The story of how the great Dave Portnoy created a ravenous fan base for Barstool Sports
We’ve been keeping track of the Barstool Fund in the “Stuff You Should Know” section. But the story about the company behind the fund is one fueled by spite, grit, and hard work.
Fewer than 4 years after Dave Portnoy graduated college with a degree in degenerate sports gambling, he got tired of his regular sales job and headed offshores to work where sports gambling companies were legal. But when he applied for jobs, he was told he didn’t have enough experience in the industry. So in 2003, he went home to Boston, bought a few newspaper racks, fired up the printing press, created a few fake writer names to make the newspaper company look bigger than it actually was, and started Barstool Sports.
For the first few years in business, the newspaper was hardcore fantasy sports and sports gambling—written in a relatable way. Barstool’s mantra is “By the common man, for the common man”.
When media started to pour over to the internet, Portnoy went all in and created a Boston sports themed blog. Using his sarcastically blunt humor, and not being shy to controversy, he created plenty of headlines and gained traction on the internet. Since then, the company has grown slowly but surely.
Now, Barstool creates a variety of digital content, boasts a rabid fan base, and is worth a fortune. When small businesses started struggling in the northeast due to pandemic shutdowns, Barstool decided to give back.
It all started with one of Portnoy’s “emergency press conferences”, which he’ll share occasionally on social media. This time, he was upset with New York’s decision to shut down again, and he was publicly voicing his distaste with the New York government. He argued that shutting down was going to kill off restaurants. Marcus Lemonis, an investor, entrepreneur, and T.V. personality publicly challenged Portnoy to put his money where his mouth his, saying that if Portnoy started a fund with $500,000 he’d match it. Thus began the Barstool Fund.
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