Daniel Sillman began the Ross School of Business at University of Michigan thinking he'd become an investment banker. But a chance encounter his freshman year with two Michigan football players who became his close friends led him to create Compass Management Group to provide financial management for professional athletes.
Sillman, 22, graduated from Ross in Dec. 2010, on the fast track since he had already begun his company to work with his two friends, Brandon Graham and Brandon Minor, who left U-M as top picks in Dec. 2009 to enter the NFL, and provide them with financial guidance and management once they left school.
"Statistics show that 78 percent of NFL athletes declare bankruptcy or are financially distressed within two years of retirement; it's 65 percent in the NBA within five years," Sillman said. "It's because most athletes lack core financial strength. They hire agents who negotiate their contracts and sponsorship deals, and they might hire someone to open a portfolio for them, and they think they're all set. The word financial advisor throws them. They're often coming from the inner city, and suddenly, they're coming into wealth, like a lottery winner."
While undergrads, Graham and Minor spent holidays and weekends at Sillman's Birmingham home, and Sillman and his father, David, began looking into business managers for them as their need became apparent. "What we realized is that there is a huge presence for entertainers and corporate space, but not for athletes. These athletes should treat themselves the same as someone else with wealth," Sillman said. Just as Graham and Minor had prepared themselves for the NFL by practicing football for years, Sillman realized he had been preparing himself for his career with Compass not only via his business school studies, but at the foot of his father's chair, watching, listening, observing.
"I've been going to the office with my father since I was 5," he said. "I rely on my father for life experience and financial experience."
Compass Management Group, so called because it provides direction, guidance and discipline to athletes, provides attorneys, accountants, insurance consultants, tax planning, bill paying, private banking, estate planning, portfolio management, business consulting and vetting services, and retirement planning.
"The average football career is three years; the average basketball career is four or five years. They could live to be 100. They have to realize they are being compensated for their entire lives, not just their pro careers," Sillman said. He creates a level of transparency and professionalism for the athletes, which now number 11, that he manages. All of the athletes, including Desean Jackson, Jimmy Smith, Manny Harris and Jurrell Casey, have come to him by word-of-mouth through locker rooms....continued on page 2