When hard work meets opportunity
"We understood how to be opportunistic both in how we grew our businesses and how we bought our businesses."
Foreman is an outgoing personality and outward-facing executive. The world of public accounting did not suit his personality, which he describes aptly as “Type A.”
And it’s that personality that led him to a career in major investments that shaped business and sport.
To the surprise of few, Foreman landed in the world of commercial real estate. He met his future business partners, Bruce Levenson and Ed Peskowitz, while searching for office space.
Levenson and Peskowitz worked with Foreman for two years before they asked him to join their company, United Communications Group, as director of acquisitions.
“That’s the first of one of the really lucky breaks I got,” Foreman said. “I am one of those people who feels very humble and recognizes luck usually plays a role in your business success. Lots of times, it’s one thing leads to the other.”
Through acquisitions and internal startups, UCG created a portfolio of information, software and technology companies. The company had 80 employees when Foreman arrived and, at its zenith, reached 1,200 staffers. Foreman would rise to the rank of CEO.
“We were in good business niches,” he said. “We understood how to be opportunistic both in how we grew our businesses and how we bought our businesses.”
In 2004, Foreman, Levenson and Peskowitz acquired the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and the operating rights to Philips Arena, which they held until 2015.
The acquisition was considered a turnaround opportunity for Foreman and his partners.
“We pursued it like the acquisitions we’d made at UCG,” said Foreman, who is also chair of the advisory board at Goizueta Business School. “We went after it hard, we moved quickly and we got it done.”
It also allowed him to spend more time in Atlanta, the city where he met his wife, Tracy (also an alumnus). Their son, Josh, is also an Emory graduate.
Foreman’s technical skills include multiple degrees but said personality — soft skills — play a large role in success.
“We bought a lot of businesses from entrepreneurs,” he said. “They almost always had other similar offers. So, a lot of times it came down to who that entrepreneur felt most comfortable working with going forward. We had a great track record of getting entrepreneurs to want to work with us.”
"We had a great track record of getting entrepreneurs to want to work with us."
Reflecting on his career, Foreman said he wouldn’t change anything.
The combination of UCG and sports business were challenging, but they enabled Foreman to develop and combine technical and interpersonal skills. Asked to offer advice to a younger version of himself, Foreman said collaboration in business is key.
“I was fortunate to have two partners who started UCG and were great mentors to me. I’ve tried to do that for the boards I’ve been on and for other people who seek out my advice and counsel,” he said. “I think having partners who are so supportive and mentored me for a long time was one of the things that made my career enjoyable and enabled all of us to be really successful.”
"It’s the idea. It’s the products. It’s the execution... It’s having a vision. It’s all those things."
Foreman is now on the hunt for another challenge.
He is on the board of Hope for Henry, a nonprofit charged to improve the lives of critically sick, hospitalized children. The group works in three hospitals, but Foreman believes it should be in every hospital across the country. He hopes to continue driving the organization in memory of his friend Lenny Robinson, who regularly dressed as Batman and visited children in the hospital.
Foreman also maintains involvement with Goizueta via his role on the advisory board, including leading an in-depth Q&A with Dean Erika James on the school’s new strategic plan in 2017.
“Todd’s devotion to causes and improving business exemplifies what we’re all about,” James said. “He’s a great colleague and advocate of higher education, and I think his career speaks volumes on the power of interpersonal relationships.”
With more than 25 years experience in acquiring and growing businesses, Foreman is certainly qualified for most any venture, particular in philanthropy.
“The basics are the same,” he said. “It’s the idea. It’s the products. It’s the execution. It’s the marketing and sales. It’s the operations. It’s having a vision. It’s all those things.”