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The Lorenzo Fertitta Legacy at NYU Stern

Lorenzo Fertitta

“Never be the smartest guy in the room. Surround yourself with talent.”

This is how Lorenzo Fertitta, former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) CEO and part-owner of Red Rock Resorts Inc., advises young business leaders. A ’93 graduate of the Stern School of Business at NYU, Fertitta’s philosophy may stem from his MBA education at one of the country’s top business schools. From NYU, surrounded by talent and armed with a first-rate business education, Fertitta was able to quickly move from the casino business to ownership of a company worth $4 billion.

The Fertitta Family Legacy

Lorenzo and his brother Frank Fertitta III grew up in Las Vegas, where their father—casino mogul Frank Feritta Jr.—would get them involved in his company Station Casinos, a U.S. based casino operator and developer. Throughout high school and college, the brothers would assist in the casino, ultimately taking over after their father’s retirement in 1993. In that year, Lorenzo and Frank would raise $294 million for Station Casinos, becoming principle shareholders and co-founders of Station Casinos Inc. Under direction of the Fertitta’s, the company has grown to include twenty-one casinos in three states, and was named among the “Best Companies to Work For” by Fortune. At the time the company went public, Fertitta had only just graduated with his MBA from NYU, and was already a millionaire.

Tillman Fertitta, third-cousins of Frank and Lorenzo, also made his fortunes as one of the country’s biggest casino moguls, as the sole-owner of Houston-based Landry’s Inc, which owns all of the Golden Nugget casino locations, as well as various resorts, restaurants, aquariums, sports stadiums, and more. This past September, Tillman also officially acquired the Houston Rockets NBA franchise for $2.2 billion—the highest-ever purchase for an NBA team.

Becoming Part of the UFC

Growing up in Las Vegas without any professional local sports teams, Fertitta had long been a fan of boxing. After a trip to see a UFC fight in New Orleans with his brother and high school friend Dana White (current UFC president), Fertitta became acutely aware of the failures of the UFC as a business model—he was passionate about the sport, and saw the many ways that the industry could be improved to better benefit fan like him. Fertitta, his brother, and White purchased the company for $2 million under their sports promotion company Zuffa, LLC.

Over the next five years, Fertitta’s focus was on making the company safer and more fan-friendly, an endeavor that would cost more than $40 million and incur a lot of rejection from networks who refused to air the fights. It was time for Fertitta to try a new strategy: cashing in on the reality TV trend of the early 2000’s, the team created a reality TV show including a new fight each week and in which the final champion would receive a UFC contract. The show helped rebuild a fan base for the sport, shaping it into the primetime event watched by millions around the globe today.

“The UFC had baggage at the time,” Fertitta told Bloomberg of the UFC’s early years. “We bought the business for $2 million. We have 519 athletes from 44 countries, $600 million in revenue, and 41 live events a year. We’ve also launched UFC Fight Pass, a streaming service that accesses 17,000 fights.”

Today, Fertitta is worth upwards of $2.2 billion, and when the UFC was finally sold in 2016 to an investment group led by WME/IMG for $4 billion. In August of 2017 the brothers sold their remaining stakes in UFC at a valuation of $5 billion. In May of 2017, Lorenzo and Frank launched Fertitta Capital, a new investment firm.

Giving Back to NYU Stern

Despite the many business dealings that keeps Fertitta occupied, he continues to find ways to give back to his alma mater. In 2016, they established the Fertitta Veterans Program at NYU Stern, with a $15 million endowment gift to the university. The program allows U.S. military veteran and active duty students to attend Stern’s full-time MBA program at a flat-tuition cost of $30,000 per year. Throughout their time at the school, students in the program will also have additional access to academic and professional support that helps ease the transition from military life to business school.

In a November press release from Stern, second-year MBA, Coast Guard Lieutenant, and Fertitta Veterans Program participate Francis Varrichio told the school:

“Students from this year’s Fertitta Veterans Program reflect the Stern community because they are uniquely skilled and practiced at the values the School seeks to build in all of its students: leadership, character and commitment to each other. After years of service in defense of this country, these veterans complement the Stern community with their unique perspectives, values and commitment to teamwork.”

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About the Author

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Alanna Shaffer

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas.

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