By Rebecca Beyer
Andrew Messick ’91 was running a small cosmetics company for the Sara Lee Corporation in Calgary, Canada, when he got a call that changed the course of his career.
A friend from his consulting days at McKinsey & Company had recommended Messick for a position running the National Basketball Association’s international operations. That call led to a seven-year stint with the NBA, where Messick worked closely with current and former commissioners Adam Silver and David Stern.
“David and Adam gave me the chance to oversee the NBA’s global businesses,” Messick told Reeve Harde ’20 in an episode of Yale School of Management’s Career Conversations podcast last spring. “It was the early 2000s. Yao Ming was coming into the league; Dirk Nowitzki came in, Manu Ginóbili, Tony Parker—all these fantastic international athletes were flowing into the NBA. I learned a ton. I probably learned more there about building an international sports brand than I did over the course of everything else I’ve done in my career combined.”
After leaving the NBA in 2007, Messick spent four years as president of entertainment company AEG’s sports division, and, in 2011, assumed his current role as chief executive officer of the Ironman Group.
Ironman, based in Tampa, Florida, oversees endurance athletic events in more than 50 countries around the world, including its iconic, eponymous triathlon, in which participants swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and finish by running a full marathon of 26.2 miles.
In his career, Messick says he’s benefitted from “strong tailwinds and good luck.” But he also credits his success to a willingness to take chances, the way he did when he made the jump from cosmetics to professional basketball.
“I’d been a sports fan my whole life; I’d been an athlete for most of my life, but I had never thought about making my living in the sports industry,” he says. “Ultimately, my wife’s advice to me was: take a chance. If you have an opportunity to earn your living in an industry that you love, you’ve got to try it.”
Messick, who has participated in several Ironman races himself, says endurance sports have taught him the importance of perseverance. Ironman athletes have 17 hours to complete a course, and, according to Messick, the largest crowds always gather at midnight to watch the runners “who had hard days.”
“There are a million really good reasons to quit any race,” Messick says. “The people we revere, the people who in our community get the most praise and the loudest applause, are the people who find a reason to keep going.”