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Banking on KC – Lamar Hunt, Jr., of Kansas City Mavericks

Banking on KC – Lamar Hunt, Jr., of Kansas City Mavericks

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Lamar Hunt, Jr. He's the president and owner of both the Kansas City Mavericks and the Loretto Companies, and a member of the founding family of the Kansas City Chiefs. Welcome, Lamar.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Kelly Scanlon:

It has been such an exciting few years for the Kansas City Chiefs and I know that we're all looking forward to the upcoming season as well. They've just been so much fun to watch, so much talent, but I think even more importantly, like sports teams can do, they've really brought the city together in so many ways.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

So true. I mean, one of the great things that I think, and I reflect on it often, is my dad's gratitude for the fans. When he went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in, I think 1972, he thanked the fans. That's the first thing he did because they make it possible. He was always also very dedicated and loyal to the sponsors. It's been a great time for Chiefs fans. It's been a great time for Kansas City fans. I mean, goodness, if you think about the teams here that have won championships, include Sporting KC, Kansas City Royals, and the Kansas City Chiefs all within recent memory, for sure, it brings people together. I think people like relationship. We've been in a time where we've been cut off from those relationships, but literally now it's great to be back engaged in sporting events. I think it matters to people. Relationships matter to people and friendships matter.

Kelly Scanlon:

Kansas City Mavericks hockey team is also gaining a very loyal fan following. Why did you decide to purchase the team?

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

We purchased the Mavericks about six years ago and the reasoning behind it was we thought that hockey was a growing sport in Kansas City. There are a lot of youth players, a lot of adult players. We had actually talked about bringing in another type of team, a AAA team, if you will. What we did was we went out and just looked in Independence at the team.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

The Mavericks, it turned out the team was for sale so we struck a deal and now we've been involved in it six years. This is the 12th year of the team of the franchise in Kansas City, which is the longest stretch for any hockey franchise in Kansas City. What appealed to us on a lot of levels was the support from the people of the Independence area, obviously, the government and everything out there. Obviously, how well the arena was run. Then for me personally, the team was run very well. We've enjoyed the last six years. We've got our season in this year. We're just plugging along. We do have very, very loyal diehard fans. Hockey fans are very much known for that, but we're also trying to make inroads and make this known as Kansas City's hockey team, not just Eastern Jackson County or something like that.

Kelly Scanlon:

What is the fan experience like during a Mavericks game?

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

The fan experience is intimate. What I mean by that is we have great, great video boards and a great end game experience, but also... And I think you find this a little bit more in minor league sports than you maybe would do in major league, although I think players are accessible here in Kansas City for a lot of fans, the fans can get up close and personal to the players. They can get to know them.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

We've had an organization called The Fifth Line, which are people that adopt the players because the players are usually from obviously either from Canada or from the northern part of the United States. There're not many homegrown ones at this point, but what happens is they get close and personal with them and they get to know the fans and the families very, very well. The players love it. We haven't had many of these events this year, but the players can interact with the fans after the game. There's skating programs and things like that after games. Then there's also autograph signing and things like that. The arena, the whole experience allows the fan to really feel connected to something, a part of something.

Kelly Scanlon:

How fun. I've never heard of that before, the player and fan experience played out in quite that way. When the players do come into Kansas City, then they have a specific connection to the community other than their teammates.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Absolutely.

Kelly Scanlon:

One of the things that got a lot of nationwide attention was that both the Chiefs and the Mavericks were leaders in getting fans back into stadiums safely, and they did that without having to shut down during the entire season. Why do you think the plans worked here when we saw so many other teams struggle to keep their schedules intact?

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

I think like anything, there's an openness on both sides when you're, and I'll call it negotiating or discussing with people who are dealing with these venues that we want to have something. We need something, we need something for this community, but the businesses need it as well. The players need it. Everybody needs it. It's important. Working with the people who work in government, work for the county, these different positions, there was just a synergy that eight people were able to get together, work through it, be safe and handle all the restrictions and the concerns about COVID. I think that was a tip to the hat to all those people involved in that. I sat through a few of those meetings. They were mind numbing at times.

Kelly Scanlon:

Kudos too, to the players for taking that seriously because we heard so much about some other parts of the country, some of the teams not really abiding by some of the restrictions and they did get shut down, so kudos to the players too for taking that so seriously.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

The players had certain protocols by the leagues in the case of obviously the Chiefs, the NFL, and then obviously in the case of the Mavericks players, the ECHL. They were drawn up, they were hammered out. Obviously, you're dealing with a union there and so there's safety. There's all sorts of concerns, but there was an eagerness for the players to get on the field and compete and do it in front of fans. The Mavericks were the first professional hockey team to take the ice on December 10th.

Kelly Scanlon:

To show your appreciation for the fans and coming on out to the stadium, to the park during these times, you had a fan appreciation day just recently.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

What we did is we said, "Look, let's find ways to just thank people." We had a company named Donutology makeup donuts that said thank you. We're telling people thank you as they leave the game. We're being very intentional with our sponsors and thanking them. We're finding many different ways to thank them. We're also doing it with the hero of the game, which is usually a teacher. There's Hope for Kids, which helps kids with special needs. We're just trying to do little things to connect to the community to say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for supporting our team and coming out." It's a beautiful thing.

Kelly Scanlon:

Although most Kansas Citians know you through your relationship with the Chiefs and the Mavericks, much of your focus is on philanthropy. That's what you're passionate about. What drives that passion? Why is giving so important to you?

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

There's the line that says to whom much is given, much is expected. I'm just not afraid to thank God for inspiring that in me and hopefully to its fullest. I read not too long ago the word philanthropy is a broad term. The term I use more and more now is stewardship, that I've been entrusted with things and those things can come and go.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Businesses come and go. Opportunities come and go. Even resources and wealth, and all those sorts of things come and go, but when they're in your hands, you're a steward. You've got to put them in the right place. It isn't all about just spending it, of course on yourself. I mean, we live beautiful lives, my wife and I and our children, but to find those vulnerable, needy folks in that area where we think we fit in... I've also sought the advice of people who at the time, they're still older than I and wiser than I am. When you had these resources, this wealth, if you will, what do you do with it? How did you discern where to put everything? I've gotten some great advice on picking two or three things, and working it very hard and being very loyal, and dedicated and tenacious about it.

Kelly Scanlon:

I love the distinction that you make between philanthropy and stewardship because a lot of times when people hear the word philanthropy, they do think about riches in terms of monetary wealth. They don't associate it with them, but when you talk about stewardship, anybody can relate to that because there's things in all of our lives that we can have gratitude for and that we are blessed with, and that we can be stewards of. I love that distinction that you make there.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Simple way to say it is to say, "Show me your checkbook and show me your calendar." We don't need to overspend. We don't need to be overly busy. Being intentional. I think being intentional and discerning, thinking about things.

Kelly Scanlon:

Talk to us about some of the places where you focus those stewardship efforts.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Well, what's been near and dear to our heart for the last decade is the world of Catholic education. The Catholic schools have a great infrastructure, a great school system. We focus on some of those kids and families that are vulnerable. They want this type of education, not only an education, but they want to know something about God. They want that as part of their life and what a Catholic school or a Christian schools do. I think it's a beautiful gift to give to someone. We focus on those kids and generally those schools where they don't have the resources maybe because of the location and/or just because of who their customer is, so to speak. We've been involved in the Bright Futures Fund. We're dioceses of Kansas City St. Joe and we've helped some of the schools in the archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, as well as the Catholic Education Foundation, which are two streams of where we can really know the money is being used wisely and going to the appropriate families.

Kelly Scanlon:

You also have scholarships that you offer to the students, right?

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Yeah, they are scholarships and we have done some capital gifts as well to improve some certain things about schools. It could be the air conditioning system, or having a decent air conditioning, heating and cooling system. Scholarships is at the root of it because that drives your enrollment. That drives, really, your teacher salaries. You don't want to overly crowded classroom, but you want your classrooms at good capacity so that you're reaching as many people as possible. Those teachers who are generally sacrificing. Whether it's public or private school, teachers are sacrificing to be there. They really are.

Kelly Scanlon:

The Loretto Companies is the overarching company that... I guess a way to look at it, it sits on top of the Loretto Foundation and then two other companies that are focused on real estate development and sports. Talk to us about how all three work together for the good of the community.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Well, the real estate is like a development idea, hope, dream sometimes, but we try to invest in good pieces of property and that can be anything from residential to commercial. Then we're also doing some investments in businesses. Then the sports, obviously, is just really the Maverick's hockey team. Then we have the foundation component, which is again, that stewardship component. We want to grow a legitimate real estate company. We're doing that. I think one of the models that I've heard one of my son-in-laws say is if I don't know the answer, I know somebody who does.

Kelly Scanlon:

Especially in Kansas City.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Yeah, but it's good advice because no one knows everything. I think we try to do that sometimes. We want to know everything and be everything, but really it's better to rely on your attorney, or your accountant, or another developer who can give you some wisdom and advice and have those conversations. Again, those relationships.

Kelly Scanlon:

The benefit of having all organizations under one roof is to get the synergies among the relationships, among connections and the resources?

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Sure. It helps us put us out there. We're not that intentional necessarily about being a known brand. That's not the point. The point is to really do things that are fair and good for the community and really focused on the more vulnerable folks out.

Kelly Scanlon:

You're so well-rounded. I mean, you're an entrepreneur. You're a flutist for the Kansas City Symphony. I don't know that everybody realizes that, a philanthropist, a steward. Obviously, you're a man with many, many interests. At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Oh, gosh. That's an interesting question. I think that's a very good question. People are concerned about things like legacies. I think I would want to be remembered for being a good husband, a good father, a good family person and a member of the community who at times challenged people, but also was compassionate when compassion was needed. I think that's important, that there are times when we do need to challenge people. I've seen it with my own children. I've also seen it in the world that we live in now. It is hard. We don't always like to have difficult conversations and it's not easy for me, but I think at the end of the day, I want to be known as someone who cared and was compassionate for people and try to take in their perspective.

Kelly Scanlon:

You obviously invest in Kansas City on many levels from sporting teams to, as you say, the underserved. Quite a spectrum there. Your family has done this for many, many years. What do you see are the opportunities of Kansas City going forward?

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

I always remember what my dad said about capitalism is that every deal should be fair and that our goal is to create jobs that are of value for people. People want purpose and meaning each day of their life. They want work that's purposeful and meaningful, and it's not necessarily about them, right? They don't want to necessarily be a shining star, or be known or be written up in the Kansas City Business Journal, but they want good jobs so they can support their families.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

That's where I see Kansas City being an example, really to much of the United States. This pocket of just beautiful businesses, lots of wonderful people who really care. We are known as a very, very philanthropic community, that we're there. We reach out. We raise money for things. We go out and we help the homeless or whatever it is, people with job training. We want to have a high literacy rate and all these sorts of things. They're going on all the time and I'm amazed at the number of wonderful things I hear about all the time and in some cases, we have been able to make a small gift towards. It's amazing in Kansas City.

Kelly Scanlon:

Kansas Citians are very, very generous, that's for sure, and your family included. Lamar, thank you so much for being our guest today, for sharing a little bit of what drives you and what you're doing for the city. We really appreciate you and your family for that.

Lamar Hunt, Jr.:

Thank you, Kelly, and it's my privilege and honor to do it. Thank you very much.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, President of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Lamar Hunt Jr. for being our guests on this episode of Banking on KC. The Hunt family has invested heavily in our community for more than five decades since 1963 when business visionary Lamar Hunt moved his professional football team from Dallas to Kansas City. The Kansas City Chiefs and more recently, the Mavericks are a major source of hometown pride. Both teams are regional economic drivers as well. The Hunt family has also contributed millions of dollars to community outreach efforts. As Lamar Hunt Jr, said in this episode, "To whom much is given, much is expected." He has always felt the weight of responsibility that comes with being born into opportunity. His goal is to give back to the communities that have meant so much to him and his family.

Joe Close:

We wish Lamar great success with the Kansas City Mavericks. I certainly enjoyed a recent outing there to see a game. It's a great family venue and I look forward to returning to introduce other Kansas Citians to this great community asset. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.