Mike Zabik Honored with Sports Business Journal’s 2017 40 Under 40 Award

Variety has certainly added spice to Mike Zabik’s day-to-day life. On the professional side, the RedBird Capital Partners principal sits on two boards — On Location Experiences, the NFL hospitality creation; and Zenith Shipping, which owns a fleet of 13 vessels.

“The two companies could not be any more different,” Zabik said.

And when Zabik returns home after a long day of working on Super Bowl parties and freight logistics, he’s greeted at the door by 2-year-old twins, who keep the Zabik house jumping. Zabik’s experience in the credit market and private equity helped him land a job with RedBird, Gerry Cardinale’s startup fund, in 2014. It was admittedly a risky time to make a move from the Chicago-based Ares Management to RedBird in New York, where he was the fund’s fourth employee.

His wife was pregnant with the twins and she had to quit her job in Chicago to accommodate the move to New York. Once they settled in New York, Zabik’s father and grandfather died after bouts with cancer. “Any one of those things would be incredibly stressful,” Zabik said. “But to have all of that happen in two years was pretty overwhelming.”

All the while, Zabik, as Cardinale’s top investment professional, was helping RedBird build a portfolio of nine companies, including On Location Experiences, the partnership with the NFL and Bruin Sports Capital. Zabik was instrumental in structuring the deal, establishing the senior leadership team, constructing a business plan and integrating subsequent acquisitions that grew On Location from 30 employees to 300.

Zabik, during the last 30 months, also began training for triathlons and used fitness as his “release during a very trying time in my life. … I like the triathlons because you’re not doing the same thing every day. The long runs and bike rides give me a chance to clear my head and think. Now I’m hooked on it.”

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