A native Angeleno and lifelong Dodgers fan with a knack for numbers, Bob Graziano has had what some sports fans might consider a dream career. Fresh out of college in the early 1980s, Graziano, with a little luck, parlayed his accounting skills into a role on the planning committee for the 1984 Olympic Games. Shortly thereafter, he jumped to the Los Angeles Dodgers, handling the team's finances and tax issues. He climbed up the Dodgers' ladder, becoming president of the team in 1998. Graziano left in 2004 when News Corp. sold the team to Frank McCourt, but he was not job-hunting for long. He is now a managing director in Los Angeles for Northern Trust Corp., a multibillion-dollar, global wealth management firm. Graziano recently sat down with the Business Journal to discuss everything from the Olympics to Rupert Murdoch to life after the Dodgers.



Question: After serving as president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, you now run much of Northern Trust's western operations. What it's like to shift jobs so dramatically?

Answer: It's probably not as much of a change as it appears from the outside looking in. I actually started out with Ernst & Young way back when after graduating from USC. I graduated in accounting and actually had my CPA. A good portion of my career at the Dodgers was really spent as CFO of the Dodgers that was during the years that the O'Malleys owned the team. But, frankly, when you've got a small- or medium-sized organization, you really end up helping the family, too.

Q: So you handled the finances of the O'Malley family in addition to your baseball duties?

A: I spent a good part of my time at the Dodger organization working with the family and making sure that we were doing a lot of the wealth management techniques that I'm basically working with my clients on now whether it was risk management issues or investment management issues or estate planning issues. I was handling many of those issues for the family because they were so intertwined with what was happening with the Dodger organization.

Q: It's been said were you forced out of the Dodgers organization when Frank McCourt bought the team.

A: When ownership of an organization changes, it is normal and ordinary for senior management to change. There was an agreement that it was appropriate for me to move on. I clearly had a tremendous career at the Dodgers and I wish Frank McCourt all the best.

Q: How did you end up at Northern Trust?

A: Northern Trust was a client of mine at the Dodgers. When we built the suites and the dugout seats at Dodger Stadium right after the 1999 season, I was spending a lot of time with business owners and companies in Los Angeles talking to them about what we were doing at the stadium and why buying a suite or dugout seats would be good for them. The (president of personal financial services) of Northern, Sherry Barrat, became a business acquaintance and friend of mine.

Q: What are your duties at Northern Trust?

A: I'm responsible for relationship management as well as continuing to build our business in Southern California.

Q: Can you be more specific?

A: One of the things that we like to do is be working with individuals and families throughout the process so that when a life event happens, they're prepared for it. So I spend a lot of time with clients, understanding what's going on in their lives, understanding things that are coming up in their lives so that we can properly position them for those events. It could be anything from a marriage, a birth of a child, a parent that's ill it really can be a whole array of issues. On the business front it could be an IPO, it could be the sale of a company.

Q: For someone trained as a CPA, you've had a diverse career. How did it unfold?

A: It was really being a bit lucky and being in the right place at the right time. When I was wet behind the ears in public accounting at Ernst & Young, I was working on a client at the time called Gloria Marshall Figure Salons that was a weight-loss clinic. It was an extremely difficult job. Their offices were in a subterranean shopping center in Downey, so we'd get in at 6:30 or 7 in the morning when the sun was just coming up and we wouldn't get out until 7 or 8 at night when the sun was already gone. So I never saw the sun during those years.

Q: How did that lead to the Dodgers?

A: The partner who was on that engagement, at the end of the engagement he said to me, "You really did a phenomenal job on this, and I'd like you to work on another client of mine." He happened to be the partner on the Dodgers. So I started working with the Dodgers back in 1982 and I was doing the audit for the Dodgers. I was doing a lot of the tax work for the Dodgers in conjunction with our tax department. And I was also doing some work helping them develop an in-house ticketing system because they were going from outsourcing all their ticketing needs to bringing it all internal.

Q: How do the Olympics fit into this? Did you move directly from Ernst & Young to the Dodgers?

A: No, actually. At the end of '83, another partner at Ernst & Young who had left a couple years earlier to be the vice president of ticketing for the Olympics, he called me and said, "You've done all this work for the Dodgers in ticketing and the Olympic Games are starting in seven months. We need help. Can you take a leave of absence from Ernst & Young and come work with us and help us put on the Olympic Games?" I saw that as a really unique opportunity a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Q: That must have been incredible.

A: It was a phenomenal experience. I started at a point in time shortly before the Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the games, so every day was just a phenomenal challenge in terms of putting on the Olympic Games. I'll never forget the feeling of accomplishment that I had sitting in the Coliseum during opening ceremonies.

Q: There are still reminders across the city of those games and people still look back fondly on the 1984 Olympics.

A: I think everybody in L.A. is proud of the effort that was made and proud of what was accomplished during those games. People still talk about it. I'm on the board of the L.A. '84 Foundation and the surplus from those games is still serving underserved youth in our community through sports programs.

Q: What did you think about the Beijing Olympics? L.A. wants the games again. Could it ever pull something that grand off?

A: I thought Beijing did a tremendous job on the Olympics and I believe a similar type of spectacle could be produced in the United States. Clearly China has a different type of government and different types of resources, but I think 1984 proved that we have people in this country and in the city that are willing to volunteer and bring their resources to bear to put on an Olympic Games as spectacular as Beijing did.

Q: What happened after the 1984 Olympics?

A: I decided I was not going to go back to Ernst & Young because I really liked being on the operations side and being responsible for running things, operating a company. I actually went to work in the transportation industry for a very short period of time and during that year, Peter O'Malley called me and said, "I know you have experience with us, I know you have this background in accounting and finance. Would you come work for us?"

Q: What an opportunity. Were you a baseball fan?

A: I was. I grew up on the Dodgers. I grew up, like a lot of other kids, listening to Vin Scully and Ross Porter and Jerry Doggett on my transistor radio as I fell asleep at night. So yes, I really was.

Q: Did you play?

A: I did, but not very well and not in a very organized fashion. I come from a family of seven kids, so our baseball teams were really my siblings and me playing out in the street. But we loved baseball and we would go to the Dodger games back in the '60s when they had the A-student programs and would give away tickets to the A-students.

Q: So getting the job must have been a dream come true.

A: Actually, I was intimidated a bit by working with all of these great people. But I quickly became very comfortable with the organization and the people because they embraced me as part of the family. I quickly got over the intimidation factor and became focused on doing what was best for the organization. It was overwhelming but it was also very humbling.

Q: What did you think of the recent trade to get Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox?

A: I think it was a great trade and hopefully it will propel them into the playoffs. They're so close. Hopefully, even though I've got a lot of friends at the (Arizona) Diamondbacks, the Diamondbacks' acquisition of (Adam) Dunn doesn't propel them too much.

Q: Well, maybe the Dodgers could sneak into the playoffs with the wild card.

A: Yeah, although the Dodgers are around .500, so I'm not sure the National League West is getting the wild card spot this year.

Q: What was your position when you joined the club?

A: I started off as controller of the Dodgers. About a year after that I became CFO. I was CFO for about 10 years and then executive vice president for two as we were selling the club and I became president after we sold the club to News Corp.

Q: What were your responsibilities?

A: As CFO, I was responsible for accounting and finance, and also for stadium operations, ticket operations, all the IT functions as well as the human resources functions within the organization. I did that for several years. But as part of doing that, what you do is you end up getting involved with all aspects of the organization, so I was involved in marketing decisions, other times I was involved not in evaluating or recommending talent, but involved in baseball operations decisions as it related to the rest of the organization.

Q: What was it like under News Corp.?

A: It was a different type of ownership. It was an extremely creative, innovative company. I would not be completely candid if I didn't say it was challenging integrating the culture of the Dodgers the old O'Malley Dodgers into News Corp. That was very, very challenging. News Corp. put a tremendous amount of resources behind the organization. At the end of the day, owning a baseball team really wasn't their core business.

Q: What was Rupert Murdoch like?

A: He's an extremely quick learner. When News Corp. bought the team, I think he probably didn't have a real strong understanding of baseball or that business, but I haven't seen anyone get as up to speed as quickly as he did on the business. He understood the business of sports and News Corp. had a big investment in baseball through the Fox network, but he really personally spent a lot of time trying to get up to speed on baseball.

Q: What did he do?

A: Oftentimes when I'd be at a game, he'd be sitting in the stands observing the game, observing the crowd, trying to understand the dynamics of the business. He's very hands-on, extremely bright strategically and a very quick learner.

Q: So how is life at your new job?

A: I probably get a little more free time now than I had when I was at the Dodgers because that was a situation where I was working late every night and weekends, etc. I don't have a lot of free time, but when I do I like to exercise. More importantly, I like to spend time with my two sons. My oldest one is 18 and headed off to New York to go to NYU and my youngest one is 14 and has been playing water polo for a couple of years, so I love going to his water polo
tournaments.

Q: What has been the best advice you've gotten throughout your career?

A: It was shortly after I started working for the Dodgers. Peter O'Malley and I were working on what the ticket price increase was going to be the following year. We were trying to decide whether we were going to raise the tickets $1 or $2 we were either going from $6 to $8, or $6 to $7. This was for seats behind the plate. (Laughs) I, being the CFO, was pushing for a more aggressive price increase and Peter said to me, "If we raise the prices too much, fans are going to leave here with their wallets empty." I'm thinking, "OK, but our (profit and loss) will look really good." His reaction was, "If they leave here too many times with their wallets empty, they're not going to come back year after year after year."

Q: So what is the moral of the story?

A: It was a simple process. But, to this day, it reminds me of the fact that sometimes you have to forego short-term self-interest to create a longer-term relationship.

Bob Graziano

Title: Managing Partner, Wealth Advisory Services
Organization: Northern Trust Corp.
Born: 1958; Los Angeles
Education: B.S., business administration, USC
Career turning point: When asked to work on the Los Angeles Dodgers account while at Ernst & Young
Most influential person: Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley
Personal: Lives in Manhattan Beach with wife and two sons
Hobbies: Exercising, spending time with sons

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