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Interview With The Agent MLB Players Sports Business

Interview With The Agent: Bert Geiger

East Paces Group, a registered investment advisory (RIA) firm providing families, executives, and business owners with wealth management and financial planning services, announced that it has launched a new sports and entertainment division and has named Bert Geiger as its managing director. The division serves professional athletes and entertainers who require experienced insight and discretion from a financial professional as they navigate the distinct challenges and opportunities that can come with wealth and fame. 

“As a former professional baseball player, Bert understands that professional athletes and entertainers can have a false sense of financial security and are looking for clarity on how to invest their new wealth appropriately,” said Alex Reffett, co-founder and principal of East Paces Group. “We are excited to expand our services, and in adding our new sports and entertainment division with Bert at the helm, we can help provide these affluent clients with the financial solutions needed to address their unique concerns. Most individuals don’t expect an ‘end’ to their profession prematurely.  However, an injury or other unexpected circumstance could change the trajectory of their career, and we have the experience to help them prepare for whatever life may bring their way.”

Geiger joined East Paces Group in March 2020. He views himself as a financial quarterback for his clients. With the help of EPG’s financial planning team and investment managers, he is able to help guide client’s decisions and help them build portfolios that have a functional long-term plan behind them. Geiger has been an independent financial advisor for 34 years, following his career as a professional baseball player. Prior to joining East Paces Group, he worked under ACG Wealth, Triad Advisors, and owned Geiger Wealth Management. Geiger was drafted as a pitcher in his senior year of high school playing in Minor League Baseball from 1977 – 1984 with the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers. Geiger was a team member of the Dodgers AAA team winning the Pacific Coast League Championship in 1982.

Bert Geiger, pictured in the middle, is the new Managing Director of East Paces Group Sports and Entertainment Division

Jason Morrin: You recently took over the reins of the new sports and entertainment division of East Paces Group. Tell me about your organizational goals and what services you offer.

Bert Geiger: With East Paces, I am trying to educate my advisors currently in the office to help them understand what the world of a professional baseball player or entertainer looks like. I have been doing this for about 33 years. I’ve got about 24 clients from entertainment to baseball, and there is a common thread there. The bottom line is, you’re only as good as your last at-bat, season, or album.

We put together complete financial plans; we want to educate our clients. On the baseball side, a lot of clients came out of high school and made it to the big leagues. There is still no major education process out there. The NFL does a good job of it and Major League Baseball has recently done a better job for the rookies. But these guys have a giant target on their backs. I can verify every professional athlete’s salary right there on Google. It’s just amazing to me. I’ve had, unfortunately, two clients make over $25 million each in gross salary (don’t forget about your favorite uncle) and now they have nothing to show for.

With baseball, those guys are my fraternity brothers. My first client was a guy named Greg Brock, who took over for a player named Steve Garvey, first baseman for the Dodgers, and that led to more referrals and eventually the buildup of a nice base. So, these guys really are my fraternity brothers and that’s why I want to educate them. And this financial planning process, they love it. The people I met along the journey shaped who I am today and how I run this business.

JM: How does your time as a professional baseball player help you connect to athletes and understand their unique situations and needs?

BG: Getting to know them personally and building relationships is what helps. I’m not going to call a guy who’s scheduled to start that night at Yankee Stadium to talk about his finances. Pitchers usually start getting tuned in the day before, and I leave them alone. You have to learn what your clients are up against and what kind of circumstances they are facing on a daily basis. I’ve met some great people in baseball. I played for Jim Leyland and Tony LaRussa. I met Sandy Koufax, who was a roving pitching coach at the time. He was the kind of guy who would say, ‘you just need to do this, and you’ll make it.’ But he told that to everybody. My clients are my fraternity brothers and I don’t want them to become an unfavorable statistic.

Out of my draft class, dating back to 1977, of about 700 guys drafted only 13% made it to the big leagues. On top of that, only about 3-4% made it past 3 years in the league. Now, things are changing a bit, but that’s how tough it is to make it in Major League Baseball. The silver lining to that, and other sports can’t say the same, is that you’re guaranteed your money in baseball. You’re going to get your money even if you blow out your knee early or need Tommy Johns.

JM: Over 75% of NFL players and 60% of  NBA players find themselves filing for bankruptcy or experiencing financial stress just two years after retirement. How do you ensure your clients do not end up being a part of that majority?

BG: That goes back to running proper financial planning. We make sure to do the right thing every year for our clients. When we run proper financial plans, our clients don’t even have to take risks in the equity markets. Some of them go out and take crazy risks or do things that put them in a tough position, divorce for one. It’s a terrible statistic that shouldn’t be. I would have imagined something around 30%. I take responsibility for the recommendations that I make. My financial plans tell clients exactly what is going to happen, and I hold myself accountable to them.

We have to plan not only for the client, but for the unforeseen matters outside of his control or extending to family members. For example, god forbid a client’s Dad gets Alzheimer’s. Who is going to pay for the nursing homes or assisted living facilities? The athlete, most likely. So, we should probably spend $5,000 of the client’s money per year, and get Mom and Dad some long-term care policies. Instead of the client being the one to pay out $6,000-7,000 a month x 12 for how many years, let’s at least consider shifting that risk to the insurance company. So those are some strategies we use to look after them.

Where is your money and what is it doing? What do we need it to do? You should be in a position of wealth to not have to invest in the equity markets or something even riskier like restaurants. You have a target on your back, even those people looking to just borrow money. Your career could be over any minute and it goes back to educating clients and their families and being a go-to guy. It’s not how much money you make, it’s how much money you save.

JM: The Atlanta Braves’ second-quarter revenue plunged 95%. The Braves’ parent company, Liberty Media, reported that the team took in $11 million of revenue between this April and June, down from the $208 million made during the same time last year. How might this league-wide dilemma affect players and the salary cap moving forward?

BG: It’s more up to the owners and MLBPA on the salary cap, but there will have to be adjustments made. You will certainly still see big contracts out there, though. This doesn’t really affect the players that I work with because we operate on the principle that this year may be the last. Liberty Media will have to answer to the shareholders. There is a lot of fallout we haven’t even seen; we have a long way to go. If you look at the potential trickle-down economic effects, how many ushers do teams employ, what about concessions, parking attendants. It also affects nearby hotels, restaurants. So, especially now, my clients need to be careful. With the fluctuation in property values, they shouldn’t purchase a new house before selling their old one. I’ve seen that happen. My clients say, ‘Bert what do you want to know?’ I tell them I want to know every time a dollar leaves their wallet. It’s a great business I am in, but it is hard to believe and fathom the bankruptcy statistic.

JM: What are some industry-specific experiences that have been eye-opening to you?

BG: I have had clients invest in marinas, horses, golf courses, one of them spent half a million dollars on 4 ostrich farms. That is my biggest challenge, to get them to understand the value of a dollar. People look highly upon even the minimum salary that players get but forget that’s just the gross number. Through the minor leagues, they don’t learn anything and then they become lottery winners when they get to the big leagues. If they stay there it’s huge, but erratic spending poses one of my biggest challenges. I want the wives, parents involved. You have to build a team around these players and, of course, remember your favorite uncle.

I had a client buy a sports car and I told him, ‘hey you’ve only been in the big leagues for like 3 months, why are you buying one now?’ He explained that he couldn’t bring his truck back to the parking lot next to all those fancy cars. I can’t have my clients trying to keep up with the Jones’. One thing I have noticed over my career, especially in baseball, is that my clients with a college background are great savers. They seem to be more disciplined.

Another client bought a nice sports car. I went back to see him, maybe 3 months later and I asked, ‘did you get your car painted?’ And he goes ‘nah, I just got a new one, the last one had a dent in it.’ The same guy made another large purchase later in his career, for about $115,000. He pulls out his checkbook and hands it to me. I said, ‘what are you doing?’ He responded, ‘I don’t know how to write a check for $115,000.’ I said, ‘then you probably shouldn’t be buying this.’

By Jason Morrin

Jason is a second-year law student at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. He graduated from Indiana University.
Twitter: @Jmorr1 Email: Jasonmorrin97@gmail.com