Sports teams are always referred to as a family, and as it has been said, family comes first. This approach to running a sports and entertainment ownership group is what makes the HWS Group stand out. Founded by brothers Michael and Jeffrey Savit, HWS Group was formed in 1997 and pays homage to their father Herbert W. Savit. HWS not only owns and operates sports franchises but also hosts a number of other entertainment and charity events.
Over the years, HWS Group has been involved with seven minor league teams. What makes its business model unique and interesting is that while each operation is run internally, HWS also makes minority ownership shares available to investors that have the desire to become sports owners, but perhaps not the experience—thus enabling over 150 smaller investors to realize their goal of owning a sports franchise. The constant flow of new involvement allows for HWS to expand its network and generate new ideas for the teams it owns.
Currently, HWS Group owns and operates four Minor League Baseball teams: the Dayton Dragons (Single A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds), the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short-Season Single A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians), the Modesto Nuts (Single A-Advanced affiliate of the Seattle Mariners), and the Mobile Bay Bears (Double A Affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels). It also previously owned the Springfield Armor (now Grand Rapids Drive), a former NBA D-League (now G-League) affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets.
Although primarily involved with sports franchises, HWS is more than just a team ownership group. HWS Entertainment was created to add a diverse schedule of events to the sports calendar and since a team often has rights to use the ballpark built into the operating lease, it can book and promote non-baseball events as well. Some of its showcased events are holiday light shows, circuses, and symphony concerts.
The Dayton Dragons was HWS’ most recent acquisition in 2014, as part of Palisades Arcadia Baseball – the group that purchased the team. The significance of the Dragons’ purchase was that HWS was inheriting arguably the most successful professional sports franchise in terms of attendance. The Dragons have sold out every home game since the team’s inception, extending its record-breaking streak to over 1,200 games to date. The secret, according to Mike Savit, is having the right management in place, and since HWS is only a recent owner, it knows the Group can’t take credit for the successful culture of the business. That credit belongs to President and GM, Robert Murphy, and Executive Vice President, Eric Deutsch, who have been with the team since the beginning and understand how to efficiently run the team while creating a meaningful game day experience. The success of Dayton is especially impressive given that it is only an hour away from Cincinnati, a Major League market, but still captures a strong fan base and looks to continue its success in future seasons.
HWS also understands the importance of involving family with philanthropy. In 2001, Mike and Jeffrey started the annual HWS Golf Classic in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, to benefit research in myeloid disease. The charity aids the Herbert W. Savit Research Fund at the Miriam Hospital in Providence and to date, the tournament has raised approximately $1.2 million. A few years ago, Jeffrey joined The Miriam Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees. This honor, in addition to the golf classic, helps keep their father’s memory alive.
Investing in sports is similar to other forms of investing. However, one difference is that being a sports fan can help drive the success of your investment. Mike does not consider himself to be a “passive owner” – he knows when and where to get involved. He treats each of his investments like an equity fund and actively stays involved with the operations of each company – something that makes this industry unique. Investors know early on that the value of their investment is less income driven and more about capital appreciation and, assuming that people will continue to desire sports-based entertainment, there is a long future in sport and entertainment investing.
This article was written by Jordan Rutner, who produces the Career Services articles from Whitecap Sports for the VIKTRE Career Network.
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