In this episode of Capital for Good, we speak with Jonathan Soros, chief executive officer of JS Capital Management LLC and co-founder of Athletes Unlimited, a new model of professional sports and a reimagination of the way business can — and should — show up in the world.
In this wide-ranging conversation, Soros explains how his lifelong commitment to public policy and public interest work — with experience in government, politics, the nonprofit sector, and finance — has led to the launch of Athletes Unlimited, a reimagination of a professional sports company and a new approach to social enterprise. We discuss the state of impact investing and the advances of innovations like public benefit corporations and the limits to scale and impact that motivated Soros to experiment with “mission equity,” the novel capital structure at the heart of Athletes Unlimited. We learn about the rapid growth of this new company —premised on the business case for investing in female athletes and sports — and showcasing a range of responsible and player-led business practices, such as athlete participation in governance and ownership, an enlightened approach to employee health and well-being, racial equity, climate change, and the championing of athlete and fan civic engagement and leadership off the field. We also explore how this business model could be expanded to any number of companies and sectors.
Mentioned in this episode:
- “Unpacking the Impact in Impact Investing,” Paul Brest and Kelly Born (Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2013)
- “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase its Profits,” Milton Friedman (New York Times Magazine, 1970)
- “The Friedman Doctrine Revisited,” Jonathan Soros (Democracy, 2020)
- B Lab, B Corps, and Public Benefit Corporations
- Public Benefit Corporation Report (Athletes Unlimited, 2022)
- “Women’s Basketball Players Get a New Lifeline, Close to Home,” Tamryn Spruill (New York Times, 2022)
- “Athletes Unlimited Is Bringing Women Athletes – and Couples – Together,” Aimee Crawford (Sports Illustrated, 2022)
- “Athletes Unlimited Set to Operate First Carbon-neutral Pro Sports Leagues in the US Via Massive New Deal,” Meredith Cash (Business Insider, 2021)
- “What if Pro Sports Leagues Were Controlled by Their Players,” Louisa Thomas (The New Yorker, 2021)
- “A New Way to Scale Social Enterprise,” Jonathan Soros (Harvard Business Review, 2021)
- “New Pro Sports Venture Puts Women’s Sports in the Players’ Hands,” Talya Minsberg (New York Times, 2020)
About the Capital for Good Podcast
Presented by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, and hosted by Georgia Levenson Keohane, seasoned executive, award winning author, and an adjunct professor of social enterprise at Columbia Business School, the Capital for Good podcast provides a chance to hear from corporate and civic leaders about their visions, plans, commitments, and on the ground efforts to build a more just, inclusive, and sustainable society. Each episode features in depth and candid conversations with leaders across the private, nonprofit, and public sectors on unpacking solutions to some of our most urgent challenges. Learn more at bit.ly/KforGood.