In the summer before Clark Hunt’s freshman year at Southern Methodist University, he reported to football practice alongside one of the top recruiting classes in the country—which made him begin to question his choice of sport.
After a week, he walked out of the locker room and into the office occupied by the head men’s soccer coach, who allowed him to try out. He would go on to play and become an Academic All-American for the Mustangs. Those early days of bouncing between football and soccer on campus at SMU would serve as a model for him to balance his roles as CEO of FC Dallas and chairman and CEO of the Kansas City Chiefs, which alone is valued at $2.1 billion, according to Forbes.
Hunt’s late father, Lamar, was one of the most influential businessmen in American sports. He had a hand in the creation of the Super Bowl and Major League Soccer, among other achievements. But Hunt and his father never talked about working in sports while he was growing up. Lamar was a supportive dad who loved to throw the ball in the yard, and it was only in pieces that Hunt realized the outsized impact his father had. Attending World Championship Tennis matches or watching Pelé at Dallas Tornado soccer games and heading to Kansas City for Chiefs games helped him understand his father’s influence.
After two years of working on Wall Street, Hunt was asked by his father to join the family enterprise. He calls professional sports a “people business,” but points to two developments that helped him understand the industry and connect with his father’s vision. The first was the renovation of the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium in the early 2000s, which required working with the city and state to secure financing. The investment paid off, helping to achieve sustained success for the Chiefs, who have the second-longest playoff streak in the NFL. “I always think of my dad when I am at Arrowhead,” Hunt says. “It was literally his favorite place on Earth.”
The second development was the FC Dallas stadium in Frisco, which now houses the National Soccer Hall of Fame (of which Lamar is a member), as well as 17 youth fields and one of the top youth soccer academies in the country. The fields sit adjacent to the stadium, where 8-year-olds train next to the pros and dream of playing at the next level.
Clark had the pedigree for success in professional sports, but it is the real world experience that has allowed him to become the executive he is today. Still, he says, “Nothing prepares you for being the guy who has to make the hard decisions and the person who is in the spotlight when things don’t go well.” For Hunt, business is the ultimate team sport: “Having the right people running your organization is key.”
Hunt was honored as part of EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards package, which was published in the July issue of D CEO. Read the other stories here.