For the love of the game
A baseball CFO gives her all.
It’s late July 2015, and Texas Rangers executive vice president and chief financial officer Kellie Fischer has entered one of the busiest periods of her year. But not for the reason you’d suspect. Though it’s just after the All-Star break, and the trade deadline is little more than a week away, Fischer has already started the planning process for next season.
This is a job that requires continual forecasting, and at a level of detail that most casual fans of the game may not realize. While general manager Jon Daniels is in charge of personnel decisions, it’s Fischer’s job to keep tabs on what happens financially. “You have a forty man roster, and that roster cost can move by millions of dollars within minutes if a player triggers a performance bonus, or if the team makes a trade,” she explains. A difference of a few million dollars can make a big impact on a team’s bottom line.
Clearly, pro baseball is a big business. While the spreadsheets may look like those you’d find in any other office, baseball remains first and foremost a game. And competitive sports can have big emotions riding on them. “The biggest challenge for an owner of a baseball team is balancing the desire to win with how much to spend,” says Fischer. “Baseball team owners don’t buy a club because they think it’s going to be a big money maker; they do it because they want to win a championship.”
Fischer came to the team after serving in the audit practice of PwC’s Dallas office for four years. Taking charge of finances inside a pro team is a different experience from auditing, but there are commonalities. As in auditing, managing sports finances requires a breadth of knowledge about everything that goes in in a company. “I had exposure to conversations with higher-level people at a very early point in my career, and that helped me to communicate financial information to different constituents, like ownership and upper-level management,” Fischer says, “I was very fortunate to get a start so early because of my experience at PwC.”
On her profession, Fischer is adamant: “There isn’t anything a business does that doesn’t ultimately have a financial impact. And once I grasped that, I knew the CFO role was exactly what I wanted to do.” She points to the joy of working with people she cares about on behalf of a professional baseball team she treasures. Winning a championship is a genuine thrill, she says, and the world of baseball builds an unparalleled camaraderie: “I absolutely adore the people I work with. I will run through walls for them, and I know they would do the same for me.”