Monday, 24 November 2008

FCB Miami: Who is Marcelo Claure?

author: Michelle Kaufman
source: Miami Herald

date: 8 November 2008

Don't tell Marcelo Claure he can't sell professional soccer in Miami. This is a guy who 11 years ago was peddling cellphones out of car trunks and now owns Brightstar Communications, the $5 billion Miami-based cellphone distribution empire. It's the largest company of its kind in the world, spanning 54 countries on six continents. One of every 15 cellphones sold worldwide went through Brightstar.

Those who know him best say the 37-year-old Bolivian native has an uncanny knack for pouncing on opportunities at just the right time and the ingenuity to carry out his ideas. While a student at Bentley College in Boston, he ran a lucrative frequent-flier trading business out of his dorm room.

He also has the guts to take risks, wisdom to surround himself with the right partners, and a personality as large as his 6-foot-6 frame. In other words, business associates say, the perfect person to bring Major League Soccer back to Miami.

Tom Meredith, a former high-level executive with Motorola, worked closely with Claure for years and remains a confidant. He said if pro soccer is ever to thrive in Miami, Claure is the man to make it happen. "Marcelo has great passion for the sport, and he is a special kind of business leader," Meredith said.

"He has great timing, lives and dies by his word, is never afraid to be wrong, is irrepressibly curious, willing to take risks and experiment, has an extraordinary network of influential friends around the world, is clever, shrewd and has a personality that's larger than life. If MLS, the city and FC Barcelona all share Marcelo's vision and put it in his hands, it's hard for me to believe that the product wouldn't succeed."

Ever since he was a boy, Claure knew he wanted to be a businessman. His grandfather was an accountant for one of Bolivia's largest supermarket chains, his uncle owned a soup factory and his father, Rene Marcelo, was a geologist who worked for the United Nations. Claure was born in Guatemala, moved to Morocco as an infant and spent his early youth in the Dominican Republic and his high school years in Bolivia.

As a child, he bought cans of soup from his uncle's factory and sold them at the market. He also used to sneak into his mother's closet when she wasn't home, take her old clothes and sell them around the neighborhood. "I was always trying to think of ways to make money," Claure said.

While in college, he came up with a scheme to buy and sell airline frequent flier miles. He put ads in newspapers offering to buy miles and then would turn around and sell them for as much as quadruple the price to travelers who needed last-minute tickets and didn't want to pay exorbitant fares. The seller would officially still own the miles to comply with airline rules but would buy tickets in the name of the buyer. "Within a year, I had 25 people working for me," he said.

His biggest breaks were yet to come. The first was on an airplane on the way back to Bolivia after college. He sat next to Guido Loayza, then-vice president of the Bolivian soccer federation. By the end of the flight "and a few too many whiskeys" Claure had agreed to become business manager for the Bolivian national team.

He was instrumental in Bolivia's 1994 World Cup run. He returned to Boston in 1995, went into a cellphone store on Route 9 to buy a phone, struck up conversation with the Venezuelan owner, and by the time he walked out, he owned the store. "The owner hated owning a retail store, was looking to get out, and said to me, 'If I could find someone who wanted this store, I'd hand them the keys right now for nothing'," Claure recalled. "I told him I'd take it, and if the store made money, he'd get 49 percent of the profit."

Within two years, Claure owned 150 stores in the Northeast and had set up a network of drivers who carried phones in their car trunks and delivered them to customers to make the purchase hassle-free. Claure went on to become CEO of Smallworld Communications in Los Angeles, and in 1997, he moved to Miami and launched Brightstar.

The cellphone business was booming - particularly in Latin America - and Claure took advantage. He was determined to make life easier for cellphone manufacturers who didn't have the proper mechanism in place for distributing their phones overseas.

The first year Brightstar made $14 million. The second year it made $73 million, and by year three the company earned $355 million. "I was in the right place at the right time," Claure says. "There was a demand for phones, service among distributors was lousy, so I figured out a way to deliver phones faster and more efficiently. It's all about service to the customer."

"Marcelo has an amazing knack for seeing through the factors that are unimportant and focusing on the important ones," said Clay Parker, who has been Claure's attorney for 10 years and is doing legal work for the MLS bid. "He seizes opportunities, is extremely creative, and has the backbone to go ahead and say, 'Let's try it.' At first, you might say, 'Gosh, there's only a one-in-10 chance that will work', but in his mind, one-in-10 is good enough."

When he's not working and traveling the world, Claure likes to play golf, ride a bike and hang out with his wife, Jordan, their 6-month-old daughter, Sienna, his two children from his first marriage (13-year-old Nicolas and 11-year-old Paulina) and his Great Dane, Tiberius, who stands as tall as he does.

Despite his success and wealth, he is largely unknown in Miami and he likes it that way. But if the MLS deal goes through, be prepared to see his towering figure all over town, peddling his latest product.

Read the full and original article here

Read more:
Interview with Barcelona partner Claure
Henry could leave for Miami in 2010
Weighing the seven bids

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a drug kingpin who started by using some dump of a cell phone store as a cover...drivers delivering phones from their trunk...haha...what a joke...1 in 10 is good enough...haha...

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