EXCLUSIVE – Tony Parker: “The qualities needed in team sport are key in business”

You became president of the Lyon-Villeurbanne club (Asvel) in 2014 while your playing career was still in full swing. How did this desire to lead the fate of a professional team arise in your mind?

It is a desire that has been rooted in me from the beginning. I always knew that after my playing career I wanted to buy a professional team, especially to pass on my experience to the new generation. I am mainly driven by transmission. That’s why I started refining my leadership vision while I was still active as a player.

I always remember one piece of advice from “Magic” Johnson [meneur emblématique des Los Angeles Lakers dans les années 1980, NDLR] who told me to build my network during my career because that’s when people pick up the phone.

Inevitably, when the hour of retirement has come and there is less exposure, the phone will ring much less. It was important to me to prepare for the after… throughout my career so that the transition is as natural as possible.

How did you organize yourself at the time to manage your sports career – you only retired in 2019 – and your new managerial tasks?

It was relatively easy thanks to new technologies, video conferencing, etc. I was also supported by a great management team: deputy presidents in whom I have full confidence and who perfectly embody the image of professionalism that I want to give the club. I was lucky then, and still am, to be very well surrounded.

As I said before, I had no fear of embracing this new career. It was the logical next step in my view. I didn’t feel, like most athletes, this famous and dreaded “little death”.

You have been privileged to exercise your talents for nearly twenty years in an NBA franchise (the San Antonio Spurs, four-time NBA champion with “TP” on the wand) known for the stability of its management, which is not so is probably no stranger to all your successes. Is it a source of inspiration?

I get a lot of inspiration from what I’ve experienced on the track, from the trust and family spirit that reigned within this franchise. My wish is to build over time, with reliable people. It is very difficult to create something special and as such, humans have a predominant role in my project.

The sports world, as a player or as a manager, is a human adventure. We are taught a form of discipline very early on, as well as this taste for work, this desire to succeed, to surpass ourselves, not to count our hours…

Transferred to business, these qualities are highly valued, but I also had to prove myself in this new universe. My sports career and my trophies were not taken into account. I had to work and made the choice to surround myself with people who, like me, had everything to prove.

My job, as head of the group, is to federate. I strongly believe in the adage ‘unity is strength’.

What is your vision of the modern manager? Would you describe yourself as an omnipresent and omnipotent leader or do you delegate easily?

In reality I would describe myself as a synthesis of it all. I am ubiquitous, yet I can delegate. Since we have different entities within our group (Asvel, Lyon Asvel female, etc.), it is important to allow leeway for the deputy presidents so that they can make the best decisions and build a strong image. This benefits our entire structure.

My job, as head of the group, is to federate. I strongly believe in the adage “unity is strength”. Especially because I come from a team sport and I know that I could never have built up such a record without my teammates.

It is exactly the same within the company. Everyone is important and has a role to play. Mine is to put them in the best possible disposition.

If Michael Jordan has inspired you a lot as a player, what is your “inspiration” as a leader?

Michael Jordan also serves as inspiration for his exemplary management after his career [il est, entre autres activités, propriétaire de la franchise des Charlotte Hornets dans laquelle Tony Parker a achevé sa carrière de joueur en 2019, NDLR]†

In France, I was fortunate enough to benefit from the advice of experienced business leaders, who took me under their wing: Jean-Michel Aulas, Laurent de la Clergerie (LDLC boss who signed a naming contract with Asvel in 2018, giving the club the official name of LDLC-Asvel) or even Jean-Marc Brun, the boss of Adequat, the main partner of the Tony Parker Academy. I, who learned “on the job”, consider it a great opportunity to benefit from their respective advice and experience.

Can you tell us about the Tony Parker Adequat Academy?

I’ve always wanted to create a great school that would offer a different vision than what is already being done. I didn’t want to start another new project 100% focused on sports, but put the business more at the center of it; hence the collaboration with the group Adequat, a major player in recruitment.

This allows young enthusiasts to refine a realistic project. Because we are not allowed to hide the face, only 5% of the young people in our academy will embrace a professional sports career, be it in basketball, tennis or e-sport, and we will take care of them. But for me it was important to also be concerned about the remaining 95% who let go of the training centers in the open countryside and who will never turn professional. We have a duty to them to awaken new passions and vocations.

I want to make this clear, because the “Academy” is not a training center, we want to become one of the best schools in France and internationally. That’s why we’ve fully integrated failure into our curriculum, which I believe reinforces the spirit of competition.

Diversification of activities

In addition to his investment in Asvel, the Lyon-Villeurbanne club, Tony Parker has also invested in the Villard-de-Lans ski area and Colizey, the French marketplace specializing in sporting goods. He also became an active partner of Smart Good Thing, a new benevolent economy player.

He now sets his sights on wine as he will join forces with businessman Michel Reybier to become a partner of Château La Mascaronne, in Provence, and Jeeper champagnes.