior investment analyst before deciding to pursue fantasy sports professionally. Dinkmeyer won $1 million in December in a one-week NFL contest on daily fantasy sports website DraftKings.

Current and former NFL players such as Brandon Marshall, Von Miller, Miles Austin, Kyle Orton and Brandon Stokley will be among the professional athletes in attendance along with former National Basketball Association player Chauncey Billups and recently-retired MLB slugger Adam Dunn.

“I played fantasy baseball and fantasy football when it wasn’t cool, way back when I was in middle school,” said Stokley, 38, who spent 15 seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver. “It’s been amazing to see the growth of it, especially throughout my career, and the impact it has on the sport. When people leave this event, they’ll have learned something and they’ll have had a blast.”

Insider Trading

In 2011, Brownstein was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and had to forfeit $2.44 million he made from trading on a tip in advance of Apache Corp.’s $2.7 billion acquisition of Mariner Energy Inc.

Brownstein said he was working out at the gym with his long-time friend, Drew Peterson, who mentioned the sale of Mariner Energy because Peterson’s father was on the board. Brownstein wound up serving four months in jail. He said he returned his investors’ money and closed Big Five Asset Management. Brownstein’s focus soon returned to his other love, sports, and he turned to some of his former hedge fund investors to help kick off the Fantasy Sports Combine.

“Bo was faced with a challenge, accepted his responsibility and resolved his issue with no continuing obligations,” Fantasy Sports Combine organizers said in a statement.

Natural Direction

Brownstein said moving into fantasy sports was the natural direction for him to take.

“I made a decision that I’d really pursue something I was as passionate about as I was being in the investing world,” he said, without disclosing the initial investment in the event. “But I couldn’t have done this alone. We built a strong team and went at it full sprint. When you see the opening, you better run through it while you still have the chance.”

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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