The Guy List: Dave Portnoy
Dave Portnoy is a lucky guy who made fame and fortune the easy way—he gave men what they wanted: sports and gambling. The girls and pizza are enjoyed as well. Tweet
Why he’s one of us:
“Everything on Barstool is served up with zero nuance—intentionally. It’s rough, funny and self-deprecating. If a co-host or a caller disagrees, that person is often labeled a know-nothing douchebag. This word is spoken (and understood) as a term of affection. Everyone’s just happy to be able to speak their minds. It’s a bizarre version of a ‘safe space’.”
“Dave Portnoy is a lucky guy who made fame and fortune the easy way—he gave men what they wanted: sports and gambling. The girls and pizza are enjoyed as well.”
– Guy Shepherd
Dave Portnoy also gets a very honorable mention in our PM story “Massholian Exceptionalism.”
Who he was before he was famous:
He was a dude with a vision. Well, actually, he had three visions or business ideas while working his first job in sales at a Boston IT company. Barstool Sports was just one of them. The first, which in our humble opinion sucked, was to grab all the crappy furniture college kids leave on the street when they move out for the summer, and then to sell it online dirt cheap. The second idea was to connect Division 3 athletes that were talented by weren’t getting recruited with Division 3 coaches and schools. The idea didn’t suck, but it was too complicated.
Barstool was idea #3; and it’s working out pretty well:
You may not know this, but Barstool started out in 2003 as an actual newspaper. That may seem crazy until you realize the iPhone didn’t come out until 2007. And it started as a local paper in Boston; so if you wanted to bury yourself in some sports while standing on the train commuting to work or while waiting in line to grab a cup of coffee at Dunkin Doughnuts (this is Boston, remember?), Barstool Sports quickly became the best game in town. Portnoy didn’t stop publishing the paper version of Barstool until 2013; which is crazy since it was the same year the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c were released. By 2020, Barstool Sports was valued at about $450 million. So yeah, it’s working out pretty well.
How Dave learned that sex (and pizza) sell:
In the early days, Dave handed out his free paper all by himself at Boston subway stops and anywhere else he could thrust them into people’s hands during the morning and afternoon commutes. When he wasn’t handing out papers, he was writing the content and selling ads. Obviously there are massive limitations with one guy handing out newspapers, so he hired “an army of homeless people…but they didn’t show up, they were drunk” etc. So Dave fired them all, and hired a bunch of models to hand out the paper instead. Amazingly enough, the models attracted more readers than his army of homeless people. Not long afterward, he illegally put a picture of Jessica Biel on the cover, it became the most popular issue of Barstool ever, and soon every cover featured a local girl, which attracted both lots more readers and advertisers. As for the pizza? One of Dave’s most trafficked Barstool features are his “one bite” pizza reviews.
David Portnoy launched Bar Stool Sports — a site that is decidedly pro-sports, pro-men, and pro-American—and you can hear the sucking sound of ESPN’s audience moving away while Barstool Sports‘ readership and wallet are swelling.