July 13, 2021
5 minutes reading
opinions expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
Josh Harris has a short resume. For almost his entire professional career, he had only one job: Head of Apollo Global Management.
Since co-founding Apollo in 1990, Harris has spent the last 31 years building and shaping what has become the premier alternative asset manager. But despite managing 15 offices and more than $460 billion in assets worldwide, Harris has found time to pursue his passion outside of the financial industry. Investors maintain a solid family investment office to discover potential value, are active philanthropists through their family foundation, Harris Philanthropies, and successfully launched Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, a leading sports and entertainment platform. Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center in Newark New Jersey.
RELATED: Check out our recent guests Josh Harris and Thomas Tull on the How Success Happens podcast.
Harris admits wrestling unlocking his inner drive. After participating in wrestling at a summer camp at a young age, I fell in love with it. The intensity of the sport, and the raw stamina it required, motivated and powerful in his innate competitive spirit. However, he quickly learned that he was physically dominated without the preparation of a healthy diet, cross-training, and time on the mat. A once struggling student, wrestling helped Harris transition his studies and entered the University of Pennsylvania, where he rose to a coveted position on the wrestling team.
Harris’ first encounter with finance was in Penn. An introductory economics class ignited a similar spark for him, forcing him into the fast-changing world of Wall Street. He moved to Wharton to get into finance.
“I felt the attraction. [the idea of] It helps the company grow,” says Harris. “I was a sponge of knowledge and I wanted to learn everything I could… from the best people.”
A decision was made. He bought his first suit and headed to Wall Street.
“This is what I would recommend [anyone just starting their career]: Think of life as an investment,” says Harris. “Do what you’re passionate about. Take a look at the pros and cons. What is your competitive edge? … look really analytical.”
Harris used the same lens over the years of his career when faced with bigger decisions. Harris, who had his teeth cut at Drexel Burnham Lambert and attended Harvard Business School, accepted a job at Blackstone. A few weeks later, he got a call from his former colleagues, Mark Rowan and Leon Black, asking him to join the new company, the fledgling Apollo. Although Harris worked at Blackstone for only a few weeks and used his contract bonus to pay off his student loans, he was fascinated by the opportunity to build a building with people he knew.
Thirty years later, Apollo has become the world’s second largest alternative and largest alternative credit manager. Harris was the architect of the company’s most successful deals, including the historic LyondellBasell deal, one of the most lucrative deals in PE history.
In 2011, Harris applied the skills of his day-to-day work to a new venture. Joining forces with David Blitzer to purchase Philadelphia 76ers from Comcast in a corporate takeover. Harris says one of the most rewarding aspects of owning a sports team is serving as the city’s janitor.
“[Sports teams] It is a public property… You have a real obligation to help the communities in which you play.”
RELATED: Check out these top sports podcasts.
Giving back to the communities where HBSE operates: Philadelphia, Camden and Newark is a top priority for Harris. From our conversations it was clear how deeply he believed in the power of life-changing sports, just as wrestling changed the trajectory of his life. Through many philanthropic efforts with HBSE and Harris Philanthropies, Harris focuses on creating opportunities for children to experience sports they could not otherwise do, providing access to sports programs, and connecting them with academic resources and other support. I am leaving More broadly, Harris Philanthropies focuses on catalytic donations and equitable opportunity creation in the communities with which the foundation has deep relationships.
However, over the past year, Covid-19 has been at the forefront and center, and the foundation has had to adjust its strategy to address the needs posed by the pandemic. Us [immediately] had to pivot [our strategy] Harris says he started distributing food, medical supplies, front-line equipment, laptops and other resources to communities through HBSE and Harris Philanthropies.
Now Harris is starting a new chapter by returning to his entrepreneurial roots. Harris, who recently announced that he will step down from his day-to-day role at Apollo, is excited to continue expanding its multi-asset class investment business with HBSE and digging deeper into its social impact. But he did not forget the driving force that guided him throughout his career: building and investing for success.
Related: We help your brand create their own podcasts.